Nathan Jones, Print Ready (Vancouver): Representing Zines
by Melanie Trojkovic
As a newcomer to Vancouver, I have slowly been exploring the distinctive art and publishing scenes that this colourful city has on offer. With the opportunity to interview Nathan Jones, a curator, artist, and current principal coordinator of Dynamo Arts Association, I feel I have come that much closer to a clear understanding. In his discussion of Print Ready, an ongoing project aimed to exhibit zines and printed works, and the synchronicity of fellow independent publishers in Canada and beyond, Jones articulates the city’s creative climate at present. With his participation in the upcoming Vancouver Art/Book Fair as both an exhibitor and the curator of the exhibition Latent Aesthetic Dialogue, Nathan demonstrates his understanding of and commitment to the delights and contradictions of this city’s independent arts scene and alluring creative spirit.
PS: What are the ambitions of Print Ready? How did it come about?
Nathan Jones: Print Ready’s purpose is to provide an exhibition venue for the people making art zines and small editions of printed books in Vancouver, the lower mainland and the coast. At the time that we conceptualized Print Ready, both Michael Lachman and myself felt like there was a void for artists making art zines to present their work in this city. Several years ago I travelled to New York, Montreal and Toronto, and I saw all the great work happening in independent publishing. I felt that this medium was really underrepresented here. When I met and talked with Mike at Canzine, it really confirmed that there was a lot happening in this city that was still underrepresented in the way of self-publishing. He exposed me to a lot of artists doing really interesting work, and we suddenly realized we could put together a fairly sizeable show, using both our contacts, fairly easily.
PS: What local work should we expect to see on display at the Print Ready table at VA/BF in October?
NJ: I’m really pushing for artists to give me new stuff. I know Stephanie McDonell and Phaedra Harder will have something cool. For their last work they laser cut all the covers themselves, and used duct tape for the binding. Michael Lachman has a few slick zines kicking around. Cole James Pauls might bring us some of the books he’s been working on over the summer in the Yukon. He’s been teaching himself bookbinding. Doug Wideen is debuting his first solo zine. Kuh Del Rosario has a book that she’s been conceptualizing for a while that exploits some really interesting aspects of her sculpture. Tylor Macmillan does great work that I find really inspirational and I said I’d table whatever he’s got.
PS: You are curating an exhibition at VA/BF featuring the work of Sebastian Borckenhagen (Cape Town, South Africa) and Justin Gradin (Vancouver); how was the connection between these artists made?
NJ: Mostly just synchronicity, and out of necessity. I see something that someone else isn’t doing and I feel it needs to happen. That’s been the basis of my curatorial practice. I try to dissect meaning along the way. Both these guys have very different aesthetics, but there’s a commonality in how their practices hold a foundation in cartooning, specifically a relationship with independent or self-made comics. My father was an independent comic artist and my friend John Metzger’s father George Metzger was as well. George’s comic collection was influential on the development of my own practice and interest in print. This is still something I’m investigating. Also, Justin and Sebastian’s processes as artists are intrinsically linked to their relationships with music. I don’t think I can accurately represent this in any way, but I have another idea for an exhibition that explores this idea.
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PS: What do you find to be important in these intercontinental relationships? Have you had any transcultural issues or opportunities come to light?
NJ: Both Justin Gradin and I have shown work in Tokyo (separately), and I think both of us found that a really rewarding experience. I haven’t talked with Sebastian about this, but I’d assume he feels the same way. He and I both mentioned, in our correspondence, some ideas about collaborating, but we’re both really busy with other projects so we need to focus on what is at hand first. My friend Gabe Dearman that used to run Gaff Gallery and Galerie Rye in Montreal is now living  in Qatar. He mentioned he might like to work on some curatorial project again at some point. It’s a pipe dream, but that would be cool.
PS: What relationship exists between the gallery and studio spaces Dynamo Arts Association and Print Ready? 
NJ: Dynamo Arts Association donates its space for Print Ready events. Mike and I both have studios, and organize events there. Dynamo was founded back in the mid-nineties, but due to “Renoviction” had to relocate to its new Mount Pleasant location about two years ago. I was one of the artists to get a studio in the new space. I’m really hoping we can keep this location for a few years, because we’ve put a lot of sweat and blood into setting it up. As someone who’s been involved in the whole rebuild process, I’ve fallen into the position of being one of the coordinators for the space. The other artists at Dynamo are all really supportive of self-published print as a medium. Mike Bourscheid just published a limited-edition vinyl record with a lino-print cover. Doug Wideen has been working on a comic series with our mutual friend Justin Gradin called Isn’t that Pip. Warren McLachlan has been involved with some really nice small-run catalogues. Ben Fry and Jeff Lee both  do some really killer drawings, have self-published and have had their work published all over the place.
PS: What does the future hold for Print Ready? Any possibility of a Print Ready zine or print collaboration?
NJ: Yes, I really want to make a Print Ready zine or catalogue. I’ve been trying to for a while, but with my own art practice and all the curatorial work and coordination I’ve been doing, it’s been hard to get there. Also, it seems like I work three or four jobs or something—I don’t even know anymore! They sort of overlap. My studio at Dynamo is more of my office, or where I go to hide and eat pizza at the moment. I’m giving up on coordinating a lot of other projects so I can spend more time painting again. We have a lot of ideas for where Print Ready could go. Michael might move back to the States at some point, so maybe it could branch apart. He could operate as a satellite curator and we could pass artists back and forth. Maybe I’ll move to Toronto and assimilate it into something else going on there. I’ve been threatening to move there for fifteen years or so, but I hear it gets cold in the winter.
PS: What words would you use to characterize Vancouver’s arts/art publishing scene? And what aspects of this environment made Print Ready plausible?
NJ: Diverse, segregated, yet maybe growing…possibly even exclusive…I’ve heard that said, and I’m not sure I disagree. The landscape of this city has a lot to do with that. I think the art made in this city is derivative of it. How can it not be, right? Vancouver has a lot of neighborhoods, and it’s easy to get stuck in your own. I’m looking forward to talking with Ryan Smith of Brick Press again. Michael Lachman and I had his work in Print Ready, but that was a while ago, and I haven’t run into him since. This city can be weird like that. Vancouver is also damn expensive and trendy. I think that supports a growing counterculture, and a certain reactionary rebellious element that has always been prevalent in zine culture.
PS: How is this unique to other cities?
NJ: Vancouver has taken a long time to embrace the diversity of zine culture. There’s so much segregation and superficial style here that maybe it’s just taken this long for the city to reach a capacity that can support it. Something has to balance out that Lululemon and Whole Foods lifestyle. Horse Records just opened up and they are carrying zines and I heard Snack City is too. It’s too bad that Spartacus Books had to close down.
PS: Are there any artists or publishers that you currently find yourself drawn to and inspired by?
NJ: I think I mentioned most of them. Luke Ramsey and Ryan Thompson [of Anteism and OuterSpace Gallery] are really great, hard-working guys too. I’ve gone to visit Ryan on the island a couple of times and I love the stuff he does. I really admire Marc Bell’s work too. He mailed me a zine and I’d really like to mail him a pig’s ear or something back. I’m not sure if Canada Post still accepts pigs’ ears though.
PS: Are there any upcoming Print Ready events you would like to plug?
NJ: Come talk to Michael and I at the Vancouver Art/Book Fair. I’ll have some postcards with event dates. Also check the fair’s website and Artists’ Books Week page… as well as this Project Space website. They seem to be really up on everything going on in this city.
Images: Print Ready show during installation, artwork by Sebastian Borckenhagen, zine interior by Justin Gradin

Review: Print Ready Art Waste

by Ryan Ming

On a gorgeous, sunny Saturday afternoon on June 7,  Dynamo Arts Association opened its doors to the public for Print Ready: Art Waste, as part of the Art Waste event running concurrently with the annual Music Waste festival. Inside, guests were invited to browse a large number of zines presented in an unorthodox setting: suspended on fishing line from the the ceiling, rather than the usual lying face up on a table or leaning vertically on a presentation shelf or rack. Guests were treated to a good number of locally produced zines as well as international offerings that came from as far as Romania and Sweden.
Print Ready organizers Michael Lachman and  Nathan Jones curated an excellent selection of zines that covered diverse formats, printing/binding methods and themes ranging from photography, illustration, painting, text/typography, graffiti, comics, drag culture, pop culture and travel. Some of the zines were available for purchase. As seen above, zines were not solely limited-run printed objects, but also acted as vehicles for additional artistic materials such as stickers, buttons, records, cassette tapes, etc.

Project Space:  How did Print Waste come about?
Nathan Jones: Michael Lachman and I started Print Ready as a promotional zine project last January. We were contacted by Art Waste, which was looking to coordinate a print component to this year’s Art Waste. They liked our last exhibition and they asked if we’d curate an exhibition for them.
PS: What is your background in regards to print?
NJ: I studied painting at Emily Carr University of Art + Design. I took a bunch of digital print courses while I was there. I developed  an interest in print in regards to getting my work out there in more a economical fashion than painting.
PS: How did you get into zines?
NJ: I guess it’s been a gradual thing for me, where it sort of snuck up on me. It wasn’t anything specific. When I was kid I used to contribute drawings to the newsletter published by The Comics Shop on West Fourth Avenue. I suppose that was sort of a zine in a sense. My main interest is in artists’ self-publishing, rather than zines specifically. So this project doesn’t limit itself to zines but opens more to self-publishing projects.
PS: How did you organize all these people to participate?
NJ: Some  of the people we found after our last exhibition—people who attended the exhibition and were interested in participating in the next exhibition. Then there’s people we contacted  because we like their work. And we had a few submissions come in through our website.
PS: Will you do another Print Ready next year?
NJ: We might do one for October. And then probably another one in January as well.
PS:  What will you do differently next time?
NJ: We’re looking at putting together a catalogue of works. So inviting artists to submit images from their body of work and we can have something that the artists or people who visit can have or take with them. So a zine created specifically for the exhibition. And other than that, continuing to update our website and promotional material.
PS: Finally, do you have any zines our readers should really look up?
NJ: I do a zine called Idiotville with a couple people I have drawing nights with and we collaborate on that. And Michael Lachman puts out a lot of work as well. Here in the show we have Left Field, 2014.



The Opening – Print Ready POSTED January 23, 2014 BY Elliat Albrecht

Last weekend, local artists Michael Lachman and Nathan Jones hosted a one-night zine show titled Print Ready at Dynamo Arts Association. Dynamo is a non-profit studio and project space located in the Main Street area that accommodates artists working across a diverse range of media. Shared studio space in the back and gallery in the front, Dynamo typically holds one to four week-long exhibitions curated by both the board and artists in the studio. Artists Michael and Nathan’s January 18th exhibition included endeavours into independant art publishing by Amiel Gonzales, Doug Wideen, Josef Carhoun, Justin Gradin, Linton Murphy, Michel Groat, Phadra Harder, Sarah Davidson, Stephine McDonell, Tylor MacMillan, and more. I paid Mike and Nathan a visit at the studio prior to the opening to talk about the show.

Elliat Albrecht: How did you select the artists for this exhibition?
Michael Lachman: They’re friends of ours mostly; people we know.
EA: Were they making zines before, or are they making them specifically for the show?
ML: Typically the artists have made zines before, but a few of them are also making them for the occasion. It’s open, as far as what people want to do.
EA: Did you have an idea of what the artists might produce before you asked them to contribute?
ML: No, there was definitely a lot of trust.
Nathan Jones: We didn’t spend a lot of time focusing on that. We picked artists that we’re currently associating with or that are making work that we feel is important.
EA: Why zines? What interested you about them?
ML: Nathan and I actually became friends through zine-making when we both participated in the Canzine event. Anyone can submit work to Canzine, so there’s a very wide variety of material but I was really interested in what Nathan’s doing.
EA: [to Nathan] What are you doing?
NJ: I’m making little art books and illustrations, trying to explore the whole process of zines. Which is similar to what Michael is doing as well.
EA: Do you photocopy them? Are they cheap to reproduce?
NJ: Yeah, they’re mostly photocopied and some are assembled with staples or thread.
ML: I sew mine with a machine, but a lot of people staple theirs. They’re fairly cheap to make, and I think that’s what draws artists to the medium; they’re so easy to reproduce and circulate in large amounts.
EA: How are you going to display them at the show?
NJ: We’ll display reading copies hanging from string, and there’ll be a table where people can purchase copies if they want. or walk around and meet the artists, hang out and talk. All of the money from the sales go directly to the artists. That was something that was important to us: have an event where people could walk in for free, mingle and enjoy the books at their leisure and all the proceeds would go to the artists.
EA: How would an artist typically distribute their zines outside of a gallery? Are they normally sold or given away for free?
NJ: They’re generally sold for a fairly inexpensive price. I feel like few people can afford the luxury of taking an artwork home and having a hands-on, personal experience with it. That’s what drew me to making books. I used to make a lot of large paintings, and I feel there’s a lot in the experience of standing in a gallery; walking into the painting or experiencing an exhibition in a similar sense. I felt a at a loss that I couldn’t get my work to all the people that I wanted to in a physical way due to their size.
EA: Three things that make a good zine for you.
NJ: Making use of the small, intimate format,
ML: I like to see weird experimentation with the photocopying. It’s such a basic thing: either image, text or drawings and then you just have the copy machine to work with, essentially. Or some people use computer software like InDesign, and that can be used to their advantage in an interesting way.
NJ: I like to see experimentation in content or actual material or concept of the zine. I feel that as a media, it exists in a grey area where it can allow itself to be textual, illustrative or collage-based. It can transcend those spaces as well. I like that: when you can’t pigeonhole them as a collage book or comic book or revolutionary statement.
EA: When it comes to creating printed matter in large quantities, there can be a substantial investment in terms of paper, ink, labour etc. It makes me think of political groups with a cause, handing out booklets and flyers to the public in hopes of a return that can’t really be gauged.
NJ: Yeah, people put a lot of time into printed matter, and you’re never going to make back anything that you can measure. In this case, you would have to sell a lot of zines.
EA: What’s the average price range?
ML: Maybe three to twenty dollars maximum.
EA: How many copies will each artist provide?
ML: It’s up to them; probably anywhere between five and twenty-five.
NL: Someone told me they want to make fifty and someone told me last night they want to make one.
ML: The artist Michael Groat is submitting two things; he typically only makes three copies of something. But he makes a lot of different editions of his work, which is interesting. Slightly different content within each one, but a really limited amount. They’re fantastic. There’s something to be said about that as well.
EA: Making a small amount?
ML: Yeah, I always make too many and then they’re just lying around.
EA: You could always leave them in different places. You should leave them in a library, in between books.
ML: I actually had some in READ bookstore at Emily Carr. You can submit books there. I had some at Solder and Sons down on Main. Even at Antisocial they have a little zine space where I’ve left copies .
NJ: I like to give mine away when I’m travelling; to people that I meet, or if I stay with them or go to a gallery or a bookstore or something like that. What we’re trying to do is give the artists in our show a venue where they can get their stuff out there. It’s great that we have Canzine here now, which is a once-a-year big event, but there are a lot of people making things in this city, and I hope that giving artists a smaller venue to display their work is something that will happen recurring throughout the year.