Unearthing Artistic Treasures with Beehive Books

"Rye." 10 x 16" by Herbert Crowley

"Rye." 10 x 16" by Herbert Crowley

Before he launched Beehive Books in 2016 with artist/designer Maëlle Doliveux, author and editor Josh O'Neill ran Locust Moon, a retail store, art gallery, and small press based in West Philadelphia.

He used the press to publish work from emerging cartoonists and pay tribute to legendary ones — including a 2014 Kickstarter project that raised over $150,000 to create comics inspired by Winsor McCay. “One of our favorite things about [this project] is that in celebrating a legend, it has joined many of the biggest artists of today with the biggest artists of tomorrow,” he wrote in a project update that featured work by Israeli artist and contributor Keren Katz.

With Beehive Books, O’Neil and Doliveux are focused on creating art editions of distinctive works with a special emphasis on comics and graphic art. The publisher’s first major book arrived on Kickstarter in 2016 — The Temple of Silence, a tome of almost-forgotten works by twentieth-century master Herbert Crowley, who exhibited with the likes of Picasso and van Gogh, but disappeared from the spotlight in 1917.

Josh O’Neil

Josh O’Neil

The project raised nearly $100,000, introducing Crowley’s work to a new generation, and even unearthing a sculpture the team previously had not heard of. On launching such a large-scale project — one that required coordinating with designers, archivists, and even the Metropolitan Museum of Art — O’Neil offers some advice, “Keep it simple. Know what your idea is, and why you think people will be interested in it. Foreground that idea throughout the campaign.”

For Kickstarter Gold, Beehive Books reprised their Herbert Crowley project — with a twist. In addition to creating a special edition of The Temple of Silence, the team also released a collection of limited-edition giclée prints of Crowley’s works. Not only was it an opportunity to introduce a wider audience to Crowley’s work, it was a chance for Beehive Books to connect with their supportive community of backers, one that O’Neil refers to as, “friends, as fellow travelers, as allies in the struggle to make beautiful things.”

“Kickstarter has changed the game in terms of what kind of creative work can be financially viable,” O’Neil says. “And the world and culture are so much richer for it.”