HazMat's about 'zines, not chemicals
I met Sean Walsh at the 2012 Richmond 'Zine Festival as he was hopping from table to table, introducing his distro. Sean's shy smile and suspenders made him unforgettable. I should've suspected that he was guilty of alternative literary mischief. As a matter of fact, Sean and his friends had recently opened Hazardous Materials in Northside Richmond, Virginia.
A couple of weeks after the 'zine fest, I asked Sean a few questions about HazMat. Here are his responses:
Photo courtesy of Hazardous Materials.
Let's start off with a wee intro about yourself. In a nutshell (or a snail shell--snail shells are prettier), who are you?
I’m one of the founding members and the 'zine librarian at Hazardous Materials. I work with the Neighborhood Resource Center in Fulton Hill and live in a collective house in Jackson Ward. Before moving to Richmond in June of 2011, I lived in New Orleans, where I taught middle school mathematics and was a part of the Iron Rail Book Collective and the now-defunct Crescent City Anti-Authoritarians.
Give me the low-down on Hazardous Materials. What is it and where did the idea for it originate?
Hazardous Materials is an all-volunteer, collectively-run 'zine shop and a community workspace located in Northside Richmond, Virginia. It can be hard to describe the space as just one thing: it’s a shop, a public studio, and a community space. We are open to the public and provide printing and copying service free of charge. In this way, we are really part of an experiment in alternative exchange; we aren’t out to make money, just 'zines. Hazardous Materials was really born out of the idea of creating a space where people can come and feel empowered to create their own 'zine with all of the materials available to do so, regardless of cost. Often not having access to a printer or copier is one of the main hindrances to people making 'zines and getting them out there for others to read.
The Studio That Could
I have driven past Studio 23’s garage door in Richmond, Virginia about a hundred times. I have heard it spoken of, but I had no idea what it was all about. Calling it a simple print studio would not do it justice. It is more of an urban cooperative for artists and those trying to become artists. I was excited to explore it and learn more about what they did.
Jeff and I walk past that garage door with the Studio 23 logo and are immediately greeted by Ashley Hawkins. Ashley is one of the four founders, a member of the board of directors, and responsible for most of the daily operations at the studio. We are in the middle of the work space. It has the smell metal, wood, chemicals, and grease. It reminds me of walking through hardware stores with my dad when I was kid. There are large wooden tables that cross the entire room. Most of the equipment lines the walls. Ashley walks me through the space and points out what everything is and what it does and how it works. She shows me where most of the screen prints are made. The sinks still have remnants of the last print around the edges. She opens up the acid bath where they wash out the exposure. We duck our heads under shelving to look at the vacuum exposure. It has a large crack in the glass. I ask if it affects the end product and she shakes her head, but tells me that it is being replaced by the one who broke it.
The Strangeness of Unbroken Land
Sarah V. Smith, a recent graduate of VCUarts in Richmond, Virginia now lives on Gwynn's Island, surrounded by the Chesapeake Bay and the aura of strangeness she emits simply by exercising her everyday imagination. We shot her a quick Facebook message to see what she had to say about her art--succinctly.
Who are you--in six words?
Child of pluto, confusing and confused.
Describe your art--again, in six words!
Strange, frumpy miniatures in my garage.
Okay, seriously, you can give a little more insight into your work. What inspires you to create?
My inspiration to create work comes from a narrative I've been working on since 2009. I call it "Unbroken Land." It's heavily but not entirely based on dreams. "Unbroken Land" is a place where evolution is guided by sentient energy which effects it all the way to its eventual demise.
How would you describe your process?
My process in creating is a long and tedious one. I start with ideas, move to sketches, and then I create a diorama. There are several steps in creating the diorama, depending on the materials. I've created miniature gardens and forests to small living spaces. Right now, I am currently working on a simple diorama with just a stretched blue sheet for a back drop and plaster sculpted floor. Each diorama is usually between 2-4 feet in height and width, the figures usually stand about 6 inches tall. Once I've completed the diorama I photograph it, and the prints are my final product. I've found this process most efficient because I can really get a feel for the space my characters are in.
Where can Quail Bell readers see your work and how can they buy it?
Unbrokenland.com is my official website. Contact me at Aultervvourk@gmail.com for buying.
Lastly, what are you doing living on an island?
[Laughs.] I am living on an island because I had the option after graduating from Virginia Commonwealth University. Its quiet and lonely just the way I like it, perfect for art making.
What is a pop-up store?
Pop-up retail projects emerged as a trend in the USA around 2003-2004, and have gained steam since then.
The idea, at its most basic, is that commerce occurs, at a temporary (but fixed) location, for a temporary amount of time (a day, a week, a month).
Civilization has had temporary stores since ancient times, in the form of bazaars, markets, and other short term events. It is how we have done business for a long, long time. In fact, the word retail, to mean "sale in small quantities," and referring to permanently housed specialty stores, was first recorded in 1433, only a few centuries ago.
Markets and market days (specific days of the week that a market was open for business) were a key way by which goods could be traded. For most of history, goods for sale were perishable and produced by hand. Market days allowed farmers and craftspeople for a large area to produce goods during most of the week, and then sell them at a central location on a single day.
The rise of the retail model (that is, stores that sold specific kinds of goods, and were open the whole week) only emerged when human settlement allowed for a large enough demand to meet that kind of supply. Fundamentally, one only sees speciality shops in places of great human density: cities.
A pop-up store maintains the characteristic of being inherently specialized. Many of them only represent a single brand, such as the Comme des Garcons: Black store in New York City, which only markets a particular lower-cost line of Comme des Garconsclothing.
Where pop-ups differ from specialty stores is in their temporary nature. Because they are only around for a month or less, they tend to have low overhead as compared to a long term store. The space might be rent-free, the staff may volunteer, and because they are a new and novel thing, and a limited, exclusive event, the amount of attention and activity they attract is usually vastly higher than a long-term retail counterpart.Pop-up stores have taken off since 2008, when the recession set in. Many building owners, neighborhood groups, and cities (Pittsburgh included) see them as a way to fill, in the very short term, vacant spaces that other businesses have abandoned (due to collapse or downsizing). They are a way to keep a business district well-trafficked despite a lack of permanent tenants. As such, many of them pay no-or-low rent during their time in the space.
Connor Sites-Bowen is the founder of Clowder & Pack in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Here's a fairy paper doll--just for you!
By Celina Suh
Need a new, wee friend? Download this cutie fairy pal. (Yes, you may take a pen and start scribbling over these to make a fairy who's more 'you,' too.)
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Europe on a Holga
By Katelyn Rebelo
Family trips are sweeter with a little toy camera:
Punking it up, fairy style
By Christine Stoddard
Since we know that Steampunk is all the rage, especially with our fellow Quail Bell(e)s, how could we resist a quick chat with Peter J. Wacks, head of FairyPunk Studios? FairyPunk Studios combines two of a few of our favorite things: Steampunk and nursery rhymes. A curiosity, yes, but also a rather intuitive one. Here's what Peter the Punk has to say about his wee cooperative:
- Could you explain what FairyPunk is and does?
FairyPunk is a creative cooperative. We combine talent (Artists, Writers, etc.) to recreate classical fairytales and bedtime stories in the Steampunk Landscape. At the core of what we do lies creating inspiring worlds of beauty and elegance in an already richly vivid mental landscape. Each project is aimed at being vivid artwork for adults as well as rich stories for children.
Once we have created the project we print a very small limited edition run for promotion, then pass the projects on to our partner publisher (currently Fantastic Journeys Publishing) for mass market printing and distribution.
- What inspired the idea for FairyPunk?
That is a harder question. The precise moment was one of those ‘wouldn’t it be cool if someone...’ conversations, to which my friends and colleagues present replied ‘Yes, it would! Why don’t you?’ There was no specific inspiration. I’m one of those types that randomly strings concepts together, and it was a moment of pure randomness that created the idea.
- Could you describe a couple of your favorite FairyPunk projects?
While the books and art are absolutely amazing, my favorite project is the free Nursery Rhyme Archive. It is a very slow process, finding those rare gems that convert traditional rhymes with Steampunk ideas, but getting to read all the ideas and rhymes that come in is a blast.
Lights--Not the last thing on your mind
By Ani Mikaelian
Editor's Note: This interview was first published in QuailBellMagazine.com when the website was still a little hobby blog run by Christine Stoddard. Since we liked the interview so much and never migrated it to our new website, we're reviving it from its original 2010 form.
With mainstream music, everything seems to be all too predictable. However, when you bring in Canadian singer and songwriter Lights equipped with her own genre of electro music, the sky is the limit. Hailing from Ontario, Canada, this particular [25-year-old] was under the US’s radar for quite some time.
In 2008, that all changed when she released a digital self-titled EP. If you shop at Old Navy, you might just be familiar with her hit “The Last Thing on Your Mind” that sold 12,000 copies all on its own.
Having come a long way in only a couple of years, Lights has toured with the likes of Owl City, Keane and Copeland, has released a debut record entitled The Listening, as well as putting out a handful of music videos to keep fans satisfied. On top of being a dedicated songwriter, she is an avid fan of fantasy and the realm, considering her song “Lions!” was first and foremost inspired by playing the phenomenal game World of Warcraft. She has a couple tattoos to show her devotions, just in case you needed any more of a justification.
[At the time of this 2010 interview], her “Lights. Acoustic Tour” just came to an end with its six-day take starting at the east coast and ending on the west. Through the midst of busy schedules and preparations, I was able to catch up with Lights on the phone to find out how the tour has been treating her and just what we can expect out of her in the near future.
This is where we'll be...
Book-binding with a Pittsburgh Bookbinder
I sat down with book binder Kayte Rose of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania recently and asked her a few questions about book binding.
When did you become interested in books? Not just binding, but books themselves?
I've been reading since I was 2 and a half, according to my mother. I used to sneak books into bed and hope my parents wouldn't sit down, because the bed would be COATED in books under the covers- and they'd bribe me with books to behave when I was getting shots at the doctors.
I've always loved reading- but the object of a book, with pages and a cover and the smell and heft has always been one of my favorite things. It speaks of wisdom, of an item refined over thousands of years that doesn't need electricity or winding or anything else to be entrancing. A book can sit somewhere for a hundred years (or more), and as long as the language is still around and hasn't been destroyed, it can be read and shared. It is a vessel for knowledge and ideas, and that is as close as I can imagine an object being to the true definition of awesome- inspiring awe.
How did you become interested in book binding?
Well, I'd been meaning to learn it- I like to learn older crafts and hobbies like tatting, weaving, etc- and some time in April or May 2011, I read something by Gaiman about books (which I forget right now) and Doctorow's short story "The Right Book" (which is about a corner store that also sells books people bind) and decided that I was just going to try it. I read all the websites, started getting all the books out of the library and buying them from Half-Price Books. Not long after that, my AmeriCorps term ended, and I went out and bought a bunch of supplies to try to sell them. I found employment before I could really spawn my business, but I'm still trying, just slowly. I also give them to people as gifts and just enjoy making them for myself.
Is there a full-blown book binding subculture?
There is a culture around it, and it is getting more popular, but I am not really immersed in it. Bookbinding is a legitimate activity and pursuit in BIG cities (NYC, Philly) and atypical cities (Iowa City is the best example), but there isn't a strong presence here from what I've seen. There is a Guild of Book Workers, several masters' degree programs around the country, and discussion over whether we should focus on making grand, time consuming, intense books or quick but well made and stately books or artists' books, but I haven't had enough experience in artists' books yet, and I am not fast enough to try for the second and not patient enough to try for the first, so I'm kind of in the middle of all three! I can't imagine there would be drama, the closest I can think of is the discussion inspired by the Kindle/Nook/other e-readers that leads people to discuss and ruminate upon the role of the physical book in today's culture.
Where did you learn how to bind books? When did you start?
I taught myself, using books, websites, and videos, starting in Spring 2011.
Are there masters in the field?
A resounding yes. My books look like child's play (and kind of are) compared to the works of truly amazing binders. For examples of a wide variety of books, check outhttp://www.philobiblon.com/bindorama10/index.html . If you want to look up binders who consistently impress me with the work they do, look up Bill Minter, Peter Verheyen, William Anthony, Keith A. Smith, and Dennis Yuen.
I know that there are commercial processes, and time consuming by-hand processes. Is there a modern in-between? A style of binding for small independent runs?
Not all by-hand process are time consuming. If someone wanted to print something less than 100 pages or so, there are ways to bind up several books rather quickly. I bound up a book that was around 140 pages in an hour with poor tools on a carpet floor once, and it turned out pretty well and I just was told that word of mouth has spread about that book (A 9th edition NERO rulebook) and that at least one person wants to get a few copies like that.
Almost every hand binding is also going to be a better quality than something you get off of a print-on-demand shop like Lulu or a generic cheap paperback you buy in Walmart, because hand bindings sew the papers together, whereas print-on-demand and cheap books are "perfect bound," which means glued together. The glue will eventually crack or spread too far, the pages will fall out, and your cheap paper pages will disintegrate. However, if you're concerned about cost and time and want to get a book printed, Lulu and other print on demand shops are the place to start looking.