A last resort for things you don’t know where else to put, a half-way house for bits and bobs destined for the dustbin, or a secure store for valuables: drawers are a window to the soul. Eight editors reveal what they have hidden away.
Text by Mariette Wijne
This is the second drawer of a green Ikea cabinet that I’ve carried from workspace to workspace over the past 15 years or so. It contains all the material needed for book fairs and online orders: A logo stamp with lavender and royal blue ink pads that I use more or less, depending on my mood; printed A6 cards with our Girls Like Us manifesto, which we hand out at fairs or add to envelopes with online orders; some payment devices for card transactions, crucial for book fairs where the cash circuit is less and less present; a hard drive with all back issues, which somehow is the best and most logical place to keep it; lots of small notebooks where we keep track of all the sales at fairs; tags with prices, some crossed out, because we reduce prices as the end of a fair draws near. I keep them just as souvenirs, because we make new ones for each fair. But it’s nice with the handwriting, I guess. A sort of time-capsule of that specific moment in the making of the magazine.
As a small, independent and self-published magazine, I think the drawer represents our economy quite well. Book fairs and online sales are a crucial part of our survival strategy. You don’t pay bookstore fees, you’re in direct contact with readers, and you meet fans and allies. It’s half the fun of magazine making and definitely one of the reasons to keep going on. It’s nice to open and close this drawer time and time again and be reminded of why we’re doing all the work.
Editor and publisher of Girls Like Us, Amsterdam
I NEED THIS
I like things to be systematic and neat so I can focus on work. Chaos leaves me feeling a bit stressed and uneasy. Christoph, with whom I run Offshore Studio, gives me free rein when it comes to organizing our bookshelves, archive, any type of drawers, and the boxes in our studio kitchen. “I know you need this,” is what he says.
We have 3.5 desks in a shared atelier in a stacked container structure in Zurich. Our space is divided from our neighbours by a big shelf structure. We’ve lots of books and boxes in there, and this drawer is one of them. If I leave my computer my dog Billy always checks out what I am doing. That’s how her wire-haired Podenco paw ended up in this picture.
The black objects are pencil and brush cases that haven’t been used much in recent years. Too much time spent at the computer. But I’m slowly feeling the urge to draw again, do some sketching and maybe lino-cutting. I hope to find time for that when we go to the Jan van Eyck Academy in Maastricht for our residency next spring.
Migrant Journal explores the circulation of people, goods, information and even flora and fauna around the world. It represents ideas and points of views of the times we live in. Our readers evolved from design-savvy and architecture-focused types to people with backgrounds in political and social science, journalism, natural science, anthroposophical studies and so on.
We’ve also just released a limited edition box set and are working on a symposium which will function as our seventh issue, so to speak. As things stand now, this will take place in the Netherlands sometime in autumn 2020.
Editor and designer of Migrant Journal, Zurich
THE COMFORT OF PAPER
When I was starting The Outpost in 2012, I needed a desk for my new office, but I didn't have much money to spend on it. I found this perfect desk in the junkyard of the American University of Beirut, where they sell old furniture they want to get rid of. It must have belonged in the office of some professor. I don’t own a lot of stuff, but this desk occupies a special place.
One of the drawers is where I dump my finished notebooks after I’m done with them. A lot of my notes are really conceptual, visualizations of ideas I have in my head. Some are really practical, like where I try to create some sort of roadmap or figure out how to go from here to there. Others are inspired or just random thoughts, even some poetry. Sometimes I take a little notebook with me onto the dance floor, in case a good idea or a perfect line strikes me. I think I’m just so much more comfortable transcribing my thoughts using pen and paper than with a digital device.
The small brown Muji one must be the only one that’s not really full. On this one I write one-line poetry, which I stopped doing some time ago. So this notebook is not really finished but it’s not being used either, which why it’s there on the top. I haven't really made peace with it yet.
Editor-in-chief of The Outpost and Dance Mag, Beirut
FREEDOM OF THE DESK
Today is a good day for my drawer. Everything else is on my desk. My former boss at Time Out London used to comment on my mess. I hated that. I say: freedom of the desk! I’m a control freak on so many levels, but at the same time I’m an extremely disorganized person. Still pushing buttons on an old-fashioned card reader every time I have to transfer money. The postcard is a picture of worms. I’ve always liked disgusting, slimy things. As a child I used to lick slugs I found in the garden.
Underneath that postcard is a copy of Der Greif Magazine, who made a special issue on censorship; a copy of Drown, a collection of short stories by Junot Diaz; and the cultural supplement of The Sunday Times with a feature on Jane Austen’s only named black character.
And what is my passport doing in here? At the moment I’m not so proud of being British. Every three minutes I check the Brexit updates to see what fresh hell we’ve landed in. Rage is definitely a theme I’m interested in at the moment. Or at least my ideas connected to rage. We talked about complicated emotions while discussing the future of Ladybeard.
After the last beauty issue, we took a long break. Should we keep on focussing on sexuality and gender or are we free to do something else? We went to the Isle of Wight to talk about that. The railcard is from my journey back. It don't understand why this ticket is for people between 16 and 25 while I am 27.
I love visiting the Isle of Wight — my mum's from there — but I’m not a holiday person. I’d rather work, but I’m not sure that makes me that happy, so I’m trying to find a balance. At home I've moved my desk to my bed. It’s made working feel like an indulgent and romantic thing to do.
Co-editor of Ladybeard, London
GRAB A… BEER
The drawer belongs to an old-fashioned metal cabinet in the Buffalo Zine office. Our space is on the top floor of an old warehouse in Shoreditch. When we moved in, the previous tenants had left a wonderful array of mismatched office furniture.
The Bronzed Aussies were sent by Adrian Gonzalez-Cohen, cofounder and editor-in-chief of Buffalo Zine. He and his boyfriend Ryan (a Gold Coast native) sent it from Coolangatta on Adrian's first trip to Australia last Christmas. It contained a warning that he was never coming back to London. (But he did.) I got the phallus-shaped bottle opener in Athens. It’s a popular holiday souvenir in Greece (and many other places I guess). I always keep it handy in my drawer because you never know when you might need to grab a... beer.
I use this drawer every day — of course, that’s where I keep the chocolate! If I had to make room for more, I could get rid of the box with hundreds of business cards (I never use) with my name on them. The last thing I’d throw away would be the drive labelled ‘back-up photos’. I would want to kill myself if I lost my photos.
Editor-in-chief of Buffalo Zine, London
THE UNEDITED ME
I’ve moved house seven times since I bought this desk. It is a wooden desk with an embossed leather top which I found in a vintage furniture shop close to where my mother lives. When I brought it over to my apartment in Belleville, Paris, I was very happy to see it again. I’m really into this desk. It’s where I wrote my book eight years ago and where I edit The Happy Reader now.
The desk’s drawer is the last resort for things I don’t know where else to put. It shows the unedited me. And it weirdly presents me through things I don’t use. Christmas gifts of years ago. A pocket watch that stopped working. A knife I never take hiking. And two invalid passports — I like to fantasize that in a hundred years my biographer will discover I was in Morocco in 2007.
The map of Mount Athos is relatively fresh. I visited the Greek province — populated by monks — last June and wrote a piece about it for Fantastic Man. I bought this hiking map because I was anxious I’d have to walk between monasteries. In the end there were minibuses everywhere. Then at the end, afraid of missing my boat, I got a lift with two monks who drove as if they didn’t fear death.
The postcards were sent by a friend. We’re playing a game of chess using postcards to announce our next step. It took us four months to arrive at the third move. His name, by the way, is James Wignall. When we’re finished, he wants to present our game of chess as a work of art. I hope I win.
Editor-in-chief of The Happy Reader, London
PORTRAIT OF A SMALL BUSINESS OWNER
This photo shows our central working desk at REAL Foundation in London. The desk was designed by Adrian Gale, one of only two English architects to work for Mies van der Rohe.
REAL are at heart architects. Everything we do is thought of in spatial terms. The fold in Real Review is designed to create a three-dimensional volume out of what is otherwise a two-dimensional space. This allows us to push the relationship between image and text, as well as to introduce the dimension of time into the reading experience, through appearance and disappearance, or surprise and discovery.
The ashtray is from Hermès and one of the most beautiful gifts I've ever received. Most of the objects I use every day. Like the Rotring Tikky Graphic pens, all 0.8 mm, the Nicorette canisters for a quit-smoking inhalator, and a Plastic Number generator made by the Australian architect Andrew Power, which I use to generate pleasing proportional relationships in my architecture projects.
Collectively, though, I think these objects probably paint a portrait of a small business owner struggling to quit smoking, whose memento mori is a packet of matches from the WTC Twin Towers, which he picked up at the Windows on the World restaurant in 1997.
Editor-in-chief of Real Review, London
THE PRESENCE OF PANTONE COLOUR FANS
When I had only one calculator it was always going missing; someone in the office would borrow and not return it. Since I got a second one no one’s interested anymore. We need the Pantone fans for choosing colours for the print issue of PIN–UP, when we use special Pantone inks inside the magazine, or on the cover. It’s somehow comforting to have them near, to remind us of the attention to detail that we put into the print product.
PIN-UP is quite promiscuous in its use of colour. Only once did we use a colour twice. It was a kind of creamy yellowish white, somewhat reminiscent of the colour of German taxis. (Sadly, I forget the Pantone number.) We used it for the cover font of issue 17 (Norway) as well as for issue 26 (Desert).
The passport photo — yes that's me, albeit with darker and more hair — is probably from 2014, because it’s the same photo that was used for my US permanent resident card from the same year. I remember choosing to pick it up at the Brussels embassy, instead of the one in Germany, where I’m originally from. It was November, around Thanksgiving, and many among the embassy staff were wearing reindeer hats while the Wizard of Oz was playing on TV in the waiting room. A young African girl whose visa got denied sat near me, crying.
Editor and creative director of PIN–UP, New York