Looking for what is next, what’s next – ECHO!
Here at Osborne Mint we are constantly asking the question what is next, what should we make or what is our topic, who is hot, who can we collaborate with? As my mom would say, we are constantly “beating the bushes.” Keeping attuned to what is happening in the collector world, art world and creative ventures can be very rewarding. Most recently at a licensing trade show we showed coins and our abilities to design and mint unique and highly collectible rounds. As at every show, we demonstrated our colorization abilities, our creativity and our artisanship. We firmly believe that with an idea, we can make it happen.
At that licensing show, a world-renowned Art Nouveau artist, Echo Chernik approached us. I honestly had to look her up and once I did, I was amazed at her art! This is where it gets good; she said she has always wanted to have her art on a collectible coin. She has wanted to offer her followers, something different, something new and something that would add value to her art. However, she said she did not know how to go about it, and with that, an instant partnership blossomed.
For this blog I want to share my excitement about this developing partnership and give you some insight on the process by sharing my Q&A with Echo Chernik about her and why she wants her art on a collectible coin:
Gibson: So, what possessed you to do collectible coins?
Echo: Well, I have been wanting to do coins for a long time actually. For years people have been asking me to do licensing but I wanted to do it only if I had cool products. So when I met you guys (Osborne Mint) at the licensing show and we talked it over, I said I have wanted to do this forever and it’s going to happen.
Gibson: I know we worked on postcards to gather pre-orders for your coins and you had them with you at San Diego Comic-Con. How did that go?
Echo: Oh, my God, it was great. This is the ninth or tenth year that we've gone to San Diego Comic-Con. We weren't sure how it was going to be because of Covid. It was less crowded than it usually is, but it was still packed, just not way too overcrowded. In previous years, I mean, you can't even walk. You can't see anything because you're packed in, and you can't stop to look at stuff. So (this year), it was actually manageable, and everybody I talk to (about the show) did great, because people could actually like stop and shop. So Yeah, yeah, we did good.
Gibson: What about news of the new coins? How was that received?
Echo: (VERY EXCITEDLY RESPONDED!) We did really good, and I handed out a lot of the demo coins (limited quantities of minted brass coins), and talked to a lot of people about coins, and everything else, so it was awesome.
Gibson: I have seen both your commercial and collectible work, do you have a preference for which one you like more?
Echo: I've been doing illustration professionally for the last 30 years and supporting my entire family on it. While I love to do my art and the advertising side helps me fund my art. I also like the challenges of the commercial design. Many times the design space is limited. Sometime the materials are compostable so it just doesn’t keep the colors. For others you can’t do really tiny details because it’ll just get sucked into the application. You have to make it a strong design, but work within the materials, which is what I think of as a cool challenge. It's like a puzzle; how can you solve this visual challenge to make the best piece possible?
As a professional, illustrator, it's my job to kind of exceed their expectations. So when they're like, you know I want this poster to look like this, and I'm like, yeah, but what if we made it look like this and then they're like yes, yes like that.
Gibson: Do you have a favorite commercial piece?
Echo: Oh my, I've done work for Miller, Coors, Camel, NASCAR, Celestial Seasonings, Jose Cuervo, the Post Office, the military and I like all of them. I did do a poster for William Christensen’s “The Nutcracker”, performed by the Ballet West in Salt Lake City, Utah. Part of the commission was that I had to do a really, really tall design because the opera houses like Carnegie Hall are very, very, very, tall and narrow. That changed the design perspective completely and I had to adapt the actual poster to work in that environment. Again somewhat of a challenge, that I liked doing.
Gibson: How did the Cthulhu evolve into your art?
Echo: I was working on, oh I don't know what I was working on, an advertising project and I fell asleep on my couch because my computer decided it was going to blue screen of death. I was like, all right, I'll take a break and I lay down and I had this dream about this beautiful, corseted woman being tormented by a creature with tentacles, and I'm like, that was weird.
Gibson: Then what?
Echo: Well it’s about two weeks later, I’m starting to put my dream together, and like OK, this is beautiful and strange. So, I brought her to a show and everyone loved her. With that, the Cthulhu "Temptations" Pinup Series began. And then I just kept making them, I love doing them. The beauty of the women and the imagery of the beast, provide such symbolism and differentiation that it works. I also like to place subtle symbols in the art that one has to search for, or upon a second look, identifies something that adds to the fun.
The concept derived from the work of H. P. Lovecraft, who wrote "The Call of Cthulhu" in 1926. His work has been classified as Lovecraftian horror, weird fiction, horror fiction and fantasy. His book is about the Cthulhu, a dark undersea creature with tentacles that torments an artist and drives them insane.
Gibson: Was it the “Cthulhu Temptations" Pinup Series’ popularity that determined the content for the coins?
Echo: After talking further with Patrick (Patrick Hipple, Account Executive in charge of Numismatics here at Osborne Mint) we discussed my collections and determined that alcohol was a good choice because yes, they are really popular, and they have a crossover into a couple of followings. You have the art nouveau following and then you have the alcohol following and then the general art lovers. Their pieces are more mainstream, beautiful, and look good over a bar or in a man cave.
Gibson: Why is the Absinthe first?
Echo: Yes, Absinthe Cthulhu is first, that was my suggestion because of the traditional Art-Nouveau look joined with a drink that was very popular around the Art-Nouveau times at the turn of the century. If you have seen the beautiful female figure of the Green Fairy Absinthe, Absinthe Art by Alphonse Mucha, well you’ll see I’ve got like the green ferry with the wings and everything.
Gibson: So transitioning your art onto a round is going to mean some modifications, how comfortable are you with that?
Echo: You know, you’re the experts (Osborne Mint), you know how things mint best because you guys have a lot more experience in minting on silver. I trusted your expertise a lot. So, basically I put together a design and we weren't sure how certain parts of it would reproduced. I was like, all right this is what we know, this is a rough design and how do we think the tentacles and everything would fit really good? So yeah, we went back and forth, but I trust you.
So then, they (Osborne Mint) worked with it to kind of be, like… well, this area will be super shiny and that'll look really cool. Then, so it’s got the right amount of tentacles, we’ll add some here and the right amount of negative space. And you know, for artists, the absence of a shape, of detail, is just as important as like lots of detail. Especially, because if you put too much detail (on a round), you can't read a darn thing, it's overwhelming, and it's crowded. Furthermore with the colorization, I allowed the experts to guide the design so that we would have the best possible finished coin. I gave them the best I could and they asked, can we move this and I'm like, whatever works, if it will look better then please move it. So, it's a kind of a joint effort between their expertise (Osborne Mint) and me.
Gibson: How is it being on the other side of the advertising design perspective, being at the mercy of others for the final project?
Echo: I like that role. Guess it is partly because I've done advertising work for so long, I know and I understand that other side of it. Because some artists are like, no don't touch my art, don't touch it or you will ***** it up, and I'm like, no, no, I want to mint it. You know that if it needs to be changed for this format to be the best, then make it the best possible.
Gibson: What has your take on the entire process been so far?
Echo: Like I said (before), I've always thought coins are awesome, and just having the collectability of the art on it and then also the fact that it's a precious metal. It is about having something eternal, about having a silver coin that will always have value to it. Which I think is just really cool.
Gibson: Thank you for partnering with us and speaking with me – I hope this is one of many more collaborations. Your art is a neat compliment to our work because one of the things that we always try to express to people is how the art makes a piece of metal so much more intrinsically valuable, and gives each piece of silver character.
Echo: Thank you and thank you to the team at Osborne Mint. I am really excited to do the coins and share them with my fans. And just wait until the fifth coin in the series, a surprise to the collection - I am just starting on designing “Beer Cthulhu.”
What a great conversation and now you can understand why I wanted to share it. I so much more appreciate the work that Echo Chernik does now that I have spoken with her. The chance to feel her passion, hear her love of art and know her desire to give back to her fans.
The first round of the collection was truly collaboration between our artisans here at the mint and Echo herself, she is a real partner. She is not satisfied with anything but the best.
That first collectible round in one troy ounce of .999 pure silver, is currently being minted and is on presale at Chernik’s website, along with more of her art. The "Absinthe Cthulhu" will be followed by future coins featuring Tequila Cthulhu, Rum Cthulhu, Champagne Cthulhu, and a fifth - most likely Beer Cthulhu (again that design is just starting).
You can also see Echo Chernik, her art and her collectible coins at multiple Comic Cons across the country. There is also a special feature on her website for raving fans whereas your collection of all five rounds can be sequential so that your set will have matching production numbers. Early collectors can even pick their desired set number, if available.
It is opportunities like these, to work with such a brilliant artist like Echo Chernik, that keep all of us here at Osborne Mint “beating the bushes” for the next idea or collaboration.
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