Just before the next digital innovation takes hold and fast becomes the buzz of the twittersphere it’s worth taking a look at the latest printed publication form San Francisco based studio, Manual. A collection of loose artworks that celebrate the city’s creativity the aptly named Loose Leaf can be hung to match any desired taste. With contributors including Jeff Canham, Dave Eggers, Dwight Eschliman, Mark Giglio, Jake Longstreth, Michelle McCarron, Richard Misrach, Louisa Parris and Andrew Zuckerman we were keen to find out more and asked Tom Crabtree, creative director of Manual, a few questions…
It’s a very unique publication, where did the idea come from?
I came up with the idea while cycling to work one day – though I think the bigger idea had been bubbling away for a year or so. That bigger idea was a reaction to the fact that as we consume more and more visual culture online (skimming through design blogs) we’re certainly discovering what’s out there, but not experiencing it in a physical or permanent way. Looking at a beautiful work of photography or art at 500 pixels width doesn’t really satisfy someone like me. I like to live with images, not just glance at them. So in a way I would also say it was a totally self-satisfying urge to create a beautiful object of print with really great selection of large scale works by artists whose work I admired. Something that I’d want to buy myself, but more original than a series of posters or a magazine.
The decision to make Loose Leaf a large format and unbound publication that hangs on a wall was really a reflection of my own aspirations to collect both art and design for my home and my design studio. Posters, photography, screen prints, drawings… all of which cost a small fortune to frame. I thought it would be interesting to design a publication that allows the user to instantly hang it on their wall in a way that is very intentional. So I came up with the idea of pre hole punched sheets that ship with Aluminum push pins.
I had already decided upon the name Loose Leaf - due to its unbound format, but it was only when I discovered a set of old 1970s binder dividers with ‘loose leaf‘ printed on them that everything aligned – a moment of serendipity if you will. The hole punched poster sheets suddenly took on the utilitarian form of a loose leaf binder divider – complete with edge tab. By nature of its unusual format, I think Loose Leaf sits in its own category. It’s kind of hybrid of periodical, collectible archive and personal art gallery.
How long have you been working on it and how often can we expect to see it?
We (my business partner and wife Patricia and I) started approaching contributors and print and paper partners with the idea about nine months ago. We were originally aiming to launch in February but since it’s really a studio side project when we’re not working on client projects, it’s been relegated to evenings and weekends. Editions will be released bi-annually, so the next one will be published in late October/early November. The next edition will be themed around the concept of ‘Terra’ (as-in Earth/Landscape).
How did you find the transition between designer and curator? How did the list of creatives come together?
In running a design studio I already get to work with other creative folks including photographers, illustrators, artists, architects, industrial designers so I always have an eye out for new sources of inspiration and collaboration. This first edition is anchored in the area where we live and work, the San Francisco Bay, with contributors currently residing here, or producing work inspired by it. Some of the contributors are people I had previously worked with, but others were people whose work I admired, or whom I thought would make an interesting addition to the selection. I was careful to select from a cross section of disciplines, and lesser known artists in additional to more established names.
I was surprised by how enthusiastic and interested in the format all of our contributors were. For example, we were told by Richard Misrach’s gallery that he constantly gets approached by publications and regularly declines. When we approached him about Loose Leaf he was on board instantly. The same with Dave Eggers. I think it’s the format that captured their interest. It’s not just another magazine.
The fun with Loose Leaf is that now the format is set, the visual content can continually shift. Future editions may feature architecture, graphics, sketches, or written content. The idea is that each edition is based on a theme that artists/image makers respond to. And contributors won’t always be so locally focussed like this launch edition. Future editions will contain works by people from all over the world. This is where blogs and visual culture sites play a key part. We’re continually discovering new artist work online from great resources such as But Does It Float, Today and Tomorrow, amongst others. So Loose Leaf isn’t anti-web/blog as people think. It just uses those as a starting point to create something permanent – not unlike It’s Nice That when you think about it.
Loose Leaf is a sign of the change in approach to printed publications, what other publications are you enjoying at the moment?
This is going to sound really lame for someone who’s championing printed publications, but I really don’t buy a lot of editorial publications and when I do I barely find the time to read them. I think if I lived in New York or Europe I’d probably be consuming more publications. San Francisco stores don’t have a great selection, you have to really hunt them down. From time to time I may buy Fantastic Man, and sometimes I’ll impulse buy Monocle (though I dislike most if its elitist tone). Apartmento strikes me as a really interesting title. I like how casual and broad it’s focus is. And you’ll be happy to know that It’s Nice That is gradually filling up our bookshelf. In terms of non-magazine publishing, I’m quite excited by what Unit Editions are doing. The design, editorial content, and focus is spot on.
Exclusive It’s Nice That Reader Offer
Tom has also kindly offered a 20% discount for the first 50 orders form It’s Nice That readers. Simply enter ‘ITSNICETHAT’ at checkout.