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15/2/21
interview produced by hattie morrison / interview edited with sticky fingers / all images by sticky fingers publishing


listen to the episode here ︎︎︎





*transcribed and edited from an episode aired on export radio

Sticky Fingers leaves the residue of the body on paper; Sticky Fingers thinks referencing is a love language; Sticky Fingers reads masturbatorily; Sticky Fingers is learning; Sticky fingers is feminist; Sticky Fingers is filled with dread; Sticky Fingers is nauseated from scrolling; Sticky Fingers is Kaiya Waerea and Sophie Paul; Sticky Fingers is concerned with the sensuality of being, feeling, writing; Sticky Fingers are on the tip of your tongue 
–  information from their site


Kaiya is in black
  & Sophie is in blue  Hattie is in grey


*an instrumental version of Kate Bush- Sensual World plays*
I looked at your website, and I noticed that you define yourself as intra-dependent publishers. Can you explain that a little bit to me? What does that mean to you?

0:29
So we've started using that term fairly recently. When we were kind of trying to think about how we would describe ourselves, it sort of seemed ridiculous to describe ourselves as ‘independent’ publishers, because we rely on so many other people; our readers, different printers, different distributors, small publishers who we’re still in alignment with. The term also kind of speaks to our first publication, which was looking at new materialisms - and in new materialism there’s this idea of intra-action, which is the idea that we aren't closed systems – we bleed into each other and mutually affect one another. I think that thinking about what that means as a model for publishing is something that quite neatly speaks to the way we work.

0.45
On a really basic level, there's a real joy in aligning ourselves and establishing a community with people we enjoy the work of, and people we respect. I think that's always been quite important – reaching out to a community we can see ourselves fitting into ... it’s a really lovely thing to cherish.

2:03  Do you work with the same people each time on each project? Or do you set up new communities with people depending on the project that you're working on?

2:13
So we work with Good Press and Sunday's Print Service in Glasgow– they do our covers at the moment and they do a lot of printing for us. People like that we’ll keep going back to because they’re just lovely and they do brilliant work. In terms of working with people for call outs and publications and stuff, we get varying degrees of different people each time.


When we did our first publication together, the two of us– that was very much out of having writing that we didn't have anywhere to put, and knowing other people who had writing that we wanted to circulate. And so I think there's already, by starting with that intention, a kind of two way thing of wanting to serve ourselves and wanting to provide something for others – and so that becomes like a mutual relationship. When we started, we were in the design department at Goldsmiths, so we had access to pretty much everything we needed to complete the production, start to finish. Since leaving there, we've had to do a lot of reconfiguring and stretching out. Building our relationship with Good Press has been a really wonderful outcome of that.

3:36  Well, I was thinking about this in terms of you both starting from design. How does that starting point from design feed into the way you run Sticky Fingers?


3:54
I think starting in a design department, like Kaiya said, we had everything we needed close to us and that was great. I suppose the approach our design education allowed us to take meant that we were able to be a bit more expansive with our kind of processes. That meant not taking the norms and hierarchies in publishing for granted and building the kind of process we wanted to use for ourselves from that point, because I think the design education we got was very speculative and critical. It meant that we were able to start in a slightly different place than we may have done from art history or literature.

4:58   Obviously every practice has its norms for better or for worse and because our design education sat with a different relationship to academia and the academic institution –and therefore commercial publishing – it meant that we didn't need to get hung up on those processes. We didn't have to worry about whether our citations were consistent, or those nitty gritty things that can become a drag like feeling that we need to know enough before we can write about something, or that we need to have an approved and standardised level of knowledge to be able to write about something or circulate that writing – it was just not something that we ever had to sit with. It was very freeing and it meant that we could take what we wanted from things and drop things when we got bored of them and run about a bit more.

6:03  That's something that really stands out for me, because I've been looking through the stuff that you've been producing and there does seem to be a playfulness there that’s really exciting.

Going back a little bit, I wanted to ask you about your ethos, because despite there being a playfulness, there also seems to be a sense of urgency in what you publish. I wanted to ask how your feminism shapes your publishing methods?

6:27
Something that we're interested in, and something that we're starting to think about a lot more is how we can rearrange the writing, editing and publishing process to reflect or put into practice our feminisms. Thinking about histories of feminist presses, thinking about women's writing groups, consciousness raising groups, all of these kinds of spaces that are organised more horizontally, and that are about a mutual production of knowledge and maintenance of knowledge, as opposed to a sort of hierarchical passing down of knowledge.

7:15  When we started publishing together, we had writing we wanted to share. We had all these weird, brilliant conversations together about where to find good erotica and the kind of books we liked. Things like that shaped our values into something that means we embed a love of other writers into the body of the texts themselves, and sort of weave referencing into the way we work as a love language. It goes back to the ‘intra-dependent’ thing, because we're not separate entities. Sometimes it's really, really lovely to work with this kind of vulnerability and naivety and just say ‘I really think this is bloody brilliant’. It's writing through the things you love, rather than against them. Behind them, you know?
8:09  I want to ask you about the physical element of Sticky Fingers. Why do you produce things that you can hold? Why is that important to you? So much of publishing right now is done digitally, and that's how it's distributed too. Sticky Fingers seems so rooted in stuff that is created in the world, in the space.

8:34
Like we've been discussing, we started in a design department. As well as all the theory, we were learning about sorts of criticisms and ways of working with knowledge. It meant that we thought about  the materiality, and how things feel and how exciting it is to produce a thing. It's all about the feel of the paper, and the ink on the paper and what that feels like to hold and what that feels like in your mouth– *she laughs*– what it feels like to hold the words within you. I think we really enjoy making them and having them be bound by us. It’s really important.

We do a monthly postal mail-out by subscription, and we started that in May out of a frustration with not having zine fairs anymore and not having these sites or points of meeting with other people to exchange  material, because it wasn't safe. The mail-out helps us to sustain that material encounter with others, in a way that’s safe.

*musical interval, Rhiannon by Fleetwood Mac*

9:18  It’s so wonderful to receive something in the mail. It's something that isn't talked about enough. There's something amazing about actually having something arrive through your own letterbox.

There's so much of you in those little things that you make. How does the making process affect what you publish? Is there a symbiosis there?



13.01
Me and Sophie have gotten very good at designing layouts via Messenger. Usually one of us will start a grid and then send each other screenshots, and the other one will be like “oh, can you do this? Can you do this? Can you do this?” and then we'll get to a starting point that we're both happy with. Then one of us will do the first full layout, and then package it and send it over to the other who will comb through. And we usually go back and forth like that.

We're very lucky that we have a collaborative relationship where we can redo and change things that we have done without worrying about offending each other. I think that's really important. In terms of printing and stuff, I have an A3 inkjet, so we do a lot of our printing on that.

13:49
Wow!

It’s amazing

13:52  It's also about finding little ways to make really cheap printing look really nice. Thinking about paper stock and how that can distract from not the best quality printing– just like, that type of thing. Searching for those tricks is something that we both really enjoy as well.

I think not being scared of accidents. It comes with a kind of boldness. That naivety and vulnerability are the kinds of things we're talking about, anyway. It goes hand in hand with just making a thing and if it goes wrong, it’s fine.

14:34  If I asked you to say the name of one of those publications that have all those letters in the title, could you do it?

14:41
*laughs*
 Yes, but it took like a year or two!


I’ll read it out: FDBNHLLLTTF Publications, which stands for: Fragile, Disorienting, Breakable, Naive, Hesitant, Loving, Lasting, Leaking, Trembling, Terrifying, Fucking Publications. I wanted to ask you briefly about this. I think there's a push often with publishing to make things snappy, because we're getting to the point where attention spans are being decreased and decreased and decreased. With Sticky Fingers, it seems as though there's almost a pushback against that. That’s a playful title –you know, you both had to actively try to remember it yourselves. Do think about the consumerability of your products? Do you call them products? It seems kind of strange for me to even call them ‘products’ because Sticky Fingers seems very tender. It seems wrong to even say those kinds of terms. I'm not really asking a question, but if you have anything to say… Kaiya, you're nodding

15:44
With the FDBN Publications, we wrote that list to put it on our first open call, and thought that we'd think of the title later. Then we found the idea of having such a long title very funny and so used it for the title.

I think that there's something interesting in what you're saying about legibility. There’s thought in when choosing to make things legible, and when we choose to not make things legible, and who we are providing or preventing access to our material when we make those decisions. I think that resisting the pressure to simplify and streamline and reduce your ideas, in specific cases, is really important. I don't think that's a blanket thing, because I think that there needs to be granularities of complexity so that people have routes into things. But, I think that letting it stay messy, and I think as Sophie was saying, “leaving the mistakes in” and letting the ink land where it may, is kind of the whole point of that series of journals.

16:59  Well, maybe that’s a good segue into what's coming next? Where the ink will be landing. You've mentioned to me that your next publication is going to be titled Dead Lovers. Sophie, could you tell me the premise of that project?

17:15
Yeah, so Dead Lovers is a project where we take writing from a deceased writer that we like, and then commission three new texts to sit next to that writing. So it's a contribution towards efforts in establishing alternative genealogies and alternative modes of practice within experimental writing. As I mentioned earlier – it’s about regarding referencing as part of the texture of a piece, and how important it is not to be scared of using the language of other people, with respect, to position yourself with them. It's a publication that does that, and understands referencing as a political tool and love language. In that way, it sort of takes our values and it takes our feminism's as method, and rearranges the writing practice to create little ruptures in the histories of print, through writers whose writing didn't necessarily fit with the accepted genre of being and practicing – as a person and as a writer – at that time. It's kind of oozy, alternative histories.

18:37
With the first issue of our new publication, we're going to be focusing on a short story by Cookie Mueller called The Simplest Thing, which was published in BOMB Magazine in 1989. We're working with three writers and we are very excited to have Rose Higham-Stainton, who's an RCA Writing graduate and is really, really brilliant. Zoe Frost, a designer and writer whose practice looks at the grotesque, the awkward, the messy spaces that the body goes into. She's also really brilliant. And then we're going to have the wonderful Gina Prat Lilly with us, who we also know from our MA, so that's very exciting.

I think what Sophie was saying about rearranging the writing process...what we're kind of focusing on with these publications is what our roles are as the publishers and editors and thinking about hierarchical norms that come with those roles, and trying to rearrange them a bit. For the writing process with these three commissioned pieces, we’re starting with a group close-reading session that will be the five of us (me, Sophie and our three writers). Then two weeks later, we will have a group sharing session, where we'll read each others work, give each other ideas; that will be a broader discussion. Then, two weeks after that, we'll have an edit-focused group session together. Once the pieces are finished, Sophie and I will only really be proofreading.

It’s an attempt to start practising some of these things that we're talking about in terms of undoing the hierarchy of the editor and writer by redistributing that work amongst us all as a group, to see what that feels like.


20:50  It feels as though there's an element of nurturing there throughout, instead of it being like you're throwing a nugget of information out there, like a Call Out, and expecting things to come back to you– which, don’t get me wrong, are exciting too (I love projects like that) With Sticky Fingers, it seems to be about what happens while nurturing the process with creatives. Is this the first time you've worked like this? Is it something that you've seen be done before?

21:22
I think that in some of our later FDBN Publications when we were getting more and more submissions and having to turn pieces away, which we hadn't done before, we were becoming a lot more aware of what our role was within the process of publishing – and turning pieces away didn’t feel very comfortable for us. I think there's also another part of it, which is that the people we want to publish are people we’re around, or our friends, or people that we have encountered in a kind of peer-to-peer way and are excited about being around. We don't presume the writers we commission have less authority over their work than we do. In fact, most of them are probably better editors. We're all kind of doing our thing, and there's no reason why we should have that control.

22:27 I think, on that as well, when we first started we did these five journals that started in a sort of “throw stuff on a page, see what happens and we'll publish it” kind of way. It was a smash-and-grab approach to theory. As we did more and more of those, we had to start considering things more; the kinds of writing we want to sit next to other kinds of writing– and commissioning people as well. It just kind of felt like a more careful and considered space for doing the things that were starting to emerge from the original journals.


*Love Is A Battlefield by Pat Benatar plays*

25:45

My favourite thing about Sticky Fingers is Sophie

*laughs*

–but seriously, having a reliable and thoughtful person to collaborate with and not feeling like I need to adjust or hide or present myself as anything other than what I am, in a working relationship is unfortunately unusual, but very, very valuable. I also really just find it so exciting; having a vehicle for all of the things that I care about to emerge

26:38
I think it's a lovely question. I think the way Kaiya and I have been able to work feels really special. Being able to come as you are, and work with each other with that level of, like, flexibility and acceptance of each other...  being able to talk about all the things we value feels really special, and like something to cherish. It’s lovely.

Also – and this is going to sound really boring – having someone to learn stuff from (and that comes from all the writers we published as well) to talk about graphics and learn new graphics, the things we read, writing that's coming from someone we’ve never heard of before - that's brilliant. This is what we meant when we were talking about hierarchies. It's not this space where we publish a writer and we ‘allow’ them to do whatever they do, because that's not it. It's doing something together with a whole group of people – it forces you to be better and asks you what you value. I think that's really special.
27:49  The community aspect of Sticky Fingers – that’s what I think makes it great, because you get such a sense of it being a community mentality; everyone is taking part in some way. You don't get that much with many large scale, group projects.

We have some readings from some brilliant writers that you have worked with now, don’t we? What are we about to hear?

28:35
We're about to hear readings by one or two writers from each of our five past publications, from the past year and a half; so all of our FDBN publications. We're very excited to be able to share some of this writing with you because they are now out of print.

We hope you enjoy.






You can get hold of the most recent issue of Sticky Fingers’ FDBN publication Belonging, on their online shop. Give them a follow for open calls and info about upcoming publications on Instagram @stickyfingerspublishing

Thank you to Kaiya Waerea and Sophie Paul for your enthusiasm and collaborative spirit