A page-turning good time: Detroit Art Book Fair

From Oct. 17-18, independent bookseller and Knight Arts Challenge winner DittoDitto hosted the third annual Detroit Art Book Fair. The event was held at Trinosophes, a fellow Knight Arts Challenge winner, where dialogue was certainly flowing as art enthusiasts and bibliophiles gathered in droves for creative and fiscal exchanges with a range of booksellers.

Many of the vendors are Detroit-area presses and publishers, including What Pipeline (also recipients of a Knight Arts grant), Around Poetry, and the Detroit Center for Contemporary Photography. But an impressive number of vendors were visiting from further afield: Colour Code and Alicia’s Klassic Kool Shoppe both came from Toronto to be at the fair; Spaces Corners made the trip from Pittsburgh; Nomadic Bookshelf roamed over from Cleveland; and Publication Studio Hudson was visiting from Portland, Ore.—in addition to a number of greater Michigan shops, like Rusty Nail Studio from Ann Arbor and Issue Press from Grand Rapids. Letterpress artists were also showing their stuff, including the Eastern Market-based Salt + Cedar and artist Laura Beyer, who produces exquisite original book and print works out of her letterpress studio in Birmingham.

I caught a word with co-organizer and DittoDitto founder Maia Asshaq about the fair, and the inspiration for DittoDitto.

DittoDitto founder and book fair co-organizer Maia Asshaq.

What inspired you to create this event? Megan Major (whom I co-organize the fair with) and I attended the Philadelphia Art Book Fair a few years ago and both had a really awesome experience. Megan, who is a photographer, became inspired to create her own photo books after seeing the ones at the fair and talking with so many great publishers. I was just starting to think about having my own shop and publishing books for other artists, so the fair was equally informative [and] inspiring to me. I remember she and I coming back to Detroit and being so energized to create our own publications. We also decided to start planning a Detroit Art Book Fair later that year. 

Have you seen it grow and build momentum? Yes! The number of vendors has remained, and will remain, about the same: between 30-40 tables. We like that number because we’d like to continue doing the fair at Trinosophes and because it’s important that the fair size is manageable for visitors and for us. One of our favorite things about the Detroit Art Book Fair is that people have time to engage with the work that is presented without feeling too overwhelmed. We did see an increase in visitors this year, and for the first time we added a few programs organized by poet Megan Stockton. This was a great way to expand the fair a bit beyond just publishers, while maintaining the feel of previous years. 

“One Minute” by Brad Thiele, on Nontsikelelo Mutiti’s table.

How does the fair reflect DittoDitto’s values? The fair and DittoDitto go hand in hand. A lot of the publishers that participate in the fair are also represented in the bookshop. The fair helps me expand my inventory at the shop, but it also gives the vendors a chance to connect with people that might already be familiar with their work. DittoDitto is interested in promoting the work of independent publishers, and that’s also part of the fair’s mission.