The pioneers of aviation were never lonely
Who: Good Press Gallery
What: Independent book store and gallery
Where: Glasgow, Scotland
So we first came across you just before Christmas because we were at the post-gig St Etienne party at the CCA where Stephen Pastel was DJing and we had a little chat with him about what we did with Dostoyevsky Wannabe books and he was helpful enough to invite us to bring some of our books into Monorail the next day. This was when he recommended Good Press to us. Maybe we don’t get out and talk to people in Manchester enough but this struck us as really surprising and almost seemed like old-fashioned word of mouth. Do you think this kind of word of mouth is something that Glasgow still does really well and do you source most of the publications for Good Press via word of mouth/people just popping in?
Yeah, definitely, less than you’d think though. We started out next door to Dep and Stephen’s Monorail, within Mono, so we’re definitely on their radar, but their kindness in mentioning us two years plus after moving is very humbling. We learnt a lot from them, on how to go about things, and I’m always surprised when I mention Monorail to people and they haven’t heard of the store. It’s one of the best record shops in the UK that we don’t visit nearly as much as we should.
Word of mouth is still good in Glasgow. It’s a smaller city than Manchester though, and a lot less sprawling and held together I think. In terms of art, there are a lot of small spaces operating sporadically and without word of mouth, we’d all miss out on a lot. For as much as people mention us, we’re happy to chat along and hand out recommendations. There is a generosity and sharing here in Glasgow, not just from DIY spaces either, that means you see and receive a huge amount of one off events or short lived projects.
In terms of sourcing publications that way – I’m not sure anymore. We’ve always run Good Press in a hands-off manner and people come to us with a title and we’re not that interested in how people have found out about us, the important thing is that it’s here amongst the other publications and available to be viewed and bought by visitors.
You obviously have a social-media presence alongside the shop/gallery and we presume that helps reach people further away but do you think what you do is mostly really about the material of the publications more than anything else? Do you get the sense that some of the human interaction gets lost due to everything being so linked to social-media or are you pretty relaxed about that?
We’re very relaxed. That said, I’m writing back to you on the cusp of 2018, if we didn’t have social media we wouldn’t be writing to each other and keeping each other’s projects in mind, so for me it’s a necessary tool to reach and keep in touch with people. In no way is at as personal or as fulfilling as human interaction or experiencing a publication first hand, but we all have varying levels of how to enjoy. That sounds very non-committal reading back, maybe even a little disregarding of social media and I don’t mean it to. We wouldn’t have met many of the brilliant people we’ve had the pleasure of meeting or working with had it not been for Instagram or Twitter and they’re great tools for that – keeping in touch and longer distance awareness.
People come and visit us based upon pictures they’ve seen or things they’ve read online and for that we’re extremely grateful. Above all we’re a space that promotes independent activity and publishing and so that is first and foremost our interest, the social media side helps, but is also a bi-product of the age we live in.
We recently took out one of Good Press’s monthly subscription packages (only a ten pound a month one because we’re poor) but we wondered how the idea for these came about? We received our first one the other day and we think it’s a really cool and simple idea. Its like we have a sort of monthly care package of DIY stuff through the post and we get to see the work of people that we probably never would’ve come across otherwise. It was like a little Andy Warhol time-capsule box but in a paper-bag instead haha. We look forward to next month’s package and encourage everyone to take one out. It seems like it’s not your average subscription package because of the random factor of not knowing what you’ll get.
Ha! Having the subscriptions compared to an Andy Warhol time capsule is very flattering but it comes from a much simpler place. I think personally and from a practice perspective we’re more interested in that kind of collecting, housing and distributing (see Museums Six and its predecessors) but I think our service would need to be improved to be held in comparison. We’ve been running the subscriptions for around four years, and it came at a time (and it’s still the case, if not more so now) when we felt the selection of publications at Good Press was very intimidating. As a visitor, where do you start?? We go to book shops around the world and are happy to spend more than a couple of hours looking and looking. Not everyone does that or can do that, so this is a way of taking in a small selection at a time based upon us.
They’re a really difficult thing to put together and we agonise over them a lot though. It pains me to think we may upset someone in that they don’t get what they thought they would and we’re constantly looking for ways of changing the subscriptions to make them more tailored. It’s on our list of things to do!
Distribution has always been the kind of hidden hand behind lots of DIY endeavors. I guess we’re thinking an obvious example of this would be indie record-labels getting their music distributed by The Cartel (set up by Rough Trade?) and how that got all the independent music onto the shelves of local record shops in the 80s. How important is the distribution angle to what you set out to do?
It’s the whole motivation. Myself and Jess run a small press publisher called Museums Press – which has recently turned itself into another publisher, or morphed slightly, called A Plume – and its hard getting your publications into stores. Nobody would go outright and say it, and I’m not at all criticizing it, but if they don’t want to stock it, my view is, they plain as day just don’t like them. Good Press was formed with an open submission policy (within reason of decency) to ensure our taste wasn’t part of the selection process. We stock almost everything that comes our way. Space limits this, but we take on publications with the aim for them to be distributed not on what we think will sell, but upon the respect it was produced by a person and another person would enjoy that item. I’ve always said, and maybe I should write this out, I probably only like about 20% of publications we stock (love probably about 2%) but respect 100% of them. I hope people don’t take that the wrong way, but we find merit in everything that comes our way.
Can you tell us a bit about the types of zines/small publications that you stock?
Its very mixed, so much so its not worth listing, best to give you an oversight of our practices and that will show the direction it un/intentionally runs in… There are eight of us – Matthew Walkerdine (me, a Graphic Designer, also runs Museums Press, A Plume, ATF), Jessica Higgins (a writer and visual artist leaning to sculpture and installation, also runs Museums Press, A Plume, ATF), Nick Lynch (a painter, also runs Blotter Books), David Roeder(a painter, also runs Verdrusz Books), Tess Mackenzie (an illustrator and comic book artist, part of Umpteen Press), Ewan McCaffrey (a painter, also runs Studio News and is a member of Babaloose), Joanne Dawson (a painter and installation artist, also a member of Babaloose)and DeniseBonetti (a writer and also runs Spam Zine). Aside from our practices we have other hobbies and interests, SO, think on those and of course our selection is mainly art and writing focused.
Do you actively try and make links to zines/artists outside of Glasgow or is there enough to be going on with in your local area?
In terms of publications, we’ll take them from wherever they’re made. We very rarely source publications anymore. Good Press does that itself and means it has a very natural, broad ranging selection. With the gallery, we work with people, and always have done, internationally. Its our aim to let Glasgow see works from out of town not just from within town.
You’re obviously a gallery and have exhibitions as well as the shop. We didn’t look beyond your shop front when we came to visit you but are we right in assuming that you must have some kind of space behind the shop or something or do you exhibit in other spaces?
But no! Everything we do takes place within what you see. That’s far more interesting to us and hopefully a challenge to the artists we invite. They’re amongst the bookstore and have revolved around a table or tables since our time in Mono. We hope it creates a new inquiry for installing artwork and for the artist involved. Its not an easy thing to consider – thousands of coloured objects surrounding the work – but people have successfully overcome this and created installations we’ve continued to be surprised by over the years. We see it as a testing ground and somewhere for people to try something out, something lightweight.
We do run external exhibitions from time to time and I’d be lying if I said we didn’t pine after an additional space to run more formal exhibitions, but finance does not permit!
You have video nights also. Can you tell us a little bit more about these?
They’re sporadic and experimental, run by Nick Lynch and YouTube.
We understand that both yourself and Jessica are active doing other things outside of Good Press. Can you tell us a bit more about your individual practices? Also are there any weblinks or upcoming things that you want to plug?
Well, we’re both very busy, we all are. Like mentioned I’m a graphic designer outside of Good Press and I’m also a lecturer in the subject three days of the working week. I make a lot of self-motivated publications (surprise, surprise!) and I’m just about to embark upon a year long subscription project called The Grass is Green in the Fields for You, which you can find more information on over on my website. Oh, I’m doing a project and exhibition with another Good Press member, Nick Lynch, around March time. Jess has two very exciting exhibitions and a new publication coming up in the first half of the year. To look in to Jess’s work more (by far my favourite artist in the world, constantly surpassing herself), her website is brilliant and Publication Studio London published an experimental novel by Jess called Guilding in the middle of 2017. Our publisher A Plume published two books at the end of the year by Judith Hagan and Rebecca Wilcox that we’re very proud of. To follow from those, and currently being printed, is an annual or journal edited by Jess, Jude and Rebecca featuring some brilliant writers. That’s released on 15th January with a launch at our flat. Looking forward, myself, Jess and a good friend, excellent artist (truly one of the best) Owen Piper have started a Type Foundry and online repository imaginatively titled – Artist’s Type Foundry – which aims to release typefaces by artists in seasons. We have a large project upcoming for Glasgow International Festival 2018. Oooft, sounds like a lot coming up, it’ll be a sharp welcome to 2018.
Go and visit them if you’re in Glasgow but you can also buy their books via their online shop. Plus here’s a thing to their ace subscription packages:
Push your shoulders and hands under the surface of the water. Subcultures, independent cultures, others.
Push your shoulders and hands under the surface of the water. Subcultures, independent cultures, others.