You don’t always have to read a book, either. You can just gaze at it. Local publishers and distributors Rainoff (Robert Milne and Sinisa Mackovic) know all about it. In the second installation in the lead up to the Sydney Design talk Why we love making books: ideas about unfettered self-expression (tomorrow night at Berta) we speak to Robert Milne about pages with pretty pictures.
What do you think when you hear the word ‘book’?’
RM: Automatically I think of art books more than any other. They are what I love and enjoy. Since they exist in such a large variety of formats with each design differing from the next, I see them as representation of the many elements that can make up a book.
What was the first book that made a big impact on you, either visually or story-wise?
RM: I remember growing up with lots of books around. I guess mostly kids story books.
The Grug Books were definitely a childhood favourite. It wasn’t until later on that I actually started searching through some of the other books that were laying around the house and exploring the library in high school. There was a really amazing Charles and Ray Eames book that belonged to my Mum. I still have that one actually. Its saddle stitched and quite small, the pages have completely changed colour and it looks beautiful.
What led you to starting Rainoff Books?
RM: Rainoff began purely because Sinisa [Mackovic] and I wanted to publish our own books. We both have been collecting books and zines for a long time and it seemed like a project that would be fun and challenging. Having a shared interest for design and art also has allowed us to use Rainoff as a platform to explore and pursue our own creative freedoms, such as editing and designing the books ourselves. The name was generated through wordplay. Adding different words onto the end of ‘Rain’ to see what it sounded like. The reason for doing this is because we wanted an almost nonsense word that did not have a meaning previous to our use of it. So there could be no association with something else and hopefully when heard would be associated with us.
You have a small but considered suite of published and distributed publications. What guides you in your selections?
RM: Choosing an artist to publish is simply based on our own taste. We like to work with people that we admire and whose work we respect. A new publication that we are about to release later this year is with Conor O’Brien, a photographer that we admire greatly [pictured]. As we continue to release more publications in the future, we would like our catalogue to act as curated project itself, presenting a selection of artists that are related to each other in some way or another.
The publications and artists that we choose to distribute operates similarly to the way that we choose an artist to publish. Often these publishers and artists are presenting a very unique perspective on contemporary art and we felt that it was necessary for them to be available to the Australian market.
The talk seeks to explore, ‘ideas about unfettered self-expression’. Is self-expression ever really unfettered? What constraints do you frequently encounter?
RM: As an independent publisher the main constraint that we have with producing a new publication is with money. Since we are publishing artists works we try to present their work in the best and most complimentary form. Due to the high cost in production some of the ideas that we would like to achieve to do this aren’t always financially viable. There is a lot of communication between ourselves and the printer to work out ways that we can produce a publication that we believe successfully represents the artists work.
What do you like to read (personally)? Where is your favourite reading spot? And what do you most frequently drop on the pages of your books?
RM: I really like to read magazines and specific art / design journals. Along with appreciating the sense of design and aesthetic of a certain magazine or journal they often provide an interesting perspective on a range of subjects. If you look at something like Dot Dot Dot, 032c or Les Cahiers Purple, there is alway a large diversity in content which as a reader I find very enjoyable.