At Work With: Jessica Lowe, Cat People
Cat People is a wonderful example of the strange corners magazines can occupy. Published from Melbourne, Australia, it features interviews and work by cat-obsessed artists, designers, photographers and writers. It’s perhaps no surprise it’s popular in Japan. Here we look ahead at the week through the eyes of co-founder Jessica Lowe.
Where are you today?
This morning I’m working from home, which is the house in Melbourne’s North-East that I share with my partner (and Cat People co-creator) Gavin Green, and our two Siamese cats. Not having to commute to work everyday is one of the wonderful things about being freelance.
What can you see from the window?
I’m lucky to have a large North-facing window just to the right of my desk, and it is letting the sunshine stream in. We’re up on a small hill and get a sweeping view of the dog walkers and cyclists at this time of the morning.
Do you work better in the morning or the evening?
Better in the mornings, but the magazine has forced me into new habits. The time difference between Melbourne and the rest of the world means that we usually receive a clutch of emails overnight and can respond en masse in the morning. Likewise, in the evening I’m tending our various social media and winding down. The middle of the day is usually free of interruptions so it’s a good time to be creative and get things done.
What's your favourite magazine today?
I just received the latest issue of Quotation (Japan). This is their Gift edition, featuring interviews with 46 creatives about their favourite Christmas gifts. My partner, Gavin, and some of our Japanese friends are featured which makes it extra special.
And your favourite cat?
Our two Siamese cats, Lola and Lulu. Although they may not be favourites by the end of the day - trying to use InDesign with cats sleeping on your keyboard presents several challenges.
Some people might assume Cat People is a Lolcats internet spin-off, but though there’s an element of that in the issue there’s a serious side too. Describe how cats link the stories in the magazine.
Given the concept, we expected some hasty, dismissive opinions about the magazine. It was important for us to distance Cat People from any kind of internet-cat-meme throwaway from the beginning and to focus on creating strong editorial content. The magazine uses cats as the thread between artists and their respective creative practices. Working within the parameters of ‘must be a cat person’ allows us to curate an editorial agenda that is potentially incredibly broad yet inclusive and cosy. It’s a fun space to be in.
The magazine is bilingual, English–Japanese. Are you expecting a large Japanese readership?
Such a large part of the inspiration for Cat People came from our love of Japanese culture and publishing - especially the way they combine such high levels of production with very niche concepts. We were surprised nothing like Cat People existed in Japan, and were hopeful that it could find an audience there if our Japanese readers could get a full experience of the magazine, text and photographs.
Our launch at the Tokyo Art Book Fair last September sold out all our advance copies, and we have gone to to sell about one-third of the entire run in Japan. Working with Takashi Homma for his photo-essay in our first issue was such an honour, and he has been crucial to the magazine’s success in Japan. We’re also thrilled to be working with some of the most amazing bookshops there, such as Utrecht and the big Tsutaya in Daikanyama.
What are you least looking forward to this week?
Writing back to stockist enquiries saying ‘Sorry!’ because after only three months, issue one is almost sold out! We are an annual, so it might have been nice to enjoy a little more shelf time. Still, it’s a good problem to have, and we haven’t yet ruled out the possibility of a reprint.
What will you be doing after this chat?
Zipping down to the post office for the Monday run. We usually get a few orders over the weekend and I like to stay on top of that.