the quality of openness and honesty in expression.
Chapter 1. Los Angeles Spare Bedroom
The idea of Candor Arts began with a late night conversation between Matt and his then-partner Ally Hasche about the emotional impact of jobs that make you feel empty. They did not have enough money to leave their jobs, but wanted to start seeking other options to make ends meet while attempting to not sacrifice physical / mental / emotional wellness for money.
Together they imagined ways in which they could design a company that would offer more nourishing forms of labor and financially supportive opportunities for artists. Keeping this as the guiding motivation, they started to get legal documents in order to form this fairly undefined business entity.
In this first chapter, Candor was a start-up business with no funds, with a website run from their home, where Ally—an interior designer—curated retail goods handmade by young artists and designers, and Matt created notebooks and boxes in a spare bedroom studio that he built out of picket fence material from a clearance sale at Home Depot. For the bulk of the week, Matt worked as an artist assistant doing heavy amounts of physical production labor as well as sporadic freelance jobs as Assistant Camera to friends in the film industry. Ally was a full-time registrar for a music education organization. Work for Candor Arts happened at night and on the weekends, with all orders being fulfilled from their home.
Having run a publishing project (The Chicago Perch) prior to moving to Los Angeles, Matt was in touch with a few artists who had reached out to have books made. At this time, Candor Arts was becoming a registered business while The Perch was dissolving: specifically La Keisha Leek (How to Make A Hood) and Adam Grossi (Wind Through Quiet Tensions) were looking to have their projects made for upcoming events. Not imagining that publishing could go much further than these two requests, Matt produced the first edition of How to Make A Hood by hand in this spare bedroom studio, as well as coordinated the Chicago-based production of Wind Through Quiet Tensions through this newly-incorporated L.A.-based LLC.
Interest for more publishing projects continued throughout the year (A-lan Holt—Moonwork, Victor Yañez-Lazcano—De, David Bell—Bye Bye Broadway) along with a growing list of artist-makers represented on the website. It was in this moment where the idea that Candor could continue forward as a publishing entity alongside the online retail was considered to be a possibility.
As Matt listened to mentors and friends describe the unaffordable options and compromising experiences they had in pursuing publishing their work, he developed an interest in seeking out equitable models in publishing. The lack of results in this search became a driving motivation for exploring new modes for funding and profit-sharing.
As these two recent projects required the production and printing to happen in Chicago for them to be financially feasible (along with an invitation for Matt to teach again), Matt and Ally decided to move to Chicago in January 2016.
Chapter 2. Pilsen Living Room
Because California and Illinois don’t work together as pass-through states for transferring an existing business, we needed to dissolve the first LLC before we could incorporate in Illinois.
During this time, we continued fulfilling online orders from our new home in Pilsen. The workspace was made from a few small plywood pieces and sawhorses. It was from this living room that Bye Bye Broadway was published for David Bell, and the design was developed for A-lan Holt’s first edition of Moonwork.
Without a brick and mortar space, the operation continued as a web location. Matt spent most of his week teaching and Ally’s interior design career began to take off as she secured a number of jobs in the industry.
Chapter 3. IN HOUSE, West Logan Square
In April, we were approached by our dear friend Andi Crist who was running Autotelic Studios at this time. She invited us to split a studio with her in West Logan Square, in which we would work collaboratively to program events to help fund our individual projects and afford the rent, while occupying pieces of the studio for our respective projects. Candor Arts would hold a small part of the back space and Andi would use the front for exhibitions, events, pop-ups, and other social gatherings for Autotelic, while we’d all work and facilitate those events together.
We sourced and built everything in this studio, from the walls to the paper sorter, to the tables and the sign on the front of the building—we even made a double-tap kegerator for events. This structure of studio sharing went on through December 2016, when Andi wanted to focus on her own creative practice and Ally had fully embraced a full-time career as an interior designer. At this point, Matt and Ally were no longer in a relationship, but continued to support one another as dear friends.
Matt incorporated Candor Arts as an Illinois publishing company on August 7, 2016. At this time, he was temporarily living in this studio before spending a month-long artist residency in Ireland that September. When he returned, he found an apartment and he and Andi continued to run IN HOUSE. In October, Katie Chung became the first hired employee of Candor Arts, working 2 days a week. The last event as IN HOUSE was Saturday, December 10, 2016—a big holiday pop-up arts & crafts fair that filled the whole studio with artists and makers selling their work.
Books completed during this time include:
Victor Yañez-Lazcano’s De (July 2016)
A-lan Holt’s Moonwork (June 2016, first edition / October 2016, paperback)
Chapter 4. Studio in Transition, West Logan Square
After Andi moved out of the studio, Matt took over the lease on his own for as long as he could afford it. It was during this time that he produced the second edition of How to Make A Hood and held its release event on March 4 in the extra space in the front of the studio.
La Keisha’s release event is where Matt met Melanie Bohrer for the first time—Melanie was working as Jacqueline Stewart’s personal assistant, and attended La Keisha’s event because Jacqueline had contributed an essay to the book. Shortly after, Melanie inquired about being involved with Candor and helping with production. During this time, the studio was in a state of heavy production and a cycle of very part-time jobs were provided as Matt could afford them, always ensuring the lowest rate of pay to be $17/hour.
Above photographs by Eva Deitch
Beginning in late March, jazz guitarist Ishmael Ali (Orotund Music) moved into the studio for a few months to use the space for practices and social events. He later moved down the street into a space with The Overlook Place to continue hosting music programs.
In the meantime, Candor was beginning production for
In the Company of Black by Cecil McDonald, Jr.—
our biggest project yet.
Above photographs by Philip Dembinski
Chapter 5. Sharing a studio / Building a team, West Logan Square
While making Cecil’s book, we had started transitioning the studio set-up, moving our back area studio into the front in preparation for silkscreen team Ghost Press (Ryan Troy Ford and Cooper Foszcz), Josh Davis (Dead Meat Design), April Sheridan and Daniel Mellis to move into the studio, so as to create an environment where equipment could be shared and jobs and projects had the potential to be carried out collaboratively in one space. This set-up also allowed for us to go back to an affordable rent price, allowing the company to spend more effectively.
Katie became a more regular part-time employee at 3–4 days a week as we completed David Robert Elliott’s I used to believe that I could be the next Larry Bird that summer.
That September was really momentous with a new partnership with PATRON Gallery, the debut of Bethany Collins’ America: A Hymnal at EXPO Chicago, the release of A Lick and a Promise at Filter Photo Festival, production of Honey Pot Performance’s Ma(s)king Her: Black Feminist Futures, and In the Company of Black being nominated for the Paris Photo-Aperture Foundation PhotoBook Awards.
In November, Matt and Cecil went to Paris for the PhotoBook Awards ceremony, and Melanie flew over from Germany to join. Cecil’s book didn’t win the overall prize, but we were all so thrilled and honored to be featured in this light—this moment was a major turning point for Candor.
On the morning before the award ceremony, Melanie expressed interest in moving back to the states, with a specific interest in co-directing Candor with Matt.
Excitedly, they began developing a plan for making this happen.
Chapter 6. Much larger projects = Outgrowing the West Logan Square studio
Between January and April of 2018, we produced more than twice the amount of work completed in all of 2016 and 2017 combined:
Five Fifths by Growing Concerns Poetry Collective
Green Zones by Jenny Kendler
RESIST, RELATE, UNITE: Barbara Jones-Hogu for the DePaul Art Museum
In the Company of Black by Cecil McDonald, Jr. (second edition)
White Gaze by Michelle Dizon and Việt Lê
today I thought of you by Victor Yañez-Lazcano
Pliant History by Barbara Ciurej and Lindsay Lochman
Another Day in Paradise by Whitten Sabbatini
Bless Our Relentless Pursuit of Bliss by E.J. Hill
Anthology 2014-2016 by Tony Lewis
falling is the one thing i by Korde Arrington Tuttle
By March, Melanie was officially co-owner of Candor Arts—expanding our team to four—though there was still lots of work to be done to secure her visa.
At the end of April, we found ourselves buried in boxes of books with little room to work. We moved into a new studio on our own for a new lease on May 1.
MAY 2018 – February 2019
Chapter 7. Humboldt Park Storefront
While we had every intention of staying in this new studio for a long time, we only ended up lasting 10 months in this space. Once again, we built out the space on our own with what we could—the work tables were made with connected sheets of plywood, donated flatfiles, and we coated the tops with protective enamel paint.
This was our first autonomous studio experience as a company—with lots more space came lots of expenses. Thanks to Melanie joining the team, we began to pause and look at long-term efficiency in our workflow rather than continuing to crank work out without looking more than a month into the future.
In this studio, we acquired a third foil stamper, a board shear, and a RISO—three items that increased our productivity and efficiency immensely. In October, Melanie’s visa was approved and she was able to finally live and work here in Chicago—her presence and support was hugely influential for all of us—but especially for Matt, who would no longer need to direct Candor on his own. It was a moment of massive change, stress, and transformation for the company—Melanie’s move brought affirmation and a sense of security and structure as we moved forward.
That summer, we participated in a few big events:
we had a booth at EXPO Chicago, we made a Booklover’s Brew beer with Marz Brewing,
At Illinois State University, Cecil McDonald, Jr. had a solo exhibition of In the Company of Black
while we had a concurrent exhibition of our publications in their Milner Library,
and we co-hosted the Chicago Art Book Fair Afterparty with Marz.
A major supporting force in this season of heavy production was Molly Berkson, who joined the team for several busy months.
Projects completed during our time in this studio:
I Saw the Sun by Maren Celest
Twenty-Sixth of September Street by Vidvuds Zviedris
Re/Member/Construct exhibition catalog for Filter Photo
narrow distances by Ka-Man Tse
Reap the Whirlwind by Huong Ngo
Seeing Deeply contributor clamshell boxes for Dawoud Bey
Tentativa de la Razón by Sebastian Barrante with Naranja Librería & Editorial
Under the Knife by Krista Franklin
Ma(s)king Her: Black Feminist Futures (second edition) by Honey Pot Performance
After a hungry rat family feasted on our inventory,
and the 7th water leak in 10 months
poured over our main work table…
it was time to say goodbye to the Humboldt Park storefront.
We were lucky to find an open space at the great building of the Hubbard Street Lofts and moved quickly as it continued to rain inside our studio.
Chapter 8. 1821 W Hubbard, Suite 301.
While this studio move was unexpected, stressful, and extremely laborious, settling into this studio has been a really wonderful, comforting experience. We have amazing neighbors who we are able to collaborate with regularly: Spudnik Press, Filter Photo, LATITUDE, and many other great collectives and artists in this building.
We’ve found this location to be incredibly fitting for the scope of our production. We’ve already learned and done so much in the short time we’ve been in here.
Chapter 9. Now.
In the past few months, we’ve intentionally made time to reflect on our trajectory over the last three years—taking time to appreciate our successes, analyze our mistakes and missed opportunities, and thinking together about what can improve our project—and with this, we were compelled to re-introduce our work, restructure, and re-describe the ways in which we conduct our work.
As this project began as a pursuit of supporting artists and creating an emotionally nourishing work environment, we now find ourselves returning to that motivation and looking to broaden the ways in which we fulfill these goals and embrace the challenges.
At the turn of our third anniversary, we are excited to be launching our new intensive courses, a new residency program, a partnership with L’Louise Arts Foundation, and the start of opening our studio each Friday afternoon for folks to come in, relax, and enjoy looking at books.
As usual, we are busy designing and making lots of books.