BOOK DE­SIGNER DAVID SKOLKIN

Pasatiempo - - IN OTHER WORDS -

David Skolkin grew up an hour’s drive north of New York City and went to col­lege at the Univer­sity of Rochester, where he stud­ied psy­chol­ogy and photography. “And then I moved to Man­hat­tan and got a job. I come from a New York-cen­tric fam­ily, from Mad Men coun­try. It was just what you did,” he told Pasatiempo. “I got my first job through a friend of my par­ents.” He worked as a grunt in the ad­ver­tis­ing in­dus­try for a year or so, and then an en­try-level op­por­tu­nity opened up at a busy book-de­sign stu­dio, and that sounded like good ex­pe­ri­ence, too.

“There were tons of art stu­dents try­ing to get this job. I didn’t re­ally have that back­ground, but the woman who hired me tried to avoid art stu­dents be­cause she thought they came with pre­con­ceived no­tions that she didn’t like. She wanted some­one to tis­sue me­chan­i­cals, wax gal­leys — the things an un­der­ling did in those days. She hired me and that’s how I fell into book de­sign,” he said. He worked at the same com­pany for 13 years, learn­ing ev­ery as­pect of the craft and busi­ness.

As time went on, Skolkin be­gan va­ca­tion­ing in Santa Fe and go­ing on re­treats at the Monastery of Christ in the Desert in Abiquiú — not for ex­plic­itly re­li­gious rea­sons, but out of a long­ing for quiet and nat­u­ral beauty. Af­ter five or six an­nual vis­its, he re­al­ized he had fallen in love with the land, and he be­gan hav­ing fan­tasies about mov­ing here. On his next visit, he started think­ing se­ri­ously about just how he could make a liv­ing in the City Dif­fer­ent — and he was of­fered a job as a de­signer for a chil­dren’s pop-up book com­pany lo­cated in town.

“So I made the leap. I moved out here. And it’s the typ­i­cal Santa Fe story, be­cause the job fell apart within a year. I pan­icked. I’d had a good job in New York! I liked my boss! Now I didn’t even know how I was go­ing to eat. I call that time my per­sonal earth­quake.”

Then an­other fam­ily con­nec­tion came through. Stan­ley Mar­cus, pres­i­dent of the Neiman Mar­cus depart­ment store, had a home in Santa Fe and was a friend of the fam­ily. Mar­cus wrote let­ters of in­tro­duc­tion for Skolkin to cu­ra­tors and busi­ness own­ers around town, lead­ing Skolkin to a part-time job as the art di­rec­tor for Mu­seum of New Mex­ico Press. He con­tin­ues to serve in this ca­pac­ity, de­sign­ing the large, beau­ti­ful hard­cover cat­a­logs that ac­com­pany ex­hi­bi­tions.

Skolkin’s chal­lenge is to make works of paint­ing, photography, and sculp­ture that are bound be­tween cov­ers res­onate as strongly with a viewer as the pieces would if they were dis­played in a gallery. Among his re­cent mu­seum press projects are ¡Órale! Lowrider: Cus­tom Made in New Mex­ico by Don J. Us­ner, and Ma­bel Dodge Luhan and Com­pany: Amer­i­can Mod­erns and the West, edited by Lois P. Rud­nick and MaLin Wil­son-Pow­ell. This sin­gle part-time gig was what al­lowed him to stay in Santa Fe and build a client base for free­lance projects. He has be­come an ex­pert in art books, with deep skill at pre­sent­ing other peo­ple’s art on the page. In 2007 he co-founded Ra­dius Books with David Chickey, Dar­ius Himes, and Joanna Hur­ley. Ra­dius is a non­profit fine-art book pub­lish­ing com­pany lo­cated in down­town Santa Fe. He is also part­ner in Skolkin + Chickey, a graphic de­sign firm that fo­cuses on fine-art books and book pack­ag­ing, with clients rang­ing from mu­se­ums to in­di­vid­ual artists to ma­jor pub­lish­ers like Riz­zoli New York.

Skolkin en­tered the book-de­sign in­dus­try just as com­put­ers were on the way in and man­ual pro­duc­tion was on the way out. “I re­ally learned to do it the old-fash­ioned way — be­ing an ap­pren­tice and cut­ting type with a razor blade. Back then, there were typesetters, compositors, and all these peo­ple who worked on dif­fer­ent parts. Now the de­signer does all of these things,” he said. The most sig­nif­i­cant change he has no­ticed in the over­all look and style of art books over the last three decades is the switch from ed­i­to­ri­ally driven con­tent to vis­ually driven con­tent, where the im­ages in an art book are the de­sign pri­or­ity, rather than fit­ting im­ages in around the words writ­ten about the art. “De­sign meet­ings were run by edi­tors, and they de­ter­mined con­tent and the look of a book. Now, the vis­ual el­e­ments drive the de­sign, and the text is con­sid­ered an­other vis­ual el­e­ment rather than the main con­tent.”

Of his ca­reer, Skolkin said he feels very lucky to have had the con­nec­tions he needed to build a rep­u­ta­tion in the art world. “The irony is that I work much harder in Santa Fe than I ever did in Man­hat­tan. I was just an­other spoiled kid. No one who knew me would have ex­pected me to move to the desert and be­come a worka­holic, but I have been re­ally, re­ally busy for about 18 years.” — Jen­nifer Levin

I RE­ALLY LEARNED TO DE­SIGN BOOKS THE OLD-FASH­IONED WAY — BE­ING AN AP­PREN­TICE AND CUT­TING TYPE WITH A RAZOR BLADE. BACK THEN, THERE WERE TYPESETTERS, COMPOSITORS, AND ALL THESE PEO­PLE WHO WORKED ON DIF­FER­ENT PARTS. NOW THE DE­SIGNER DOES ALL OF THESE THINGS. — DAVID SKOLKIN

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.