FOR THE BIRDS TRAPPED IN AIRPORTS
ANSWER 4 ︎︎︎ For those wanting to reach out to the studio and potentially work together on something, it might be best to understand what this studio is /
what this studio is not.
My name is Matthew Austin and I’ve been doing this kind of work for about 10 years.
For the long story, you can watch this talk I gave for the Center for Book Arts on June 15, 2022.
The short story is that I first started in my Chicago apartment in 2011, learning from YouTube and making book projects for close friends—a night-and-weekend practice that myself, my brother, and a group of friends later evolved into a non-profit called The Chicago Perch (2012–2015), which funded and published 18 editions and $47,000 in payouts to artists.
This project later evolved into a project called Candor Arts (2015–2021) which I started in my spare bedroom in Los Angeles, but then moved back to Chicago, and operated as a team of four out of three different studios for 5 years, and we closed the last studio down a year into the pandemic. This project funded and published 52 editions and around $300,000 in payouts to artists.
Based in Los Angeles, For the Birds Trapped in Airports (2022–?) is the next iteration of these studio projects.
My name is Oriana Koren and I serve as Editor of For the Birds Trapped in Airports.
I’ve worked as an assignment photographer, on photography for book commissions, as juror for photo competitions and contests, and an independent curator. I’ve published critical essays, taught community discussion classes, and taught visual literacy to middle, high school, and university students. As a long time voracious reader of books and a trained non fiction writer, I have a wide breadth of experience when it comes to words and images, how they work in tandem, and how to harness the power of the partnership of words and photographs.
I communicate clearly, intentionally, and succinctly. I read the dictionary and thesaurus for fun as an elementary schooler — I use my words well.
I’m not a bullshitter and I do not suffer fools easily. If you’re looking for someone to kiss your ass or encourage you to kiss ass in order to succeed, I’m not your guy.
I enjoy working with artists who are thoughtful, community-oriented, goal driven, and kind who have rich interior lives that guide their artistic practice. I am at my best when I am able to help guide other rebels who have chosen to navigate their arts practice outside of the restrictive, soul-sucking constraints of a competitive, white supremacist system that puts the individual, spectacle, greed, and celebrity worship at the forefront of creative practice.
I can help you with: crafting a professional biography, refining your artist statement(s), editing your web portfolio for editorial commission opportunities, image sequencing for promotional print material, developing elevator pitch for portfolio reviews and client meetings, personalized reading lists to aid research of writing and photography projects. I cannot (and will not) help you with: general networking, connecting you with industry contacts, using social media for promo and marketing, assessing if an underdeveloped project idea is worth pursuing.
I’m interesting in acquiring these kinds of projects for publishing: unpublished long term personal photography projects by Black women photographers (mid to late career); hybrid photography and writing projects rooted in personal memoir; experimental non fiction rooted in journal keeping/diary writing, first time poetry collections from poets who are of color and trans and queer identified; non fiction critical essay collections exploring Blackness in the space of Afro-pessimism, gender, sexuality, and disability; historical revisionism in US history; American fascism; philosophical manuscripts on Black existentialism and Blackness as technology; cult culture throughout American history; memoirs from BIPOC survivors of American cults/religious abuse in the Christian church; first time poetry collections, with a priority centering QTBIPOC voices; Multilingual poets with writings in multiple languages; self taught poets (no “formal” training).
This studio is a project born from an ongoing commitment to restoring humanity in ourselves—growth in a direction away from the racist, phobic, misogynist indoctrinations that we face daily.
This studio is collaborative. Its structure is intended to remove competition and individualism from the work we do together.
This studio is interested in working with people who are interested in restoring their humanity, as well as supporting their peers.
This studio is born from and guided by the Candor Collective, for which this studio is an active resource.
This studio is realistic, and by that we mean anti-capitalist. The process, collaborative relationship, and the self-growth that occurs in all participants is always more important than the product. Yes, this studio makes very nice books. However, descriptors like excellence, perfect, “the best” are used to generate competition, hierarchy, and labor value disparity. We believe we can make very nice books together, while also valuing one another in ways that are unconnected to labor, money, and awards.
This studio prioritizes funds and long-term support to artists facing the greatest harms and oppressive conditions of this moment—whose lives are made chronically vulnerable by both the structural inequities attempting to erase humanity from our society and the ignorance/apathy/passivity of those reinforcing this erasure.
This studio is interested in affirming you as the creative person you are, and does not support the idea that an award or public recognition validates your worth as an artist or person, nor does it designate a reason why you should deserve support—therefore, those things won’t lead the work we do together. Through this studio, success is defined by understanding and recognizing your personal growth and being inspired by your own relationship to creativity and the world around you.
This studio is moving at the pace of our lives, so we will most likely not take on projects with unreasonable deadlines or exploitative expectations. Sometimes we will be working a lot, and other times we won’t be, sometimes we will be working part-time because we have to take other jobs to keep the studio going. If we don’t get back to you in a short period of time, please do not interpret it as a negative gesture—the delay is specifically because we are not working, and are spending time elsewhere.
This studio is inevitably going to change and become different than it is right now. As we all do, this project will grow as well, and it will probably look different because learning is still happening.
The studio projects that have led to this one (The Chicago Perch, Candor Arts)—For the Birds Trapped in Airports—have also been experiments in creating systems against capitalist oppression in the arts and publishing spheres. While this page lists designated functions of the studio, we are open to any collaboration that is in the interest of restoring humanity together. Please don’t hesitate to throw an idea our way if it feels good and exciting to you.
This studio is not a general bindery services business, nor a copyshop.
This studio is not a brand or graphic design agency.
This studio is not capable of preventing mistakes from happening.
This studio is not perfect.
This studio is not a vanity publishing house, nor a business you can pay to make something specific to your vision. While we still take on projects for hire, we are not interested in replicating a pre-designed object that can be produced elsewhere at a business that is set up to do exactly that—instead, we are interested in us developing a project together through conversation and relation. With that said, we have met many talented friends through this work and are more than happy to direct you to peers who specialize in the above types of services.
This studio is not a philanthropic project born from wealth. We were not born into money, we have never made a lot of money, we are okay with all of this. If you are familiar with any of the work we’ve done over the years, please know that it started in a bedroom with no start-up funding. The continuation of that work has only become stable through lots of labor and, more importantly, an overwhelming abundance of community support—none of it has ever been done alone.
This studio is not trying to be wealthy. Requesting fair wages for labor ≠ a desire for excess wealth. Instead, what this studio desires is long-term financial stability and alleviated work pressures for artists and arts workers. We’re all going to die soon and we are lucky and grateful to be able to die having enjoyed so much of our lives. Along with our lives, we value our work—we have become quite good at it, and feel it should be fairly compensated. While we deeply love our work, it shouldn’t be valued/paid less because it fulfills us emotionally. This studio will continue to make the same arguments for its peers to be compensated fairly, as well.
For the Birds Trapped in Airports is a studio with three main functions, prioritized in this order:
Function 1. funding, producing, and publishing artist books for arts workers interested in restoring humanity—through which their projects become part of a collectivist structure where every collaborator equally shares all collective profits (revenue above production costs).
Function 2. operating as the permanent print production / publishing support arm of small organizations interested in restoring humanity.
Function 3. selectively designing / producing books for hire, as well as consulting, artist talks, and educational opportunities for hire.
Funded projects are primarily selected by Oriana Koren and guided in conversation with the Candor Collective (a QTBIPOC-led network of antiracist arts workers building systems of care together and advocating for each other’s rest and well-being.).
After the selection of a project, all of the work in this studio is guided by collaboration with another person or with a group of people. There should be no pre-emptive expectations of what the end product looks like—most importantly, not at the beginning.
How does that actually work?
Let’s say there are two people published through For the Birds Trapped in Airports at this moment. No one had to pay anything to be published—design, production, and sales labor were provided by the studio. After 6 months, the first person’s book generated $100.00 profit above production costs, the second person’s book generated $9,900.00 above production costs. In a 6-month period, a total of $10,000.00 in profit has been generated above production costs, to be split by two published arts workers: each arts worker receives a check for $5,000.00. Each arts worker will continue to receive checks twice a year so long as their project contribution is in stock. When the stock depletes, they will no longer receive checks past that period (as they would no longer be contributing to the fund) but will eventually be offered the opportunity (as schedule and capacity allows) to reprint that project and re-enter the collective structure.
Function #2 — INSTITUTIONAL PARTNERS (expanded):
While we are conducting the work from this studio to extend these organizations’ pre-existing efforts in restoring humanity, through For the Birds Trapped in Airports, these organizations are (or become) publishers themselves, and we are a permanent vendor who provides this resource to them.
What makes that different than being a general production vendor to an institution?
Our rates and capabilities are always flexible and adaptable for these institutions—sometimes they fundraise or get grants that can pay the whole cost of production, sometimes they are out of funds and have nothing to offer—in either case, we still make the project happen and find a way to compromise and exchange resources that results in symbiotic support for each of our projects.
So far, we maintain this relationship with:
Sixty Inches from Center
Sming Sming Books
Function #3 — COMMISSIONED LABOR (expanded):
We love collaborating on book projects with individuals and organizations. It is a pressured challenge that we enjoy, and feel excited by the potential of a book that can be guided by an endless spectrum of voices and influences.
For individual artists who want to collaborate on a project, but not be a part of the collective publishing structure—we can consult, design, and produce projects for hire. We will work with you to establish a production budget relative to your income/funding sources.
Given the experiences that we’ve had over the years, and that unfortunately exploitative circumstances and harmful work environments are often the norm for institutions, we have become far more selective about which of these projects we say yes to. My guess is that we will do 1-2 large institutional publications per year, when the collaboration is the right fit, but it is not the primary function of this studio.
With a lot of the following language being written for the sake of protection (of self-worth), please also know that we do feel that we can more readily and easily identify when a project is a good fit these days—it is typically evident when a basis of mutual respect and fair compensation for all labor involved is at the forefront of the discussion.
So, basically, IYKYK and we look forward to working together. ︎
A FEW IMPORTANT NOTES ON COMPENSATION:
A.) INDIVIDUALS + SMALL ORGANIZATIONS
If you are an individual arts worker or small organization interested in restoring humanity, we will be as flexible with pricing as we can for your project needs in relation to your income.
While we can’t promise schedule availability or give you a blanket set of billable services, we are open to many kinds of project requests, and we do deeply believe in great fits in working together, so please don’t hesitate to send project ideas our way. If it’s not a good fit for us, we’ll likely have recommendations for those who we believe would be a good fit for your project.
B.) LARGE INSTITUTIONS
If you are representing a large institution, you will pay the highest rate we charge for projects. At the time of writing this, we charge $15,000.00 for design, layout, and production management (not including production). If some time has passed and we’ve developed our work and skills in this field since, our rate may be more than $15,000.00.*
*If paying our maximum rate is off-putting to you, please do not contact us. If you represent an institution that has an annual operating budget of over $2,000,000.00 and won’t pay $15,000.00 for us to design, layout, and manage a book project that will definitely generate more than $15,000.00 for your institution, please do not contact us. Instead of taking the time to contact us with a budget that can’t pay our rate, we encourage you to ask the supervisor who creates your budget why your institutional position is designed to exploit those you work with.
C.) FURNITURE COMMISSIONS
Matt designs and produces custom furniture as gifts for his friends. You can commission him to make a piece of furniture from those styles available.
You can also follow his furniture making on Tik Tok. Yes, that’s right, Tik Tok. 😎️
If the above sounds good to you,
please reach out through the appropriate form below!
︎ Publishing for Individual Artists
︎ Commissions + Consultations for Individual Artists
︎ Commissions, Consultations + Educational Requests for Institutions