Based out of London, Ontario, Sunflower Skins is a collection of cut and paste self-published books that aim to delight, educate and challenge the reader. I recently spoke with the brainchild of Sunflower Skins Britani Sadovski, and we chatted about life in the DYI publishing community, her inspirations and where she sees Sunflower Skins headed in the future.
Stephanie Laughlin: Tell me about the origins of Sunflower Skins
Britani Sadovski: I began self-publishing before university, and the early chapbooks reflect my poetry-entrenched literary upbringing. My first Sunflower Skins projects were free, an attempt to inspire shared literature and guerrilla art; I still maintain the free-press mission with the Bulimic Beluga project and put lots of love into each book I make.
I work exclusively with my partner Thom Bacchus Roland, whose writing can be found here.
SL: I’m particularly interested in what inspired one of your books “the future of bullimic beluga whales”
BS: “Bulimic Belugas” originally started as an idea for a zine, but I quickly found a required monthly format to be too limiting for the direction I wanted to take my art. Instead, inspired by riotgrrl liner notes, Courtney Love’s early band posters, and Kathy Acker’s versions of cut-up technique, I created my own “self-help book” using some black humour and real statistics on eating disorders. More people need to be able to talk about bulimia, depression, and anxiety disorders. The absurd approach at least seems to get their attention.
SL: Are you part of a community of DYI publishers?
BS: As a teenager I realized that traditional publishing was not for me. In general I don’t like big box business, and books are no different; I love local bookshops, the owner’s knowledge and intimacy with texts of all kinds. At 18 I found The Grove Press Reader which changed my approach to writing, for whom I wanted to write, and informed my ethics concerning the publishing world; Barney Rosset’s dedication to fighting censorship, as well as working closely with writers and their original texts, greatly inspires me to maintain full control over my art and to work without boundaries. My partner Thom Roland and I write, format, print, and bind all of our books ourselves. Both of us have blogs for comics, short stories, fragments, and essays. We decided to create the literary, socially-just world we want that we don’t find in London, ON.; though we’ve set up our headquarters here to expand publishing and distribution, we’ve found more of a community online, of like-minded individuals who publish their own comics and essays on blogs.
SL: What’s the reaction to your work in London, Ont? Have you shown your work in other places?
BS: I’ve sent Bulimic Beluga books to friends around the world to distribute in local libraries, coffee shops, bookstores, and anywhere else they want. Contributing to zine libraries is a favourite activity! This past winter a fellow writer took books with him on a trip to Turkey, leaving some scattered in airports along the way; another friend, a Pure Poet, took a bunch to Washington, D.C. campuses and even he left a few in the aquarium.
I’ve had many people approach me, both in person and online, about my mental health writing, sharing personal stories about medication, trial treatments, relationship troubles, and social triumphs; the opportunity to connect with my readers and inspire conversation and new ideas encourages me, for I want a more accepting, honest world.
SL: How do you see Sunflower Skins evolving ?
BS: I have a couple of books currently available (a photography-based comic book and a double-feature horror chapbook shared with Thom Roland). I’m currently working on a collection of Stupid Children Stories, a hand-bound book of mixed media: short stories, photography, and childhood drawings.
As we continue distributing free beluga books to encourage mental health discussion, Sunflower Skins embraces a mindful, purposeful-play lifestyle in order to explore issues in a non-threatening environment; I play with Lego, plastic dinosaurs, Giant Microbes, and various other toys to focus on the absurd in my comics, whether it’s making literary jokes, socio-political observations, or completely silly dino scenes. I also make comics starring live spiders and take great pleasure in connecting with the natural world.
SL: Anything specific you’d like me to mention in the article? Upcoming book fairs, etc…
BS: Feed the Whales is an important cause! I’ll send as many books as people want to anywhere in the world; free press for all! You can also support Sunflower Skins and Bulimic Belugas by spreading the word through t-shirts, buttons, or even little handmade plush whales.In December 2012 we’ll be taking the Bulimic Belugas to DisneyWorld! Blub blub!
Find me on Twitter @sunflowerskins