Stockist Showcase: Skylight Books

photo taken by © Kelly Brown

photo taken by © Kelly Brown

Skylight Books is the epitome of a bookstore that truly defines the neighborhood it resides in.  This bustling bookstore was born in 1996, and since then, has become a home not only to those who have worked or shared their stories there, but also to travelers looking for respite on both bright and rainy (though rare!) days. If their large glass windows, which usually feature a themed display of some sort, do not stop you from wandering in, then the chalkboard sign full of amusing messages surely will.

ILLUSTORIA's publishing assistant and LA native Claire Astrow considers Skylight Books a home away from home. 

ILLUSTORIA's publishing assistant and LA native Claire Astrow considers Skylight Books a home away from home. 

Follow @skylightbooks on Instagram for more fun posts!

 In our new stockist showcase campaign, we're featuring some of our most beloved shops where you can find the magazine and introducing readers to the heroes running their most treasured neighborhood shops. This week, we're featuring our home-away-from-home @skylightbookstore located in Los Angeles.  We had the opportunity to interview Steven Salardino, the manager of Skylight Books, on what this historic bookstore that stocks ILLUSTORIA is all about. 

Please describe what a customer will experience when they walk into your bookstore.

Some notice the tree in the middle right away and some look up years later and wonder if it has been here the whole time. A lot of people don’t know that we have an Arts Annex next door even though it has held our selection of art books, music books, comics, architecture, film, and magazines for the last ten years. Still, others wonder if we are related to the “comic book store next door.” I think the combination of books, music, and staff work well with the space to create a feeling that is relaxed and makes one feel both “at home” and connected to something cultural and communal.

photo taken by © Lindsay George

photo taken by © Lindsay George

Is there something unique about your bookstore that cannot be experienced anywhere else?

You know those words that can’t be translated into English? Like there is no direct translation (see: “wabi-sabi” or “saudade”)? That is sort of what you want your bookstore to have as an experience. There is a specific bookstore feeling that says, “This is what a bookstore should feel like,” and then there is, “This is what this bookstore should feel like.” On a good day, it feels “rènào* (热闹).”

*Rènào captures the feeling of a lively space bustling with noise and excitement—a fitting description of Skylight Books

...And we have a fifteen-foot cardboard sculpture with hidden messages.

photo by Steven Salardino himself!

photo by Steven Salardino himself!

There is no denying that the community behind Skylight Books is large and supportive, but like any independent bookstore, there were quite a few obstacles faced before establishing the business. When asked about the beginnings of Skylight Books and what they had to overcome, Steven told us this:

Bookstores in general have faced many challenges since we opened twenty-one years ago. The challenges of opening any business can be tough. We have had to face competition from discount and chain stores as well as online behemoths. Then, there was the presumed threat of electronic books to the bookstore world. Skylight Books has always tried to be positive. We have always loved books (and magazines and journals) and believed other people did too and would feel as we did – that books and bookstores were important and should be supported. I know that I often find myself buying books at other independent bookstores on my day off!

If Skylight Books were an animal, which animal would it be?

I would like us to be one of those Dr. Seuss creatures…like four animals grafted into one, brightly colored, and with a silly smile.

Illustration by Skylight Books staff, Alex Hemming

Illustration by Skylight Books staff, Alex Hemming

Thanks to Steven and all the folks at Skylight Books for taking the time to chat about your awesome bookstore! Stay tuned for our next stockist showcase, and in the meantime be sure to check our stockist list to find the ILLUSTORIA seller nearest to you! 

Everyday, there are endless tasks to complete, patrons to help, and emails to answer. But whether the staff are busy tidying up the bookstore, feeding their resident cat Franny, or posting about upcoming book releases and author readings, they will never be too busy to share their love for the community of booksellers, artists, zinesters, and readers that inhabit their space! So don’t be afraid to ask any of the staff you get to meet what their current favorite read is. With any luck, maybe they’ll be able to convince you to take it home too.

Steven’s current favorite book is: Monograph by Chris Ware. Though it has already been a year since its release, Steven still can’t get over how huge, beautiful, and detailed this graphic novel is, noting that Ware is one of the most important artists and storytellers of our time. If this has enticed you, don't hesitate to swing by Skylight Books to purchase your very own copy of it. 

Be sure to check out Skylight Books for upcoming events, programs, and more! 


The Making of a Mural


I visit the Artist and Craftsman in Berkeley (on 2573 Shattuck Ave, to be specific) more than any other store in the whole world. I kid you not, I'm there running errands for my various art related jobs at least once a week. If you've never been, I implore you to hop on your moped, bike, scooter, or heck even Boeing 747 and check it out. Never have been to an art store with cooler vibes, nicer people or more expansive color selection of gouache paints. After a solid year of hard crushin' on A&C (visiting every week, sometimes twice in the same day, and lingering too long in the paint brush section, where I would philosophize on the benefits of the filbert brush) they finally popped the big Q: Would I be interested in painting their Fall window mural? "I'm so down!!" I most likely said, after mopping up the puddle of profound honor and excitement my body melted into. 

A&C left side smaller.jpg
A&C right side smaller.jpg

After proposing a couple sketches, we landed on the one I made of two best friends talking on the phone while making art in their rooms, which is by no coincidence how I spend the majority of my time.

A&C window art left side .jpg
After making a sketch, I scanned it onto my computer and played around with the color in Photoshop. 

After making a sketch, I scanned it onto my computer and played around with the color in Photoshop. 

The initial inspiration for the mural, titled No You Hang Up, was the playfulness and kitschy nostalgia of early 2000s TV friendships like Lindsay Mcguire, as well as my gratitude for my creative group of friends. As I finalized my sketches, I realized I also wanted the mural to be a celebration of the brilliant, loving, and inclusive Bay Area art community that I feel lucky to be apart of. For me, celebrating this community meant paying homage to the vital artists and organizers who dedicated their lives to supporting and building it. 


No You Hang Up references Ara Jo, a radiant human being who supported, welcomed and befriended countless artists in the Bay Area and beyond. The mural also makes reference to Aaron Curry, commonly known as ORFN, a prolific and raw creative who influenced generations of street artists. Both artists passed away a year ago, in December 2016. This mural is dedicated to them, as well as artist Jeffery Chung, founder of Unity Press who continues to build and grow community for queer and POC folks in the East Bay. 


Painting the mural was such a blast and tremendous privilege to paint, and I couldn't have done without the help of my friends and the awesome crew at A&C. If you're in the area, come stop by! It will be up until the end of December. And if you're an East Bay resident, stay tuned for a zine workshop I'll be teaching there on December 10th!