I did this little interview with Oh Comely magazine’s deputy editor Rosanna Durham a few months back, with the intention of getting this blog up and running then, but it ended up taking a backseat to a few other things…
I’ve just revisited it and I realized I still wanted to post it, even though they’ve just released an equally lovely 9th issue. (Have a look at that one here)
Oh Comely is such a sweet and thoughtful publication, authentic, honest, original and inspiring - they’re genuinely doing something unique in the industry, and that is a long, cool, very refreshing drink of water after so many super similar magazines falling under the ‘women’s’ and ‘pop culture’ mag banner.
How did the magazine come into being?
Oh Comely was the idea of Des Tan, who wanted to make a different kind of women's magazine. A group of us worked on it from the start and most of us are still involved. We loved magazines and wanted to make one.
Who is it for?
We want Oh Comely to be a magazine that everyone can enjoy, but our core readers are creative, young women. We also have lots of very passionate male readers who sometimes transpire to be those women's boyfriends or brothers.
What do you think people like best about it?
I'm not sure. For myself, I like Oh Comely because it doesn't try to dictate a single way of seeing the world. Reading Oh Comely, I want people to feel that being creative is not an exclusive field of experience - something for artists, designers and the talented. Being creative is also way of looking at the world. It might be staring with wonder as milk turns your coffee black to beige, or making a haphazard quilt for your closest friend. I hope people feel happy when they read Oh Comely.
Your covers are a little different from the usual - what was the intention behind that?
A love of white space and desire to keep it simple.
What were your favourite pages in the current issue and why?
In Issue 8, I particularly like Yann Faucher's series of portraits of people with tattoos. He has an emotional and tactile way of taking a portrait. Also, it was great interviewing everyone he photographed: there were lots of different stories and approaches that folk had to their tattoos.
Louise's story stood out. She has "stupid little white girl" tattooed down her leg in Japanese, and a whiskey bottle as well as many others. She doesn't take their meaning very seriously, and I like the way that she wears her imperfect tattoos with a light humour and lack of vanity. Halfway through working on this feature, Yann and I realised we both had had a piercing done by Louise - she works in a piercing/tattoo parlour. She'd pierced Yann's eye-brow and my ear. We both sat in a cafe one morning and laughed about that. I don’t think she ever found out.
What are your favourite magazines and why?
The New Yorker is probably the best magazine I've discovered since discovering magazines but I'll always be faithful to my first love: Cabinet: A Quarterly of Art and Culture.
I admire the innate curiosity that Cabinet has about the world. It was the first publication that surprised me intellectually and creatively. At home, I have a special shelf where all my back issues of Cabinet are kept and I am deeply engaged in hunting down past issues.
I've recently read and enjoyed KnockBack and FAQNP. Reading KnockBack is a bit like therapy for my sense of womanhood, if that doesn't sounds too silly! It's a feminist mag that gets excited about the correct use of punctuation. I like the way FAQNP is designed, and its stories are great: where else would you read about Hindi typography and the salacious world of central European bath-houses in between the same two covers?
Also, an art history journal that I read first at university is important to me. Called October, it was the first magazine that I engaged with (if you can call a journal a magazine). It has an interesting story behind its founding: the editors split off from Art Forum and created October as a publication about the word and idea, not the surface image or otherwise. That's a simplified digest of a political tale but the design of October has stayed with me long after leaving university. It is utterly pared down, with only blacks and reds used, and a clear-minded take on layout and typesetting.
If Oh Comely were an afternoon tea treat, what would it be?
A biscuit, probably. Or perhaps a really good cup of coffee. Or maybe a snooze on a comfy sofa, with a great dream included.