Bramson is the publisher of Artisan books, a division of Workman.
PW: When was Artisan founded and how long have you been publisher?
AB: The fall 2001 list marks the eighth year and my fourth fall.
PW: How does Artisan fit into the Workman "family"?
AB: We are the illustrated book division of Workman, although there are illustrated Workman books not in our division. Ours are larger format books with more four-color and higher price tags. Contentwise, ours are a little more specialized. We tend to work with narrow subjects and go very deep.
PW: What exemplifies an Artisan book?
AB: We like to do a book that only that book's author could have written. Take A New Way to Cook [reviewed above], our lead book for fall. The author, Sally Schneider, worked on the book for almost 10 years. It comes out of her own personal experience: needing to find a new way to eat as well as to cook. We take all the strengths of these rather special books, and we elevate and amplify them through design, paper and printing. For A New Way to Cook, we're using a printing process called stochastic printing that uses a different dot pattern and allows us to use color without its being blurry. We like crafting books here. We don't do more than 10 or 12 books a year, but we put an incredible amount of work into making and marketing them.
PW: Who do you consider the target audience for Artisan books?
AB: There's a mix. I'm thinking of a book like In the Company of Stone: The Art of the Stone Wall. It's by a philosopher/poet and laborer named Dan Snow, and it's a book for both home owners and laborers and artists. It's for people who have chosen to live in the country and take pleasure from doing things with their hands. Then there is this fall's Restoring a Home in Italy. There are a number of people who buy homes in Italy, and if you're actually doing it, there's some vital information on zoning and roofs and waterways and construction of stairs, but if you're not doing it, but wish you were, the book is a pleasure.
PW: Do you consider Artisan's beautiful books coffee-table books?
AB: There needs to be a reinvention of the notion of the coffee-table book. These books all start with content. Does the addition of art turn an authoritative book into a coffee-table book? There used to be a prejudice in this country that if a book had color, that meant it didn't have intellect. It's how we all responded to the first color photos in the New York Times. But this is a visual time, and visuals can be as powerful in their own way as words are. I don't think of us as a coffee-table book imprint, except for the fact that many of these books are indeed very heavy.
PW: So you believe that people are cooking from Artisan cookbooks and getting them dirty?
AB: There are 160,000 copies of The French Laundry Cookbook in print, so some people must be cooking out of it.
PW: Where do you see Artisan in the future?
AB: I don't think we're ever going to do more than 15 books a year. I'd be very happy publishing six to eight cookbooks a year and then six to eight other nonfiction illustrated books. There are only seven of us here, including promotion and production and design, and we don't want to compromise. We want to get it right.