Be the Change! A Justseeds Coloring Book is the title of our new book, available November 30th. A coloring book for all ages, our hope is that it will be inspirational, and people will feel empowered while decompressing.
The coloring book is a co-publishing venture with Justseeds Artists’ Cooperative, and we have really enjoyed collaborating. Molly Fair, a member of the cooperative curated and edited all of the images in the book. Be the Change! is a little different from the work that Justseeds usually publishes, so we thought it’d be great to ask her about the project.
Molly Fair is a multidisciplinary artist, librarian, and archivist based in Richmond, VA. She fell in love with printmaking through her work with the Justseeds Artists’ cooperative, embracing the power of the multiple as a democratic medium. She has been engaged in efforts to uncover and celebrate the histories and cultural production of social movements, both as a founding member of Interference Archive, and through facilitating community archiving workshops for activists and organizers. By day she is a librarian, turning students into critical skeptics.
What inspired you to make a coloring book?
I’ve been very interested in coloring books as tools for popular education. There’s the 1975 feminist classic by Tee Corrine, The Cunt Coloring Book, which is still in print and pretty brilliant. I also have been inspired heavily by the work of Jacinta Bunnell, who has published four coloring books that smash gender norms in wonderfully playful and smart ways, like Girls Are Not Chicks. Recently, I’ve been inspired by For the People Artists’ Collective and Chicago Childcare Collective’s coloring books like Color Me Rising, which draw from recent struggles and actions out of Chicago to address police brutality and racial justice. I think it’s important for young (and older) people to see themselves and their movements represented on these pages, and I like the idea that a coloring book can be a political organizing tool, or used as conversation starter.
Of course, there is the recent uptick in coloring books being used for mindfulness or to de-stress. But going a step beyond the whole self-help industrial complex, I see possibilities for using coloring books in movement work. I was inspired by Una Lucha KC and One Struggle KC who made the coloring books ¡Ayotzinapa Vive! and Words and Images of Black Lives Matter and then organized events to “promote healing from trauma through art.”
Can you tell us a bit about the Justseeds Artists’ Cooperative? What’s it like to collaborate with so many artists?
Working with so many artists is amazing and challenging! It would be nice to be able to work together in person more often than we do, and we do manage to come together for group projects, installations, and encuentros. And of course, though we are united by a common mission, group dynamics are always complicated! It’s great to be able to draw from the strength of our network, and to be able to collectively produce graphics for/with groups directly engaged in struggles who may not have the capacity to do design work for one reason or another.
Be the Change! is a collection of illustrations from the artists in the Justseeds Artists’ Cooperative. How did you choose which images to include?
I wanted to showcase a bunch of different intersecting themes: migration, families, queer liberation, climate justice, education, self-determination, community care, self-love, autonomous movements, and imagination. I was also trying to put images together that were positive, with the idea of representing what are we fighting for, rather than what are we against. Though some designs might be more challenging for a child to interpret, I aimed to incorporate images that I thought would be more easily recognizable, like birds, sunflowers, cats, and butterflies, which create a visual representational language. I also wanted to select images that showed the diversity of our movements, and the people in them.
The graphics in the coloring book started out as color images. What was your process for translating the images into graphics that could be colored in?
This proved more difficult than I expected! Some of the images were easier to translate than others because they were initially outline drawings. The images that had many shades of grey or color became more complicated. We had design conversations around how much of the original image was necessary to preserve, and what was ok to alter. Some of the artists redrew images from the original designs. For other images, I used halftones (like the little dots in a newspaper) to convey where to color something in. I think we struck a good balance, in the end.
Many of the images are going to be published under Creative Commons, why is that?
We’ve utilized the Creative Commons license for many of our projects. This was the case with the first book we published, Firebrands, as well as the images in our portfolios. When we revamped our website a few years ago, we created a page for downloadable graphics, with the hope that people could re-use and re-mix images for their movement work and campaigns. With the coloring book, the idea is similar—we want to encourage people to photocopy pages for a workshop, a class, for child care, or a protest sign. We hope the images will have a life beyond the book.
Why did you decide to co-publish?
I feel that Radix Media operates with a similar spirit to Justseeds—we both have a cooperative model, a commitment to social justice, and a common interest in political design and print. I was excited that Radix recently made the leap to becoming a publisher, and thought it would be a good opportunity to collaborate and create a new partnership. I hope we can work together again in the future!
Justseeds transitioned from an artists’ cooperative to a worker cooperative a while back. Can you tell us a little bit about what spurred the decision, and what being a worker cooperative means for Justseeds specifically?
The backstory is that Josh MacPhee began Justseeds as a personal distribution project to sell his own work and the work of other political artists in his network. For a while Clamor Magazine fulfilled orders for him, and when they folded, he wanted to figure out a way to keep the project going. The desire to embark on a collaborative endeavor with the artists he’d been working with throughout the years spurred the formation of the coop. For Justseeds, a coop model means that we share different aspects of the labor involved in running a business from promotion to order fulfillment. It also means that any profits which don’t go towards paying artists or our operations costs, are used for collective projects like print portfolios or publications, donating art to other organizers, or funding travel to work with each other in person.
We are happy to be collaborating with Justseeds, and can’t wait to share this book with you all. If you’re as excited as we are, make sure to download some sample pages and pre-order the book!