Good Press: publishing in a digital world

Published

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Gaby Somarriba
Writer

Following the success of last year’s show, Graphic Design Festival Scotland took over The Lighthouse with workshops, short-films, live music, exhibitions, competitions and panel discussions. The Glasgow Guardian interviewed Matthew, one of the heads of the gallery-bookshop Good Press, who is imparting one of the first workshops of the festival.

The Good Press workshop, together with the one by Alan Kitching (Letterpress), are the only ones that use traditional analogue methods of printing at the GDFS. This means a process where plates and screens, which are prepared manually, are continuously replaced to print every element of the work. Some of the traditional methods are lithography, letterpress, flexography and gravure.

A Dadaist impression overwhelms upon arrival to Good Press’s space. Perhaps it is the current wall exhibition, “Marbles in my Mouth”, or the choose-whatever-you-want-to-exhibit ideology of Good Press that is reminiscent of Dada’s iconic weirdness and creative freedom. Matthew agrees with the connection, saying that they want to cultivate the European craziness and abstract approach to aesthetics. “It’s about getting people together and having a good time,” he explains.

After seeing that “Glasgow was lacking a place that promoted activity”, Matthew and Jessica founded Good Press in October 2011 with the goal of increasing the publishing of independent writers, designers and artists in Scotland: “It’s not just about selling publications, it’s about encouraging people to make publications.” With an open submission policy, Good Press aims to stock any type of work as long as it doesn’t contain racist, sexist or political issues. “We’ll stock everything because we believe it shouldn’t be about our taste. We believe in independent practice”.

Located at 5 St Margaret’s Place, the company doesn’t just promote local artists. In stocking works from more than 55 countries, the company has managed to get a broader network that contrasts with the small space of its gallery-bookshop. But how do they get content from Glasgow, London, NY, Australia and LA? The answer is simple, word of mouth and the media; principally Instagram, Twitter, and their website. Everything that is on the shop can be found online: the products range from books, perfumes, golf balls, ceramic badges and concrete sculptors to mugs, tapes and bookmarks. Good Press believe in the freedom of choice, as well as the freedom of distribution: “People should be entitled to sell whatever they want, it’s not my taste… we never, ever push what you should buy in this shop — that’s entirely up to you.”

Although there has been a huge increase in the digital market over the last decade, Good Press aren’t afraid of the future of publishing. “This argument has been going since me and Jess set our first publisher in 2009… but people still want a physical thing,” argues Matthew. Even though the company focuses on traditional, hand-held publications, they are open to everything and always try new solutions. In fact, a couple of months ago Jessica wrote a book that was published through an app.

In spite of having such a small space, the Good Press team have never felt limited to selling books. The gallery-bookshop holds installations, film nights, performances, readings and book launches. The space not only challenges the team but also the artists who are invited to present and/or create works especially made for the gallery. The current exhibition “Marbles in my Mouth”, for instance, is constructed around a book that shows the work of the Austrian artist Viktor Rogy. Here, Good Press and collaborator Fritz Welch, having only one copy of the text, designed the project by covering the walls of the gallery with multiple copies of the images that are inside the book. The central table is also used to present a variety of objects made for or chosen by other artists to support the exhibition. The hybridity of mediums used on the items for sale, and on display is yet another similarity to the Dada movement, along with their process of giving a new meaning to an object.

Good Press workshop at the GDFS will be based around the NY publisher called “The Something-else Press”, who specialise in newsletters. They will ask graphic designers to make up the content of publications (and put to one side the aesthetic values) in the absence of computers; replaced by bare bond materials like pencils, carbon paper and letter-sets. The analogue workshop shows again the company’s versatility.

I ask Matthew’s advice for future graphic designers, writers and artists in general. His answer is simple and inspiring: “Do exactly what you wanna do, and if you are having fun you will do it better”.

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