Behind the scenes: Spring magazine

by Stine Fantoft Berg in October 2015
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Art & design

One very pleasant part of running the Stack awards is the number of magazines we’ve discovered along the way. Spring magazine is a good example – it’s been going since 2004, but we’d never seen it before it was entered into the Best use of illustration category.

Founded by the Hamburg/Berlin-based artists’ collective of the same name, Spring is an annual showcase of the members’ illustration and comic works. With little other information at hand, we contacted Spring member Stephanie Wunderlich and asked her to fill in the gaps on this brilliant illustration magazine.


Could you start by telling me a bit about Spring the artists’ collective ?
Spring was founded in 2004 by recent graduates and students of the Illustration class at HAW Hamburg (Hamburg University of Applied Sciences). They were very influenced by Professor Anke Feuchtenberger – an acclaimed German comic artist who established the comic course at HAW in the early 2000s. At the time they felt that the illustration and comic market in Germany was dominated by male artists.


What’s the role of Spring, the magazine, as part of your work?
Spring is an annual publication that features the work of the Spring members. It’s a way to promote the group as a whole, but also it’s a great way for each one of us to present our personal work.

Working with the magazine is a pause from the commissioned work that dominates our day-to-day; it’s free from clients’ expectations and it’s a place where I can experiment. It’s an outlet for us to express ourselves through our own visual narratives.

As an illustrator you work mostly alone, but in making Spring magazine, we all get together. It’s like being back in school! It’s great to be able to collaborate and to give and receive feedback on your work. It’s a very refreshing and inspiring way to work, which in turn refuels our individual day-to-day work.

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Why in the form of a magazine?
Presenting our work in a magazine unifies us as a group; we all have totally different styles, so using the same colours throughout ties it all up.

Also, I think there’s a whole different way of immersing yourself in print, that you don’t get by for example scrolling through a website. And when you pay for something, you tend to appreciate it in a different way than something that’s for free. It is really important to us that the magazine is printed in high quality, and that it’s an object in itself.

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Your latest issue is the twelfth, and you’ve been going for nine years now; what’s changed since you started?
We have definitely become much more professional and organised in the way we work. I also think that the quality of the magazine has increased for each issue.

Our latest issue is published by Mairisch Verlag, a small, but highly acclaimed publishing house based in Hamburg. We still finance the printing, but they take care of distribution and press work. It enables us to spend more time on the creative part, and less on administration.

This issue was financed half by the sales of the previous issue, and half by ads that were specifically designed for the magazine. We charge advertisers €350 for a full page and that includes the original artwork.


How did you come up with the theme for this issue, ‘private’?
In the initial planning, we all come up with different topics and collectively decide which one’s best. ‘Private’ is a topic that touches everyone and at the same time it promises to be personal. As I said before, Spring is a great way for us to do stuff that we don’t get to do in commissioned work, and the topics we choose often reflect that.

One thing I’ve learnt working with Spring magazine is that the overall theme doesn’t necessarily determine how the stories turn out – nearly any theme can result in an interesting personal piece.

The process of making Spring is very democratic; we don’t have an editor-in-chief and everyone is doing a little bit of everything. Because it’s a project that’s done on the side, it’s important that the balance is right between fun and duty, and that everyone takes part in the organisation of the project.

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Many of the stories hint at contemporary issues such as social justice, equality, and social media; to what extent do you have a political agenda as a group?
We want to be relevant, but without being overly explicit. Being an all-women group, we’re constantly asked why. It’s almost to the point where we feel like we have to justify it, and sometimes we wonder whether all-men groups are questioned as much.

It’s not our goal to be explicitly emancipatory – sometimes we ask ourselves if our way of telling stories, our choice of topics, and our way of depicting the world is somehow typically female. We don’t really have an answer to it – we all have different ways of seeing the world, regardless of whether we’re women.


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