Location London, UK
What motivated you to start publishing?
We first published together while we were in our second year of our undergraduate studies. The first publication we made came out of a shared concern for what knowledge feels like, and a struggle to imagine where the work ourselves and our friends were writing could live; work too messy for literary spaces, too designerly for art spaces, too performative for design spaces, too anarchic for academic spaces. Feminist in a kind of disgusting, abject way, and obsessed with wanking like embarrassing teenagers. This first publication was called fragile, disorienting, breakable, naive, hesitant, loving, lusting, leaking, trebling, terrifying, fucking materialisms, and was oriented around the ideas of New Materialist Feminisms, which are still really vital to our methods. We didn’t intend to publish together again until a few months later when we had another idea, and then another, and so on, and in this way we continued to grow until about a year and a half later we started calling ourselves Sticky Fingers Publishing!
How do you define and develop your artistic program?
We describe ourselves as a feminist, queer and disabled led publisher, which is to say that we center and attend to the material conditions we and our writers do this work amongst. Our efforts go towards resisting the ways people with such lived experiences are constantly expected to make themselves legible to a non-marginalised audience, by publishing work that is opaque, graphic, niche, vulnerable, contradictory and camp!
Something really important to us is that as soon as things start feeling too comfortable or too easy, we try to do something that feels terrifying. A lot of the big steps we have taken in the development of Sticky Fingers Publishing have been fuelled by this, from starting our quarterly parties at the Glory in London, to working increasingly with guest editors, to starting our monthly radio show on Repeater Radio.
Through all this we work we use a visual language shaped by our limitations and that actively fucks with normative graphic rules (the two of us have an ongoing competition between us over who can use the most typefaces in a single issue of our monthly postal mail out.)
What is your role in the creation of a publication?
The two of us share most responsibilities completely, including the editing, design and production of our publications. For some of our publications we work with someone from our expanding group of associate editors – Kate Morgan, Evelyn Wh-Ell, amy etherington and Donna Marcus Duke – to develop an open call, or sometimes we invite writers we have worked with through our open calls to pitch monographs. If we are commissioning new work, then we develop with the writer a supportive editorial structure that works for them and their access needs, often involving several focused group editing sessions.
Then we design and produce the publication. We like to do as much production ourselves as possible – we run a Risograph and have some other equipment in our studio, or use the facilities at London Centre for Book Arts. Otherwise we work with Sunday’s Print in Glasgow, or Pagemasters in London. Once the publication exists we usually launch it at one of our events at the Glory, where we put on an evening hosted by Donna the First, with associate producers Ru Matiyani and Saundra Liemantoro, and the brilliant Becks Turner on tech.
This is what we mean when we describe ourselves as intra-dependant. While the two of us are Sticky Fingers Publishing, we rely upon and are enmeshed within an interested community of practice that really enables this work to happen.
What do you look for in a project?
We want to work on texts that feel risky, like they’re trying something new. The work we publish is generally non-fiction, and is actively interested in the expanding ways the essay form can be rearranged, re-written, and subverted. In this sense, we particularly look for writing that is anti or cross-genre, pursuing embodied knowledge, marginalized wisdom, or makes surprising connections across form and reference. We love texts which oscillate between the academic and conceptual, and the trashy and horny. We are proud to publish work by our friends and people we love, and very often become friends with those whom we publish and meet through open calls, fairs, or events.
Do you have any advice to artists planning to make a publication?
Whatever you have access to – even if it’s your office photocopier, or a home printer, or your local library – just start publishing! Find your nearest zine fair, book a table, shift some copies and see what happens. There are also some brilliant zine distributors near us in London, such as BOOKS Peckham, and further afield like Good Press in Glasgow, whose shelves are always bristling with new publications – find out if spaces like these exist near you and visit them!
What do you consider to be the biggest challenge as a publisher?
It’s very hard to get funding for publishing work, in the UK at least. Art funders seem to steer clear of it. We are both very lucky we can currently afford to do a day’s work a week unpaid to do Sticky Fingers Publishing with the support of other jobs, but this could very easily stop being possible. So many presses like ours, or with even more infrastructure than ours, have closed this year. Finding ways to sustainably balance time, money and energy whilst still working in meaningful and pleasurable ways is a huge challenge.
We try to communicate what our metrics of success are for each project as clearly as we can, both for ourselves and those we work with. This helps us continue to work in ways that are satisfying for everyone involved. We try to stay suspicious of the urge to always scale up, and make sure that the work is true to itself and deepening our community instead of compromising the work to reach a more general public.