SHELF LIFE: An interview with Patricia No from Publication Studio

Shelf Life

Continuing with the coverage on our ongoing Shelf Life exhibition, Publication Studio, the lovely publishers-in-residence, have been hard at work bringing fresh books made daily to the shelves of the Henry Art Gallery (and you gotta love those shelves). I had the chance to chat with Publication studio co-founder Patricia No about her work with Publication Studio and the role of books in general. The following is a transcript of our conversation, and due to hardware failure, a paraphrasing of the second half of our conversation afterwards. As always, come check out Publication Studio in-person. They’ll be at the Shelf Life space through July 10.

Patricia No enjoying the Shelf Life studio space, now with coffee table!

– – – – –

So I guess we can begin. Could you state your name?

Sure, I’m Patricia No.

And you’re from?

I’m originally from upstate new York, in Rochester. I also went to school in upstate and then I went to Bard and studied writing there. That’s where I first became interested in literature. My senior year I wanted to bind my thesis by myself, so I took a bookmaking class, I kind of fell in love with the book as an object at that point. Then I moved to Portland, had a bunch of different jobs and I was working at an architecture firm when I met Matthew Stadler. We decided to do this project together, which we originally called an experiment to see if it would work as a way to be a publication studio.

So who do you work with as Publication Studio, or how do you find your authors?

We work with people we find interesting. We have approached several authors and artists and photographers that we really admire and have asked to do a book with us. Sometimes the books take months to complete, sometimes like Ari Marcopoulous’ book, Matthew asked him to do a book with us and 45 minutes later Ari sent us a pdf and said yeah, I’d love to, here’s my book, and all in an hour. Other times people come to us who we’ve never heard of and we take a look at their work and it’s really exciting. We’re pretty democratic and interested in the social aspects of book publishing. We’ve always said that we’re not a publishing studio, we’re a publication studio because we really want to try to make a public around books.

What have been your favorite projects you’ve worked on in the last two years?

Bringing in David [Knowles, Publication Studio’s designer] has been great, because now we can do design work in-house. The first project he worked on was Victoria Haven’s book, and it was a great project to work on to see David and Vic working together to come up with a design and then seeing the finished project, which was so sharp and really put together. Better design work than I’ve been able to do, cause I’ve been laying out stuff on the fly. And it’s a really beautiful book. We did 25 artist editions where we had to carefully collate these hand-made objects into the book, and every page of every single book is hand-folded, they’re all french folds, so it’s been a really all-encompassing sort of book project from start to finish and it was really successful.

– – – – –

Due to the hardware issues, the rest of the interview was not transcribed but you can rest assured that we had a very lovely discussion about books and the future of books.

What I really loved about talking to Patricia was her real excitement and passion for the book as an object and as a way to bring people together. She talked about her and Matthew’s philosophy that physically handing a book to a person is the most direct way to connect the writer and the reader.

Publication studio has a storefront in Portland and 5 other cities in which events are held monthly. Having the storefront space has helped strengthen the community around books and also made it much more personal. Publication Studio only publishes books on demand, making sure that each book they make has an avid and enthusiastic reader. When I came in to have my book rebound by them, it did feel as if this book was mine and only mine, much more intimate and exclusive to my experience with it.

All Publication Studio books can be read via their website (, and they can also be purchased in either digital or physical format. Interesting to note, Patricia told me about how for every book they sell as a digital edition, they sell 100 real books, that people really do want to hold and read the book in their hands. For all the care they put into book making and book distributing, it probably comes as no surprise. When asked about the future of the book, Patricia said she wasn’t worried, and that actually, she’s pretty excited about the landscape that developments such as eReaders and the rise in independent publishing has created in the book world.

I also got to ask Patricia about her favorite book, and that book is The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner, which she lovingly struggled with in high school, and which continues to challenge and excite her because since college she has read it every year.

We at the Henry are excited to follow their growth and development, and encourage all of you to come to the Henry’s Shelf Life exhibition during their residency to chat with Patricia and David and especially to drop by on Sunday when you can bring your books to have them re-bound by Publication studio for only seven dollars. For all the care and effort they put into making your book into a personal object that you’ll cherish forever (you can even choose the cover stock and illustrate it yourself!) it is definitely worth it.

– – – – –

Shelf Life is the Henry’s summer ode to BOOKS and READING. From July 1 – October 15th, the Henry has invited book lovers from various fields — independent publishers, librarians, poets, writers, designers, and, most importantly, readers — to share with us what they do and why they love to do it. For a complete list of Shelf Life related programming, please visit this page. To learn more about Publication Studio and to read their books via digital commons, visit their website at

One thought on “SHELF LIFE: An interview with Patricia No from Publication Studio

  1. Awesome interview and awesome lecture yesterday, too! Everyone should go see Publication Studio, I know I will! Woooo! Good job, Ryan!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s