By Kelsi Swenson
Kelsi Swenson: What got you interested in writing and the arts in general?
Andrea McCormick: It’s been going on ever since I was a very young girl. I was a ravenous reader: I always wanted to be a poet and a philosopher. [In my 20s] I had a tremendous amount of emotions, and I needed a way to express [them].
Also I just want[ed] to make friends. laughing. “If we’re making a zine we’re hanging out, we’re doing some- thing cool—you build these friend- ships around creating. I feel like art and certainly publishing is so about community and connections. [I get] inspired by other writers: so many things are wildly influential because I have a passion for them. I open myself up to them completely and they become my favorite things, even if it’s just for a day. As I started collaborating with other people, I [was] exposed to other things and want[ed] to blend the lines of genre. In terms of my life work, it isn’t just about writing or publishing…everything is seeping into itself. Same thing with music or dance.
KS: Is that what you mean when you say, ‘blend the genres’?
AM: I totally mean that: how these things aren’t so dissimilar, because they’re coming from inside you…or from external things, what- ever the case may be. The creative practice operates around this (for lack of a better word) soul. I think—and I tell my students all the time—books, and the way they operate as objects are a lot like music. There’s pacing, there’s rhythm, there’s starting and stopping points…these qualities exist in different mediums. They might seem very opposite but they are so interrelated. And when you purposefully mix them up, you’ve created something that hasn’t existed—which is nearly impossible at this point.
KS: Did you ever envision yourself teaching, or was it something that just happened?
AM: I admired my teachers so much: I used to want to be a teacher.
Then I completely deviated from it—in my mind, [teaching] was more like grade school. I wanted to be a newspaper lady: I wanted to be ‘the communicator’. I tried that out as an undergrad [but] I needed something else, I needed the language. It’s funny that I’m a teacher now because I’ve done all these rebellious things: if it has a form, I’m probably going to try and figure out a way to do it better.
KS: Tell me a little more about InkPress. How did bookmaking become your thing?
AM: The tradition of what I operate under (moveable type, letter- press printing, handmade books) is what brought on the Enlightenment. We make handmade books and they come in runs of 20, max 200… there’s exclusivity to it that I really enjoy. It’s a piece of literature, yes it’s a movement, yes it’s a sculpture: it’s also conceptual. To [have your own] work that is in a multiple that you can distribute: that’s an empowering process. Publishing is a way to distribute [any] information at all—on top of it, if [you’re publishing] other people’s works that’s extra empowering because you’re not only making that vessel, you’re also helping someone else.
KS: What does InkPress at its highest potential look like for you?
AM: “In an ideal world, there would be more interrelation—and I think there’s a lot already—but more collaboration…my dream has always been (and I say this a lot) to have a space where people could give their labor and get studio time or space or room and board in exchange for working and be able to have resources to make art.
KS: When you [described] publishing as power…how are you using it?
AM: In terms of goodwill, it seems simple to say, ‘Truth and Beauty’, the interest in promoting that in our planet. But really it’s about putting the content that I want to see into the world, rather than pointing out all the things that should be erased. Being more of an activist about it: giving, instead of saying what needs to be taken away.
KS: I didn’t ask her specifically about Baltimore—I didn’t have to.
AM: Baltimore [is] a wealth of people doing really cool stuff. I went to this performance at Patapsco State Park. They built a raft, put it into the water, danced [to speakers] they had implanted in the trees as four of [them] were pulling the raft downriver…It took me out of my spot, it was amazing. And all the art you consume isn’t going to do that—it shouldn’t, because then you wouldn’t have those moments where it happens. But the fact that that’s happening and that almost no one knows—other than the 50 people that went—is amazing.
KS: Any pro-tips for the readers?
AM: I’m still trying to tell myself [this] but don’t procrastinate. It really is—that’s the thing.
Photos by Kelsi Swenson