Interview with Haotian Publishing Project, May 2020

Hi, Sarah and Anna! I am so glad to collaborate with you two, we were internet friends until I met Sarah in person last year in Shanghai, that was the beginning of this collab. Could you tell me about how you met each other and became friends?

A: Hi Haotian! I do feel like we have known each other via online for quite some time now but never had any contact until recently... I’m happy to be able to connect now!

S: Hey! We met in 2016 when my friend Maria and I did a residency at an artist run center in Portland, OR. Anna was an intern at the time and we really hit it off. Then became closer friends years later when we became roommates in New York.

A: I remember one of the first things Sarah and I shared with one another was that we both collected stationery. At the time (and even now) it seemed like such an intimate connection between us.

I have seen the website that you created for Seasons Guide. For me, this project is about childhood memory, intimate relationship with nature and every subtle sensation in life. Why did you decide to make “Seasons Guide” and could you explain what Seasons Guide is about?

A: I’d say that Seasons Guide came out of an interest in capturing and evoking those sensibilities only through our own means, and a desire to almost pay homage to Morning Glory and various characters and designs from other brands like mr. K and Lovely White. We are indebted to these names! Haha. Also, stationery itself is such a specific medium in that its value becomes totally dependent on how someone makes use of it. I think Sarah and I are attracted to how it acts as a template for the discardable and/or the treasured. It can be a device for the banal, like a callback number, or for something of high emotional importance, like a diary or love letter.

S: Through the project we’ve considered how the content of this type of stationery sometimes lacks standard cohesion—nonsensical yet eloquent texts, melancholic/bubbly imagery, and happy/bewildered characters (among other things). This mixture of elements becomes an expression in and of itself in this specific period of now defunct Korean and Chinese stationery that we are attempting to preserve. Making this notepad, Anna and I have become absorbed in a way where we can begin to communicate our own versions.

During our initial research, it was nearly impossible finding any details on most of these brands*. It’s as though they just mysteriously vanished with a few leftover goods floating around, so there are many questions left unanswered. Seasons Guide is intended to be ongoing.

*Orange Story — Sunflower Fancy — Yellow Submarine — Post 103 I Love Me — mr. K — iAM-B Co LTD — Olive Ceed Co — 1004 Creative Fancy — Baiksan Products Co — Designed by COOL — Maple Charm — Pinkfoot

As you made this Seasons Guide letter sheet and have been collecting this kind of sheet for a long time, this stationery reminds me of the shop near the elementary school. I am curious if this is just the nostalgia of Asian kids or you could also find this notepad in the US?

A: So I’m ethnically Korean but was actually adopted and brought into a white household in the US when I was a baby. I think being raised in an environment where I couldn’t necessarily see myself reflected in the people and culture I was surrounded by resulted in me forming a special relationship to this imagery…to be able to recognize that these characters and lettersheets belonged to a visual culture existing outside of the predominant western canon made them precious in my eyes.

As I’ve gotten older and these pads and lettersheets have become increasingly rare I find myself crossing my fingers that I will come across some in random dollar stores. There’s a couple places in NY that have some true gems tucked between other merchandise but you have to be willing to rummage a bit. Whenever those places do restocks and I find something I haven’t seen yet I feel so giddy. So even though these items weren’t always in plain sight in my childhood I do think they do invoke a strong sentimentality and nostalgia, just for different reasons.

S: I feel it’s definitely more uniquely the nostalgia of Asian kids, but not exclusively. I grew up in a predominantly Cantonese-speaking city in Canada until I was 9 before moving away to a secluded part of the states. During that time, they were a lot more plentiful in these areas, but have since become pretty much nonexistent. Thankfully there are still those rare, cherished instances, like Anna mentioned.

I feel very surreal now after we almost finished the whole process of this project and this interview makes everything more meaningful. Last year, when Sarah and I met she showed me some of the pages of Seasons Guide and I immediately connected to this imagery, as I am running a publishing project and am aiming to search for the things that I like, and it just happened. I am grateful to work with you and really obsessed with Seasons Guide, hope we could meet up somewhere after this hard quarantine time.

A: We really couldn’t be happier everything worked out this way. Thank you for all your help and insight! I’d love for us to all meet in the future, but until then let’s exchange letters ^^ Take care!

S: Yeah, it’s been really nice working with you on this and I hope to visit again soon! Thanks for everything, stay safe xx

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