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At Work With: Tim Milne, Container
At work with

At Work With: Tim Milne, Container

This week is a big one for Tim Milne, the man behind format-defying magazine Container; after months of hard work the first issue is released. A limited edition box containing ten objects created around the theme ‘Hot and Cold’, Container is a logical extension of Tim’s day-to-day role running print consultancy Artomatic. Ten artists and designers came up with the ideas, and Tim then sourced the parts and producers. The result is a fascinating set of conceptual pieces that together test the idea of what a magazine is. Here he shares some of the process behind the project and looks ahead at launch week.

What can you see from the window?
Er, not much—the building opposite, and if I go right to the window and crane my neck, I can see a bit of sky. But that’s normal in London, right? I am very lucky, I work in Clinic’s fabulous Farringdon office with a huge space to lay all my stuff out on. Needless to say, since Container is about physical objects, it generates a lot of detritus in its creation—samples, prototypes, testing, proofs and development all end up on the big table.

How many emails are waiting in your inbox?
Oh, as I write, 26,476, but that's only because I operate no filing or organisation to my inbox. I find the combination of a good memory for vague notions and associations (wassisname) plus a search function means I can find anything I need. And if I don't need it, I guess it's one of the 26,476.

What’s your favourite magazine this morning?

I hate to say it, but right now, Container, only because everything is coming in and it all looks fantastic. It’d be fair to say that I completely underestimated quite how complicated it might be to put together—so, it’s become a bit all-consuming. Not much time for anything else, though I do subscribe to Private Eye and especially editor Ian Hislop’s preference for print because it allows him to keep stories in the news that would otherwise be (conveniently) swept aside.

Container questions the idea of what a magazine is. In your view what are the three main attributes that make something a ‘magazine’?

I think it’s fairly simple really. But, one that’s about to change. Currently, it’s probably: 1) varying content from different and / or varying contributors; 2) published (in)frequently; and 3) it’s probably some variation on a printed book. To my mind, number 1 is the element that’s useful and durable—we already understand something with rotating or changing content. Number 2 is a bit irrelevant when there’s no need for deadlines, which are themselves caused by printing. A periodical isn’t always on. And number 3….why is it always a book?

Container is an exercise in applying number 1 to the question of why-number-3 and using the model of number-2 because it allows me learn from my mistakes on subsequent issues. Make sense?

In one sentence, how would you describe Container to someone who hasn't seen/heard of it?
I’m familiar with this task. I do it a lot. Though I’m never sure of how good an answer I give. Container is a publication about the nature and culture of objects—exclusive objects on a specific theme from different contributors gathered together in a box. A simpler description is that its a periodical about objects made of objects.

Music CDs with hot/cold titles swapped to make opposing pairs, by Rebecca and Mike

Unfortunately, like a few things I’ve done in the past, Container defies easy description and the magazine association is the bit that throws people—if I say it's a magazine about objects, people think it's some kind of collectibles anthology. Even though we all understand the idea of a magazine TV show or store as something with rotating content, we get caught up in a magazine being a book. And I really don’t see why we should—it's an association that seems to be very pervasive.

What was the hardest item to source/manufacture for the launch issue?

It’s very hard to say. All of them have presented their own challenges at varying stages. James Bridle’s (above) was the first to get finished; Daniel Eatock’s took the longest to make and Accept & Proceed’s was the last one to lie down. None of the issues were ball-breakers, but collectively it's a bit daunting—there are 48 different materials and processes involved, which is a lot of conversations to have on a daily basis, all of which begin with “How are we getting on with…?”

Wooden chip forks with punchlines from lolly stick jokes, by Violetta Boxill & Nic Roope

It’s been very interesting as a creative production exercise, very different from working commercially. For one, we've had the freedom to change things as we go and not had to make something finished to show someone else.

Who would your dream contributor to issue two be?
Someone from an unconventional creative discipline like a scientist, philosopher, economist, chef.

What was the last thing your designer said to you?
I’ll call you back.

What are you most looking forward to this week?
Container launching tomorrow.

What are you least looking forward to this week?
It not being ready.

What will you be doing after this chat?
Making a call that begins, “How are we getting on with…?”

Read Jeremy Leslie’s column about Container in July’s Creative Review (edited version online here).

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