This Friday and Saturday, check out the 2.0 version of the Honolulu Printmakers’ annual sale. As always, a great venue for affordable fine art, the new Print and Book Fair is now offering handmade books, manga, and zines, showcasing the forward edge of printed objects. HPR’s Noe Tanigawa reports.
The Honolulu Printmakers’ Print and Book Fair runs 5-9 Friday night, November 24th, with music, refreshments, and a party vibe at the Honolulu Museum School.
The Fair runs Saturday from 10am to 6pm.
For artists, illustrators and budding book binders, Chris Butzer offers practical suggestions for your next book fair in an extended interview.
Photographer, printmaker, multi media artist Minny Lee says a book is an intimate, temporal experience; a physical, sequential thing.
Minny Lee: I love that everything, you have to make decisions. All the little considerations that go into the process of making a book.
Lee: What’s the first page you’re going to encounter? The color? The material? I usually decide on the size first. Do I want 6 by 9 inches or do I want 11 by 17 inches, because the scale of a book makes for a very different experience. After I decided on sizes, I go into the material. Do I want to use watercolor paper? Do I want to use ink jet paper where I can print right on it? Within the parameters, I touch the paper first. It has to feel good to my fingers, otherwise, I don’t go with the paper.
Lee: After that, it’s of course, the cover, Are you going to use book cloth, like fabric, backed by paper? Or am I going to use transparent kind of paper? Rice paper? All the little details are decision making and I love that process, choosing the materials.
Lee's books are inviting. An earthy green fabric cover invites a finger to trace its edges. Lee's filmy, photographic portraits of east coast trees really capture frozen moments, maybe at the end of a snow storm. Her photographs of well worn shoes are part of a small, portrait book about an Italian shoemaker.
Lee: Thinking about a book and getting materials is exciting but the most exciting part for me is sit down at the table with all these materials, cutting, sewing, and gluing and putting together and realizing each book, that is the most interesting part. It’s an exhilarating experience. When I do that, I feel I can make books all day everyday and be happy the rest of my life. That’s how much joy I get out of making books. The tactile contact, hand making, all that is the most exciting part.
Lee: When you choose the material for the book, and the way you make the book, also reflect the content of the book. Form and content always go together. It’s a subtle marriage that has to happen otherwise it can be a beautiful book that doesn’t have content or the content is this but the design is completely different, doesn’t work. It’s constantly thinking about form and content.
Is it nerve wracking for you to have people at shows leafing through your books?
Lee: No, actually not. I actually want people to touch my books and experience the physicality of the books.
Is it tough to find people who will appreciate you work enough?
Lee: That’s always challenging. You have to show your books. I know the younger generation, less and less probably own physical books, but I see a renaissance of the analog. For example, film photography is coming back, and book making and book arts, like our book art fair (Honolulu Printmakers' Print and Book Fair) are becoming very popular. Book fairs are happening in many major big cities around the world.
Fairs all have different personalities. Printed Matter, New York City's pioneering bookstore, ran its 12th NY Art Book Fair this year. The oldest print and zine fair may well be the Small Press Expo in Bethesda, Maryland where you'll find mostly comics these days but many prints and zines. Zines are defined as a noncommercial publication, often homemade and devoted to specialized or unconventional themes.
Lee: Some are very hand made oriented, other are more conceptual, cheaper and quicker, kind of more concept driven work. Some of the fairs, like Codex book fair are about very high end, highest level of craftsmanship in book making. But then when you go to New York Book Fair or LA Art Book Fair, there are many zines and pamphlets that are cheaper, easier, quicker to make but still have interesting content in it. There are also photo books which are becoming more and more popular, and becoming its own niche market. Also do-it-yourself, and self-publishing books are becoming more popular and widespread. You can gather your images and go to a website like Blurb or Lulu and they have software where you can design and order your book then receive in in the mail. You can sell books through their website too.
Changes in printing and publishing are allowing everyone from fine artists and writers to scrap bookers and family photo snappers to expand their options.
Chris Butzer: The nice thing about zine festivals is when you walk through them, nobody is making the same thing. And people find that exciting.
Hilo based printmaker, cartoonist, illustrator, Chris Butzer has been working the national book fair/zine circuit.
Butzer: The taste is across the board, especially at zine fests, it's cooking, there’s zines about fishing, I last year produced a zine that had actually no actual story to it, but it was just about a monster fighting a robot. I didn’t think it would sell whatsoever, but it made me happy, and when I flip through it now I laugh at it. It’s one of my best sellers I don’t know why.
Did you photocopy the pages then staple them yourself, or..
Butzer: With that particular zine I kind of wanted to explore playing around with the printing process, so I ended up buying a laser printer because I wanted to have a kind of a high finish on it. It has a foldout poster in the middle, it has transparencies, and you need a laser printer to print transparencies so you can see insides of the robots, the skeletal systems of the monster, just all kinds of science fiction nerdy stuff that I absolutely love. And you know what’s fun is, watching people flip through it.
Butzer: I just kind of say, This is how this works, and if people like monsters and if they like robots, they
usually fall in love with it within the first 30 seconds.
Butzer made a print run of 250. He has about 30 left. They sell for $10 each. Really, Chris, how is this working economically?
Butzer: It was interesting, I was at a print fair in Seattle recently and we were talking about perceived value…
Find Butzer's comments in the extended interview-- essentially he says getting out there with your work is important, and so is making it sustainable. He's managing to do that with a reliable printed product, a tote! Always a must have at a book fair.