Header image for A Book from Pizza Toast — Part 1

Hello sporadic walking walkers —

For the next three issues of Ridgeline I’m (Craig Mod) going to focus on a walking-related book project of mine, both to share a bit of behind the scenes details and to hold myself accountable. This book project is entering the last 30% phase, and as we all know, the serious work of a creative project happens in the final 5%, so I’m actually only about 20% of the way done. (Ah, the math of art.)

An aside: This behind-the-scenes type note is in the spirit of what I normally write for the Explorers Club members-only newsletter. Members have access to archives and more.

Project background: Last year I made a one-off book, Pachinko Road: Walk With Me (yes, recurring naming themes), from my long walk in April / May. I kinda whacked it out, not knowing how it would feel or look. It turned out unexpectedly wonderful. I love it. It gave concrete form to those 45 days of walking. And although it’s print on demand, printed through Blurb, one single copy, the quality of the paper and printing and binding is surprisingly good. It feels “real.” It was a book just for me, but it made me want to make something for all of you.

Which got me thinking about artist books and zines, and the movement within that community to be a “looser” with “books.” The last book-book I put out was Koya Bound, back in 2016. Four years feels like too much time between books. Especially because I love the feeling of booking, of annealing an adventure / experience, hardening its edges, and being able to throw it across the room.

So with this spirit in mind, back in December, 2019, when the world was full of people inhaling each other’s micro-spittle by the lungful, I set off on the Ise-ji and I thought — Aha! I will bookify my giant Eater essay about pizza toast. Because more than half of it was cut on the road to publication, and because I wanted more control over the interplay between image and text. Books do that really well — the image and text thing. Way better than the web. Books have spreads, and spreads do nothing if not juxtapose, allow for diptychs between whatever sits on opposite sides of the gutter.

In the spirit of “quick books,” the original plan was to use the exact same template I used for Pachinko Road: Walk With Me and offer the pizza toast book up for grabs. But the more I thought about the economics of it, the more annoyed I became. The base cost of that book is about $100. So I couldn’t sell it for a profit, and the quality wasn’t commensurate to the pricing. I mean, it’s nice, but it’s not $100 nice. The price of a print on demand book is a reflection of the process of how it is made, not necessarily of materials or craft.

On the flip side: The problem with offset printing a book (the “normal” way to make books) is that you have to do it by the 100s/1000s/100,000s and end up with a bunch of books. And they have to be stored. And then shipped. And getting tied up in logistic is the quickest way to die a lonely death.

I made calls. I poked around. I thought I had found a holy grail solution — a printer in Europe that does beautiful offset work and handles logistics. The best of offset (low per-unit cost, flexibility in materials, high quality of production) and the best of print on demand (don’t have to handle inventory!) in one. My friends had used them. They seemed good. But communication fell apart due to COVID-19 tomfoolery, and in the end, I realized I’d much prefer to work with a local Japanese printer, where I can do press checks and get oodles of paper samples.

So what started as: I’ll hit print on a print on demand book, and then morphed into: Well, I’ll do offset with this company in Europe, has now shifted to: OK, I’m going to find a logistics company and printer in Japan that I’ll be able to work with going forward indefinitely. Set up a template, a system, and then off we go to the book-making races.

In this insane fantasy world of mine, I’d like to be producing two books a year.

Current status: The pizza toast book (currently still unnamed) will be about 112 pages. I’ve got materials, papers, size, fonts, general layout all defined. The fact that this project has taken longer than expected has been good — I’ve been able to accrue a mass of other books, some opulent, some very simple, that have all, in parts small and large, become archetypes, contributed to the design language and look and feel off which I’m working.

I waffled between inexpensive and high-quality, and I fell on the side of high-quality. This will not be a cheap book, but I’m working on ways to massage the object’s affordability.

The narrative non-fiction component of the book will be about 15,000 words, and I have a refined draft now sitting at 12,000. I’ve hired an editor, and will be handing off to them in the next few days so they can begin wrangling. In theory, because so much of this material has been worked over, the wrangling should be minimal (ha ha ha!).

It will have upwards of 50 photos, printed large, some over gutterless lay-flat spreads.

I’m presently in talks with a few printers and logistics companies in Japan. I hope to have those production details nailed down in the next week (ed: note how this optimism is beautifully, almost sociopathicaly disconnected from reality). I’m not sure what capacity printers are now operating at, but COVID-19 in Japan seems, largely (???), to be settling down.

The plan is to run at least one members-only livestream (like I did with the production of the Ise-ji site) of the design / production of the book — showing how the photos are being edited / the book is being put together in InDesign / Affinity Publisher. That will probably happen in about two weeks.

I’m excited. But writing all of this makes me very uncomfortable! I generally don’t like talking about projects before they’re wrapped and ready to ship. But these are weird times, and I’ve made enough books to know where we are (essentially) in the process. (Which is to say: I know enough to know the marathon has only begun.)

Until next week,

Fellow Walkers

“When you’re Canadian it’s hard to know what you are or where you belong, and after Montreal and Vancouver, London also doesn’t feel like home. Still walking. “

“I Grew up in a model of a Scottish town with a model of a Scottish name badly fit over a pacific landscape. For this injustice given twice the thighs and an enjoyment of hills. Moved north but can’t stay away, so moving back to a land which for its injustices we are returning to the original names.
Toi tu te kupu,
Toi tu te mana,
Toi tu te whenua.”

(“Fellow Walkers” are short bios of the other folks subscribed to this newsletter. In Ridgeline 001 I asked: “What shell were you torn from?” and got hundreds of responses. We’re working our way through them over the year. You’re an amazing, diverse crew. Grateful to be walking with you all. Feel free to send one in if you haven’t already.)


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