Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the launch of Papergirl Press’ The Pushpin! What inspired you to begin this endeavor, and what is the mission of The Pushpin?
Jessica Johnston: Thank you! It’s nice to finally have this project out in the world. I started planning The Pushpin in the fall, soon after leaving my job as an editor at a Canadian national newspaper. One of the projects I took on was to start doing prints for my comic-artist husband, Chip Zdarsky. I discovered I loved printing and shipping happy mail to people, so started to plot a way to do more of that. The logical next step, more artists!
BD: The Pushpin features prints by acclaimed, independent graphic novel artists and editorial illustrators. How would you describe your process in curating this incredible group of talented individuals?
JJ: It was a very fun group to pull together. I’m fortunate to know a lot of talented people, both because of my work in journalism and proximity to comics, so I started with friends, people like Ryan North and Julia Breckenreid, and worked my way up to approaching people I had not met, like Jeff Lemire and Christian Northeast. The reception was pretty enthusiastic, so there was a lot of momentum right from the beginning.
BD: In what ways do you feel that your previous work as a newspaper editor has prepared you for your experience with The Pushpin?
JJ: Editing a newspaper section, you have to be a skilled wrangler of people and things, and the same is true of creating a website like The Pushpin. I’ve really enjoyed the process of pulling all the pieces together, and there’s still a lot to learn — I’ve had ‘figure out MailChimp’ on my to-do list a week — but the payoff with a project like this one is pretty spectacular. The site has turned out even better than I’d hoped, with such incredible work from incredible artists.
BD: Is there a submission process for independent creators who would like to participate in The Pushpin’s gallery of prints?
JJ: Part of what I’m trying to do with the Pushpin is to give it a particular kind of playful sensibility, a distinct personality. The site is invite-only, so we can keep it small and curated. That said, we welcome all kind of queries, so creators can always contact us.
BD: What do you hope that visitors to The Pushpin will take away from their shopping experience?
JJ: I hope they have fun! From Sarah Lazarovic’s drawing of Pee Wee Herman’s white loafers to all of Christian Northeast’s beautifully intricate and bold pieces, there’s a lot of joy to be found. Even the more serious pieces, such as Chloe Cushman’s incredible Drowning, which is based on the idea that drowning does not look like drowning, are beautiful enough to feel really special. This is definitely not mass produced art, so I want people to feel taken care of, like the work was selected just for them.
BD: Are there any upcoming projects or initiatives on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
JJ: The big goal has been the launch, but we do have some surprises in the works, with guest artists and special series. The next artists to be added to the site are Bryan Lee O’Malley, Marguerite Sauvage, and illustrator Gordon Wiebe, so obviously I am excited about that.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about The Pushpin and Papergirl Press?
JJ: Visit www.thepushp.in, and subscribe to our newsletter! I will soon be a MailChimp master, and I’m only sending out email that I myself would like to receive. This is will be the best way to find out when new artists are added, get promo code and all that nifty stuff.