The Importance of play: a sit-down with creative publisher Lily Green

Image by Emma Hughes

 Lily sat down with Lily Green this week to talk all about her creative practise and how to keep your work playful and exciting. 
No Bindings is an experimental publishing press that combines both print and audio to create immersive experiences. It mixes running workshops, making podcasts and crafting books to produce wonderfully creative literary worlds. Their lead artist and director, Lily Green, recently spent some time with our very own Lily. They discussed the importance of keeping playfulness in creative practise – an exercise which helps to keep art exciting. 

You run a monthly zine club, which is a great opportunity for people to get creative. It’s super accessible and you can come in at any level. What would you say to people who are apprehensive about starting a new creative activity, or profession?

It’s really scary, of course it is! But it slowly becomes less so. Every single time you do it, bit by bit by bit, it becomes that familiar space, and once it becomes familiar it’s easier to take more risks and enjoy it. Going from 0-1 is the hardest. Maybe find something that will hold you to account: a friend or a sticker chart. Or just something to do with anxiety – you should feel like you could message the place you’re interested in first and ask the questions you need to.

Do you think that as people feel more obliged to turn their hobbies into a profit, which can make it really stressful? Do you think there’s a lack of fun in the creative world?

It is really tricky turning the thing you love and enjoy into something profitable. It means that everything has to be perfect, and it’s really hard to reach a state of perfection in creative practice. I think it’s difficult when you’re using your creative brain all day, to then go and do something related to it when you get home. You seek out other things, something that recharges you.

It’s really easy to lose sight of the fun in your practice and I think a lot of that comes from situations like getting a commission or a grant, not really feeling like you can ask for space to have fun and produce something without a deeper, higher function. If you don’t play and invent, and take risks and get things wrong then you might end up doing the same thing over and over again, and then it isn’t exciting anymore. I think because of the pressure of producing something beautiful, you lose out on creating beauty with play.

Your work with zines and conductive ink has quite a lot of playfulness in it, why do you think playfulness is important? Not just in art, but in everyday life?

I’m such a child! My humour is very silly, and I think that when you turn something professional you lose that sense of fun. It’s quite sad. If you’re not enjoying something then maybe you’re resenting it? It’s not to say that you have to be ‘fun fun fun’ 24/7, that would be really draining, but that doesn’t mean there’s no value in smiling and work doesn’t have to make you miserable.

Image by Emma Hughes

Often zines and art have a message behind them. Do you think that every art piece needs to have this? 

I think that your reason for creating something is irrelevant, because you’re creating something. I think it’s great if people are thinking of a bigger picture when they’re making something, but it’s also great if somebody is creating something simply because they love doing it. The idea that everything has to have a message can restrict you, because you’re so concentrated on trying to communicate something. Sometimes when you think too much about what other people wantyou stop listening to yourself.

Do you think that the ‘Maker’s Station’ in the Pervasive Media Studio has given people the space to make things? 

For me, when I first joined the studio, I was in the process of making sixty zines. That meant lots of usage of the guillotine and I said to myself, ‘right you’re in the studio now, and you’re going to come in every day and use the space.’ Back then, it was mostly people on their laptops and then there was me with my guillotine making all this noise. I felt like I was disturbing people. I felt like the naughty person in the office, but, soon after there was an annual studio meet-up and it was suggested that the space was turned into a more of a tinkering area. I felt so much better when that happened. I had somewhere I could make mess, and get physical and rip things and play. For me, that was super important. When you give somebody a space and you say to them ‘make mess,’ then it automatically gives permission to be playful.

Image by Emma Hughes

Could you tell me a little bit more about your upcoming projects?

I’d really like to tell people about Africa Writes Bristol. It’s a festival of African literature across all different places in the city. The first big day is at the Malcolm X Community Centre on the 29th of June. My publishing company, No Bindings, is doing loads of stuff. There are lots of things you can get involved in – we collaborated with two east African publishers and we created Radiobook Rwanda, three short stories, each in their own individual, beautifully made books and a series of beautifully made podcasts, and we’ve got some really exciting ways we’ll be working with that at Africa Writes Bristol. The first is using VR technology – and it’s like a literary silent disco. That’s happening on the 29th on June. You have to sign up, but it’s free.

The other event we’re doing is also really exciting. We’re testing out a WhatsApp based interaction for Radiobook Rwanda, where we invite you to take part in a sandbox. It’s named that because the whole idea is that you play around with whatever you’ve been given. We’ll have some people stationed at all the different events, to give attendees the opportunity to test it all out and just contribute to us playing around with this new bit of tech.

Follow Lily’s work on Twitter via Lily Green or on No Bindings and on Instagram, too at No Bindings.

Learn more about Pervasive Media Studio here – it’s a totally free space for artists to come and learn how they can use tech in their work, and you can read about joining here. Weekly Lunchtime Talks on Fridays are also open to everybody. The next one is from awesome Studio resident and novelist Nikesh Shukla – come along and work in the studio all afternoon from 1pm, free, as part of Open Studio Fridays.

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