How Publications Can Bring Content to Life Through Tactile Experience
A publication brings history to life by providing a unique lens on analog aesthetics.
Vintage Magazine developed a reputation for being a “portable museum” for the careful way each page is showcased. The magazine capitalizes on readers’ appetite for tactile experiences; In fact many of the pages have features that push the boundaries of what can be done within the magazine context by using elaborate pop-ups, die cuts, folds, flaps, illustrations, and photographs all working in concert to bring the story to life in surprising way.
We became interested in interviewing Vintage Magazine’s founder Ivy Baer Sherman for the way her publication provides a space for writers to focus on the historical dynamics of fashion, interior design, food, travel, music and beyond.
Tell us about your background and how you came to establish Vintage magazine.
I was introduced to Fleur Cowles’ Flair at a 2003 retrospective of the magazine, “Fleur on Flair,” at the Pratt Manhattan Gallery. I walked into a room filled with Flairs (all 12 of them) and was struck, at first glance, by Flair’s beauty…promptly judging the magazine, as we are taught to never ever do, by its exquisite cover. The distinguishing feature of a Flair cover was a die cut—which offered an artful glimpse onto the world within. Turning the cover revealed further delights—foldouts and fabulous illustrations—riveting writing rendered in wondrous fonts. I left the show acutely attuned to the extraordinary physical draw of a magazine: the lure of stunning design; the striking sensation of ink on paper; the ravishing commingling of keenly-wrought words and fine art and editorial flair; the tactile quality of the read. I knew then and there that I wanted to create a magazine in the spirit of Flair for today’s audience.
Vintage Magazine has gotten media buzz being defined as a ‘portable museum.’ Tell us about this label, does it capture the essence of your work? How so? What doesn’t the label do a good job of capturing?
Ah yes, I’ve described Vintage as a portable museum in that each article is work of art – from the content to the presentation – from the visual to the tactile — in every detail. I don’t consider “portable museum” an overarching label, or label of any sort — as labels tend to confine — rather I see “portable museum” as one of Vintage Magazine’s distinctive qualities. I also see the magazine as a salon — of artists, writers, graphic designers, printers, binders, die-cutters, paper engineers – all gathering together to create a publication of vintage quality. Most importantly, Vintage is a celebration of print and an ongoing exploration of what a magazine can be and do.
History seems to play a central role in the perspective your magazine offers. Is this an accurate perception? If so, what is it that attracts you to history?
I use the concept of “vintage” in its broadest sense – connoting style, excellence, and timeless elegance and, of course, what comes to mind with “vintage” is history. Vintage thus aims to bring aspects of the past to the fore in new and innovative ways; to use eloquent writing and stimulating design to tell stories that remind and inform and inspire. Topics are wide-raging — travel, music, cuisine, décor, fashion and more – and span cultures.
My attraction to history is somewhat personal, as I described in the premier issue next to a sepia-toned image of my maternal grandmother. The image was from one of several postcards sent between my grandmother and grandfather, Anna and Isidor Cheynovitz, during the six years they were parted in the 1920s. Having made their way out of Poland, my grandmother, traveling with two young daughters, found safe harbor in Belgium while my grandfather set out for America to establish a home for the family. My grandparents would dress in their finest for the photos that served to ease wrenching loneliness and despair with rich memory and hope. The elegance, sheer strength, determination, integrity and dignity that imbued my grandparents’ lives forever inspires me and it is to them, and to the lore and allure of the past, that I have dedicated Vintage Magazine.
Tell us about the tactile qualities you design into your magazine. It’s filled with unique paper textures, weights, and layouts. How are these decisions made and how would you describe their value to your readers.
Once I have a piece in hand, I work to see how best to interpret and represent it – seeking to explore how this particular artist’s/writer’s voice can blend and riff with graphic design, texture, dimension. Once a concept is in place for an individual piece, I pull back for an overview. Each piece must stand on its own while serving the overall flow of the issue.
In the case of the current issue, Vintage Quatrieme, I met with Chip Kidd, who designed the cover. I told him that the issue would be a Vintage take on architecture and design and he came up with his multi-layered homage to vintage linoleum. My only stipulation was that the magazine’s signature open spine be worked into the design, which was achieved – working hand in hand with the printer and bindery. I selected a paper stock that evokes the feel of vintage linoleum.
With the concept of Chip’s linoleum cover in place, I designed the issue as a grand home tour…from the floor up. I asked art student Heidi Loening to create doors by which the reader can “enter” – these hand-embroidered doors house the table of contents. The tour takes the reader into the library, the bedroom, to artists working in basements (Joseph Cornell), outside to view exteriors, inside to wall and room décor, into the kitchen to learn about the AGA cooker, into the (vanishing!) dining room…and out, hopefully eager for a return visit.
We enter the library by way of Gary Giddins’ piece on the out- of -print author W.R. Burnett. When meeting with Gary I had opportunity to look through some first editions of Burnett’s books – to see and hold their brilliant covers, which he discusses in his article. I decided to recreate for Vintage readers the sensation of reading Burnett cover to cover.
Daphne Taylor’s stunning quilts ask to be unfolded and touched – thus we added fold and texture to the design. The Dr. Seussian-like home of the dynamic design team of Bob and Cortney Novogratz truly called for a hand’s on pop-up. Voila!
The hope is for history of come to life, to pop off the pages – if you will — for Vintage Magazine’s readers.
How do you select your contributors for each issue? What do you screen for and what do your readers expect.
Oftentimes there is an artist or writer whose work I admire and I will contact them about doing something for Vintage. This design and architecture issue seemed the perfect place for Daphne Taylor’s quilts, which I’ve followed via various shows over the years. Working on Kristen Frederickson’s AGA Saga piece, I was reminded of a panel from Nicholas Papadakis’s painting “What’s New on the Menu?” which I then presented as lead-in to the AGA piece and upon which the opening AGA photo is based.
That said, the coming together of an issue is, for me, a wondrous journey. As mentioned, I see Vintage as a salon – a place where artists and writers can gather to offer pieces that they’ve been working on, or perhaps experimenting with, or hoping to work on. Or else to take on a new subject that Vintage will suggest.
A standard of excellence blended with a supreme relish of delight and surprise is what I seek in Vintage contributors, and what I hope readers seek and find when exploring the pages of Vintage Magazine.