Smash Pages Q&A: Haejin Park, Paige Mehrer and Sophie Page

The folks behind Plum Press discuss their approach to publishing, their work on ‘Mirror Mirror 3’ and more.

Plum Press is a small publisher based in Brooklyn that consists of three creators: Haejin Park, Paige Mehrer and Sophie Page. Over the years, the three have made and released books, comics and zines like It’s True, It’s Yours, JAM, Loop Room, Love Bug and Rainbow Who Escaped to the Fridge.

The trio are behind Mirror Mirror 3, the new volume of the anthology from 2d Cloud, which has just been released as part of the company’s Spring 2020 line. I asked them a few questions about Plum Press and the book.

To start, how did you come to comics?

The three of us became involved with comics at different times. All of our interests intersect with narrative art, illustration and zines. Some more abstract and experimental comics work from artists like Margot Ferrick, Aidan Koch and Tara Booth inspired us to create and distribute the sort of poetic, concept driven comics we have become known for. We ended up in the comics community when we realized it was the best vehicle for the work we were already making.

How did the three of you meet and start collaborating?

We all attended RISD for undergrad. Through friends of friends we wound up tabling at MoCCA together in 2016 and things grew from there. We started out as an artist’s collective and releasing anthologies shortly after. 

How do you describe Plum Press? Why did you first set it up?

Plum Press is an experiment in micropublishing and creative collaboration in a very lone-wolf industry. We started working together to share our resources and build community – it was also just more convenient to share table fees at comic events.   

Why is it called Plum Press? I don’t think of plums and Brooklyn being related.

Initially we had a super long list of potential names. After several rounds of voting we narrowed it down to Plum. We like the way it sounds and the purple dot seemed like a cute branding concept. No profound symbols, just a bit of fruity fun. Some of the best title ideas we discarded include “Odd Garden,” “Shy Auntie,” “Room” and “Nun Island.”

Do you have a physical studio space?

We did at one point. Now some Plum members work from home.

You’ve made three anthology books together, I believe. The only one I have is It’s True. I wonder if you could talk about working together. Because in this book – and I’m guessing the others – you’re not simply off doing your own thing and then throwing it all together. Can you talk about how you work together on these projects?

From the beginning the themes in our anthologies were established during long discussions and finding threads running through our disparate ideas. In Mirror Mirror 3 we brought this to a new level by creating collaborative chapters inspired by our solo work. We wrote all the stories together and approached the finished artworks similarly.

Do the three of you talk much or seek out thoughts or reactions to your work typically from the others?

We do, we talk about a lot of things!  We meet up to talk about Plum about once every other week. With our work for collabs and anthologies, we like to talk about our ideas and progress together.  We don’t always go to in depth though because we all kind of trust each other’s abilities to make work and always like whatever any of us comes up with! Balance between planning and intuition is important to us.  

How did you end up overseeing Mirror Mirror 3?

2d Cloud approached us when we were visiting Chicago for CAKE in 2018 and asked if we were interested. After some discussion we started planning Mirror Mirror 3.

When you were offered the chance to do this, how did you start thinking about it? Because this is the third book in the series, you’ve assembled anthologies on your own before, and this new volume is in conversation with all of them

We had a meeting and brainstormed the possibilities. Because Mirror Mirror is it’s own series (which we love!) we knew we had a lot to live up to with this project and approached it with a technique similar to our past anthologies but with more collaborative chapters. We find that thematically our work tends to have enough in common naturally to create continuity and a larger narrative when compiled. We worked in phases and built on those commonalities to create something new. So, a lot of it is free-form – but I can share that the chapter, “Green” is a series of drawings based on letters we wrote to each other. 

What has been the difference of working with Raighne and Maggie and 2d Cloud as opposed to doing it all on your own?

It has been nice to get feedback from Maggie and Raighne along the way, they have been super supportive of our work and process which we all really appreciate. This is our first time publishing an anthology outside of Plum, and we are excited to share it!

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