May 29, 2012

Planeta Tangerina: Interview with Isabel Minhós Martins

Voilà, here it is, the previously announced much more detailed post about the wonderful Planeta Tangerina books, PLUS an interview with author Isabel Minhós Martins!

Really, I think, these are the most beautiful picture books published at the moment. Sure, that you stumble across them on the internet quite often lately. The Portuguese studio Planeta Tangerina was founded in 1999 by four friends: Isabel, Bernardo CarvalhoMadalena Matoso and Joao Gomes de Abreu. Some years later, in 2004, the growing Planeta Tangerina team began creating picture books. Besides their editorial projects they also started collaborating with educational services of museums, municipalities and agencies. Though the publisher and design studio is specialized from the beginning in communication for children and young people, their readers are not only kids. The Planeta Tangerina team knows very well that many adults are buying and enjoying their books, some with children, some without: "We believe books should be created freely and thrown into the air. Whoever catches them and enjoy them... is the right reader!" Love this idea (maybe because I am a bit tired of all the discussions at publishers about target audience and possible buyers).

Isabel Minhós Martins is the author of a long, long list of great Planeta Tangerina books, among them "How does a chicken", "Where do we go when we disappear", "Ir e Vir", "A Manta" and (her latest) "I've never seen a bike and ducks won't let go". Her first book, titled "Um livro para todos os dias" ("A book for every day") and illustrated by Bernardo Carvalho, has been reissued this year. But now, dear friends, have fun reading the interview:

(All book covers above by Planeta Tangerina)

Saskia: Isabel, what distinguishes your books from books in the assortments of other publishers of picture books?

Isabel: I'm not sure. It is not easy, as an author, to have the "big picture" of our own work. But with regards to the whole spectrum of Planeta Tangerina's books, I believe they are distinguished by a variety of aspects and not by just one in particular. I would stress the quality of illustrations and the graphic projects (created in the most part by the illustrator himself or herself), the simplicity of concepts and ideas (although simplicity doesn't necessarily mean childish or simplistic), the collaboration between author and illustrator. I also think that our books always talk about universal themes (i.e. to be born and to discover things, to grow and to ask questions, to look at our parents and then to look onto the world with a critical and funny eye).

Saskia: What do you like most about your job as a book author?

Isabel: Having ideas! That is my favourite part. And to have ideas it is really necessary to read a lot of books and newspapers, to listen to other people's stories, listen to music, go to the movies, playing with children (ours or not, it doesn't matter). So, part of the job is just living and listening to the world with an open mind. I also love to see, at first hand, what the illustrator has managed to create with the text: what were his or her solutions, how he/she is telling the story with his/her own voice. And, of course, I love to write. But as you have probably noticed, picture books don't require a great amount of text.

Saskia: Which group of readers do you primarily address with your books: children or young adults?

Isabel: When I'm working, I don't think a lot about the recipient of my books. I don't work for a specific reader or try to follow a set of rules or solutions that are proven to be effective with children or other readers. When I'm working, I write through my prism of looking at things, using my voice. But, of course, for me it is important that readers (big and small) feel that this or that book communicates with them. Sometimes this happens with one child and not with another. We think about children as a big group of noisy and smiling creatures, but children are different from each other!

Saskia: When you and your colleagues create a new book together, do you start with text or with pictures?

Isabel: Always with text, always with an idea or a theme or an ambiance that is transformed into a text. Sometimes this idea comes from a discussion with all the team, sometimes it just comes from the mysterious place where all the ideas born (some people say it is a tree, others a big cloud).
After the text is ready, the illustrator begins to work and during the process, if necessary, I make some corrections to the text: sometimes I cut (I cut a lot), sometimes I replace sentences.

Saskia: Planeta Tangerina also does projects together with schools, museums and kindergartens. Which projects are planned in the near future?

Isabel: We are organizing two weeks of activities in the CCB/Centro Cultural de Belém, a big cultural center in Lisbon, by the river. And it is not just planning; we'll be there effectively with a group of 35 children! The theme is "Books make SPLASH!" and we'll be providing activities about books and other ways to save, store, collect and record stories.

Saskia: It's quite hard to find your books in English. Which of your books are already available in English, and which ones are planned to appear?

Isabel: In English, you'll find "Quando Eu Nasci" / "When I Was Born" published by Tate Publishing. And very soon "Cá Em Casa Somos" / "At Our House" (also published by Tate).

Saskia: What are your personal favourite books?

Isabel: Picture books or novels? Well, at this moment I'm reading short stories from American writers:
Flannery O'Connor, John Cheever, John Updike. Nothing to do with children literature. "As Vozes do Rio Pamano", by catalan Jaume Cabré was (perhaps) one of my late favourites. But choosing a favourite book (picture book or novel) is not possible for me ...

Thank you so much, Isabel, for the interview!

The five images above are from "When I was born", which I really enjoy reading with my kids, who are as fascinated by the charming story and pictures as their parents. You can order it here or here in English. And over there you can watch Isabel reading this book herself.

Please don't miss their lovely Catalogue 2012 as PDF! To buy their wonderful books, head over to the shop. More about Planeta Tangerina they reveal on their blog and facebook page.

May 21, 2012

Picture Book by Janosch

Lately I spoke with a friend about the famous German poem "Es war einmal ein Mann" (Once upon a time there was a man ..."), which evokes lots of memories for both of us. So this friend gave me this lovely book from the past which is full of wonderful poems and pictures. It also contains the mentioned poem, whose author is unknown. 

The pictures are all by most famous German children's book author Janosch
For all German speaking people: Here is an interesting YouTube video, that shows the artist's point of view about "Tigerenten".

(Werner Halle, Klaus Schüttler-Janikulla: Bilder und Gedichte für Kinder, Illustrationen von Janosch, Westermann, 1971)

May 15, 2012

BIG Kids Magazine

I found a real treasure in our mailbox today: the 2nd issue of the Australian BIG Kids Magazine.
A pretty cool cover and what's in the mag? I can tell you: a lot! The 60-page biannual publication is packed with contributions from children and artists (among them Dub LefflerIngrid DabringerIlya Donets & Margarita Stchetinskaya), all about maps and treasures, you and your kids can easily get lost for a long while between all the (colouring) pages with imaginative maps and inspiring activities. Really enjoy seeing all the wonderful works of art.

BIG stands for Bravery - Imagination - Generosity. The idea behind BIG is to disrupt traditional hierarchies, with a child-led editorial team, and to promote creative thinking and play, primary through projects between children and artists. Lilly and Jo, the two makers and (very) Creative Directors of BIG, work together side by side from opposite sides of Australia. Visual artist Lilly Blue is based in Sydney and dancer/writer Jo Pollitt lives and works in Perth far away on the West coast. Perth-based and 8 years old: BIG's senior editor Luca. Pippa, Jonah, BG, Zali and Twyla joined the BIG kids team.

Every issue features a pull-out artist print (I will frame this one by Lilly, like it very much) ...

... and the two key projects:
SIDE BY SIDE: children and artists

and CARP (The Child/Artist Response Project)

The next issue will be about Games. Until June 1st, 2012, it's time to join in: "Invent the world's best game." Tell your kids to submit their work here. And here you can order the current issue. Shipping is expensive, so the mag is quite pricey to get outside Australia. Really hope, there will be some stockists in Europe as well soon, I wouldn't miss any issue! To find out more about their next projects, please visit the BIG blog and facebook page.

Ok, I finished this post, now my two little treasure seekers can finally "draw on the pages, mess up the maps, colour in edges and write on the backs". They won't be shy.

May 10, 2012

Die Tollen Hefte: Interview with Armin Abmeier

When I contacted Armin Abmeier a few weeks ago, I was hoping for no more than some brief answers concerning his work as a publisher of the wonderful "Tolle Hefte" ("great booklets"). But to the contrary, I received very detailed information about book production processes and distribution channels. Armin told me about his first and all-time favorite books and comics, he spoke about picture books for an adult audience, the printing process of the "Tollen Hefte" - and so much more. So this interview was such a great pleasure for me and I can completely understand now why Berlin artist ATAK calls him the "most passionate publisher of the world"!

(Image: Armin Abmeier, Die Tolle Galerie)

Armin Abmeier started his career as a bookseller and as a sales promoter for books. After that, he worked for over 20 years as a sales representative for literary and art book publishers such as Steidl, Hanser and Schirmer/Mosel. He is a big reader and collector, and particularly since 1991, also a publisher of illustrated booklets. Furthermore, Armin is curator of the Stiftung Illustration. In 2010, he started a small gallery here in Munich, which I walk by almost every day. "Charakter ist nur Eigensinn", the 20th anniversary issue of the "Tollen Hefte", contains illustrations created by all those talented and famous artists he worked with on the last 35 issues - among them ATAK, Blexbolex, Anke Feuchtenberger, Rotraut Susanne Berner, Axel Scheffler, Volker Pfüller, Franziska Neubert, Christoph Feist, Sophie Dutertre, Wolf Erlbruch, Moritz Götze, Kitty Kahane, Kathrin Stangl. Yes, the list IS long! But now, my dear friends, please enjoy reading the interview.

(Images: "Charakter ist nur Eigensinn")

You are looking back on 20 years as a publisher of illustrated books and booklets – in particular, the "Tollen Hefte". Before that, you have worked inter alia as a sales representative for literature and art publishers – what did induce you to change over to publishing?

I wasn’t really changing over. Since my childhood, I have a passion for books and literature, and especially for art prints. This passion made me a collector. In the beginning, I collected illustrated books, comics and pulp magazines. Later, when coming of age, I developed an interest for Dadaist booklets and series of literary booklets, such as “Der Jüngste Tag” (Kafka, Werfel, Sternheim), "Die Silbergäule" (Schwitters, Serner) and the leaflets from Munkepunke (alias A. R. Meyer), including, e.g., Gottfried Benn’s early poetry volumes. Later on, I started to interfere actively, e.g., as instigator of the Library of the House of Usher (Insel-Verlag) or as the editor of a book series published by Melzer Verlag ("Melzers Galerie"). I also started a small publishing house together with friends (Makol Verlag), which amongst other works published four volumes of works of George Grosz. In 1991, the first edition of the "Tollen Hefte" came out, with a story from my favorite author Walter Serner. Until then, this story could be found only in a very rare author’s edition. So, by publishing this "Tolle Heft" (and of course also by the complete edition of Serner’s work), attention was drawn on this long forgotten Dadaist. Volker Pfüller, with whom I formed a friendship somewhat earlier, illustrated and designed the book. The Maro Verlag (of publisher Benno Käsmayr), for which I worked as a representative, printed the book in three runs using a single-color printing press. This technique of printing colors separately and seamlessly using special inks became the distinguishing feature of later editions of the “Tollen Hefte” also. Using this technique, the templates for the printing process had to be provided in form of transparent papers or film, each dedicated to a different color. No prefabricated images could be used for the "Tollen Hefte". Of course, this narrowed the set of contributing illustrators… It is thus no coincidence that many of the illustrators with whom I worked were from the former GDR. They had all the experience with original flat-printed graphics. Coming back to your question: I wanted to create something which evokes the feelings of happiness of my childhood but also incorporates my later reading and viewing experience. In other words: literary-aesthetic pulp magazines.

Sie blicken zurück auf 20 Jahre als Herausgeber illustrierter Bücher, v. a. der "Tollen Hefte". Davor waren Sie u. a. Verlagsvertreter für literarische und Kunstverlage. Was hat Sie damals dazu bewogen, auf die Herausgeberseite zu wechseln?

Das war eigentlich kein Hinüberwechseln. Die Leidenschaft für Bücher, für Literatur und besonders für gedruckte Bilder hat mich schon in meiner Kindheit erfasst und auch zum Sammler gemacht. Das waren anfangs Bilderbücher, Comics und die ganze Schundliteratur in Heftchenform. Mit dem Erwachsenwerden ging das dann locker in ein Interesse für die Hefte der Dadaisten und literarische Heftserien über, so u. a. die Reihe "Der Jüngste Tag" (Kafka, Werfel, Sternheim), "Die Silbergäule" (Schwitters, Serner) und A. R. Meyers (Munkepunke) Flugschriften (darin z. B. Gottfried Benns erste Gedichtbände). Später habe ich mich dann immer gern eingemischt, so als Anstifter der Bibliothek des Hauses Usher im Insel Verlag oder als Herausgeber einer Buchreihe im Melzer Verlag (Melzers Galerie), später auch mit Freunden einen kleinen Verlag gemacht, den Makol Verlag (u. a. 4 Bände George Grosz). 1991 erschien dann das erste "Tolle Heft", eine Erzählung meines Lieblingsautors Walter Serner. Die war in dieser Form nur in einem sehr selten aufzufindenden Privatdruck des Autors abgedruckt. So sollte das "Tolle Heft" neben der Serner-Gesamtausgabe noch einmal auf diesen verschollenen Dadaisten aufmerksam machen. Volker Pfüller, mit dem mich seit Kurzem eine Freundschaft verband, illustrierte und gestaltete das Heft. Der Maro Verlag von Benno Käsmayr, für den ich als Vertreter arbeitete, druckte das Heft in drei Durchgängen auf einer Einfarbmaschine. Diese Technik, die Farben als Spezialfarben ungerastert separiert zu drucken, bestimmte auch die weiteren "Tollen Hefte". So entstanden die Vorlagen für den Druck farbgetrennt auf Transparentpapieren oder Filmen, es konnten keine fertigen farbigen Bilder für die "Tollen Hefte" verwendet werden. Das engte natürlich den Kreis der Illustratoren deutlich ein. Es ist also kein Zufall, dass viele der Illustratoren, mit denen ich gearbeitet habe, aus der ehemaligen DDR kamen. Sie brachten alle Erfahrung mit der Original-Flachdruckgrafik mit. Auf Ihre Frage zurückkommend: Ich wollte etwas realisieren, was den Glücksgefühlen meiner Kindheit nahekam und doch die späteren Lese- und Seh-Erfahrungen mit einbezog, also literarisch-ästhetische Schundhefte.

You collaborated with a large number of famous illustrators. How did you manage to come in contact with so many talented artists?

By keeping an eye on many things, by approaching people (or calling or writing them), by keeping in touch. Helpful at this are exhibitions, comic festivals, book fairs, and networking with people at universities.

Die Liste an bekannten Illustratoren, mit denen Sie zusammengearbeitet haben, ist lang. Wie kamen Sie in Kontakt mit all diesen talentierten Künstlern?

(Viel) gucken, Feuer fangen, ansprechen (bzw. anrufen, anschreiben), dranbleiben. Dabei hilfreich: Ausstellungen, Comic-Festivals, Buchmessen, Hochschulkontakte.

For the "Tolle Hefte" anniversary issue "Charakter ist nur Eigensinn" ("personality is only obstinacy"), you asked 20 artists to illustrate your 20 most favorite sentences. Did all 20 artists agree with these sentences?

Yes indeed, I allocated these sentences, after quite some deliberation. There haven’t been any objections by the artists.

In Ihrem Jubiläumsheft "Charakter ist nur Eigensinn" haben Sie Ihre 20 Lieblingssätze von 20 Künstlern illustrieren lassen. Waren alle 20 mit "Ihren" Sätzen einverstanden?

Ja, ich habe tatsächlich nach einigem Überlegen die Sätze zugeteilt. Es gab keinen Widerspruch.

Please tell us about the manufacturing process. What happens after the illustrators have finished their work? Where and how are the "Tollen Hefte" printed?

Earlier, in Maro times, the illustrators delivered transparent papers called “templates” (one sheet per color). To create these, they were working with pencil, ink, and glued foil. The mirrored drawings were then mounted on a stand and projected upon the printing plates. The actual printing was done in offset technique. Nowadays, color separation usually isn’t done manually anymore but using computers. The data for printing in special colors goes directly to the printing company, which for the last four issues has been the Druckerei Hensel in Leipzig: a godsend. There, the inner parts of the booklets are printed using a two-color printing machine. This results in four printing passes per sheet (recto and verso, 16 pages), totaling to eight printing passes. Between two passes, there is opportunity for corrections, and sometimes even new printing plates are made. Mr. Hensel works very carefully and follows a work ethic which is rare nowadays. The artist, the illustrator and the publisher are all present during the final proof print, if possible. Merav Salomon came to the proof printing of her issue all the way from Tel Aviv. She took the opportunity to present her work to the illustration class of the HGB (Hochschule für Grafik und Buchkunst, Academy for Visual Arts) in Leipzig.
After an extensive drying period (which is due to the large amount of color being used), the print sheets are sent to Berlin where they are being creased and bound using some old-fashioned half-automated binding machine (thread-node stitching, Fadenknotenheftung).

Erzählen Sie uns bitte etwas über den Herstellungsprozess. Wie geht es nach der Arbeit der Illustratoren weiter? Wo und wie werden die "Tollen Hefte" gedruckt?

Die Illustratoren lieferten früher (zu Maro-Zeiten) als Vorlagen bezeichnete Transparentpapiere (für jede Farbe einen Bogen) ab, gearbeitet wurde mit Bleistift, Tusche, geklebter Folie. Die spiegelverkehrt angelegten Zeichnungen wurden dann auf Stand montiert und auf die Druckplatten belichtet. Dann wurde im Offset gedruckt. Heute findet die Farbtrennung meist nicht mehr manuell sondern im Computer statt, die Daten für den Druck in Sonderfarben gehen direkt an den Drucker. Das ist bei den letzten vier Heften die Druckerei Hensel in Leipzig: ein Glücksfall. Dort wird der Innenteil auf einer Zweifarbmaschine gedruckt. Das sind vier Druckgänge pro Bogen (Schöndruck und Widerdruck, 16 Seiten), insgesamt also acht Druckgänge. Zwischen den Druckgängen besteht die Möglichkeit, zu korrigieren, manchmal werden dazu sogar neue Platten gemacht. Herr Hensel ist sehr sorgfältig und hat eine heute seltene Arbeitsmoral. Der Künstler, Illustrator und der Herausgeber sind, wenn möglich, beim Andrucken dabei. Merav Salomon kam zum Druck ihres Heftes extra aus Tel Aviv. Sie nahm die Gelegenheit wahr, ihre Arbeiten der Illustrationsklasse der HGB (Hochschule für Grafik und Buchkunst) vorzustellen. 
Die Druckbogen gehen nach längerer Trockenzeit (der Drucker druckt mit viel Farbe) auf Paletten nach Berlin, wo sie gefalzt und auf einer altmodischen halbautomatischen Maschine (Fadenknotenheftung) gebunden werden.

Since 2001, the "Tollen Hefte" are published by the Büchergilde Gutenberg. How is the distribution organized?

The Büchergilde Gutenberg is a book club which traditionally places much value on carefully produced books. At this, the focus is on illustrated books – mostly original editions which have been commissioned by the Büchergilde. Every year, they bring out at least one book whose illustration and design have been the outcome of a competition within the illustration class at some renowned university. Many Büchergilde books have won prices in the competition for Germany’s most beautiful book, including several of the "Tollen Hefte" published by myself, which appear within the Büchergilde Gutenberg since their 16th edition. Many of the club members keep faith with the Büchergilde, because they are collectors of those beautiful books, of which usually also limited special editions with included original illustrations appear. To make their editions available to non-members too, the Büchergilde founded the "Edition Büchergilde", which supplies the bookselling trade also. This way, those editions (and therefore the "Tollen Hefte" too) can be ordered by everybody in every book shop. 
An edition of the "Tollen Hefte" consists of between 2500 and 4000 copies, depending on the popularity of the respective author or illustrator. Reviews in influential media (such as FAZ, SPIEGEL online or Deutschlandfunk) usually have a great influence on sales figures. Likewise, connections to illustration classes at universities are very important for popularizing the "Tollen Hefte", an effect which I foster by giving talks and organizing events at those universities. At this, the fact that ten illustrators of the "Tollen Hefte" are (or have been) regular docents or professors at German universities is also helpful.

Seit 2001 erscheinen die "Tollen Hefte" bei der Büchergilde Gutenberg. Wie ist der Vertrieb der Hefte organisiert?

Die Büchergilde Gutenberg ist ein Buchclub, der traditionell Wert auf sorgfältig hergestellte Bücher legt. Dabei ist ein Schwerpunkt das illustrierte Buch, meist Originalausgaben, die von der Büchergilde in Auftrag gegeben werden. Jedes Jahr erscheint mindestens ein Buch, dessen Illustration und Gestaltung aus einem Wettbewerb der Illustrationsklasse einer renommierten Hochschule kommt. Viele der Bücher wurden im Wettbewerb der schönsten Bücher in Deutschland ausgezeichnet, so auch einige der von mir herausgegebenen "Tollen Hefte", die seit dem 16. Heft dort erscheinen. Viele der Clubmitglieder halten der Büchergilde die Treue, weil sie Sammler dieser schönen Bücher sind, von denen es meist auch limitierte Vorzugsausgaben mit beiliegender Originalgrafik gibt. Um ihre Originalausgaben auch Nichtmitgliedern zugänglich zu machen, hat die Büchergilde die Edition Büchergilde gegründet, die auch den Buchhandel beliefert, sodass diese Ausgaben und damit auch die "Tollen Hefte" ohne Clubmitgliedschaft in jeder Buchhandlung zu beziehen sind. Die Auflage der "Tollen Hefte" bewegt sich zwischen 2500 und 4000 Exemplaren, je nach Bekanntheit des Autors oder des Illustrators. Große Rezensionen, wie z. B. in der FAZ, auf SPIEGEL online oder im Deutschlandfunk, wirken sich meist deutlich auf den Verkauf aus. Ebenso Verbindungen zu den Illustrationsklassen verschiedener Hochschulen, was ich auch durch Vorträge und Veranstaltungen unterstütze. Dabei hilft es auch, dass zehn Illustratoren der "Tollen Hefte" Lehrämter/Professuren an deutschen Hochschulen innehaben (oder hatten).

You are also a publisher of books. The "Tolle Heft 37: Frostbeulen" ("frostbites") by the illustrator Merav Salomon from Israel has originally been planned to be a book and not a booklet. Is it generally difficult to convince publishing houses of concepts for illustrated books?

Unfortunately yes. Illustrated books which are not aimed at children are exceptional (e.g., Büchergilde and Faber & Faber). Books with illustrations are automatically seen as books for children. Only seldom it is feasible to be successful outside of the children books area, with "big names" such as Wolf Erlbruch, Michael Sowa, Nikolaus Heidelbach, and Kat Menschik.
Another exception are so-called graphic novels, a category of books which are strongly hyped since recently and which are successful even outside the area of comic book publishing. A pioneer in this regard was "MAUS" by Art Spiegelman, which was very successful internationally, followed by Shaun Tan, Daniel Clowes, Blexbolex, Marjane Satrapi, Robert Crumb and entire series within the book program of the Süddeutsche Zeitung.
In 2007 the up to now most beautiful picture book from the artist ATAK appeared in France: "Comment la mort est revenue à la vie" (text by Muriel Bloch). No German publisher dares to publish this African legend in which death is a female, although ATAK - at least since his courageous "Struwwelpeter" edition - has a growing fan base.
A year ago, Merav Salomon (at the intercession of Rutu Modan, Salomon’s colleague in the faculty of Bezalel University in Jerusalem, who knew me from comic book festivals) sent me PDFs from a picture book which she had painted and written in homage to her grandmother. I found this book, which was mainly intended for adults, very beautiful and very courageous. I forwarded it to a number of publishing houses which are known for unusual and daring projects. The rejections I received made it again clear to me that an illustrated book which is relatively large (50 pages), which is not intended for children, and which stems from an unknown author who is at the same time the illustrator, doesn’t stand a chance on the German book market.
Merav Salomon, who is enthusiastic about the "Tollen Hefte", then accepted my proposition to rework the book, which meant to shorten it to 32 pages and to recreate all pictures to make them suitable for the special printing process (using separate colors and special colors). The result of this work and collaboration for half a year is the "Tolle Heft 37: Frostbeulen" ("frostbites"), which is much liked by both of us.

Sie sind ja auch Herausgeber von Büchern. Das im März erschienene "Tolle Heft 37: Frostbeulen" der israelischen Illustratorin Merav Salomon war ursprünglich als Buch geplant. Ist es generell schwierig, illustrierte Bücher an Verlage zu vermitteln?

Ja, das muss man leider feststellen. Illustrierte Bücher - außer im Bereich der Kinderliteratur - sind die Ausnahme (z. B. Büchergilde und Faber & Faber). Bilderbücher werden automatisch den Kindern zugeordnet. Nur manchmal gelingt es, mit sehr bekannten Namen auch im Erwachsenenbereich erfolgreich zu sein (z. B. Wolf Erlbruch, Michael Sowa, Nikolaus Heidelbach, Kat Menschik).
Eine weitere Ausnahme sind im Comicbereich die in letzter Zeit gehypten Graphic Novels, die auch außerhalb der Comicverlage erfolgreich sind. Vorreiter war "MAUS" von Art Spiegelman, das international sehr erfolgreich ist, nun folgen Shaun Tan, Daniel Clowes, Blexbolex, Marjane Satrapi, Robert Crumb und ganze Serien im Buchprogramm der Süddeutschen Zeitung.
2007 erschien in Frankreich das bisher schönste Bilderbuch von ATAK: "Comment la mort est revenue à la vie", Text Muriel Bloch. Kein deutscher Verlag traut sich zu, diese afrikanische Legende, in der der Tod weiblich ist, zu verlegen, obgleich ATAK - spätestens seit seinem mutigen Struwwelpeter - eine wachsende Fangemeinde hat. 
Vor einem Jahr schickte mir Merav Salomon auf Vermittlung von Rutu Modan, die ihre Professorenkollegin an der Bezalel Hochschule in Jerusalem ist und die mich von Begegnungen auf Comicfestivals kennt, die PDFs eines Bilderbuches, das sie als Hommage an ihre Großmutter gemalt und geschrieben hatte. Ich fand das Bilderbuch, das sich v. a. an Erwachsene wendet, ganz ungewöhnlich, sehr schön und sehr kühn. Ich schickte es an mehrere Verlage weiter, die für ungewöhnliche und mutige Projekte bekannt sind. Die Ablehnungen machten mir noch einmal deutlich, dass ein Buch mit einer unbekannten Autorin und zugleich Illustratorin zumal mit einem bilderbuchunüblichen Umfang von ca. 50 Seiten und nicht kinderbuchtauglich im deutschen Buchmarkt keine Chance hat. Merav Salomon, die von den "Tollen Heften" sehr begeistert ist, ging dann auf meinen Vorschlag ein, das Buch umzuarbeiten, das bedeutete, es auf 32 Seiten zu kürzen und alle Bilder für den Druck - farbgetrennt und mit Sonderfarben - neu zu zeichnen. Das Ergebnis einer halbjährigen (Zusammen-)Arbeit ist das "Tolle Heft 37: Frostbeulen", das uns beiden sehr gut gefällt.

Which books and booklets did influence you (as a passionate collector of first editions, illustrated books and comics) most? Do you have favorite books, authors and illustrators?

This question is most difficult to answer. Simply because the answer is in danger of becoming really long, due to the fact that reading, books and collecting books, and everything connected, amounts to so much of my life time.
My first book ever was an illustrated edition of “Robinson Crusoe”. Then, I've been fascinated for years by utopian books, science fiction and fantasy literature, with Edgar Allen Poe being my favorite author. Afterwards, I became enthusiastic about Kafka (including his diaries and letters). And even later, I discovered Walter Serner and I purchased at auctions first editions with rare covers made by Christian Schad, whom I later met personally (and whose memories of Dada and the time with Serner I brought out later in form of a “Tolles Buch”). Serner’s only novel, “Die Tigerin” (in a first edition with cover by Hans Bellmer) is still one of my favorite books.
Another favorite author of mine is Lewis Carroll with his “Alice in Wonderland”, but also with other books, such as his “The Hunting of the Snark”, which I own in a beautiful edition illustrated by Max Ernst. At a first glance, my collection is a farrago of pieces in which such different authors as the “antiquated avant-gardist” Arno Schmidt, Dadaists and eccentrics like Joris-Karl Huysmans (favorite book: "Gegen den Strich"), Jorge Luis Borges (with his “Ficciones”), the novels from Philip Roth and W. G. Sebald need to get along with each other. In 1971, when I visited the US for six months, I collected underground comics. Those have often been drawn in a dilettantish manner, but at the same time they were authentic in their lust for fabulation, self-indulgence and aggression free from taboos. In San Francisco, I met Rory Hayes, whose comics I count to my favorite items in my collection, together with the comic books from Mark Beyer.
Since my youth, I’m fascinated by fairy tales and generally by everything fantastic. For example, I got enthusiastic about the early surrealists, especially Max Ernst and his collages books. Later, I also got thrilled by the Dadaists, in particular Schwitters. At the beginning of the 70s, I met Dieter Roth and became accustomed with his works. His deadly-serious playing with mortality, which manifested itself in the perishability of the materials he used for sculptures and objects, intrigued me always anew. For me, he is still the most fascinating modern artist.
My favorite illustrators can be easily found by looking into the “Tollen Hefte”. In this regard, I would be happy to acquire works by artists such as Chris Ware, Daniel Clowes, Charles Burns, and Maira Kalman.

Welche Bücher oder Hefte haben Sie als leidenschaftlicher Sammler von Erstausgaben, Bilderbüchern und Comics am meisten beeinflusst? Gibt es Lieblingsbücher, -autoren oder -illustratoren?

Diese Frage ist am schwierigsten zu beantworten. Aber nur deshalb, weil die Antwort so umfangreich zu werden droht, weil eben das Lesen, die Bücher, das Sammeln, alles, was damit zu tun hat, einen so hohen Anteil meiner Lebenszeit ausmacht.
Mein erstes Lieblingsbuch war eine illustrierte Ausgabe von "Robinson Crusoe". Dann war ich viele Jahre fasziniert von Utopien, Science Fiction und Fantasies, Lieblingsautor Edgar Allen Poe. Danach folgte eine große Begeisterung für Kafka (auch die Tagebücher und die Briefe) und dann entdeckte ich Walter Serner, ersteigerte Erstausgaben mit den seltenen Einbänden seines Freundes Christian Schad, den ich dann auch persönlich kennenlernte (und dessen Erinnerungen an Dada und die Zeit mit Serner ich dann später als "Tolles Buch" herausgab). Serners einziger Roman, "Die Tigerin" (in der Erstausgabe mit Umschlag von Hans Bellmer), ist auch heute noch eines meiner Lieblingsbücher. Ein weiterer Lieblingsautor ist Lewis Carroll, natürlich mit "Alice im Wunderland", daneben aber auch u. a. mit "The Hunting of the Snark", das ich in einer schönen von Max Ernst illustrierten Ausgabe besitze. Auf den ersten Blick ist meine Bibliothek ein Sammelsurium, in dem sich der altväterliche Avantgardist Arno Schmidt mit den Dadaisten und Exzentrikern, z. B. Joris-Karl Huysmans (Lieblingsbuch: "Gegen den Strich") oder dem Werk von Jorge Luis Borges und seinen "Ficciones", mit den Romanen von Philip Roth und den Büchern von W. G. Sebald vertragen muss. 1971 war ich ein halbes Jahr in den USA unterwegs und sammelte Underground-Comics. Die waren oft dilettantisch gezeichnet, aber zugleich authentisch in ihrer Fabulierlust, in ihrer Ungehemmtheit und Aggression frei von Tabus. In San Francisco traf ich Rory Hayes, dessen Comics zusammen mit den später entdeckten Comics von Mark Beyer zu den Lieblingsstücken in meiner Sammlung zählen.
Von Kindheit an faszinierten mich Märchen und überhaupt alles Fantastische. So begeisterte ich mich früh für die Surrealisten, vor allem für Max Ernst und seine Collagenromane. Dazu kamen später die Dadaisten, vor allem Schwitters. Anfang der 70er Jahre lernte ich dann Dieter Roth (persönlich) und sein Werk kennen. Sein todernstes Spiel mit der Vergänglichkeit, das sich v. a. in dem vergänglichen Material seiner Skulpturen und Objekte zeigte, beeindruckte mich immer wieder aufs Neue. Er ist für mich bis heute der faszinierendste Künstler der Moderne.
Meine Lieblingsillustratoren findet man schnell, wenn man die "Tollen Hefte" anschaut. Gern würde ich dazu noch Künstler wie Chris Ware, Daniel Clowes, Charles Burns, Maira Kalman gewinnen.

(The image shows ATAK,

Since 2010, you have a small gallery, the "Tolle Galerie" in Munich. Please tell us about your forthcoming exhibition of works by the Berlin artist ATAK (alias Georg Barber). Which plans do you have for the next few months?

The next exhibition (after a rather long pause caused by illness) is entitled "ATAK's TARGETS" and will take place on Friday, 11th May, 2012. Since several years, ATAK paints his "Target"-series on wooden boards. The sales exhibition shows about 50 small-format paintings which are a homage to as well as a reinvention of the centuries-old tradition of painted target boards. For the artist with his unique view and masterly playful stile, this format facilitates a wide field for research into the often fantastically absurd everyday life. Each picture tells a story and represents a look in the world of ATAK: scenes which are infatuating and creepy at the same time, rich of visual references which span across the history of art, the world, and comics culture. An accompanying catalogue "Targets for the private home" and the catalogue "Meanwhile… Works 1991 – 2011" are available in the gallery. Further exhibitions this year are planned with Henning Wagenbreth and Christoph Feist.

Sie haben seit 2010 eine kleine Galerie, die "Tolle Galerie", in München. Erzählen Sie uns bitte etwas über die nächste Ausstellung mit dem Berliner Künstler ATAK alias Georg Barber. Welche Pläne haben Sie für die nächsten Monate? 

Die nächste Ausstellung wird am Freitag, den 11. Mai (nach einer längeren krankheitsbedingten Pause) eröffnet: ATAK's TARGETS. 
ATAK malt seit mehreren Jahren seine Target-Serie auf Holztafeln. Die Verkaufsausstellung zeigt ca. 50 dieser kleinformatigen Bilder, die zugleich eine Hommage an und Neuerfindung der jahrhundertealten Tradition der bemalten Schießscheiben sind. Dieses Format bietet ihm ein weites Spielfeld zur Erforschung des oftmals fantastisch absurden Alltags mit seinem einzigartigen Blick und meisterhaften verspielten Stil. Jedes Bild erzählt eine Geschichte und ist ein Blick in die Welt von ATAK: zugleich betörende und unheimliche Szenen, reich an Bildreferenzen, die von Kunstgeschichte zu Popkultur über Weltgeschichte und Comic-Kultur reichen. Zur Ausstellung ist der farbige Katalog "Targets for the private home" lieferbar, außerdem der Katalog "Meanwhile... Works 1991 – 2011". Weitere Ausstellungen sind in diesem Jahr mit Henning Wagenbreth und Christoph Feist geplant.

Thanks so much, Armin, for taking the time to share your work and thoughts with us!

The exhibition opens tomorrow and runs until 2nd June, 2012! So if you are in Munich, please be sure to visit Armin's gallery. To pick up a copy of the "Tolle Hefte" turn to Büchergilde or amazonThe "Tolle Hefte" Ada by ATAK and ABECEDERIA by Blexbolex are also released at London based publishing house Nobrow!

May 09, 2012

Maurice Sendak

... best known for his well-loved book "Where the Wild Things Are" (first published in 1963) died on Tuesday. 

"And he sailed off through night and day
and in and out of weeks
and almost over a year
to where the wild things are."

(from: Maurice Sendak: Where the Wild Things Are, Harper Collins)

Online Shop and Blog: Upon a Fold

What a lovely shopping world full of papers and folds: Upon a Fold is run by graphic designers Justine and Matt, based in Sydney, Australia. Justine is a big paper fan since she was a kid. On her wonderful blog she shares all her finds and new products for the shop. And there are also some own creations planned, so stay tuned and enjoy!


All products and books are shipped internationally!




(All images: Upon a fold)