Interview: Kenneth Srivijittakar (Tiny Splendor)

(This interview is a transcript from an in-person conversation.)

Lindsey Eifert: How did start you start Tiny Splendor—what inspired you?

Kenneth Srivijittakar: We graduated from UC Santa Cruz with a degree in print making and it’s kinda hard to get a job with just print making, so we just didn’t have jobs and we were at this bar and we were talking about this printing press called Kirien Eyes back in the 1890s were they used to just go around selling prints out of this like wagon, and we were like why don’t we do that? And then, we were like ‘Yeah ok,’ and then we starting selling like prints at a park and then I think, I forget who, but we were like, ah man, we should just also sell our friends’ work since we’re just out here and then we just started doing that. And then we started printing for our friends through Cynthia’s job; when her boss wasn’t there we’d just come in and use all the printing materials and with that money we just kept putting it back into buying equipment and like, helping out our friends who are also artists, just getting their work out and then yeah from there it just kept snowballing.

LE: What brought you down to LA from Santa Cruz?

KS: Oh um, actually we were living in the Oakland-Berkley area during that time but I came down to LA to help out my family. And then I think Cynthia came down randomly for family reasons too and then we just opened up another branch. Which works well because the two places were able to distribute to stores and retail places, and talk to a lot more artists, and find more communities’ work to put out.

LE: How do you define, if you can, the aesthetic of Tiny Splendor?

KS: Um, I don’t know, we don’t really have one aesthetic because we like having a broad range of stuff, but we do try to put a sense of craftsmanship into our products and stuff that we print. ’Cause yeah, I think it just comes from going to school for print making and really, you know, we like working with our hands and putting the time and effort to present something that looks like, you know, there’s effort put into it but has a very do it your self feel to it, to our stuff, but you know it changes all the time really.

LE: On your site you say you have “the perfect marriage” of working with friends and artists. How do you keep that balance?

KS: I think the secret is just loving something you do, you know? ’Cause I love printing and print making and like, its totally different when you see an image on paper rather than on a computer screen. It just looks completely different, has a completely different feel to it, you can, like, actually touch it in your hands. It’s more intimate. Yeah, just loving what you do really helps. There’s been times, you know, when we get really angry at each other, and yell and stuff, but when it comes down to it, I don’t know, it’s all about having love for what you do.

LE: Many of your zines are illustrator based. What is the difference between working with a writer versus an illustrator?

KS: I think the main difference is like, writers go into it not having an idea of what the zine will look like—just of content. So we kinda help them along with giving them suggestions, you know, or in the grand scheme of things, how people will approach the book depending on the cover, print size, print quality, imagery inside the book, colors and stuff. And working with illustrators, they kinda have that all figured out. I feel like illustrators are all over the place most of the time, and writers aren’t. It depends, but yeah, with illustrators you kinda have to help them along. Writers you have to help a little more with composition and stuff like that, and illustrators already have an idea to set forward.

LE: How do you know when collaboration is going to work well in your press? What do you look for in collaborators? Which factors do you take into consideration?

KS: Just people who are really open-minded about the process and how things work, and not one-sided. I would say that a good way to tell that things will be different/difficult is if they’re really stubborn on some things, you know? And just, there are certain limitations to Risograph prints, it’s the ink, the dry time takes a while sometimes, the registration’s not perfect, and sometimes artists will be really upset about the registration, you know, it’s like very minute but that’s part of the process. But I feel that most of the people we work with are really chill about it. It’s only been one or two artists I’ve worked with who are really really particular about stuff like that.

LE: When you’re starting a new collaboration with an artist, how do you decide if you want to create a book or a zine? What kind of context is best for a zine verses a book?

KS: Its just how much content they have mostly. Yeah, content, and usually we go for a book if it’s a conceptual idea or more of a narrative-based thing, and if they just have like, oh we just want to put out cool drawings and stuff, then that’s more of a zine style. Less of a narrative, just cool imagery.

LE: I really loved the look and idea of The Spinster by Juliana Wisdom. How does that sort of collaboration start? What are the various conversations you have to create this book?

KS: Yeah she actually emailed us. She was living in San Francisco at the time, and came to one of our shows and just remembered us when she moved down to LA, and then emailed us about it. When an artist or writer proposes a project, for free printing and stuff, it passes through everyone and if everyone a-ok’s it, then we’ll print the project for free, and like split the edition in half so the artist gets something and we get something to pay for the printing costs. But basically, yeah, we sat down with her, she came over a bunch of times, to talk about how the book was gonna look, what she was trying to get across, and just do a lot of test runs and stuff like that, till she figured out how she wants it to look. But yeah, it’s basically hanging out a lot with the artist, yeah.

LE: The Tiny Press world is a really small and intimate one. How do you, as a small press, support other small presses?

KS: We defiantly help out. If like, Never press, their RISO broke recently just before, LA Zine Fest, and they came over and printed some stuff with us—stuff like that. Or we’ll trade books and stuff, and tell each other about events, and invite each other to events and stuff. And it’s a pretty small community, especially with RISO people, in LA. But yeah, going to all these events, it’s really inspiring because you can see what other people are doing and it makes you want to work harder.

LE: You guys have done a lot of events recently?

KS: Yeah, yeah we did. The Long Beach Zine Fest is coming up, then we’re going to do the Brooklyn Zine Fest, and then we have something in July in Austin. And yeah, a bunch of random events. Yeah, its tiring. I’m not really an event person myself, but you know, it’s just tiring, it’s a lot of meet and greet. You do meet a lot of cool people—in the end it’s worth it.

LE: Do you get a lot of collaborations out of those? Or is it more just familiarizing, and expanding in the community?

KS: Yeah, yeah, we get a lot of collaboration. We get our name across, and a lot of artists will email us, and we’ll try and reach out a lot to artists who are trying to have tables and stuff, so its good. It’s a good back and forth type of situation.

LE: For your art submissions, how do you choose? Do you get a wide variety of submission?

KS: We try and handle it as best we can, ’cause we get, like, after events we just get a surge of emails and stuff, but yeah, we basically go through all of them and really have artists send examples, and have them write at least a paragraph about what kind of zine they want, or book, and then everyone in the group checks it out and if they like it then we set a date and work with them, basically.

LE: Can you name mention project or proposal that really stuck out to you, that you really wanted to work with?

KS: Um, I’m trying to think, um….recently one really stuck out because it was a really intense thick book It was like 90 pages, and we were using the older RISO which is kinda wonky, so we just had finicky problems, but they were minute. It was good. Our friends have really beautiful drawings and we were just like, ah man, we just want to show this to the world ’cause it’s so bad ass—like Danny Shimoda.

LE: You sell to a lot of retailers in the Bay Area and the Los Angeles area. How did you get your press involved with these retailers?

KS: It’s basically like going door to door. I feel like a door-to-door salesman for zines sometimes. It’s weird ’cause, you’ew obviously going to get rejected, but you just have to keep going, you know?

LE: When you do sell your work, is it online mostly, or through retailers or fairs?

KS: We mostly do consignment, and then I feel like it’s somewhat harder for us to sell online sometimes, ’cause its, you really have to get that foot traffic. What really helps is if you have an Esty account and stuff. I don’t really have one yet, but I should do that or something. But it’s all about getting foot traffic for online sales and we don’t have that big an online presence, but we do most of our sales through consignment and events.

LE: You just mentioned Esty. Do a lot of other Tiny Presses sell through that?

KS: Yeah, I feel like, I wouldn’t say presses. A lot of artists and illustrators sell through Esty, ’cause it just gets a lot of foot traffic. People are able to browse through hundreds of things without having to go through different websites. Most small presses I know, it’s just mostly through retailers and stuff.

LE: What advice do you have for writers and illustrators who look to be published?

KS: Just go for it! The best way is just to get a table at an event and start talking to people. Make some friends that are into the same things, and trying to do the same things you’re doing, ’cause it really helps you push your work across and helps you work harder, and get inspired. And yeah, just keep going for it. It’s really hard, especially if you’re a very shy person, just to put your work out there, but the more you do it the more you get used to it. When you get rejected, just go back and make soothing better and put it out there. So just keep trying.