We sat down for a heart-to-heart talk with Laura, founder of Cinnamon Art Publishing.
Founder Laura Peh, holding Exploring Art with Gustav Klimt
You work in the visual arts, performing arts and literary arts - how do you find time and courage to work across so many different industries?
I have been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work across multiple creative sectors simultaneously. It's so rewarding to keep abreast of the trends in different industries and work with a variety of people, who have been extremely accommodating and patient. I've thought about focusing on just one path - perhaps in the near future, but I've got too many pressing issues to think about at the moment!
How did COVID-19 affect Cinnamon Art Publishing?
Cinnamon Art Publishing was actually started at the very early days of COVID-19 in April 2020, when I moved back to Singapore from Hong Kong. We released our first collection of 6 art books (Exploring Art) in January 2021, then My Journey with Coffee and Discovering Music: Harp the same year.
The biggest impact over the past year has been the increase in costs and availability of raw materials, such as pulp and ink, which affects the whole supply chain. We don't produce at the scale of big publishing houses and as much as we would have liked, we were unable to print more than one title in 2022 (Heritage of Singapore: Kopitiam), without compromising on quality and pricing. To continue our projects, we've pivoted to focusing on B2B and the European market for the moment.
Heritage of Singapore: Kopitiam
What is the most rewarding part of your publishing work?
It would be collaborating with passionate partners and seeing all the work come to life. There is a whole conversation on e-books and saving trees, but I think there is something special about the physicality of beautifully-produced books as well as the stories they tell - being preserved in libraries and passed through different hands and cultures. That's why we keep our print runs small and only work with partners that incorporate sustainable practices into their business.
Are there anything exciting book collaborations coming up?
The first title of our Digital Natives collection - Blockchain, Cryptocurrency, NFT - will be printed in January 2023. This came out of a culmination of 8 months of research into the whole arena of emerging technologies, where I was roped into discussions about starting an NFT platform with external partners, but it was scrapped at the end. I thought it would be a nice project to include all that knowledge into an easy-to-read book.
Around Spring, we hope to release a collaborative book on the Filipino painter Pacita Abad, who is being presented with a retrospective at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis in April. Jack, Kristi and Pio from the Pacita Abad Art Estate have been incredibly patient and encouraging this whole year, and we are excited that a Southeast Asian female artist is being recognised in a major Western art institution. There's so much to be done for visibility and inclusion of Southeast Asian female artists outside of Asia, and this is a direction that we hope continue moving towards.
We are also working on a series of books on Mindful Consumption. Health is a big topic amongst millennials and Gen Z, especially new parents, and we wish to share sustainable alternatives and harmful exposure to certain proteins in a fun and honest way.
Mindful Consumption: Fish
What are the 3 top destinations that you have travelled to in the past year?
1. Venice Biennale: I finally made a trip back to Venice in October, to visit The Milk of Dreams curated by Cecilia Alemani. It was great just being back in Venice - it is a city that has so much history and charm. I visited near the tail-end of the Biennale so many of the collateral exhibitions were already over, and I had the luxury of time to visit the paintings and frescoes of Titian, Tintoretto and Veronese in the magnificent basilicas.
2. I was invited to join a museum patrons trip to Art Basel this year. The art world was back in full swing and it was lovely catching up with friends and colleagues from around the world whom I haven't seen since 2019. I also made a quick stop to see the Berlin Biennale and Documenta 15 in Kassel. It was exhausting but a much needed dose of contemporary art!
3. Most recently, I went around the heritage sites in Friuli-Venezia Giulia region of Northeast Italy. It was surreal standing amongst the ruins of Aquileia and entering the fortress city of Palmanova. I was impressed by the hospitality of the people, the conservation and respect for heritage, and of course, unpretentious and delicious food. Italy is definitely a country that I would love to make more trips to in the future.
Follow me on Instagram to keep up with my travels!
Are there any art events that you are looking forward to in 2023?
There's been a lot of hype around ART SG, the largest contemporary art fair in Southeast Asia. I'm looking forward to welcoming international visitors to our sunny little island.
I am planning to visit Art Dubai and the Sharjah Biennial in March. I've heard amazing reviews about the cutting-edge Sharjah Biennial, and our books are also retailed in Dubai at the Jameel Arts Centre, The Lighthouse restaurant and concept stores, The Edit concept store in Alserkal Avenue; and in Abu Dhabi at The Third Place cafe.
Travelling outside the major cities of Thailand and the Philippines have also been on my bucket list for some time. Any recommendations?