Elevate Talks: Johanna Maierski

Johanna Maierski is a publisher, printer and Donaldist. Her background is in Architecture, Urban Research and illustration. She runs Colorama a studio and a publishing house in Berlin that specializes on Riso-printing.

How would you define Colorama?

Colorama is a publishing house and printing studio but also a platform for artists to get to know each other during small meetings or workshops.

Colorama Studio.

What inspired you to specialize on riso-printing?

Riso-printing was an interest that started with the enthusiasm for the aesthetics and moved further to the pragmatic realization that it enables me to work autonomous and others to realize projects. It allows you to have a short time-span between the initial idea or concept and the finished project, so you can refine your projects with a trial and error process: something that i
prefer for my own work. I think it’s really helpful to make the things — work on them again — refine them or just kill your darlings and move on — in order to make those decisions I like to hold the things in my hands — rather then playing it through in my head.

Is your Journey Really Necessary? by Andrés Magán.

Which are the best and worst things about working in Berlin?

The best thing about working in Berlin is that nearly my whole family lives here and that I have a multilayered group of friends from school, studies and recent encounters. Berlin still makes it somehow possible to work creatively without having to work three jobs but of course that also changed dramatically in the last years — it’s still not as bad as in other big cities though. Since I grew up here I have a more sentimental attachment to the city and never asked myself if “I could make it”— it’s just my home-town. It is really easy to drown in Berlin though. There are so many artists and no one really cares about you. It’s easy to get caught up in a bar or cafe job without making any of the projects that you were planning to do when you moved here — that’s at least something I observe a lot. In the illustrators scene this is changing a bit because everyone moved closer together and tries to encourage and support each other.

Book A by Antoine Cossé.

What was your first zine, Wrestling, about? How did you come up with it?

Wrestling came from my wish to tell my own little tales and to combine it with works of my favorite group of people. Without really knowing or realizing what editing is back then, this is probably the first manifestation of what I wanted to do or where I saw my strengths. Regarding the content: the stories are about heartache, depression and one of my best friends, Kathrin. It’s a psychogram of my fear of losing someone or something and it is so super romantic and loaded with sentimentalities. The second issue was more about the diary as a state of mind and my efforts to find my place between the irrelevance and the necessity of details in anecdotes.

What would you say to people who claim that “print is dead”?

I have been asked this question recently already — and I can only answer it from within my printing-bubble where print is the core of my economic and creative identity. It is the medium that connects us (people from the self-publishing and printers scene) to an audience outside of our bubble and is therefore crucial. It is nice to be a publishers’ publisher and to see that your
books are mostly bought by your peers but it is also very very nice to connect to someone who is ignorant to your color separation skills.

Objects for a better Future is a book with illustrations by Tor Brandt.

Which is your perspective on new technologies? Which impact would you wish they had on creativity?

I am more in touch with them through illustrators and comic artists who include them more and more in their work. I really like this new artform that is highly conceptual but at the same time humorous and aesthetically sometimes on the trashy side. I find it very liberating that a theoretical discourse about new forms of technology, reproduction, Art and networks can happen in a form that feels more free and not already dictated by academic corsets. But this is just me talking very intuitively about the matter.

Poster by Till Thomas.

Colorama is hosting workshops since last year. Why did you decide to do this? How was the feedback you’ve received like?

The workshops happened mainly because of my passion for teaching. I did that a lot during my Architecture studies and still miss it. I love to participate when someone makes a jump in skills or knowledge or reflection — it is a lot of fun to observe it and to find your input as a tiny part of the process. People are so proud of their instant results. Mostly the ones that come without any experience with the printing process have more interesting results than the ones who have a very fixed idea what they want to achieve in the workshop.

A trick of the Light by Jeong Hwa Min.

How do you choose which submissions to publish on Colorama Press?

I am super interested in comics and illustrations that just feel wholesome in the artistic and narrative choices. I don’t really prefer a specific style but I am more drawn to people that seem to develop their own voice rather than coming from a specific “school” or tradition. I talk about what I like a lot with Aisha Franz who is generally into things that look trashy and a little bit disgusting. I think she has a great influence on me, coming from this Architecture background where you cut 5mm grey cardboard in an 45’ angle for 4 weeks to create the perfect and clean joint for your model that you throw into trash after the presentation and use only Helvetica fonts for everything.

If you had to put together your all-time top 3 Colorama Press publications, which would they be?

There are three projects coming to my head immediately:

1. DUII by Tara Booth: It was the first real book I published and contact I had with an artist that wasn’t my friend yet. I remember riding my bike somewhere two years ago and getting a message from Tara, saying that she was interested in letting me publish her story. I was in shock and super excited and at the same time scared that she would find out that “I am not professional”. We became really close and I am still super proud of the book (although there are things that I would do different now) — it was a very interesting experience to work with such an intimate story and to learn how to push an artists but to give them space as well. I will do a second edition of the book this year with some alterations.

DUII by Tara Booth.

2. CLUBHOUSE #6: This book came out of the Clubhouse week project that I host together with Aisha Franz. 30 artists were involved and 15 worked on the book in Berlin in some kind of intense comic summer camp. We were cooking lunch, planning the layout, hosting dinners, made trips, setup a whole workshop and release party, small exhibition and printed the whole book in a couple of days — it was physically and mentally really challenging but oh-so-rewarding! We will repeat this project this July with new artists involved and with more helpers involved.

Clubhouse #6.

3. GAIA7. I approached Marc Hennes and Paul Paetzel last year right after they released a small copied preview of the book that was initially just meant to be a small zine. Those two make a very infatuating combination in feverish imagery that is paired with detail-obsessed and weird erotic femme-sci-fiction. This book felt like a big jump in terms of publishing a real book. It was one of those moments where I felt that I was able to give the artists a real safe space to try whatever they wanted while they were still super open and interested in my comments. I am still blown away by the result — the book is very dear to me.


On a scale from 1 to 10, how important is social media for the studio?

9 probably. I get most of my clients through Instagram and I do find a lot of artists there. Aisha is always teasing me to look outside of this app — but it helps to connect and share the every day life Ihave at the studio. Somehow I feel the urge to let people know that Colorama is not a big company but a one-women-plus-half-intern-operation.

Who or what inspires you?

People that are sincere in their loyalty to something or someone. Nerdy obsessions and strong tenderness.

Work Life Balance by Aisha Franz.

What is your biggest challenge as a studio?

To stay on top of publishing, the book fairs, the workshops, the contract printing and my own work. I don’t have funding or regular “start your business support” so I had to accept that the growth can only be slow and that there are certain things I just can’t compete with. I will never have 30 colors and I will never be able to have a drop-in friendly studio just because I am on my own and I have to make decision to who and to what I can dedicate my time. I really struggled with having to be reserved or saying No to things but it’s the only way to get things done — at least for me.

one can also think about something that is not acute by Jolanda Todt and Richard Rocholl.

How do you see yourselves in 12 months?

The same, just with another Riso-machine and more structured regarding timing in publishing and workshops.

How do you see yourselves in 5 years?

Teaching together with Aisha at a university in comics and self-publishing (why do they have these studies in Chicago but not in Berlin) bigger studio, more shows and publishing as a main focus, one full-time employee.

Bonus track: Could you recommend any TV series/movie/song/artist/etc?

I’m a radio girl. I love listening to rambling about politics and culture and very bad local shows that no one ever heard of and no one will ever go to. Besides that I would recommend “Fallen in Love” by Chidinma for cleaning the house, “Being Special” by Sophia Kennedy for a cheeky seduction and “It means I love you” by Jessy Lanza for a proper power walk.
I can mostly recommend embarrassing TV series because I need them to be as bad as possible to relax but a good one that still sticks in my head is “Olive Kitteridge” from a couple of years ago.

Elevate is a publication by Lateral View.



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