On Publishing

Thick Press

Tique asks the same set of questions to an international art book publisher about its motivation, practice and role today.
This week: Thick Press.

Publisher Thick Press
Location Washington DC/Los Angeles
Website https://thickpress.com

What motivated you to start publishing?

For Julie (a graphic designer), it was about feeling tired/burnt out by the time-is-money framing of creative labor. For Erin (a social worker), it was about feeling frustrated by social work’s over-reliance on “outcomes” and “evidence.” Both of us wanted to carve out space to make/think/do outside of neoliberalism. We wanted to privilege process, experimentation, risk-taking, failure, relationship building, nuance, and complexity.

How do you define and develop your artistic program?

In terms of content, we are interested in projects about care in service to movement.
In terms of design/writing, we prioritize process over outcome. Julie and her design studio partners have worked on many of the titles; however, we have collaborated as well with other designers, with their own design process and perspectives. We try to create a loose framework (page size, binding, etc) but remain open to how those forms might shift depending on the artistic vision and production methods of the piece.

We are always trying to figure out how the content and design can live together. In some instances, the design follows the content (in our first publication, Erin interviewed elders and Julie then created a multi-vocal structure in the book). In other books, the design and content live simultaneously (here we are thinking of our original book, emerging series, where we created three different sized signatures as the form that the author could then activate). Sometimes the design comes before the content, like in our forthcoming Encyclopedia of Radical Helping where the form of the encyclopedia generates a community-driven list.

What is your role in the creation of a publication?

We find people we want to work with, and then we work together from beginning to end, making a book together. For our upcoming publication, An Encyclopedia of Radical Helping, we departed from that approach, putting out an open call and receiving over 200 encyclopedia entries. We didn’t reject any work or require any revisions, although we did engage in dialogue with contributors about how to make pieces the best versions of themselves. We’ve been working on cross-references between entries, creating a volume where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

What do you look for in a project?

We look for work that is related to care in service to movement. We look for collaborators who want to experiment or push against the conventions of publishing. We look to further our inquiry into care.

What do you consider to be the biggest challenge as a publisher?

If you count on book sales to fund your work, your work ends up being constrained by marketability. So we think it’s best to find alternative sources of funding. But this isn’t easy, which means that people often end up doing a lot of free or underpaid labor (this is only a problem because we don’t yet live in a post-work world!).

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