On today’s episode of the Craft Industry Alliance podcast, we’re talking about creating a textile magazine with my guest Polly Leonard.
Polly Leonard is the Founder of Selvedge, an internationally renowned textile magazine that was launched in 2003 and now has almost one hundred issues to its name.
From its modest beginning on Polly’s kitchen table, the magazine revolutionized the way textiles are presented and quickly became the world’s leading textile publication. It now has a readership of over 75,000 and a dedicated international following. As well as a magazine, Polly has since launched an online artisan emporium, as well as The Selvedge World Fair and creative collaborations with the likes of Liberty, Anthropologie, The National Trust, and the V&A.
Polly has specialist knowledge in all aspects of textiles, with a particular interest in the role textiles have played in the evolution of humanity. Her own textile practice encompasses using weaving embroidery and basket making to produce sculptures. She has taught and lectured around the world. Selvedge combines her passions for social history, fine art, and craft.
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We begin this interview with Polly talking about her formal training in embroidery and weaving in the UK, and the time she spent studying in the US as well. Polly didn’t study journalism and came to writing magazine articles, and then publishing her own magazine, after many years spent teaching art classes to children. Once she became a mother she needed work she could do from home and began writing about the topic she loved best. Polly explains how she had a vision for a very different sort of magazine than those that were on the market at the time and decided to go out on her own and create Selvedge.
Photographer: Richard NicholsonCopyright © Richard Nicholson
We talk about how Polly determines the types of articles and photographs that go into Selvedge. We also some of the ins and outs of the business itself, including paying contributors and supplementing the magazine with events and a shop.
I ask Polly how she feels about the word “craft” and about her feelings about Etsy and she shares her opinions on both. We also talk about Polly’s succession plan – the magazine has just recently published its 100th issue and I was curious about how she envisions the business when she is no longer working in it.
Finally, we talk about how Selvedge has pivoted during the pandemic to host online events and reach its international community of readers in new and exciting ways that Polly feels will last beyond this period.
And, of course, I ask Polly to recommend great stuff she’s enjoying right now. Polly recommends:
- knitting socks
- the European Textile Network
- classes on Swedish wool embroidery taught by Anna-Karin Jobs Arnberg who is mentioned in this issue of Selvedge