Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Writing & Publishing

OBJECTSPACE TALKFEST
Wednesday 2 October, 7.30pm
Unitec Building 1 Room 2076

Speakers:
Bronwyn Lloyd (curator, arts writer, publisher)
Jonty Valentine (graphic designer, teacher, curator)



Selected publications that I've contributed to


I've been writing about New Zealand art, craft and design since 1999. I completed a Masters Degree in Art History and English at Auckland University in 2001 followed by a PhD on Rita Angus's symbolic portraits in 2010. A selection of the publications I've contributed to is shown above. 

My University education provided me with a very useful skill-set including understanding relevant theories, learning how to close-read particular works of art, learning how to carry out strategic research from archives of published and unpublished writings about artists, and learning how to undertake fieldwork involving interviewing living artists and the relatives of deceased artists. I now know how to structure a large body of writing and I know how to go about composing a persuasive researched essay. 



Institutional publications

When a writer is commissioned to produce a text for an institutional publication, you are generally provided with a writing brief that tells you the audience that the publication is intended for, the tone and style of writing that the institution requires from you, and the scope of the particular essay you are being invited to contribute. While such writing briefs are useful, they do limit the authorial control that you have in relation to your writing.

The writing in multi-contributor publications is often edited in such a way that the work of each of the contributors ends up sounding the same, as if it had been produced by a single writer. In my view this rather defeats the purpose of inviting a range of writers with diverse points of view about an artist's work to contribute essays. The content of the essays is often 'diluted' through the editing process and any material that might be considered provocative or potentially controversial tends to be edited out. Sometimes the final proof of the essay doesn't really reflect what the writer intended to say about an artist's work.


A more imaginative approach to art writing. 

I much prefer the kind of writing commission that involves a collaboration with artists, or those that allow the writer the creative freedom to approach an artist's work in a more imaginative way, rather than producing a conventional style of academic essay. This has been the trend I've observed in art publishing in recent years, which has (to some extent) supplanted the earlier method of having a small pool of art historians and writers who were approached by artists to write about their work.


CONTROLLING THE MEANS OF PRODUCTION 
is the best way to guarantee that a writer has control over the texts they produce.


SET UP YOUR OWN PUBLISHING COMPANY


Selected Pania Press Publications 2007-2013




Pania Singles: 'Silhouette' and 'Britain's Missing Top Model'



Pania Peculiars: 'Minotaur' and 'The Nightingale'

SETTING UP PANIA PRESS


My writer husband Jack Ross and I conceived the idea of setting up a small publishing company in 2006 in order to promote the work of New Zealand poets and artists. Jack's previous experience as an editor of literary magazines such as The PanderBrief, and SpinLandfall and Poetry New Zealand, as well as his obsessive activities as a blogger, with over 30 blogs currently in operation, was an incredibly valuable asset as we started mulling over the possibilities of starting a small press. Combined with my interest in handcrafts and bookbinding, and my experience as an art writer and curator, we felt that we had the skills we needed to get underway.




THE RULES OF PANIA PRESS

Pania Press fund our own publications.
We invest our own money into each publication and we hope to recover our costs for each book through sales and generate enough money to pay for the next publication.

Pania Press will never seek funding from Creative New Zealand.

Pania Press is a not for profit company. 

These rules mean that we are not accountable to anybody else, we control the means of production entirely, we are not financially dependent on Pania Press in any way and therefore we can choose to pursue any projects we want to without risk. Above all, it means that Pania Press is a fun enterprise that we run in our spare time. It is something we do because we enjoy it while at the same time making a useful contribution to New Zealand art and literature.



USEFUL TIPS ABOUT RUNNING A SMALL PRESS


1. BUILD UP A LIBRARY OF PUBLICATIONS that you respond to and identify the qualities that you would like to incorporate into your own publications.

In this respect, I've looked at other cost-effective, small press publishing initiatives for inspiration, such as Richard Killeen's Workshop Press and Karl Chitham's MOTH publications (below). I'm very impressed by the work of The Jewellers Guild of Greater Sandringham who produce an excellent E-Newsletter that publicises current happenings in the jewellery sector.




An influential publication in my library is a small catalogue called Angels and Flies by Julia Morison with texts written by Anna Smith.



This catalogue is an example of a creative response by a writer to an artist's work and a fruitful collaboration between an artist and writer. The Angels & Flies catalogue directly influenced my first creative response to an artist's work -  a stitched poem in response to Katharina Jaeger's exhibition Outlet at Lopdell House Gallery in 2001.



Stitched page  work 'Alice' (2001) with accompanying works by Katharina Jaeger and a photograph of the headless calico rabbit soft-sculpture Alice that inspired the poem.


2. KEEP YOUR OVERHEADS LOW

From past experience I know that employing writers, photographers, designers and printers adds thousands of dollars to the cost of a publication, making publication prohibitive for most young artists unless they can secure funding from Creative New Zealand.

Cultivate a group of like-minded people with a range of useful skills and work out terms with them. Never exploit the good will of the people you collaborate with. Barter your skills if you can't afford to pay people. Eg. offer writing advice in exchange for assistance with publication design.

Use Copy Centres and other cheaper means of producing the publication. Shop around.

Learn basic book binding skills.

Create a free blog, rather than a website, in order to market and promote your publications.


3. MAKE A VIRTUE OF SMALL-SCALE PUBLISHING

Make small print runs (limited editions) and sign and number each copy. This creates desirability and rarity.

Simulate the properties of fine-press publications through the use of fine paper and card stock, or include one or two handmade elements in each production.



Katharina Jaeger, Fold, 2008


The Fold publication included a photo of Katharina's installation and a two-part 'breathing' pop-up form by way of a 'folded' paper response to the artist's works.


Graham Fletcher, The Eternals, 2007.


Graham Fletcher, Sugar Loaf Waka, 2013.

In order to keep our overheads low, I wrote the texts at no charge and Graham designed and screenprinted the covers for The Eternals. A student at Otago Polytechnic was employed to do this for Sugar Loaf Waka. I hand cut, scored and bound each copy.



Graham Fletcher: Paintings 1998-2004. CNZ funded publication.
Text by William McAloon / Design by Kim Meek.

Graham Fletcher Lounge Room Tribalism Mangere Arts Centre, 2012.
Texts by James Pinker, Graham Fletcher, Rhana Devenport and Caroline Vercoe
Design by Philip Kelly


The handmade element is the point of difference in our publications.


One of 45 drawings corresponding to each of the sculptures in the exhibition The Eternals.
A number of people attending the exhibition purchased a sculpture as well as the catalogue containing the corresponding drawing.



A selection of Graham Fletcher's Post-it note collages, 2009. 
A unique post-it note collage is bound into each copy of Sugar Loaf Waka.


The decision to include an original artwork in each copy of the two catalogues we produced for Graham was inspired by the experience of attending Julian Dashper's exhibition openings in the 1990s. Julian often had records for sale at his openings, which were affordable for students who wouldn't be able to afford his other works. This was an important aspect of his practice and we bought all of his records. 

Graham wanted to do something similar in his Pania Press publications. An original drawing was tucked into the back cover of each copy of The Eternals and a post-it note collage is included in the back of each copy of Sugar-Loaf Waka. The idea is that for $75 people can own a Graham Fletcher work.


Graham Fletcher signing copies of Sugar Loaf Waka, 2013.


4. APPROACH EACH PROJECT AS A UNIQUE COLLABORATION BETWEEN PARTIES




Celanie: Poems and Drawings after Paul Celan, 2012
Translations by Jack Ross, drawings by Emma Smith

This publication is our most 'commercial' book to date. The larger size of the book meant that hand binding wasn't an option. A research grant from Massey University enabled us to employ a designer and have the book commercially printed. The interspersing of the poems with Emma's beautiful portfolio of drawings meant that it retained the Pania Press creative aesthetic.

This project had a long gestation period as Jack spent two years translating a selection of Paul Celan's poems included in letters to his wife Gisele, and Emma spent that same period working through numerous bodies of drawings until she arrived at a set of images that best expressed her response to Celan's poetry.


5. BE IMAGINATIVE. THERE ARE NO LIMITS TO WHAT YOU CAN PRODUCE. 



The second page of the pop-up book 'The Nightingale' (in progress)


THE DIFFICULTY OF DISTRIBUTION FOR SMALL PRESS PUBLISHERS

The loss of Parsons has been a blow to small presses around New Zealand, but Parsons still operate a useful library distribution service and are keen to purchase small press publications.

Make sure you have a wholesale price for libraries, galleries and bookshops, so that retail outlets can add their 40% mark-up to make selling your products viable for them.

Be realistic in your pricing and think about who you want your work to appeal to.

Set up a blog to attract potential buyers. Post new projects there and update the catalogue of available publications frequently.


Take the trouble to stage book launches to celebrate each new publication





 Images from the Celanie book launch, November 2012.

Advertise your book launch well in advance so that people coming along know that they will be buying a book. In exchange for their patronage, give buyers a good experience, with plenty of food and refreshments.


Above all, take pride and pleasure in the books you are producing. 
Cultivate good relationships with everybody you work with and represent.
Ensure that you come away from every project with a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.




2 comments:

  1. I really enjoyed your talk last night! The Fine Arts Library at The University of Auckland always loves receiving your publications. We can't wait to see Tessa's work.

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    1. Thanks so much Victoria. We very much appreciate the support of the University of Auckland Fine Arts Library - your collection of small press publications is amazing!

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