Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Where I stayed, What I ate

I think I could probably be happy forever if I could just live here:

And eat like this:



Those French

Yes we may think the French are difficult - but isn't it really because they eat, drink, and smoke cigarettes and still stay thin and live to be 100???? How do they do that???

Difficult or not, the consensus at Imago seemed to be that the French come up with some of the most stylish and innovative designs, even for something like a CD collection. Here is one I really liked:

Cool Stuff

So, one problem is this: as this was my first time visiting my colleagues in the UK, and further more as I did not want to come off as an obnoxious American, I was too timid to stick my camera in people's faces and take their pictures for my blog!

Instead, I snapped shots of some of the many cool products and some projects in development. Here are a few of interest.

Cool Cover Treatments:

A detail of that black cover:

I love these two notebooks, and how they are held shut:

Want to keep your book's identity a secret ... try one of these:

What about a nice felt slipcase:

Or a fancy cloth book satchel:

Imago HQ

My first thought, driving up the country hillside to the Imago Headquarters, which is located in a converted old farmhouse outside of Oxford University: "People Work Here?" (Followed quickly by: I could easily work here!).

It is just lovely. And possibly because I am so tired after waking up at 4:30 am in Barcelona, or because the weather is rather magically balmy and blustery, OR because a pair of pheasants stroll across the field in front of us - it feels a bit like being in a dream.

Behind the offices, this ancient church ....

My two days at Imago headquarters are packed with meetings. Everyone from the managing partners, to individual managers, to the members of the sales and production teams seems to me to be bursting with enthusiasm for what they are doing, curious about what my opinions might be, and eager to show off new products as well as new ideas in development.

Of which there are dozens! There are books of course, of every size, shape, dimension, and in dozens of different languages. And electronics. And toys. And unusual packaging and materials - fabric, wood, rubber, felt. Lenticulars, magnet sets, pop-ups, things that make noise, things that fly around. My dear UK colleagues please do not be annoyed if I say that in some way I felt as if I had dropped in to Santa's Workshop!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Barcelona Wrap Up

And before we knew it, we were finished!

The press sheets looked beautiful, and this was by far the easiest press check I've ever done.

During the three days I spent at the plant in Barcelona, I noticed a few things that I really liked: The plant is family owned and in the office, the owner of the company - Bernardo - and his brother work right alongside the rest of the staff, right in the same big open office space. He doesn't have some fancy office space cut off from the rest of the staff. He is not the kind of guy who shows up once a year for the Christmas party. (Admittedly, he does have a nicer car than anyone else, but hey, I guess there are some perks to being the boss). This means decisions get made quickly, and also that there is an atmosphere of open communication.

Second, during a tour of the binding portion of the plant I noticed that at every station someone was pulling books off the line and really looking at them: shaking them, peering into and around them, flipping pages. There wasn't just some guy at the end of the line checking books - everyone was checking the quality of what their particular operation was producing. Later Bernardo told me that each time a customer comes to them with a new and higher quality requirement they adopt this procedure for the entire plant, for all their titles. And I don't think this was just hype, I saw it in action.

Having finished the press check, David and I had lunch with Jose and Bernardo at a wonderful seaside cafe. Late in the afternoon, David and I had a chance to explore Barcelona a little bit on our own. We admired a Gaudi facade.

And wandered around through la Boceria. After two hours of exploring, and getting lost in strange passageways off Las Ramblas, my feet began to hurt. So we wound our way back to the great tapas restaurant Bernardo had taken us to, two nights before, and tried our hand at ordering our own tapas. The food was still good, but it was not the same as Bernardo ordering those special treats that seemed to have something like cream cheese in them; or the ones with anchovies or the roasted eggplant and red peppers.

I'll be up tomorrow morning at 4:30 am, in order to get to the airport in time for my flight to London. Painful.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Barcelona Day Two

My one complaint is that so far I have only seen Barcelona in the dark: it is dark in the morning when we take a cab to the plant, and dark at night when we get back for dinner - AT 10 PM! (which is normally my bedtime).



See Spots

The day ends with dinner by the sea at Suquet de l'Almirall, a restaurant frequented by the likes of Woody Allen and Lou Reed.

And us! Here I am with my friend Maria Eugenia, from Barcelona (photo courtesy of David Skolkin). And that's Maria Eugenia above, with the owner of the restaurant Quim Marques and a sketch by Woody Allen.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Barcelona Day One

I arrive in Barcelona Sunday night, more wired than exhausted. David Skolkin and I meet in the lobby bar for a "Welcome" glass of champagne. Just as I am trying to figure out if the best idea after traveling for 20 hours would be to go to sleep, Bernardo and Jose from Grafos show up and whisk us off to a wonderful dinner of:

Pork - which, in Barcelona, is "good for you because the animals are happy living in the mountains eating acorns"
Artichokes - "they are in season!"
Monkfish with borage sauce - "a typical dish of Barcelona"
And cheese! - "have some dessert Christina!"
Followed by another espresso - "I don't think this will keep me up, do you?"

The next day - today - we are at the plant by nine for the first press sheet.

It is a really nice switch to actually be working on a project, to be on press, rather than just arriving for a bunch of meetings. And this is a BIG project: a 540 page catalogue raisonnee of the work of John Baldessari.

So far so good. We're printing on the big KBA presses - 20 to view - and the work looks fantastic. I love these big presses, what a change from the days of 8-to-view on the little Heidelbergs! With a little luck we will get through over 200 pages today, something that could have taken 3-4 days in the old days of printing.

There's David hard at work with Export Director Jose and Press Supervisor Pedro

A quick (well, not that quick) break for lunch, at a great no-frills restaurant overlooking the vegetable market. First course: broiled roasted red peppers and eggplant topped with goat cheese.

Then, back to work.

Check out all these wild mushrooms at the market!

En Route - Layover at Heathrow

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Miami Book Fair 2009

Now in it's 26th year, The Miami Book Fair is taking place this weekend in downtown Miami. Mitchell Kaplan, owner and founder of the renowned Books & Books in Coral Gables, and co-founder of the Miami Book Fair, credits the growth of Miami's literary community to this annual event.

I attended the Fair on Friday, and as always there was the sense of carnival in the air. However, it was clear to me that there were far fewer exhibitors this year, and most of the exhibitors seemed to be bookstores or used bookstores. Many of the publishers I'd seen in the past were missing.

However, I had a nice chat with the folks at Pineapple Press and I am ever hopeful that one day I will get to work with them. As I usually do each year, I walked away from their stand with a STACK of books - Birds of Florida, The Storm Gourmet (so we can figure out what to eat in a hurricane), and River of Grass by Florida author and environmentalist Marjory Stoneman Douglas.

When I discovered that Ms. Douglas went to Wellesley, as I did, and apparently lived to be 108, I also bought her autobiography Voice of the River. How does someone live to be 108? Having a consuming passion helps - Douglas was a committed environmentalist and passionate about the Florida Everglades. She also appears to have been somewhat of a crank, was single most of her life, refused to learn to drive, and lived with a passel of cats!

I enjoyed chatting with the publisher of Akashic Books about their motto "reverse gentrification of the literary world" which to me sounded like just another way of saying everyone in publishing is losing their jobs. We also discussed their Noir series and I ended up with copies of Miami Noir and New York Noir. I got the low down on the latest styles in bible design from one of the several Christian publishers/distributors at the fair.

Today I am packing, and then it's off to Barcelona, where Imago's European printing partner is located, for a press check with designer David Skolkin.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Power of Color

I've been writing about texture and design lately. This past week, I was also thinking about the significance of color.

Working in the visual arts, I am keenly aware of the impact that color has on my moods, my state of mind.

I was recently reading Lee Eiseman's blog (Pantone's color guru), and found this interesting exercise involving color to help reduce stress, and even the pain of more serious illness. With the unemployment rate now over 10% (just reading that in the Times today stressed me out), its hard not feel some measure of anxiety these days - and we might use our enjoyment of the power of color to take things down a notch.

Try this out when it looks like stress and anxiety are threatening to take over your day (or week):

Find a quiet place where you can close your eyes for 10 minutes. Then, breath slowly and deeply into the belly while focusing attention about two inches below the belly button. Be sure to exhale deeply and completely. Ask yourself about your stress, your discomfort:

What color is it?

What shape is it?

How heavy is it?

Take another deep breath and ask yourself those questions again.

Dark, sharp, and heavy is often how we will experience stress. By repeating this breathing exercise, and the questions, we can often begin to imagine the answers changing to "light in color, round in shape, light in weight". By imagining lighter colors - or colors that we associated more with calmness (such as blue) or love (such as pink) we can actually let go of the stress and find ourselves in a more calm, relaxed, optimistic mood.

Now that's a much better way to start off the week, isn't it?

Paintings by Melissa Moss, the artist who introduced me to Lee Eiseman's work on color psychology.

Melissa's paintings are shown in galleries throughout the country; her work is also reproduced as prints and pillows and sold through Urban Outfitters.

Gladness, top.
Isn't it Beautiful?, bottom.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Vampire Dreams

According to an informal survey, Vampires were one of the top three preferred disguises for Halloween this year.

And what better way for a vampire to record his or her dreams and midnight musings than with this set of four Twilight Journals, complete with their own ornately decorated case (casket?).

Produced by Imago, and under top secret security until they hit the market just two weeks before Halloween, these journals and their accompanying tin were produced in co-edition, in 10 different languages.

Over a million copies were produced, and publisher Little, Brown is back for more reprints, in several languages.

Admittedly, the set is beautiful, but what about some of these for future reprints .....?