Winter comes to Berlin

by Steve Watson in March 2014
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Art & design

It’s a universally accepted phenomenon of magazine making that you’re always working ahead of time. For weeklies that means trying to keep pace with the news and entertainment that will be relevant in a week or two’s time, and for long leads it means the sometimes bizarre far-sightedness that has made Christmas in July into an annual event.

But a magazine launches in Berlin today that takes the opposite approach to timeliness. Made by Kati Krause, Ana Lessing and Kevin Braddock, Winter takes a look back over the season just gone to create a “souvenir” of the dark days that we can keep with us as the year rolls by.

I haven’t seen a copy yet, but judging by the spreads after the link it’s going to be a beautiful and fascinating magazine, with lovely arty touches like eight different types of paper, which in their colour and weight represent the different types of snow.

I’m nothing if not a sucker for a concept, so I caught up with publisher Kati to find out more about the project.

Winter magazine

First things first. Why make a magazine about winter?
We had the idea last Autumn. It was actually at a dinner that Kevin, Ana and I held to officially declare another magazine project dead. I really wanted to do this other magazine and they basically sat me down and told me, “No, it’s not going to work.”

And they gave you a dinner for that?
That’s right. I was a bit petulant that evening, and they were, like, “Let’s make another magazine!” And I was like, “Fuck you!”

Berlin winters are legendary for being harsh, because they’re so dark. And the winter of 2012-13 was one of the worst on record, so by the time we had that dinner all of Berlin was already talking about nothing but the impending winter – everyone was so scared of it. So that evening when they suggested making another magazine, I said, “Yeah whatever – let’s make a magazine about winter.” But they were, like, “Oh, wait! This is a great idea!”

As we talked about it that evening we realised that we find winter really fascinating, because it’s so important to so many people. And we have such contradictory feelings about it – there’s the idea of darkness and loneliness, but on the other hand winter, at least in the northern hemisphere, is when Christmas happens, which is when everyone is thinking of family, which in itself isn’t necessarily a positive thing. So it’s a big emotional turmoil.

We wanted something beautiful to come out of this winter – some little souvenir that we could take in our hands and look back on. Something to show maybe it’s not all so bad after all. Or at least it might be bad, but hey, we’re all in it together.

Winter magazine

So how long have you been working on it now?
Well we didn’t really start working until mid-January.

Okay! And when was that first conversation?
In September.

So there was a gestation period.
Erm… yes. But it also took us a bit of time to work out how we wanted this to be structured. Because you start out saying you want to make a magazine about winter, and the danger is you end up with a magazine that’s 130 pages of snow. So how do you make sure you have a story to tell?

We came up with this idea of asking all contributors to give us one word that they associate with winter, and we said that their contribution should be tied to that word. So for example we have Warren Ellis writing about electricity, because that’s something he really associates with winter, or for Peruvian journalist Diego Salazar, winter is all about rain.

You mention Warren Ellis – you’ve got a really stellar list of contributors.
Yeah – I guess I’m a little bit shameless sometimes… You just ask them! I just ask them – like Teju Cole, I just tweeted at him one night, three days before our deadline. The design was already finished but I saw that he had put together a tweet list about winter that he called Winter Sequence, and I knew I really wanted it in the magazine so I sent him a PDF and he really liked it and wanted to be part of it.

I’m amazed at the way that everyone has been so generous with their support for the project – everyone from contributors to people who joined in the crowd funding campaign. And that’s why we decided that we’re also going to make Spring, Summer and Autumn issues as well.

Winter magazine

There’s an obvious question here, in that we’re now very definitely coming into spring. Is it a problem that you’re bringing out a magazine of winter in the springtime?
Of course it is! It’s a massive problem! Everyone’s asking me this – aren’t you a bit worried? And yes, I’m massively worried!

We were initially aiming for 28 February, but we pushed it back to today, and we knew that was the absolute definite deadline, because it’s the official start of spring. So that was good, because if we hadn’t had that deadline who knows where we’d be right now. Also the weather this year hasn’t been very… forthcoming.

Good news for everyone else, not so good for you.
Yeah – this time last year it was still deep winter. Timing wouldn’t have been any problem whatsoever!

But the important thing is that this is timeless, and it’s something that has grown out of winter. Anyone who has ever made a magazine knows what it’s like – I’m working on the summer issue of a magazine now, and that means working on shoots and wondering how you can simulate a feeling of summer.

For the reader that’s okay, but as the maker you can’t help feeling that you’re faking it. Whereas this is something that has come out of winter – everything in there actually happened in winter, and this is like the memory of it, which will be just as valid next winter as the winter after that. But we’ll see how it goes – I have no idea. It could be a massive flop.

Winter magazine

It’s not going to flop! I’m assuming you don’t have an office or anything though – how did you actually manage to work together to make it happen?
Luckily Ana had rented a new office shortly before we started doing this, so that was out headquarters. When we made the flat plan we printed out all the pages and covered three quarters of the office floor with these pages and spent two hours moving them around.

We’ve used eight different types of paper, so we had to make sure that all the separations worked. And also we have a very clear narrative arc in mind. We separated stories into lighter content and emotionally heavier content, and the magazine starts lightly, like when you’re still fooling around about winter, then it gets really dark, then it gets light again and a bit silly.

The paper does the same thing too, which is a bit of an experiment – we’re working with paper stock between 80gsm and 150gsm, so it goes from very light in the front to super thick in the middle, and then it goes to light again. But to flat plan that was a massive headache.

Winter magazine

So what happens now?
Today’s the launch, so we’re just having a party. We’ll get drunk and play music. But then the actual hard bit begins – we have to sort out the whole accounting, because now we’re suddenly publishers and German tax laws shouldn’t be taken lightly!

Buy your copy of Winter and find out more at A Mag For All Seasons.

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