At work with: Cristina Merino, The Plant
Cristina Merino is editor-and-chief of The Plant, a journal dedicated to a fresh look at the horticultural. Founded in 2011 with art-directors Isabel Merino and Carol Montpart, the biannual journal features the work of photographers, illustrators and designers who share their love of plants. We start the week at Christina’s desk as she contemplates issue eight of the magazine and eagerly anticipates the arrival of spring.
Where are you today?
I’m having a cup of coffee and planning the week ahead at the office. The studio is located in the middle of Barcelona’s Gràcia district and it used to be a laundromat. I work part-time here, sharing a 12.5-meter long table with graphic designers and architects. This means the space is full of books and magazines, blueprints and mock-ups; you can be sure you will find something really interesting going on in every spot. I really like this inspiring environment.
What can you see from the window?
There’s only one big window in the studio, but along with the skylights we have plenty of sunlight. My place is the closest to the window, which means I get most of the sun during cold days like today. There’s an open-air courtyard full of potted plants and a barbecue for special occasions. There’s a banana plant we are a bit worried about because a big spider is nesting on it; we also have several ferns, spider-plants, some roses and also cacti. It’s kind of chaotic but it’s definitely a luxury in a city where there’s a lack of parks and green spaces.
Are you a morning or evening person?
I’m definitely an evening person. When I was a student I remember working until late in the evening. Afterwards, working as a journalist at the daily newspaper I often had to work until closing too. This routine is not something you would easily change, so I still get the best out of me working afternoons and evenings. I usually finish all my mails and administrative work in the mornings and then focus on the creative and writing work. That way my head is free and I find it much more peaceful, productive and inspiring. The worst part to be honest is the snoozing of the alarm in the morning but I am working on changing this - however not yet with the desired success.
Which magazine do you first remember?
When I was about seven I used to go to the newsstand with my parents and buy an animals’ magazine which name I can’t remember. I remember cutting out these pictures of super-cute baby animals. Later I went crazy with one of my parents’ friends’ National Geographics, although what I enjoyed most was Sunday’s newspaper kids magazine.
What’s your favourite magazine this morning?
On top of the pile here on my table you can find the latest issue of Graphic, which features a series of really interesting interviews with small independent publishing companies. Les Cahiers Purple is on my bedside table.
What is your favourite plant this week?
At this time of the year I’m always craving for yellow mimosa flowers! I can’t really say winter in Barcelona is hard but I’m already so anxious for spring to come that I can’t resist them. That yellow brightens up every space, not to mention the heavy and delicious smell and the fact that they also decay beautifully.
The magazine started off as The Plant Journal. Why did you drop ‘Journal’?
The team always referred to the magazine as The Plant, so for issue three we decided to shorten the name. It sounds more emphatic and even more captivating so I’m sure it was the right decision.
Are your readers super-keen gardeners or people that enjoy the idea of gardening?
The Plant has never been a practical magazine for super-keen gardeners. Each issue we include a monograph about a particular plant with practical maintenance information but the magazine is more about how people experience plants and how they relate to them. In fact, despite none of us is or was an experienced gardener, we decided to start a magazine about plants because we simply couldn’t find any magazine that would fulfil our curiosity about plants and go beyond the correct trimming of north facing bush roses.
Seven issues is a good run of magazines. What are your hopes for The Plant this year?
If someone has told us in the beginning, that we will publish seven issues, I’m not sure if we would have believed that person. Not because we didn’t have confidence in the project but because we are always more comfortable working on a day to day basis. Our idea is to work hard to make each issue better than the previous one.
Each issue features a guide to a particular plant (most recently the asparagus fern). How do you decide on the plant each issue?
Usually it is one of us who has a clear idea of the plant we should talk about. There are many facts that we consider when we choose a particular plant: from our personal intuition to its caring needs and its ‘artistic’ potential, which we show through the illustrations that go along with the practical information. In any case we always try to choose ordinary plants with a special charm so people get encouraged to find it and take care of it.
What are you most looking forward to this week?
Sunday, lazy breakfast, aperitif, a good meal and a long walk.
What are you least looking forward to this week?
Thursday, meeting with the accountant.
What will you be doing after this chat?
Checking some emails and in one hour I'll have a Skype meeting with The Plant London team. While Isa Merino (art director) and myself are based in Barcelona, Carol Montpart (art director) and Kate O’Brien (editor) are in London so Skype has become our medium.