Interview: Amelia Gregory of Amelia’s Magazine

This week we’re in for a special treat: we’re doing an interview with Amelia’s Magazine’s founder Amelia Gregory; and also a review of her latest book: Amelia’s Anthology of Illustration, featuring renewable technologies to prevent catastrophic climate change. First up? The interview!

Amelia's Anthology of Illustration

Everyone knows Amelia’s Magazine, but not many know the lady behind it all. Could you tell us a little about yourself please — your background, how and why you founded your company, etc.

Well, there’s quite a lot about the history of the creation of the magazine on my website, but I can give you a small potted history of me if you like! I trained as a printed textile designer at Brighton University in the mid 90s, and from there I went onto become a chalet girl, snowboarding every winter, and returning to London in the summer to share a studio with friends whilst trying to become an illustrator and waitressing.

After three years of that I thought I had better get on with some kind of career so I applied for internships at magazines and eventually found myself working in the fashion cupboard, first at Arena magazine and then at The Face, now both defunct but then part of the Wagadon publishing empire (also defunct!) After that I went freelance as a stylist and moved into photography before setting up Amelia’s Magazine in 2004.

Robin Hood Tax by Abigail Daker

Robin Hood Tax by Abigail Daker, from this article

And how did Amelia’s magazine came about? I’m a huge fan of your magazines. They’re awesome — much like collectables! I was sad to hear that the magazine ended its run a while back — what were the reason behind the ceasing of the magazine?

Thank you for your kind words! Basically I just became bored of having to adapt my creativity to other peoples’ whims, and thought I could do something more interesting myself. I named Amelia’s Magazine after myself because I wanted it to be very clear that it was a highly personal and non-corporate project. And from the start I concentrated on producing a very high quality publication, which was made possible by extensive sponsorship for the first few issues. I also had a web presence from the very start as I knew this was going to become increasingly important – I was streaming featured music on the website right from the first issue, and the website has always been interactive as well as acting as a shop. Nowadays of course the magazine is the website… funny how things turn out!

There were several reasons for stopping the magazine in print. I always planned to make 10 issues and then see how I felt about continuing. The lack of advertising was wearing me down, making it financially nonviable, and I was spending increasing amounts of time managing a huge team of interns and contributors when what I really wanted was to get back to doing the fun creative parts myself. I also had plans to improve Amelia’s Magazine online and I wanted to have a go at producing books. I knew I couldn’t do everything so something had to give! It just seemed the right time to stop I suppose, but I will never leave print entirely – I brought out Amelia’s Anthology of Illustration in 2009, and I hope to bring out another book later this year.

Two of Hearts card for the Shelter Card Quilt by Lesley Barnes

Two of Hearts card for the Shelter Card Quilt by Lesley Barnes; info here

In your short bio, you mentioned that you are a publisher, art director, editor, graphic designer, writer, blogger, photographer, lecturer, climate activist and a ceilidh caller — how do you manage to stay on top of it all? What is your daily schedule like?

I don’t really have a schedule – I make lists but I am pretty disorganised and I’ve always got a million things to catch up on. I quite often imagine some relaxed carefree time somewhere in the future which is quite clearly never going to happen – but having said that I clearly thrive on being busy because my mind is always whirring away with a million different ideas. I suppose I don’t really relax very much because if I did I would probably become bored very quickly.

I am inspired and enjoy doing so many different things so I suppose I just try to fit in as many as I can, although there are many more that I don’t seem to have time for. I’d love to learn the banjo and the accordion – both long time wishes of mine that have yet to be fulfilled. The trouble is I don’t really like practicing, so I’d like to just be proficient straight away. Dream on! I’d also like to start doing jewellery classes again, but I stopped doing those when I was single and realised that singing and making earrings were really bad ways to meet men. I still take singing classes two nights a week….

Solar Impulse plane by Thereza Rowe

Solar Impulse plane by Thereza Rowe, from this article

Let’s talk about your book. What was the impetus for the topic of renewable technologies?

Over the past few years I’ve really struggled with the confluence of my interests – on the one hand I love the creativity of fashion, photography, illustration, art and music, and yet I am also engaged with all things sustainable, including climate change activism. When I stopped producing Amelia’s Magazine in print I added another section to my blog, the Earth section, which encompasses all things creative in the world of environmental awareness.

For my first book I wanted to try and bring the work of those unsung heroes – the inventors and scientists who are dreaming up ways of producing energy more sustainably – with illustrators who could actually imagine this alternative world. Because half the reason we don’t know more about these renewable technologies is that they are beyond our capacity to imagine. When I looked around no one else was tackling the subject, so I thought I’d better give it a go.

Professor Brian Cox, a collaboration between between Abigail Daker and Lesley Barnes

Professor Brian Cox, a collaboration between between Abigail Daker and Lesley Barnes, from this article

How do you select illustrators to be in the book? Were all the submissions included, or were there a few you had to leave out?

I had about 150 submissions for the book, and from these I weeded the selection down to the 40 illustrators who were included, so quite a lot were left out. But it didn’t stop there – because of the way the book was put together I had to ask most of the people who were selected to do some more work for me – I art directed them to ensure that their depiction of each technology worked within the context of the whole book. In the end the project became very much about the process of art direction for me and them. This aspect is probably not obvious.

Double page spreads of the Anaconda by Liv Bargman

Double page spreads of the Anaconda by Liv Bargman

Any particular favourite you’d like to mention from the book?

Oh blimey, I have met so many wonderful illustrators through putting this book together I am not sure where to start. Many of them have carried on working with me on a regular basis, which has been absolutely wonderful. And what is even better still is that they are all collaborating with one another, having met each other through being in Amelia’s Anthology of Illustration. I can watch them chatting away on twitter together and I feel so proud. Like a mother hen. I suppose the ones who I have the closest working relationship with now are the ones I am most impressed with – being in touch with the people you work with on a regular basis is so important as an illustrator. It’s all about networking. You can be incredibly talented but if you don’t get out there and promote your work then you are whistling in the wind.

So, from that point of view, I would highly recommend looking at the work of the following illustrators. Abigail Daker, who is based in Cyprus, specialises in children’s illustrations and does the most amazingly detailed maps and aerial views. Thereza Rowe is a Brazilian now based in London who does lovely whimsical geometric and animal based designs in a very unique colour range. She also runs a wonderful blog that I urge you to check out. Lesley Barnes used to work in quite a monochromatic colour range, but I made her use colour for the endpapers of Amelia’s Anthology of Illustration, and she has since found her colour mojo: she can’t get enough of the stuff. Her work is quite graphic and always beautifully magical.
Of course there are so many more, and all the illustrators featured in the book are wonderful in their own ways.

Issue 10 of Amelia's Magazine

Issue 10 of Amelia’s Magazine, cover illustrated by Messymsxi

What do you think is the biggest challenge for illustrators today?

There are just so many illustrators out there that the biggest challenge is getting your work seen and known. There isn’t a massive market for commercial illustration – at least not of the type that most illustrators enjoy creating – so illustrators need to think of imaginative ways of networking and finding clients. Another big challenge, particularly for up and coming illustrators who are just finding their feet, is to make sure that you have a very definable style which is instantly recognisable as your own. Many new illustrators come to me who seem to have several styles, none of them particularly strong. When an illustrator is not confident enough to stick to one style then it doesn’t inspire confidence in an art director – as an illustrator you should be able to deliver exactly what is expected when given a commission.

Deep Green Kite by Leona Clarke

Deep Green Kite by Leona Clarke

What would you like to advise illustrators about getting their work out there?

I think it’s absolutely imperative that illustrators engage with social networks – in fact if I do another book about illustration I will insist that those who apply to be in it prove that they are networking furiously online. It is that important. Every illustrator should be twittering and facebooking and blogging and flickring and numerous other types of social networking – tumblr I think is becoming increasingly important too. At the moment I think that Twitter is the most important network for illustrators: allowing them to communicate and collaborate on a minute by minute basis. Every illustrator should get on twitter, post their work, find similar people and start chatting right now.

Sea Gen by Karolin Schnoor

Sea Gen by Karolin Schnoor

So now that the book is done, what’s next? What’s keeping you busy?

Er….. a book is never done, not when you are also the publisher – I am still trying to sort out the distribution, particularly internationally. I also need to chase up sales at bookshops in the UK and I will visit the London Book Fair next week to meet possible buyers. But mainly I am trying to complete the redesign of Amelia’s Magazine online, which was a process that started a year ago and still isn’t finished. It has been an ongoing nightmare. (A warning: web developers are a pain in the ass. Never believe their promises: I have learned the hard way.)

I am also trying to blog every weekday, which is quite intense since I usually write quite long, in-depth and opinionated blogs with illustrations. I am constantly going out to art exhibitions, gigs, performances, press days and interviews. As well as managing the section editor interns, who are now working freelance from their own homes. I have just finished designing a range of greeting cards for Roger La Borde and I need to start thinking about the next book properly so that I can put together an open brief on my website (ED’S UPDATE: Amelia just announced the brief for her next book, and it’s all about fashion!). I desperately need to earn a bit of money to keep me going, so I should also probably concentrate a bit more on finding some decent paid work. And a trillion other things…

Two of Hearts card for the Shelter Card Quilt by Thereza Rowe

Two of Hearts card for the Shelter Card Quilt by Thereza Rowe; info here

Thanks so much for your time Amelia! Before we go, could you tell us one random thing about yourself?

I live in a state of constant disarray – my house looks like a jumble sale. Before I started producing the magazine it was tidy and wonderful, but over the years all the stuff I have been sent by PRs, plus boxes of magazines, have piled up all over the place and now threaten to take over. I need to find time to sort it all out, but have no idea when that will happen. I feel the state of my house may reflect the contents of my mind – which is usually all over the place. Oh, and I have mice and moths living in the house, squirrels nesting under my window ledge, wood pigeons nesting in my guttering and a fox who sleeps just outside my back door. Chaos reigneth.

Additional links that you might want to check out:

A collaboration between Lesley Barnes, Thereza Rowe and Abigail Daker. This actually happened after I chose to recommend those three! Which goes to show…

Another collaboration that has happened since I first answered these questions is when I interviewed Thereza and Lesley I asked them about the importance of twitter..

Here’s the original open brief callout for Amelia’s Anthology of Illustration.

And here’s the latest open brief callout for fashion illustrations!

You can buy Amelia’s Anthology of Illustration over at Amelia’s blog!

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{Thanks so much Amelia! I’ll be doing a brief review of Amelia’s Anthology of Illustration tomorrow, so stay tuned!}

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3 thoughts on “Interview: Amelia Gregory of Amelia’s Magazine

  1. amelia is so supportive of do many illustrators…she works so hard to promote and support all of us…and amelia’s magazines are probably the most inspiring things on my bookshelf!

  2. Pingback: Interview: Amelia's compendium of fashion illustration

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