an exquisite interview with julia rothman.

Boy, are you in for a treat today, friends! The sweet Julia Rothman and my friends at Chronicle Books have thrown together a blog tour for The Exquisite Book, written by Julia, Jenny Volvovski and Matt Lamothe (and, it’s truly exquisite! Really!). Guess who’s kicking off this fun little tour? Yes. Yours truly. You are correct.

I thought it would be fun to pick Julia’s brain and share the remains with you all, because we’re curious folk, aren’t we? Yes. Yes, we are. Anyway, Julia was kind enough to answer some questions re: the book, including the game that inspired it all!

Q: Tell us about the moment you decided to play the collaborative game, and in doing so, publishing The Exquisite Book.
A: The exquisite corpse is actually a game invented by the Surrealists in the early 1900s. The game is played like this: a piece of paper is folded into three parts. Each participant draws a different section of a body (head, torso, legs), but doesn’t let the other artists see what they have created. The big reveal comes when the piece of paper is unfolded and everyone gets to see the “corpse” they’ve created. During art school Jenny, Matt and I must have played the game hundreds of times. Instead of passing notes, we were passing drawings. After graduating we created our design company ALSO. Besides doing our client work, we are always coming up with ideas for our own self driven “dream jobs”. We remembered the exquisite game and thought the concept could be extended for a bigger project and that’s how the idea for this book came about.

Q: The layout alone is indeed exquisite — how did you settle on the format?
A: Determining the format for the book was really tough. Luckily Chronicle has an amazing team of designers who worked with us to figure out the super unique construction. Our original idea started as one long accordion of 100 pages but we quickly learned that structure wouldn’t hold up- it would literally topple over. Since we had ten chapters of ten artists, Chronicle came up with the idea to bind in ten different fold out accordions into a single hardcover. This way the chapter could each pull out and you can see how each group of artwork connects. Plus pulling open long connecting pages makes for a fun viewing experience!
Q: How did you choose the artists that would participate in the book?
A: I have developed relationships with many artists though my blog Book By Its Cover. Plus all three of us are always bookmarking artists websites we find inspiring. We had a long list of over 200 artists to pick from. We ultimately decided to pick the artists we felt were good storytellers. We thought that might help create a continuous narrative in the book.
Q: Just finished reading your behind-the-scenes post on Book By Its Cover (loved, btw!). How would you judge your own book by its cover? What do you think readers expect to be awaiting inside?
A: We were very happy with our cover. After creating our few cover sketches- we definitely felt this was the standout of the bunch. I think it’s striking and intriguing. I’m not sure we are showing very much of what you’ll find inside the book but I think the letter ball imagery is compelling enough to make the reader want to know what’s inside. The cover matches the chapter openers and the rest of the design of the book also uses the 3-d lettering so it’s consistent.
Q: Matt and Jenny live in Chicago, yes? How did you maintain a long-distance collaboration in producing the book?
A: Jenny, Matt and I use the video phone to maintain a sort of virtual office. Jenny is always somewhere on my screen and we talk to each other as if we are in the same room working side by side. Sometimes we are working silently together, other times we gather to concept ideas. Sometimes when we are having a good day we have a virtual dance party. I always imagine someone looking in my windows and thinking I’m an insane person talking to myself all day.
Q: Where do you see the future of collaboration in art/design?
A: We think in the future the internet will continue to facilitate artist collaborations all over the world. It’s made it so easy to learn about new artists and communicate with them. As technology gets better and better, I can imagine an enormous range of collaborations will be able to develop. It’s pretty exciting to think how much the internet has changed things- and I can only imagine it will continue.
Q: You run ALSO in your spare time (what spare time?!). How is web design different from print design? Which do you prefer?
A: Well, that’s actually not really true : ) Jenny does most of the designing, all of the typography and programs all of the websites we create. She also deals with most of the clients and keeps us all organized. Matt is an incredibly talented animator and makes our work come alive giving it the personality and fun we’ve become known for. He can also draw in so many different styles perfectly, which is a great talent to have when you’re dealing with so many different kinds of companies. I help with the illustrations and designing and do the marketing stuff for the company. But the best part of our job is when the three of us come together and concept the ideas for the projects we work on. That’s when we get to collaborate the most. We all have different strengths that compliment each other pretty perfectly. When our three heads come together, our strongest ideas get created.

Q: What do you hope readers will take away from purchasing The Exquisite Book?
A: Most of all I hope readers have fun looking at our book! I hope they continue to look at it again and again. I think the best part about it is that each time you come back to it, you might discover something new. Some of the artists made obvious visual connections to the previous page. Other artists had more subtle connections that take time to notice. This makes it a book that is great to leave around, to flip through on a spare moment. I also hope it inspires readers to collaborate with others on projects!

Thanks, Julia!
And FYI — If you’re in Brooklyn, the Exquisite authors will be having a launch party this Friday (Oct 22nd) at the Powerhouse Arena with over 20 of the participating artists, which is pretty rad if you ask me.
p.s. The book blog tour has just begun! Follow a slew of talented bloggers as they introduce The Exquisite Book to their communities. Let the games begin!

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