Trouble by design

Design fiend and publisher Ed Marquand on the reading that will inspire you to do foolishly creative things.
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Design fiend and publisher Ed Marquand on the reading that will inspire you to do foolishly creative things.

Ed Marquand is President and Creative Director of Seattle-based Marquand Books, producer of art books for museums, galleries, artists and architects. He is also a founder of Mighty Tieton, an incubator for creative and artisan businesses in Tieton, Washington, a small, orchard town outside of Yakima. What began as creative entrepreneurship has grown into an unusual model of community development. 

Valerie Easton: What books are lying open on your nightstand right now?

Ed Marquand: “Bad Monkey” by Carl Hiaasen. It’s hysterical; Hiaasen is my favorite “trash” writer. The other is David Rakoff’s rhyming novel, “Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish.” I haven’t started it yet, but look forward to it — sad though the read’s going to be.

Have you read a truly great book lately? One you’d unhesitatingly recommend to friends and colleagues?

“Designing Design” by Ken Hara. He’s the founder of Muji stores, which have had a profound impact on the way we think of the most basic, daily items in our lives. A few weeks ago I visited Peter Miller Books (in his new location in the Suyama Peterson Deguchi building on Second Avenue.) I was blown away. My favorite books were “Introducing: Visual Identities for Small Businesses” and “Whet My Appetite: Culinary Graphic Design.” Both are well designed and thoughtful, intensely curated and fresh. They are professional surveys, but they got me as excited about retail design and product and merchandise ideas as any books I’ve seen for ages.

Do you have a book or two that you’ve re-read over the years?

One of my favorites is “A History of Reading” by Alberto Manguel. I gave out 20 copies as holiday gifts one year. It’s so much fun, like eating a chocolate cake while listening to someone describe the pleasures of eating a chocolate cake. Heaven!

Do you read mostly fiction or non-fiction?

I read about art, design, architecture and creative businesses mostly. I do like good biographies, silly novels and the occasional serious piece of fiction or non-fiction.

What is going on at Tieton? Tell us why there’s a Paper Hammer east and west of the mountains?

Tieton is becoming a bigger deal all of the time. In 2005, when a small band of friends and I stumbled into this tiny orchard town outside of Yakima, we started to imagine what kinds of businesses would make sense there. We concluded that starting enterprises that would help us realize our urban creative ambitions would be a good place to start. We launched Mighty Tieton.

Space and help is so much more affordable there than here. The quality of the work, the pleasure of being there, and the contrast with the pace of life all adds up to a delightful professional situation.

My artisan business there became Paper Hammer Studios, which produces limited edition books for art and museum clients. We also produce paper and book related products that we sell in Paper Hammer in downtown Seattle.

How did you get into book arts? Who is buying the books you’re making?

Collectors, dealers, scholars, connoisseurs, academics and visitors to museum exhibits buy our books. 

I got into publishing through art and graphic design. When I moved to Seattle in 1978, I started a small studio that focused on work for art gallery announcements and publications. In the mid-1980s we shifted to a structure that was more like a publisher than a design studio, which was a good move. Adding editorial depth helped us attract more high-quality museum book work. I love this quote from a university press conference a few years ago: “Books are curated content; everything else is just a website.”

What are your favorites of the books you’ve produced?

We produced a beautiful book for the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco on Mongolian Buddhist art. When I traveled to Mongolia years later, almost everyone I met was familiar with the book and was very proud of it. A common comment was how it was the first time their culture was presented at the same level as most other countries in the world. It elevated their pride in their own heritage in ways I couldn’t have imagined.

A similar thing happened with a book we produced on Sudan. It was a pictorial presentation of the entire country, which has since been divided into two countries. I didn’t visit Sudan, but I did hear from the authors how important it was to the Sudanese there and abroad. It is rare in this age for a book to have that impact, but it’s gratifying to have produced two that did.

What beautiful books inspire you? What treasures are in your own collection?

Of course I love beautiful books, but the ones I treasure are the ones that get me in trouble. They are the books on design, art and architecture that make me act on impulse to take on ambitious projects. Books I discovered around the time we started Tieton inspired me to do audacious things.

To the horror of some of my antiquarian friends, I really use my books, mark them up, flag pages, fold corners, beat them up in the studio. These are not handmade, special editions to be sure, but they are nicer art books. 

What were your most cherished childhood books? Can you name a childhood favorite that influenced you?

My mother’s art books captivated my attention. Books on modern, classical and Asian art made some profound connection in my young imagination. One in particular that I studied constantly was “Modern Prints and Drawings: A Guide to a Better Understanding of Modern Draughtsmanship” by Alfred Barr. I have two copies, which I still enjoy and learn from.

Can you think of a particularly powerful passage from a book that’s stuck with you? That you return to?

I’m so much more visual than literary. In the Barr book, there are a few lovely George Seurat drawings, and a particularly powerful Goya aquatint of "The Colossus" that I revisit most often — but the book is packed with images of great drawings and prints.

If I had to choose a text, it’s a poem by Richard Hugo called “A Good View from Flagstaff” that’s been important to me for several decades. It appeared in an Atlantic Magazine in the mid-1970s, and I was delighted to find it again in his anthology “Making Certain It Goes On.”

Have you read a well-reviewed or popular book lately that you felt didn’t live up to the hype?

I’ve started some that I didn’t finish. I’m seduced by glowing reviews, but with much of the high-brow literature that reviewers love so much, I feel left out somehow. Maybe I just don’t care enough. That end of the literary world seems to be writing for itself. Art books are full of academic, difficult, even impenetrable text too, but they are saved by the reproductions of the art. The writing isn’t the main event.

What book do you plan to read next?

Probably “Fully Booked: Ink on Paper, Designs & Concepts for New Publications.” The typographic cover is intriguing. Bold red type declares: “Let me state this for the record: The internet is not dead. Digital will not disappear. Print will not kill the web. It’s easy to forget that when physical books were invented, news websites ignored them, and then laughed at them as a niche pursuit for geeks. Now here we are . . .”

What Val Is Reading This Week: French Canadian author Louise Penny’s new mystery “How the Light Gets In.” In this eighth Armand Gamache mystery, the thoughtful, humanist Chief Inspector works to solve the murder of a last surviving quintuplet while battling forces of evil within the Surete de Quebec. The action ranges from downtown Montreal to the isolated, snow-drenched village of Three Pines, where Penny’s beloved, eccentric characters carry on…


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About the Authors & Contributors

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Valerie Easton

Valerie Easton started her career as a librarian shelving books at Lake City Library when she was in high school. Now she writes full time, and has authored five books, includingThe New Low Maintenance Garden and her newest title Petal & Twig. She writes a weekly column and feature stories for Pacific Northwest magazine in the Seattle Times.