Kati Krause is a Berlin-based writer, editor and curator, a fellow magaholic who is co-founder of the Tinta de la Casa magazine events. Today she leaves her role as Creative Communications Manager at Etsy Germany to concentrate on freelance work including projects with Freunde von Freunden and the new magazine she co-founded, Winter.
Where are you today?
I’m currently in my flat in the Scheunenviertel neighbourhood in Berlin, doing some work before I go to the office. Last night Ana Lessing, Kevin Braddock and I finally had time to get together (above) and celebrate the launch of Winter – at the same restaurant where we had the idea, Goldener Hahn – so I’m a bit slow this morning. However, it turns out that’s the perfect state of mind for dealing with emails to shops, so maybe I have inadvertently cracked one of the secrets of independent magazine publishing: distribution should be done hung over.
What can you see from the window? (assuming its not iced over!)
Iced over? It’s been nearly 20°C these past few days! Try selling a magazine about winter in this weather. From my window I can see the street below in its usual weekday morning business: lots of people on bicycles, on their way to work or to drop of their kids at school. Delivery vans. My neighbours, who’ve been living in our building ever since they occupied it in 1990, are slowly assembling in the sunshine at the outdoors tables of the café opposite for the day’s first coffee, cigarette, and gossip. We’re in central Berlin, but this neighbourhood feels like a village.
Are you a morning or evening person?
A morning person. But that’s a recent development which basically coincided with my move from Spain to Germany in late 2011. In Barcelona I would work all night, at a tiny desk in my bedroom, drinking whisky and smoking while I wrote. Now I get up at 6:30 in the morning and swim or run or do yoga, and then I get an hour of work done before I go to the office. I also smoke and write much less. Except emails. I write lots of emails.
What’s your favourite magazine this morning?
I’m currently reading Fluter, the magazine published by the German federal government’s Centre for Political Education and edited by the same people who make Dummy magazine. It’s free to subscribe to and primarily aimed at people aged between 15 and 25, and it’s so good that I look forward to it every month. Even my flatmate reads it, and he’s 45. It’s monothematic: the current issue deals with commerce and its economic, social and psychological implications, and what I love about it, apart from its conceptual thoroughness and the surprising angles it approaches subjects from, is that it questions everything. Nothing is taken as given, everything is seen a construct that could just as well be very different. I’m still amazed how many great and intelligent magazines aimed at young people there are in Germany, especially considering our demographic realities.
Winter seemed to be announced, crowd-funded and executed in a matter of weeks. Talk us through its conception.
We already had the idea last autumn. Ana, Kevin and I had been wanting to make a magazine together for a while. We’d had an idea of a different magazine that I felt quite excited about but we never really got it off the ground. We weren’t the right team for it, and I think that with publishing, as with most creative or business ventures, it all depends on the team. On everybody having their hearts in it, but also on having complementary skills and preferences, because otherwise there’s no way you can launch a magazine while also working full-time, which we all do. Anyway, that night we went out for dinner and they told me that magazine we’d wanted to do wouldn’t work out, but that we should just make another one. I was disappointed and a bit petulant, even though I knew they were right, and I ridiculed the notion that we could just come up with a new idea on the spot.
What you have to know to understand this is that Berlin winters are notoriously bad – long, very cold, with weeks without any sunshine – and since the previous winter had been one of the worst on record, everyone was freaking out about the impending winter at that time. In fact, people had been talking about little else since, like, August. So that night, we joked that we should just make a magazine about winter, and I remember that as the words were spoken, we were all quiet for a moment and then someone said: “Wait, maybe that isn’t such a crazy idea.”
That same night we already developed the whole conceptual framework of the magazine, namely, to make the magazine about the themes or emotions we associate with winter, to avoid too literal an interpretation. These words would also provide the narrative arc, as it both the season and the magazine go from lightish to very dark and back to light again. We spelled out our mission statement, namely, to make a magazine that captures the season’s contradictory emotions and allow for something beautiful to come out of winter. And then we did pretty much nothing until mid-January.
In mid-January we regrouped and realised we had to make a decision: if we were going to do this, we had to get our act together. We had a very definite deadline. Initially, we’d wanted to publish at the end of February, the end of the meteorological winter. But we pushed it back until March 20, the end of winter as per calendar. We kind of hoped that, like last year, it would still be winter by then. Oh well.
And then we got to work. It was good to have such a definite deadline, it instilled a sense of urgency and discipline not just in us, but also in our contributors. We met up once a week to discuss the status and hand out tasks, and here’s where the team dynamic comes in: each of us focussed on what she or he can do best. We negotiated a discount with our printer (attention, plug: Druckerei Conrad, we love you!) and launched the crowdfunding campaign. The campaign ended up covering less than half the costs, but it’s great to have that advance and it also served very well as a pre-launch publicity campaign.
During the two week before we went to print on March 5, we worked weekends and weekday nights, often only two of us instead of all three because our schedules weren’t compatible. We spent half a day just on the flatplan, because not only were we such sticklers for conceptual consistency (light-dark-light), we also used eight different types of papers (light-heavy-light) to simulate the different states and colours of snow, and all those breaks had to work. There were moments when my brain felt fried. But there was always someone to relieve me when that happened, just like there was always someone to insist on not taking the easy way out when we felt tempted to. Team work, I tell ya. In the end, we had so much fun doing it that already before we sent Winter to print, we decided to turn it into a series: A Mag for all Seasons.
Berlin is home to many independent magazines – a number of your contributors are from local titles like Flaneur, der Wedding and Manzine. Why do you think Berlin has such a healthy indie mag scene?
I think it’s not just Berlin, but all of Germany. The Berlin magazines just tend to get more international exposure. Print media is in a very healthy state in Germany, both in the mainstream and in the independent sector. People value them and are willing to spend money on them, for some reason. That has upsides and downsides. On the one hand, it means loads of good magazines. The separation between editorial and advertising has been maintained much more rigorously in Germany than elsewhere, and advertisers seem pretty cool with it, so magazines have to compromise their content much less. On the other hand, it means that the print and online editions of most publications are produced by completely separate teams, with print not taking online overly seriously and loath to share its (financial) pie. In 2014. That’s a bit depressing.
What’s your favourite season (and why)?
Early summer. I was going to say spring, because there’s nothing like that sense of rising from the dead that comes with spring, which leads you to fall in love with every second person you meet. And spring in Berlin is truly spectacular. (I guess the that harsher the winter, the better the reward.) But even spring feels like something of a prelude. I find that of all the seasons, there’s only one during which I don’t think about the next season already, either expectantly or with dread, a season that lets me just be. And that’s early summer.
What are you most looking forward to this week?
That’s an easy one: taking a plane to Istanbul on Wednesday, where I’ll be for a week before flying to Tokyo. The past few weeks have been a constant race against the clock, juggling Winter, my day job at Etsy and my freelance editorial work with Freunde von Freunden. But on Thursday, I’ll get up, have an extensive Turkish breakfast and then spend the day working from a seaside café by the Bosphorus.
What are you least looking forward to this week?
What will you be doing after this chat?
I’ll go to the Etsy office. Today is my last day as Communications Manager at Etsy Germany, which means exit meetings, returning all my equipment and lots of good-byes. It’ll be quite sad, but luckily I have a meeting with my accountant scheduled in the afternoon to lift my spirits.
Portrait by Nicola Holtkamp