There are a few workshops in the world which are really important for us in Oficyna Peryferie. One of them is Colorama, Berlin-based risographic studio and artbook publishing house. Last time we had a pleasure to interview Johanna Maierski – founder of Colorama. She told us about her work and favorite projects. Have a nice read!
How did your studio/printhouse/publishing work begin?
I always collected comic books but got more and more interested into self-publishing during my architecture and urban research studies. I wanted to keep a printed memory of the topics that I wrote and drew about and also print my own comic zine „Wrestling“ so I started doing that – first with copy machines and then with the risograph of a friend. He had a risograph in his bedroom. He showed me some of his publications and I was very excited about the possibilities to print something in color for relatively little money.
Somehow there was an available printer and then the idea to start a printing studio – the first publications followed pretty quickly and after being approached by bookfairs to exhibit the titles, I stumbled into the whole bookfair-thing. A main influence was also Good Press. My initial goal was to start a subscription program like they do so masterly! I quickly learned that printing, publishing, going to bookfairs, and distributing other titles is a little bit too much for one person so I cut the distribution.
What does your team look like? How many people work at your studio?
This has been a surprise for many people but I am the only person running this studio. I always have one intern that works for me 2-3 days a week and I collaborate with graphic designers or artists but that’s it. It’s just me.
What is a priority in your work? What do you stress most?
With my publishing I try to provide a safe and professional space for the artist to explore and develop something they normally could not do. Every artist has a project in a drawer that was maybe too weird or too complicated so far. I want those projects.
I take my work as an editor very seriously and try to assist and guide them to get a beautiful and exciting result–in the best case also a bit surprising for themselves.
Regarding the printing, I am very eager to get very precise and elaborate prints out. There are still so many things I can learn about it, and I want to know them all!
Who are the authors that you decide to publish?
I am drawn to artists who create an infectious inner logic in narration or conceptualization. I am sometimes really shaken by stories or hysterical about a way that people draw and I love the ones the most where I can’t fully wrap my head around. „How is she/he doing that?“ is a reaction I had to my favourite artists. And sometimes I never really understand.
Aisha Franz is a perfect example for that, her imagination is pretty twisted–it’s fantastic. Every time she gives me a new story I have to laugh so hard and am at the same time ashamed because I think she dedicated the story to my neuroses–which she never does–or at least she doesn’t admit it.
Another good example: Paul Paetzel, he has been working on this tangled opus that is half biographic and half detective and science fiction-novel for a couple of years now. His dialogues are like bus drivers telling each other jokes–his drawings, especially the ones he draws freehanded are so delicate and clumsy at the same time. It is a super infectious world he is creating. And don’t get me started about Marc Hennes, he is just a genius.
In general, I like working with artists who are open for editing because I strongly believe that a project will always get better and sharper if you work with someone together on it.
What was your biggest publishing success?
A big success was probably D.U.I.I. by Tara Booth, an illustrator from Portland. I really love that book because it shows her sense for storytelling and composition in a very pure way, it’s only drawn with pencil, something that people don’t really know so much from her. The story is very personal for her and it was very precious for me to publish it–that she gave me her trust.
The CLUBHOUSE project COLORAMA hosts in collaboration with Aisha Franz seems to be very popular and has gained quite an audience.
It’s my favorite project because it combines everything I love: working with Aisha, bringing artists together, being a host for someones else’s work, being able to print elaborate and exciting illustrations and also actually having a big audience for that. We never expected that so many people would be interested in this project but the feedback at book fairs and that of the distributors was really overwhelming. Somehow we hit a nerve with all those illustrators that know each other only digitally but now have a reason to meet and work with each other in real life when they come to Clubhouse. During the week we had lunch together every day and there were always new guests who just wanted to come by and get to know everyone involved. It created this comic summer-camp that everyone involved really loved.
It’s also just very different to hand in a contribution to an anthology and to wait until it’s printed or to be a part of the process and production of the book. It becomes more personal and captures the intensity that book-making is.
Are more CLUBHOUSE editions already planned?
We are going to continue with the small monthly sessions and will do another big CLUBHOUSE WEEK next summer (2018)
Berlin seems to have a relatively big amount of Riso print houses, is the community supportive or does it generate a lot of pressure?
The nice thing about Riso is that no one can get rich out of it. So everyone is sympathetic and supportive. I really like my neighbors from Drucken 3000, they helped me out so many times, and I am a big admirer of Franz’ and Moritz’ work from WeMakIt / Gloria Glitzer. They are all very kind and generous people and I would recommend them in a blink if Ididn’thave capacities for a project myself.
Everyone is known for specific qualities. I do a lot of workshops, also with international universities, photo-printing and,of course, comics and illustrations. Other studios work more graphically or more into an art-book direction. So yes, we all like each other 🙂
What would you do differently now, after years of experience? Would you change anything?
In some of the first projects I made, I was lacking the patience to get the books out there and didn’t take enough time for editing. I still love the books but I know that they could have been better.
What tips do you have for our readers who would like to make their own artbooks and zines?
- Start with small editions.
- Really think about your audience.
- Set yourself a deadline for a fair or an event so you can actually present what you made.
- Take your time to get advice from colleagues or friends and take their comments seriously.
What are your goals right now?
I want to continue my project CLUBHOUSE together with Aisha Franz. So far we have been financing everything privately but we would like to professionalize the setting for both the artists and us. We would love to be able to invite people from far away to join us next summer, so we are working on that right now.
Of course, I am also excited to just make more good books. There are so many in the planning that I can’t wait to get out!
I am also really working on the intern-dilemma. I would like to be able to properly hire and pay someone to work for me. To rely on that that someone is working for me and is being paid in prints is a system that I don’t want to support in the long run.