In search of… Independent Publishing
A platform for collaboration
6 June 2019
Curation and words by Francisca Roseiro, Margarida Morais and Rong Lian
Images by Diao Yinjun and Laura Diržytė
Circulating mostly outside the traditional commercial networks, our session was looking at independent publishers.The intention was to see them as platforms with the ability to produce books on small scales and at low costs. Aiming to investigate how Hato Press, Booksfromthefuture and Publication Studio started and how they use collaboration to create networks of creatives from different fields such as artists, designers, and researchers.
Our day began by meeting Jimmy Fernandez at Hato Press in Hackney. A studio and publisher embedded in Japanese culture, ‘hato’ means pigeon in Japanese, where the risograph printer was first manufactured.
Hato started as a press, establishing a network of collaborations using the risograph machine as a means for production teaching around the community. At the moment, it is run not only as a press but also as a studio composed of eight designers, both the studio and the press supporting one another. Hato Press has an interesting approach to food culture. They have communal lunches where everyone cooks each day, which they use as a way to learn from each other. A lot of Hato’s projects are based on food – cookbooks, menus, and self-initiated projects on food in films – such as the publication trilogy Cooking with Scorsese, an exploration of food on screen, through the eyes of film directors.
Collaboration for them comes from working with artists and designers. Some of the projects start from working with the local community and neighbouring areas, such as Cooking in a Hackney Estate: Mountford Estate Community Cookbook, a cookbook with recipes collected from the residents of the Mountford Estate in Hackney.
The press hosts a lot of workshops, using the methodology of “Printing/Learning through play” from Kintsugi, the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with powdered gold, to ceramics, risograph printing and self-publishing. Another interesting concept developed by Hato, is the ‘printernship’, a programme for students or recent graduates to use the printing press to produce their own prints and publications, while helping in the studio one day a week.
BOOKS FROM THE FUTURE
After meeting Hato Press, Yvan Martinez who currently teaches at Central Saint Martins and runs Books From the Future, an independent publishing house, joined us at our studio in London College of Communication. Books from The Future merges education and research into publishing, it was set up by Yvan Martinez and Joshua Trees. Yvan and Joshua met at the New Genres Department of the San Francisco Art Institute in the 90’s and have been collaborating through art, design and writing ever since.
Yvan considers collaboration and the creation of a network as the chore of any design discipline.
Initially based in San Francisco, US, Yvan and Joshua took some time to establish their (critical) practice: “At that time, design wasn’t perceived as a critical discourse, the only design magazine that could be seen as critical was the magazine Emigre”. Emigre was published between 1984 and 2005. Art directors Rudy Vanderlands and Zuzana Licko entranced designers, photographers and typographers alike with their use of use of experimental layouts and opinionated articles.
Talking about the book as an object, Yvan explains Books from the Future’s use of the book as a performative space, to learn and to share knowledge. They are not interested in creating artists books, but in using the book for artistic exploration and experimentation, looking at materiality and sequence. A key influence for them is the mexican artist Ulisses Carrión, widely known for his decisive role in defining and conceptualising the artistic genre of artists’ book through his manifest The New Art of Making Books (1975).
An interesting perspective from their projects is to use the book as a timeline, as a performance for different voices to come together. Exploring new ways of navigation, the book can be sequenced through hours of the day or past present and future, to give an example.
In order to generate funding for the research projects, Yvan and Joshua started teaching, and also created the Books from the Future Summer School in 2009, which resulted in publishing projects from collaborations with students. Getting into the Summer School projects, Yvan started picking up some of the objects we had brought to study.
Flatland, see Flatland is a partnership with BA students who were not happy with their education system. They worked from Flatland, a satirical novel on how society treats women, from which a time-based narrative was performed. Based on Victorian times and adapted to our contemporary society, the book proposed a different reading experience, interacting with information. Yvan asks “How do you teach the reader?”. In their publication the reader is able to choose the way the book should be approached.
MLBB053 also results from a collaboration, but this one focuses on methodologies.
“How to output research?” Yvan believes one of the most important part of a design practice is the process, and this is what this book aims to reveal. Using the past, the present and the future as a way to navigate, the publication is based on counter narratives and various perspectives on how the academic system evidences links between practice and research. Yvan asks: “How can we work together to create counter narratives? How do you articulate your research and situate your practice?”
Ending our conversation, we talked about our course programme and how to approach collaboration within projects. From Yvan’s experience as a teacher he advises “it’s better to allow students to work on their own or initiate collaborative groups themselves”. Concluding with his view on the practice of publishing he mentions the importance of “making a public, an audience, and creating a discourse through the circulation of books”, an idea that is shared with Matthew Stadler, the founder of Publication Studio in Portland, which led us to our final visit of the day.
LONDON PUBLICATION STUDIO
At the entrance of Brunswick Park, we met with Louisa Bailey at The Bower, London Publication Studio, a collaborative project she runs together with Joyce Cronin. Similarly to Hato Press, Louisa tells us that The Bower is named after a bird, meaning gatherers, curators of beautiful things and ‘a woman’s private space’ — the building used to be a Victorian toilet block (there is still the remaining ladies sign on the building).The re-construction of the space was achieved through crowdfunding and the first year of functioning was supported by Arts Council.
Inside is a print operation room and a gallery currently displaying Oona Grimes, Hail the New Etruscan #3. The Bower also runs a cafe, providing space for community gatherings and book displays.
As an independent studio, The Bower has its own ideas about material, sizes, and structures when it comes to bookbinding. Focused on the process of making books by hand, one at a time, they establish a personal connection with the object being purchased. Publication Studio runs not only as a space of exhibition but also as a press. Louisa Bailey binds herself most of the publications that are sold at the gallery space.
There is a unique aspect of collaboration within Publication Studio, established through a global network across studios. Louisa tells us about the “digital commons” they use to share files with each other, a digital platform where the publications’ content and design is shared, so every studio has access to then print them on demand, joining the thirteen Publication Studios around the world.
In our journey through Independent Publishing: A platform for collaboration, we discovered the struggles and small victories that come when creating your own publisher. One of the biggest challenges is monetary. The three publishers fund the structures through their own practices. While setting up a publishing house can be a struggle financially, the challenge also lies in pushing collaboration(s) at every level.
Collaboration is indeed key to start and maintain a publishing house, it seems to be for them a platform to generate new ideas, ways of thinking, and/or a global network to explore the circulation of content among creatives.
Throughout our day, it became evident that publishing can be performed and experienced through a wide range of resources: from printing techniques, workshops, food engagement, local communities, academic partnerships, researched based practices and online networks.
The session allowed us to understand how an independent publisher works as well as the amount of effort, persistence and time it requires but also that the exchange of knowledge/production between collaborators allows ongoing learning.