I first met Julia from Vice Versa Press at the River Des Press Expo in 2015. I was bowled over by her meticulous design (pop ups!) and her equally rich writing. Julia’s books are both vulnerable and badass. She was a featured artist at #stlspexpo 2015 & I’m so glad she’s joining us again in 2016! – Nicky
What drewyou to creating, publishing, editing and presenting your projects?
I used to make household newspapers as a kid when I was growing up. We had an old Apple Computer when ‘desktop publishing’ was a buzz word and that’s how I spent most of my time. Growing up in an office environment with my workaholic Mom introduced me to all types of machines that allowed me in some ways to mass produce my self-expression. When I got into punk, I became aware of zine culture and my childhood practice of formatting became something I enjoyed doing again. As far as presenting my work, I was always a bit shy, so publishing allowed me to put my voice out into the world without me having to actually be in the spot light. But sometimes I feel that publishing and 2-D art are too quiet. I’m at the point in my life when I want to make more noise.
How didyou get into working with small press publishing?
In my case, it was not strategically planned at all. I had begun making art prints and some zines under the name Vice Versa Press, because I wasn’t comfortable (at the time) with using my real name as a form of branding. But as I continued to write, design, and produce zines; I couldn’t stop making stuff. And along the way, other people began asking me to design flyers for them and zine collaborations were something I began to do more frequently. I just sort of found what I loved without really understanding what it was, which is is small press publishing. And as the press continues to grow, I’d like to branch out into exploring manufacturing.
What do you think of the relationship between publishing (what you do) and reaching an audience of readers?
For me, the relationship is complex. Unless a press is funded by some institutional backing, it’s hard to survive from a business perspective without understanding your press as a producer of commodified goods and your audience as a ‘market’. This is not how I started Vice Versa Press by the way; I was all about making art and writing because I was moved to do so, with or without pay. But over time I’ve dove in head first into how capitalism shapes the relationship between art and business. So, in order to keep this press alive I observe what is popular amongst my readers and try to balance my personal voice and creative identity with what moves people to buy (weird I know). But my work is rooted in highly emotional material, and this is how me and readers connect. We sort of bond over these painful experiences by laughing about them and sharing stories when we meet in person. In short my readers are badasses.
What advice would you give to someone starting a small press or publishing project?
It’s easier to work as a press with a group of people. I do everything solo, mainly because I like to have creative control over everything, and because I haven’t found lifelong collaborators with Vice Versa Press yet. I see teams of people starting presses and releasing new projects, and they really have strength in numbers to get their projects known and recognized. As a lone wolf, it’s hard to cover all bases adequately when you’re designing, producing, promoting, and trying to maintain sales as well. I don’t recommend doing it solo unless you just can’t help yourself. Unless you’re a control freak like me.
Other than your own projects, what are some other presses and publications that inspire you to keep reading and supporting the small press community?
Sybil Press is putting out some really interesting regional work based in Texas and Baltimore pertaining to folk religion. I’m all about that stuff. Draw Down Books really has a keen eye for trending art styles. Everyone that they work with blows up shortly thereafter, and they’re really cool people in person. High Mija Zine is contemporary and Latina as fuck, so it’s exciting to see this resurgence of Latinx identity through storytelling and humor. And of course, the folks who put the River des Press Expo together are doing really interesting things within St. Louis. I think there is a small group of people in STL who are truly countercultural, who response directly and uniquely to the changing dynamic of the city, And the folks who produce Shitty River Comics, Freezerburn, Toxic Shock Syndrome and many others are doing so in a very alternative way.
Join is at #stlspexpo 2016 on October 15th at Central Library between 10:00 and 5:00.
If you can’t make it, buy Vice Versa Press books here: http://www.viceversapress.com/