"If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost. That is where they should be. Now put the foundation under them." -Henry David Thoreau
For the sake of introduction let’s assume Thoreau was speaking of the creative mind’s ability and ambition and the technical foundation needed to accomplish them. That foundation is precisely what Pablo de Ocampo, publisher and director of the strictly not-for-profit Independent Publishing Resource Center, is here to help lay.
Since its official recognition as an organization in 1999 (though the inception of the center was in ’98) the IPRC has been an open resource for the literary-minded citizens of Portland. Specializing in workshops that cover the full spectrum of independent publishing, from software and the internet to zines (small, self-published magazines), letterpress printing, bookbinding and everything in between, the IPRC is equipped with all the tools necessary for the production of books and zines.
De Ocampo picked up the job directing the IPRC two years ago, after spending a year and a half as a volunteer. "[The volunteers] help with the open print hours, general hours for the center, cataloging and workshop instructors. They’re diehard. They all have real jobs for income, but they have jobs here for all intensive purposes."
"A few other people, volunteers at Reading Frenzy actually, were having this experience of people coming in, buying zines, and having inquiries all the time like ‘How do I know more about making [zines]?’ All they could say was just go figure it out. After enough people expressed interest in it there was a group of people who thought this was something where they could get some tools, and share a studio space, and if we were going to go as far as that, then maybe we should just start an organization. It all came about very informally," says Pablo.
Pablo assures me that the IPRC is not a membership organization, but rather a workspace supported by users’ subscriptions.
One of the two rooms that make up the IPRC’s space, which is located one floor above Reading Frenzy, is a modest-sized library filled with independent publications from across the world. Browsing the library is free and open to the public.
"We want to encourage anyone and everyone as much as possible to come in and read, or browse," says de Ocampo. "We receive a lot of donated material. It’s not all straight from the IPRC. We catalogue a lot of stuff that is local, though. More so than the stuff that comes from far away," The library boasts some 5,000 titles to choose from, which can be checked out by members for two weeks.
"Not all of those are people who actually use the space though," he says. "We get a lot of people who are just making donations."
In a very large addition to the work and library space, the IPRC also serves a third community role, that of educator. Beyond training members to use the center’s extensive equipment, the IPRC looks to the larger population as well.
"The other part of that is our Outreach program," de Ocampo says, "which we do primarily for younger audiences, usually from middle-school to early high school." The classes range from spending an hour talking about the importance of zines and independent publishing to more extensive programs that engage the students over four to six weeks, not only in discussion but in actual group projects.
"If we can secure an even longer amount of time, we can teach bookbinding or letter printing, and maybe even have another organization participate and do writing workshops where the students can come away with a real, finished product," says Pablo.
One such organization, Write Around Portland, has been a natural partner with the IPRC for years:
"We will come in and help them on projects and vice versa," de Ocampo says. "They do a lot of similar stuff that we do, but they are on the writing side of it, and do a lot of good work with inner city children and people in prison. We have a really good relationship with them. We’re more of the hands on portion of the process. We slip them little ideas and philosophies about independent publishing, but that’s not really what we do. We leave the writing side to them."
De Ocampo continues, "It’s amazing when you realize that you have just held the attention of 12-year-old so-called ‘troubled children’ for an hour talking about photocopying. They can be very responsive, and we like to show them what they can do at their age, and clue them in to how open and free the whole process is."
The small press and publishing network is growing around the world.
"We enjoy being a part of the network of zine publishers and organizations that are committed to zines," says Pablo. "We keep in touch with other people in order to help each other." Other organizations like Brooklyn’s Bookland and the Zine Archive and Publishing House in Seattle play vital roles in the cycling of this particular art form.
"The bulk of the stuff made at the IPRC are zines made by younger people. There’s definitely a lot of strange stuff thrown in the mix though," de Ocampo says. "There are a number of people trying to produce magazines and using the equipment for wood prints." The facility also has silk screen capabilities through a machine known as the Gocco, a Japanese device which can produce similar results to silk screen without requiring as much material or being nearly as complicated.
"I have a lot of enthusiasm for zines, and a lot of enthusiasm for just watching other people make them. I think that’s what has kept me around here."
The recommended way to contact the IPRC is to stop by their offices at 917 S.W. Oak St. #218.
Monday: 12 p.m. – 12 a.m.
Tuesday – Thursday: 4 – 10 p.m.
Friday – Sunday: 12 – 6 p.m.