Polly Leonard explains why she was determined to create the perfect magazine for those who love textiles.
Editor of Selvedge
I launched Selvedge independently because I longed for a publication that
covered textiles in every form. I had studied and worked in the field for
almost twenty years without finding a publication that really spoke to me
about the things I loved. I gained my BA from the Glasgow School of Art and
studied an MA Fibers at Tyler School of Art, Philadelphia, USA. Before
venturing into publishing I was an artist and a teacher at Channing and
South Hampstead schools before becoming Head of Art at Northbridge House. While practising as an artist I produced what could be described as
minimalist sculpture using techniques derived from basket making. Hand
skills are still closest to my heart.
This passion became the driving force behind a publishing company based in
my home in Highgate. With two children under five and a partner that teaches full time, producing the sample issue was challenging. We are a tiny organisation with a small but highly dedicated team. We outgrew our office within three issues and we were forced to house employees on the stairs for a while. Recently I've found a little more space, it's a hectic but
productive atmosphere with the majority of the staff performing the usual
juggling act of childcare and work. I pride myself on being a family
friendly employer and in times of crisis staff have the option of bringing
the children to work. There can be up to five children and two kittens
underfoot as we put together an issue but some how we never lose focus.
It hasn't been easy, to begin with people simply didn't understand what we were trying to achieve. We had to work really hard to get Selvedge seen and even now we come up against brick walls in the most unexpected places. Forward thinking institutions like the Design Museum seem to have a great deal of trouble including textiles in their concept of design. They won't include the magazine as a resource in their shop, in fact I was told that textiles were "too niche", to which I replied I was surprised as I knew "lots of people who wore clothes!" But it's been worth the long days, late nights and setbacks. Selvedge was greeted with such enthusiasm, almost relief by so many people.
I never understood why the different textiles fields were so divorced from one another when they had so much common ground. The aim of Selvedge is to put textiles in an international context by breaking down the barriers between textile arts and its mainstream counterparts in fine art, fashion and interior design. Selvedge provides a link to many fields of interest, inspiration and knowledge so readers are able to place textiles in an international context. For example, each issue features a destination that has a vibrant textile history and culture. Effectively this brings the components of travel, art and commercial fabric creation into one story. There is an underlying theme to each issue and often the articles will link and expand points made in other parts on the magazine. This can be quite subtle although the images also underline these connections. An awful lot of thought goes into each issue, into things that a reader may not notice but I know the effect is appreciated even if it is on a subliminal level! Selvedge is designed for individuals who appreciate fine textiles, in all forms.
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The magazine is part of an overall renaissance of the handmade and crafted. Evidence of making is desirable and this work intensive aesthetic is exactly what Selvedge offers. Many people are saying that they actually want fewer things and that they have to be special. Selvedge is dedicated to this idea covering textiles made with time, care, thought and skill in a magazine produced in exactly the same way. So much feeds into this renaissance of skill. It's political, socio economic and trend related. I personally remember an exhibition in 2001 at the Saatchi Gallery called 'New Labor'‚ as a watershed moment but I'm sure there are many other factors. 9/11 is frequently cited as the catalyst for a return to the home. Maybe we all ran indoors looked around and what we saw was not cosy or comforting. You don't want minimalism when you're trying to find shelter from the cold. We began to want warmth, something softer and more personal, something that might last. From this point there was a rising interest in things made by hand, produced by another individual. A growing distrust of globalization contributed to this too. Perhaps our renewed desire for these hand crafted objects and textiles was a way of reaching out to other people. A consumerist attempt to feel connected, which is quite a sad indictment when you think about it.
Our high production standards are vital in attracting a broad readership, we spend literally hours and hours sourcing the perfect high quality image and use one of the best printing houses in the country. Our philosophy when choosing the images in the magazine is to appeal to an audience that is already visually aware. We try to place the textiles in context by showing not only details of a weave structure but the life of the cloth and it's connection to those who make, use and admire it. This attention to detail is very expensive but textiles deserve this kind of respect. Of course the magazine must pay for itself and a wide international audience is crucial in this respect. We have worked to convince advertisers from different sectors - manufacturing, art, fashion, education - that a dedicated textile publication is a great place to advertise. Selvedge is trying to join up the dots, connect the various elements of the textile industry and encourage those within it to see themselves as part of a much wider picture. There is a tremendous need to promote new artists and not merely to support the work of a small select group. One of my reasons for launching Selvedge was to create a place where artists could promote and advertise their work to potential customers and gain the recognition I think they deserve.
Selvedge was developed without any outside funding, launched without a marketing budget and has grown into a cult textile design publication due to fantastic word of mouth reports. We are close to our second birthday which is a real achievement, clearly the time was right for a magazine like Selvedge.
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