Here at Makers North we are lovers of all things handmade, and especially things that are make here in Canada. It's no surprise then to hear (again!) how much we adore Uppercase Magazine. Uppercase if the creative concoction from Janine Vangool and is based in Calgary, Alberta. Completely ad-free, each magazine delves deep into a new theme and showcases makers, designers, and artists from around the world. We asked Janine a few questions about the magazine to share with you.
What inspired you to create UPPERCASE Magazine?
I started my career as a graphic designer and I used to freelance for arts and culture clients. Some of them were in publishing and I designed an occasional magazine for one of these clients. When that magazine folded, I started to explore the idea of publishing my own magazine. In 2008, there weren't any magazines about creativity from a broad perspective and the design magazines that I loved (such as Martha Stewart's Blueprint magazine) were ceasing publication. There wasn't a magazine out there for me anymore, so I made my own!
What is the mission of Uppercase Magazine?
The tagline is "for the creative and curious" and that sums up the eclectic nature of the magazine. Its content is inspired by design, illustration, vintage and craft. Over the years, as my readership has grown, my mission is to feature readers and their work as much as possible. There are always open calls for submissions and many of my subscribers have become contributors.
What is the biggest challenge you've faced with producing a magazine?
The biggest challenge is simply making sure that I don't burn out from all the work required to create the magazine. I'm publisher, editor and designer as well as running marketing, subscription renewals and logistics. My husband Glen handles the day-to-day customer service and filling orders.
How do you keep yourself motivated?
Having an eager and enthusiastic readership is my main motivation. Not only is it amazing that UPPERCASE is still going strong after 35 issues and counting, but having literally thousands of people waiting for the next issue is a vote of confidence—and enough pressure!—to keep everything going right on schedule, issue after issue.
What is your favourite aspect of the magazine's production?
I often say that designing an issue is the icing on the cake—after all the hard work of gathering content, editing, deciding and mulling things over, the fun part is getting it all together in the page design. That's typically only a couple of weeks out of every calendar quarter, so although I started out as a graphic designer, it is now only a small part of what I do. It's also a good day when a freshly printed issue arrives and turned out great! Ahh, the smell of fresh ink!
How long (on average) does it take you to put together an issue of the magazine?
An issue might be in planning stages for a year—at least from a themes and ideation side of things. But typically content is due some months prior to the issue's release to give me time for editing and design. The month prior to its release is for print production and mailing preparation.
How do you come up with the themes for each issue?
I've always got my eyes open! If there's a topic or area of exploration that inspires me or perhaps I see particular trends emerging, I'll jot that down as a potential theme and work towards finding more content to enhance it.
What are your long-term goals for the magazine?
That's a great question and one that I'm really concentrating on right now. The past few years have been about getting out of treading water and, at last, into a place where the magazine's readership is healthy and sustainable. I look forward to publishing many more issues—milestone issue #40 is coming up next year—and working on nurturing the longevity of the magazine. Publishing book projects such as the UPPERCASE Encyclopedia of Inspiration have been something that I love doing, so I plan on continuing with that series. As long as I can continue to do what I love, which is making and publishing books and magazines, that is my ultimate goal.
What has been the biggest surprise you have had with regards to starting and producing the magazine?
When I naively began UPPERCASE magazine, I had no idea how much work it would be! Particularly in the early issues. But over the years, with experience and processes in place, it has gotten easier each and every issue. My biggest surprise is that I'm still doing this nine years later and am still just as enthusiastic as when I began!