Glossy Talk: Slow magazine - Frankie for grown-ups?
"While it is true that we are not a library, I would rather have happy browsers than an empty shop," wrote Mark Fletcher of Australian Newsagency Blog recently. "It’s my job as a retailer to do everything possible to convert the browsers into customers."
And so it was that I came across Slow magazine: newsstand browsing in that old-fashioned way. Laced with witty, colloquial copy and leisurely features and columns, Slow is "for people who think life's too fast... People who are more than happy to take some time to read stories about people, wine, music and the unhurried way of life." I liken it to Frankie for grown-ups.
In keeping with the slow movement, I have been slow to catch on (issue #4!) but I savoured every inch as I made my way through its 130 pages over cups of tea and coffee, messy splodges of which are now embedded on the pages – though I think editor Jacqui Mott would want it that way ("Tea is a friend of slow," she writes in her 'From the editor' note. "It's traditional, natural, sensory and most gratifying").
The magazine is devoted to life outside the big cities, which some will find foreign and alienating (or else a welcome escape) but I found a comfort given I reside on "rural" ground. But the interviews with creative types, like author/cook/publicist Kirsty-Mannin-Wilcox (this month's beautiful cover subject), Sunday Mail cartoonist Neil Matterson and designer Jo Nathan are worth a read regardless of your geographical circumstance.
Mott, who runs the magazine from Castlemaine, Victoria, has worked for The New York Times, London's Sunday Telegraph and Rolling Stone and clearly has a nose for a good yarn and clever copy. Slow brings together elements of Frankie, Real Living, Jamie, Top Gear and the late Vogue Entertaining + Travel. Though much of the content is parochial, the human interest angle brings out universal themes – of savouring life; of finding one's path; of having a laugh. This is a magazine with HEART.
The Really Good Bits
- The profile features. I took something away from every one of them. Crafted with heart and wit, the writers take themselves inside the world of their subjects and relay what they see, hear and smell, leaving us with a well-rounded picture of what this person is like: what drives them to do what they do and live how they live.
- Manning-Wilcox is effervescent. Brendan McCarthy has captured her at home with his lens, while Sue Peacock applies her writerly skills to four pages of text. We learn she's co-written a garden recipe book called We Love Food, using her years as a book publicist to identify a gap in the market. She uses words like "lambasted" and five years ago moved to the country with her young family. I implore you to read this piece as much for Peacock's skill with words and McCarthy's photography as Manning-Wilcox's story (replete with recipe for pea and ham soup).
- 'Pollie want a punch line?' is a profile of editorial cartoonist Neil Matterson written by Genevieve Barlow. Great insights into how he works, why he can't stand working in a newspaper office and finding his professional feet.
- The 'Totter' section takes us to Woodend, Victoria, where you can visit the Hanging Rock made famous by Peter Wier's 1975 film Picnic at Hanging Rock: "Note: the locals would prefer you didn't bellow 'Miranda where ARE YOU?' from the top. They've heard it all before," advises Peacock.
- Through the 'Slow Spy' product pages (this month it's everything beginning with 'H') I learn about Bob Shop's customised pass the parcel games. Fun!
- 'The Italian Job' tells us about the Ballarat Italian Association by way of one man's rekindling of heritage almost lost through integration into the Australian community.
- Like the latest Yen magazine, Slow takes us to four art galleries via 'Counter Culture'.
- As a teetotaler (in the capacity of a vegetarian who occasionally eats meat) I'm not in the habit of reading alcohol reviews, but I really enjoyed the 'Bottleneck' page. A novice and an expert have given comparative appraisals of a Craiglee Shiraz 2006. Entertaining.
- Jeremy Booth takes a Toyota Camry Hybrid on a road trip and writes home about it in 'Just good friends.' His assessment? "It's a top car but it doesn't actually involve you in the driving process. In fact, you don't actually drive it, you steer it... There's a great deal about this car to admire. But it's not a car I could ever love. Instead, we're just good friends." Even I can relate to that! Think Top Gear meets Australian Traveller.
- Unlike most mags, which give album reviews about 50 words a piece, Slow gives us at least 200, each with a 'standout track' and rating out of five. The reviews are given context, with notes on each artist in addition to comment on their new-release. Joanna Newsom's Have One On Me is given five out of five. The reviews are rounded out with a Q&A-style interview with indie/folk artist Young Werther together with a list of five songs that have slowed him in his tracks (it would be ironic to buy them on iTunes, no?). Equal kudos for the book review pages.
- Meet designer Jo Nathan via Lauren Mitchell's 'Wool Class', which takes us to her home sitting on 1200 acres in Deniliquin, Victoria. "Her career was forging ahead in the city but there was always a nagging feeling there was a different way to live," writes Mitchell. "Her craft was al about quality, handmade, slow-made materials: perhaps her life could be too?". Nathan graduated from RMIT, lectured in knitting, travelled and showed her knitwear at Australian Fashion Week in 2007. But after a trade show in Paris, she took stock. She says (I LOVE these quotes):
"I just thought, oh my God, this world is so huge, so competitive, it's such a big, big world. I didn't know where to go... so I came home... I'm more relaxed now knowing what I do has its place. I didn't have to chase things, I can settle in this market, live the life I want to live and have my own designs. It's made me stronger and more settled in who I am. It's been a big journey and I feel like I know the path now."
- 'Dwell' introduces us to the concept of living in a shack (four architects design their dream shack). Given Husband is trying to convince me to set up home in a SHED (I kid you not), I've warmed to the idea after reading this piece. The concept is all about simple living in pared-down spaces. "I see shacks as having one or two people living in them, they're a place to get away without all the mod cons. And in design, it's the little things that will make the difference," says architect Robin Larsen. Going by his sketches and philosophy, he can build my shack any day.
- Jamie Durie and his The Outdoor Room comrades might take interest in the 'Grand Design' feature about good garden design by Michael McCoy. I am one of the people who "don't care a fig for plants" but thoroughly enjoyed this piece, which left me with a smug air of knowledge.
- Slow treads on Vogue Living territory with 'Master Peace', a 10-page profile of Australia's leading abstractionist, Robert Jacks. "Some artists have sketchbooks; I don't. Instead I have bits and I throw them in a suitcase. But I have these small paintings which dry overnight. I can stack them away... and when there is seriousness all day, you need a bit of fun, so with a glass of wine I just relax and paint whatever comes." I love the images of his workshop and tools.
- Jacqui Mott covers the art of "casseroling" in 'Hearty & Soul'. The perfect meal for chilly nights, "casseroles are famous for transforming cheaper cuts into classy cuisine – I'm talking fork-friendly, flavourful, standout fare."
- Academics Nick Trakakis and Michelle Boulous Walker write of the slow movement – and the pursuit of wisdom, "academic Darwinism", philosophy, the artist, "essayistic reading" – in 'We're not the only ones'. Bookish nerds like moi will feast on this piece.
- Brigitte Zinsinger takes us to Saint-Germain-en-Laye in Paris. "Tell a Parisian you live in Saint-Germain-en-Laye and you're going to elicit an enchanted ah, c'est superbe! in admiration of such a good address," she writes. J'adore this five-page feature – to the very last column inch.
- Pauline Murtagh pens a column about Melbourne eatery Lentil as Anything. "The atmosphere and compassion behind the concept made me want to pay even more than I would for upmarket silver service. If I had a million-dollar bill, I would have left it. This is a place that sums up everything great about living in an Australian city – community, multiculturalism, food and innovation."
- The last page, 'Slow Cooker', is one out for my own heart, given I'm a newly minted slow-cooker owner (thanks, Mum). This issue, it's roast chook.
The Not-So-Good Bits
- Pollyanna Sutton (how I envy your name!) goes to Thailand to shed her fatigue via a detox. Five bags of supplements, a colonic, a blood-sugar fasting test and starving your body till your next juice fix? I'm skeptical. This is more GOOP than Slow, surely. The idea of a five-day detox seems to rail against everything Slow stands for. "Detoxing is focused work, with appointments, supplements and juices to coordinate; this is not simple unwinding," she writes. Still, I enjoy her lively account of this self-inflicted, bourgeoisie torture regime.
- Jo Nathan's creations (under the Woolliwoolli name) are modelled by two girls over eight pages. No heavy Photoshopping. Big tick!
- Not exactly "pretty" but I love the image of Broderick Smith (musician, copywriter, occasional actor) in his big old chair.
Glossy Rating: 4.5/5. While the mag is no doubt catered more towards people of my parents' vintage, and for Victorians, and I've been slow to catch on (ha ha), I thoroughly enjoyed spending time in the company of Slow issue #4. It's a breath of fresh country air; a wholesome, hearty magazine to peruse over a slow-brewing pot of tea.
Glossy ads: Acqua Viva Day Spa; FiveFingers.com.au; Passing Clouds wine; Mon Coeur housewares and furniture; Melbourne Farmers' Market; Russel Parsons Builders and Designers; Kyneton Toyota...
Blosses: Jacqui Mott, publishing editor
Girl With a Satchel