When I started working with Faythe Levine on Handmade Nation, Riot Grrrl was a huge part of her inspiration to pursue a life of DIY (do it yourself) and upon initially hearing this, I was a little embarrassed because I could pinpoint the exact moment I heard of Riot Grrrl: It was when my Seventeen magazine showed up in the mail one month, I was on my bedroom floor, laying on my stomach, reading absolutely. every. single. word. and I remember thinking how rad Riot Grrrl was, then I cut out the article and stashed it because that is what I did with my only magazine subscription. I cut out the important bits to save.
I came into a DIY lifestyle at birth because of my mother - I've had home-sewn dresses and preserved vegetables from the garden my whole life and her sewing and quilting and latch-hooking and general creative lifestyle infiltrated mine so naturally that I thought everyone's childhood was like that. I didn't realize until much later how unique my mother's influence was. I could relate to these ladies on the West coast and their passion to create. But also, they made me realize that making was political - any sort of making - and the power of making was given to the creator.
I grew up in a small town in Central Wisconsin called Portage. There are less than 10,000 people today and to put that into perspective there were probably about 100 people in my graduating class. The internet was in its infancy - and magazines played an important part of how I learned about the stuff I was interested in. This continued when I moved to Milwaukee to go to college, I would skip down to the university bookstore at the beginning of the month to grab my magazines. (Nylon was my favorite at the time and for some reason they wouldn't fill my subscription - checks would be sent back, uncashed.) And then take the rest of the afternoon blowing off my studio time to smoke cigarettes and pour over the pages. And I still cut them up to keep the interesting bits. And even later in life after college, but still in Milwaukee, I would treat myself to a $50 haul at the now defunct Harry W. Schwartz on Downer Ave. because they had the best magazine selection I had ever seen and I would sit and flip through them all and then pick out a precious few to bring home.
I have become more internet savvy since then. I visit a lot of blogs. I spend a lot of time chasing down information that I read from the NYtimes or links on Facebook - in a lot of ways this has taken away from the priority of my magazines, but I still have more subscriptions now than I have ever had: American Craft, Venus Zine, This Old House, ReadyMade, Martha Stewart Living, Men's Health, Parenting, etc. (The vast majority were given to me as gifts.. which makes me feel like I am hard to shop for..) And I write for a lot of magazines. The truth is that magazines are dying. The pages are lower quality, the content more limited and the advertising more obnoxious. In many cases the budgets have been drastically cut, content diverged to blog space and pay rates for writers have also been cut, leading to a drastic change in the quality of content. The whole ad campaign with Taylor Swift's face about how the world still needs magazines I find tired. I agree with the ad, I just don't think I would ever need to read (another) article about Taylor Swift. Ever. (That's what E! is for. That's what TMZ is for)
To my surprise, however, during this time of magazine failure I have had news of two magazines launching in the last month. Two magazines that I am incredibly excited about. The first, I just wrote an article about for Milwaukee's AV Club (not quite out)-- Fine Line Magazine. An international conceptual art project free of all advertising, reviews, previews, etc. Simply images and a limited amount of words. The cover is embossed, the pages are large and heavy, the images it holds are precious and interesting. This magazine, which will launch this Friday at Studio Deep End in Milwaukee, will be one of my favorite magazines. I can already tell from the PDF version I was sent to write the article. The second was a surprise I got in the mail today-- Anthology: Living with substance & style, which is a life and design magazine that actually has my favorite design feature of any magazine: white space! (It makes me feel like the editors actually valued the content, it wasn't about cramming in whatever.) With magazines shuttering all over the world, these are the next generation. These are the magazines that are competing with online media and they will win because they are providing something that the internet cannot: an interesting object.
I love reading magazines. I love holding them and touching heavy-weight glossy paper. I love high quality visual images of editorial fashion spreads or large-format landscapes of countries that I have never been to. I love learning about new artists and reading about things I would have otherwise never known existed. I am writing from the perspective of a Gen-Y-er (is that even a term anymore?) whose life has spanned an amount of time with very little at my fingertips (only Seventeen) and everything at my fingertips (Twitter, blogs, Facebook, Google). I don't mind that a lot of magazines are going out of business like I did last month. I have hope for this medium and being so invested, in both past and present, I understand that there is a need for the magazine. The challenge is to meet the need and I look forward to this coming generation of magazines who will battle the internet and find their place.
An ad from Anthology that reads: Print is not dead. Thank you for supporting independent magazines.