About Pomegranate

Pomegranate Communications, Inc. is a publishing house located in Portland, OR. Our primary business is with retail stores and distributors but our publications are also available directly from us at Pomegranate.com

The company has its roots in San Francisco's 1960's psychedelic art explosion when founder Thomas Burke distributed posters from the Avalon Ballroom and the Fillmore Auditorium and worked with such seminal poster companies as East Totem West. More than forty years later, Pomegranate has emerged as a leading museum publisher, producing fine art, contemporary illustration, and photography in a vast array of high-quality, affordable products. The company collaborates with many renowned institutions including the National Gallery of Art, the Library of Congress, the British Library, the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, Sierra Club, the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and is the proud licensee for such distinguished artists as M.C. Escher, Edward Gorey, Charley Harper, Wolf Kahn, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Gustave Baumann, among others.


The Story of Our Name 

Just how did we end up with the same name as the deliciously tart, crimson-colored fruit, the pomegranate? Publisher Katie Burke explains the origin of our company's name.

Pomegranate the publishing company evolved from a poster distribution company named ThoFra Distributors. As we started publishing more and more original material, we decided that we needed a new name.

Sometime in the early 1970s, the company’s founder and president, Thomas Burke, asked the small staff of the time for suggestions. People jotted down ideas and threw them into a hat. Well, perhaps it wasn’t a hat. Maybe it was a cardboard box. Or a used lunch bag. In any case, one of those suggestions was “Pomegranate,” and Tom liked it. Just because it sounded right. Not because pomegranates were his favorite fruit. Not because they’re good for you. Not even because of their associations with Persephone. And not because the company was trying to be the next Apple. (In fact, at the time, Apple computers didn’t exist, but the Beatles record label did.)

Over the next couple of decades, we tried on a few different logos. One was an image of Zeus holding a pomegranate, high over his head. Renderings of pomegranates, however, just didn’t seem to fit for some reason. For a while we had no logo at all. Then we used a big blocky “P” for a few years. Finally, we got the idea to have our name designed by the calligrapher John Burns, and, at last, we had the logo that stuck:

Now that pomegranates and pomegranate juice are all the rage in good-health circles, we’re happy for the association. As one editorial candidate once described us, we’re the antioxidant publishers. (He got hired.)


Meet Our Publisher, Katie Burke

What does it take to be the publisher at Pomegranate? Our fearless leader, Katie Burke, shares her story . . .
It all started with Little Women

My path to being publisher at Pomegranate has encompassed a few twists and turns—like most paths, I suspect—but it started with Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. I read it in bed, home sick with the flu from school in fifth grade, and decided I would be a writer. This was the second career choice of my life, the first being “bed maker,” declared on that day when I first made my bed by myself. (I abandoned that aspiration early on.)

Another life-altering moment was when I saw my first big art book. It seems odd now to think that I hadn’t held one in my hands prior to my adolescence, but it was via my sister-in-law at the time that I did. It was one of the most exciting things I had ever laid eyes on, a huge history-of-Western-art sort of tome. Talk about a lightbulb moment: I wanted to devour art from that moment on. The first art museum I remember visiting, shortly after I saw that book, was the Philadelphia Museum of Art. I was blown away in equal measure by Dutch still lifes and Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase.

Duchamp's Nude Descending a Staircase
I grew up on the East Coast and attended college for three years (one at Coe in Cedar Rapids; two at Hampshire in Amherst). I drove across country in the summer of 1973 intending to stay in San Francisco for two weeks; that two weeks has since extended to 37 years. One of my first jobs on the West Coast was working in the bookshop at the San Francisco Museum of Art (now SFMOMA). Ah. All of those art books. Nirvana.

Because I came from a musical, performance-oriented family, however (we all played piano, we all sang), the piano still held my attention. I struggled with it and hated recitals, but I kept at it until a performance in my mid-20s completely bombed. Stage fright ensured that the six pieces committed to memory would be delivered rife with mistakes. When it was finally over, friends in the audience praised my bravery. That was it for piano.

The amazing Selectric II typewriter by IBM
I was already working at Pomegranate by then, part-time, typing invoices mostly. (This was the mid 1970s, when computers were not in use by any small business. The IBM Selectric typewriter felt like the machine for the ages.) My job grew to include tracking royalties (on 3 x 5 cards), preparing packing slips (by hand), working with sales representatives, attending sales meetings, and, eventually, learning about production and printing. Pomegranate did not have a design staff then; we printed images as cards and posters and simply sized them to fit the page (using a proportion wheel, which remains today as important to me as a ruler). It wasn’t until we started publishing calendars and books that we started to use freelance designers.

My go-to book:
The Chicago Manual of Style
Eventually I became production manager, overseeing the design and production of everything Pomegranate did. I took copyediting and book design courses at UC Berkeley Extension. The Chicago Manual of Style became my favorite book and editing my new passion, reviving my inner writer. Eventually, as the company grew, we hired an art director and a managing editor. But I still had the music monkey on my back.

I joined choruses, both symphonic and small, and, literally, found my voice. From the mid-1980s through the mid-1990s, I pursued a part-time singing career, trying everything I could, from a blues bar band to a country western show band to a wedding band to a jazz duo. I wrote a ton of songs and made two demos. I even left Pomegranate for two years (1994–1995) to pursue a music career. At the end of those two years, I realized that as much as I loved singing, I didn’t love the music business. I stopped.

And that’s when Thomas Burke, the president and founder of Pomegranate (and my husband; we married in 1987), suggested that I come back to the company as publisher. As soon as he said it, it felt perfect.

Today I work with museums all over the world in developing products, from exhibition catalogs to notecard sets. I seek out individual artists. I develop projects from a seed of an idea; I work on new products to add to our expansive list (the introduction of PomegranateKids® in 2009 has been a distinct joy). I oversee a production staff (that includes six designers, four editors, an assistant publisher, a contracts and royalties manager, a production manager, a managing editor, and a publishing assistant); I read manuscripts, I choose images, I present new lists at sales meetings and to major customers. Sometimes I write marketing copy or short introductions for our publications. I work with words and art every day. (Outside of my job I also labor over my own fiction writing; Ms. Alcott’s inspiration has not diminished.)

I didn’t plan to be a publisher. All I did was keep my eyes and ears open and pay attention to anything that made my heart beat faster and learn as much about it as I could. Now it’s entirely possible that I have the best job in the world.

Z. Katie Burke
Publisher
Pomegranate Communications, Inc.