Silva Cunningham, Plates of Meat
20 year old Silva Cunningham started publishing Plates of Meat a year ago, using fashion and art to express her experience of becoming an adult.
Silva makes the magazine with the help of contributors from all around the world, with the primary focus on work being made now by young people in London. ‘For me it was the best catharsis I could’ve hoped for’ she tells us, as the fourth issue, themed ‘Phases,’ arrives. The issue retains its zine-like rawness even as it becomes bigger and glossier.
What are you up to this Monday morning?
I’m headed to my studio to do a fitting for a ‘teenage runaway’ shoot with a couple friends of mine. The studio is in Willesden Junction, sandwiched between two Cargiant warehouse—the whole road feels like it’s completely nowhere. On the walk to my studio from Willesden Junction there’s this huge hot spot for trainspotters, they stand on the foot bridge watching over the trains coming past consulting with their printed-out schedules for the day—I love it.
Having the studio is a big change to my routine – I was used to staying in my bedroom everyday, putting down binbags to make sure I didn’t damage my carpet. I just outgrew that operation and needed to find some space where the Magazine could grow some legs.
Describe your work space.
My desk has seen better days—it’s currently held together with fragile tape. I think it must have had a exuberant whole life before it came to me.
My workspace accurately resembles a 15-year old’s bedroom—it’s full of little things I’ve collection off the street and my walls are covered in random scribblings that rarely make any genuine sense to anyone. Maybe it’s so busy since it’s often rather lonely because the only person currently working on the magazine is me.
But there’s a brilliant little café opposite my studio—slap bang in the middle of nowhere which does a super cheap coffee and has freshly baked pastries.
I’ll often spend the day looking into a vast sea of assorted warehouses as my primary view. It’s a very ‘blank slate’ place to spend your time—it doesn’t really feel real.
I love hosting people at my studio—collaboration is a core part of my current practice, mostly because I think it’s so fun to work with someone you admire!
Which magazine do you first remember?
The first magazine I remember making any sort of emotional connection with was i-D when I was around eight or nine. It was the colourful eighth issue with Scarlett Cannon on the cover. I remember looking at this incredible person and thinking ‘I want to be her.’
The way Terry Jones laid out i-D in its early issues is of huge inspiration to me still. It wasn’t a fashion magazine that lectured you to be someone impossible, it captured what real people were wearing, where they got it and what it meant to them.
I also remember the barbie magazines vividly, they always came with brilliant little pink plastic Chachkis. I loved my barbie makeup phone, the tiny shoes, pens, pencils, etc. My favourite section of the mag was always the ‘bedrooms’ chapter – they’d interview someone from around the world with a barbie bedroom or just a pink room in general… it was so exciting to see this small snippet of kids from all around the world who felt so passionate about something (or I suppose someone) that they wanted to curate their own little corner of the world to reflect that thing they loved. It inspired me to do my ‘Twilight’ bedroom – I put a picture of Robert Pattinson on my ceiling so he’d be looking down on me as I slept.
Which magazine matters to you the most this morning?
PZWorld Wedding. It’s a wedding catalogue that pushes the imagery of matrimony to the extreme. It came out in 2019 while I was still doing my art foundation. The work included ranged from candle sticks that looked like champagne flutes to chair dresses to swan purses – the whole project is something that I still think about often.
A wedding cake they made for that issue read ‘bruise my esophagus’, and for some reason I haven’t been able to get it out of my head—I think it reminded me of how toys would be laid out in magazines from when I was a kid with the static white background. I made the first issue of Plates of Meat shortly after discovering that mag.
Describe Plates of Meat in three words.
Figuring itself out.
It’s an explicitly personal magazine, recording your experiences of growing up; how do you compile it?
Well at first it was something that was for my eyes only, a means to explore an alter ego that never really belonged to me. Being told that you’re in the process of growing up is a very bizarre feeling because it will always be true—you’ll always be growing up—but I would hear it all the time.
When I left school I was told that ‘this is when you’ll grow up’ and the same thing when I started university… I think Plates of Meat is so fun to make because I feel like I get to enjoy the process of becoming an adult as opposed to worrying that I’m not adult enough yet.
I often approach people for their work, especially if I think it’ll fit the theme of a particular issue. But more recently strangers have been sending in their work via my website and that’s been super exciting. I think it’s important for people of my age group to see their work represented in a printed format – the submissions are totally open all year round and I’ve gotten some really interesting things in. I put up some open submission posters around London a couple months ago and got some absolutely incredible things – of course not everything I got fit, and some things I received were downright disturbing but I’m so happy to see what people have going on.
What do you hope the reader will take away from the new issue?
I hope the new issue is something that people can see themselves in… we’re all going through phases and I wanted this issue to reflect that’s not something to be ashamed of.
I went through so many phases growing up and I was so embarrassed by all of them. When I grow out of my Harry Potter phase and I took off my faux round glasses I was mortified —when I realised Twilight was no longer cool I shyly came into sunlight and stopped pretending that the sun would make me sparkle. When I didn’t like adventure time anymore I had to buy new bedsheets because I no longer wanted to sleep inside Jake the dog.
Growing up was more fun then I gave it credit and in this issue I wanted to allow people to express some of their phases in a way that makes them joyful.
Has publishing Plates of Meat been a positive thing on a personal level?
I dropped out of my philosophy degree this time last year and felt terrified. I’d never lived a life outside of an institution and couldn’t see what that would look like.
Plates of Meat started out as a shy pet project. The first issue was the ‘Adolescence’ issue. It was about growing up and doing the best you can with the tools that you were given—for me it was the best catharsis I could’ve hoped for, creating something I was so proud of featuring people I really loved and sharing with people I admired.
Over this year of doing Plates of Meat the magazine has grown so rapidly—just in terms of quality. I mean on a base level I know how to use Adobe Creative Suite now which really helps.
I’m overjoyed by making this magazine—it’s certainly been something that’s been extremely positive for me.
Please share one piece of advice for somebody wanting to launch their own publication.
I think the best advice I ever got was to work with people you genuinely like. You can admire someone’s work but if the two of you don’t get along the final result may end up a bit incohesive. Work with someone compatible—it’ll make your life easy.
I’ve also taken on a muse. Its this eBay wooden Betty Boop figure that resembles some haunted doll.I think it’s important to have a muse, it keeps things fresh.
What are you most looking forward to this coming week?
I’m excited to hear what people think about this latest issue!
Other than that, I’ve kept my week free because I am so tired I feel like a living corpse and I think maybe a week of rest will do me good.