Claire Milbrath wasn’t getting shown anywhere. Her paintings weren’t being featured in the right art magazines. Galleries were sceptical of her work.
She was caught in the Catch-22 of the art world: without a publication credit or exhibition, you can’t get shown; and without getting shown, you can’t get a publication credit or an exhibition.
But while living in Montreal, finishing a degree in history, she decided to take matters into her own hands – starting an art publication out of her bedroom.
“I wanted to be the first magazine to showcase the painter who’s just graduated, or the person who’s decided to become a painter at 40 years old,” says Milbrath.
With no experience in design or publishing, she chose the name The Editorial Magazine to play off the same stiff professionalism that every rejection letter seemed to communicate through.
“I thought it was funny to borrow the format because all the artists in our mag were unknown and untrained,” Milbrath explains.
She printed 60 copies of issue one, opting naively for size-12 font, like her university term papers, which ended up looking cartoonishly big on a magazine page. But six months in, Milbrath got laid off from her day job.
“Once I didn’t have to go to work for 40 hours a week, I felt like someone lit a fire under my ass. I had 12 months to figure this out because I never wanted to go to work again.”
Milbrath threw herself at the magazine. She taught herself graphic design with YouTube videos and holed herself up in her room for heavily caffeinated, multi-day stretches.
She screenprinted her own merch from her bedroom, handled the shipping, organised collaborations and brought on an all-female team of artists.
“Our motto is fast and shitty,” says Milbrath. “A lot of people’s projects get slowed down or don’t even happen because they’re worried about it being perfect.”
Determined to stay independent, Milbrath struggled to get the word out without corporate backing. Instead she walked around her neighbourhood and peddled her mag to stores that would carry it. And it worked.
“I’m really nervous about what would change [with sponsorship]. I don’t want to have deadlines or anyone telling me what to run for content,” she says.
Milbrath’s eye for curating new work, a tongue-in-cheek interview style, and The Editorial’s simple, unpredictable design pushed the magazine forward.
The Editorial came to capture the energy of Montreal’s indie creative scene. “Someone said that Montreal is like Never Never Land. I never want to be professional, or feel like I’m a full adult,” says Milbrath. “It’s kind of shitty here, but I’m into it.”
Subscriptions grew, as did distribution, allowing the magazine’s community to develop even further thanks to the internet.
With correspondents in Toronto, New York and Tokyo, The Editorial is introducing readers to the next generation of independent artists shaping culture from the street-level up – and Milbrath doesn’t even need to leave the house.
“That seems sustainable for me,” says Milbrath. “Maybe because everything’s a bit spread out. If it was an IRL community, that couldn’t last forever.”
How can I keep the fire burning with my own independent project?
Pull from multiple sources
“It’s all about inspiration. You have to research and look at a lot of different sources, like a lot of different ideas, so you’re not just copying others.”
Don’t undervalue the to-do list
“I’m really into simple to-do lists. Sometimes it’s just a list of names of people who I know I haven’t replied to. It’s just really satisfying going down a list.”
“Self-discipline is infectious. It’s a weird thing where if you just do one task, then you’ll be more motivated on the next task. I always want to see how much I can pack into one day.”
“Have events and launch parties. Involve a lot of people. The parties were a big thing for us – people came to know about The Editorial launches. And those parties generate money for printing.”
Set your limits
“I’ve made a rule that I can’t check my email before I’ve had a coffee, because I used to wake up and open my phone. I’m trying to space it out because I think it was taking over my life a bit.”
Check out The Editorial Magazine.