Tuesday 5 April 2011

April members' promotion: Dumbo Feather

Our members' promotion for April is the chance to win an annual subscription to one of Australia's most loved magazine titles: Dumbo Feather. After 26 quarterly issues under the watchful eye of founding editor Kate Bezar, Dumbo Feather is now being helmed by Patrick Pittman and team.

Dumbo Feather is a magazine for people who want to be told a different story than the one they hear every day. Every quarter, we scour the globe for stories of people who inspire us, excite us, or just slow us down. Dumbo people don't need to be famous, they just need to be people worth knowing. We bring you their stories as long-form, in-depth interviews.

The latest issue is a magazine about radical farming, avant garde music, Parisian style, land, life, love, death, Shirley Temple, independent publishing, Burmese border guards, post-flood reconstruction, industrial machinery, collectors, hoarders, activists, bakers and social entrepreneurs.
It's an absolutely beautiful publication that looks and feels incredible, reminding us there are some things online publishing can't provide. The latest issue (#27) is currently available for purchase or perusal at Craft Victoria.

In conjunction with the relaunch, Dumbo Feather are kindly offering 3 lucky individuals who sign up for a Craft Victoria membership an annual subscription valued at $45. Click here to read more about it, but first we have a special interview with Dumbo Feather's editor Patrick Pittman.

Congratulations on the new edition of Dumbo Feather. How long have you been fans of the magazine? How did you first come across it?

Thanks! It’s been a wild ride pulling it together over the last few months, but we’re thrilled to be able to release our baby into the world.

I first came across Dumbo Feather somewhere towards the start of its run, while scouring the shelves of my local newsagent in Perth. This strange little magazine, with its awkward title and abstract cover image, stood out from everything else on the shelf. It was stubbornly beautiful, and it seemed to be about ordinary people doing extraordinary things. "That’ll never sell!", I exclaimed to myself. But I bought a copy, and then another one, and I got a sense of this beautiful, unlikely project that Kate Bezar was undertaking. Even then, I wouldn’t have bet that it would have lasted 26 quarterly issues, that it would have built up a loyal subscriber base and a passionate worldwide community of readers. That stuff doesn’t happen in independent publishing. I know this because I’ve been to the panel discussions where they’ve told me this. I’m glad Kate wasn’t listening. And moreso, I’m honoured to be able to step into her shoes, and to give the magazine new life in a new home.

Tell us a bit about the new issue, who is profiled?

We have five main interviews. Joel Salatin is a radical, ‘beyond organic’ farmer from the USA, who’s a bit of a hero amongst those who read Michael Pollan and watch documentaries like Food Inc. I met him on a farm out at Woodend a few months back and was mesmerised. He talks in italics, and you can’t help but feel that you’re going to change the world just by having exchanged a few words with him. Richard Skelton is a British composer whose deeply sad and beautiful music moves me like little else out there. He’s one of my favourite musicians in the world, and he proved to be an extremely warm and generous human being. That interview has made more than a few people cry, and I don’t apologise for that.

Catherine Baba is an absolutely fabulous Australian stylist living in Paris. There’s not a lot about Catherine on the internet, but you’ll see her cycling mysteriously through style blogs and fashion pages, effortlessly outshining everybody around her. We also went to the Melbourne Museum of Printing in Footscray for a beautiful photo essay, rummaging through Michael Isaachsen’s utterly unique collection of old printing equipment.

And then, of course, there’s Kate Bezar, the magazine’s founding editor. Kate is a remarkable woman, and our readers have been demanding a profile of her for a long time. I think dedicated readers will learn a lot over those 20 pages, and also get to jealously regard her idyllic and isolated New Zealand lifestyle. I know I do.

We’ve also got a few shorter profiles, and some new features. We asked Ruby Murray to profile anybody she wanted, from any time in history. She chose Shirley Temple. We’re glad she did. In the first instalment in our memoir series, Chris Flynn recounts his brief period imprisoned by Burmese border guards. And leading off the magazine is a beautiful dispatch from Christopher Currie, making sense of things in post-flood Brisbane.

Who do you have your sights on to feature in upcoming issues of Dumbo Feather?

Well that’s a secret, but we just painted one of the walls in our office with blackboard paint, and we’ve covered it in a huge chalky wishlist. It’s a mix of our heroes and idols and locals with something to say. The writing on the wall is pretty exciting (see what I did? see?).

The magazine has moved from Sydney to Melbourne, do you think this has or will impact on the style and content?

A magazine is always, to some extent, borne of its surroundings. We’re collaborating with some remarkably talented Melburnians, and we’ve moved all of the production to local printers and suppliers. There are some great long-term friends of Dumbo Feather in this town, such as Abi Crompton of Third Drawer Down — she’s really able to put a lot of energy behind the magazine now that it’s local — and our printers (Printgraphics in Mount Waverley) have put almost as much passion into this magazine as Berry (our Publisher), Jess [Friedmann, Assistant Editor] and I have. There is a great independent publishing scene in this town, and I feel as though we are surrounded by people full of support and goodwill.

But, with that said, the magazine is an Australian one and an international one. We don’t want it to feel like a Melbourne-centric project. By way of having spent more time there than anywhere else on the planet, I’d call myself a Perth boy, and I know what it’s like to feel that everything great in this country is Victorian and inwards-looking. We scour the world for our subjects, for our contributors and for our inspiration. Hopefully the magazine we make means as much to somebody in Berlin as it does to somebody in Brunswick, and when we profile somebody in a factory in Footscray, it’s because their story is a universal one.

We hear you have some new designers? What’s the biggest change in the layout, what can we expect?

I’ve been a long-distance admirer of Stuart Geddes’ work since the first Is Not magazine I saw pasted on a wall however many years ago that was. His work with Chase & Galley on Meanjin has also been absolutely astounding—to take an iconic publication and inject new life into it without destroying its soul is not an easy ask. And that’s what we asked of him too. I knew he was an extremely talented gentleman, but even I didn’t expect him and his cohort Tristan Main to knock the ball as far out of the park as they have with this redesign.

I am, above all, a content man, and the new layout has been created to do justice to the great work of our writers and our photographers. The new Dumbo Feather is larger, and I’d say a little splashier. It does many things that one should probably never do in magazine design, and yet, for all of its rule-breaking, it comes together into a beautiful final product. It’s full of colour, and richness, and warmth, and play. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a magazine whose design is so full of joy, even in its somber moments.

What plans do you have for the future of Dumbo Feather?

We’re just rolling out the first phase of a wonderful new web presence, put together by Inventive Labs, the Golden Grouse and That Mob. Our ‘Interviews with Children’ project with Harrell Fletcher is probably the first example of our plans to really work with our community of readers to create new and beautiful things. We’re going to be doing a lot more of that. We want to grow, and we’re full of ideas for how we remain relevant in a digital age, telling Dumbo Feather stories across many platforms. But we remain committed to the magazine as a physical, beautiful object that can be cherished and loved, and everything we do is built around that as our core reason for existing.

Tell us some places you look for inspiration, do you have any favourite blogs?

I look to my record collection, to my bookshelf, to the things the people around me are creating. I’ve found I’ve developed the obsessive editor’s tendency of needing to know the complete story behind every product I buy, and every shop I enter, because they all might be a story I want to tell in the magazine (and not just a great place to get a Bloody Mary). I don’t seem to be big on the blogs these days, but Jessica obssesively reads Apartment Therapy and Smitten Kitchen, and not a day goes by when somebody in the office isn’t raving about a TED talk they’ve seen. We of course love The Design Files, and Pia Jane Bijkerk’s blog is a Dumbo favourite from way back.

Dumbo Feather posters in action

Issue 27 of Dumbo Feather is currently available at Craft Victoria.

To be in the running to win one of three annual subscriptions (valued at $45), make sure you sign up to our membership program before 5pm, Friday 8 April!

Craft Victoria Professional Membership offers a multitude of benefits to practitioners, including a profile on the Craft Maker directory, half price entry to all Public Programming and FREE professional development with Craft Victoria staff.

Click here to join now!

All images courtesy of Dumbo Feather.

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