Michelle Morris. also known as That Black Chic, is the editor of Sewn Magazine, a print sewing magazine dedicated to showcase the diversity in the sewing world and to celebrate creativity.
Being a former print journalist myself, I’m beyond impressed with anyone starting a print publication, since I’m very familiar with the all the moving parts that go into the process before the finished magazine lands in our mailboxes. So I was very eager to learn more from Michelle about the magazine and how it’s made.
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Tell us about Sewn Magazine
Sewn Magazine is my answer to the void in all the nationally published sewing magazines which are makers of colour! This is not your traditional sewing magazine and I am not competing with the likes of Threads, Sew News or the other more educational based sewing magazines. My magazine is based on a fashion magazine, showcasing home sewists, bloggers, professional designers and makers of all skill levels.
We are introducing artists and makers of all nationalities creating everything from garments, textiles, art, dolls, t-shirts and everything else in between. We also have partnered with some fabulous Indie pattern makers who have provided free patterns to our readers. We also include at least 8 tutorials in every issue. I just have to say this, my magazine it not just for black people! This is a Non-traditional Fashion Sewing Magazine for anyone who’s interested in art, fashion and sewing.
What made you decide to launch a print sewing magazine?
I had to do a print magazine, I just had to! I personally don’t care for digital magazines and I wanted to create something that I could put in my hands. Our pages a full of colour and excitement and fashion, it turned out better than I could have ever imagined.
Some people are like you are crazy and I agree I may be a little crazy. Because I chose this route the magazine is not profitable but it is paying for itself and I’m OK with that at this stage.
Each pre-ordered bi-monthly issue sells for $14.99 and a lot of people say why is the magazine price so high? I have to gather my thoughts and go into a professional mode to answer those questions sometimes. What they don’t know is how hard, I worked really hard to get the price down to this price. A digital magazine would totally be profitable but I feel like I have more control of my product and I want to keep it this way for a while.
You have done eleven issues so far. Producing and distributing an indie print magazine is no walk in the park. What have been some major learning curves for you?
Can I get an amen! Oh my goodness my first issue was a huge learning curve because I had to pay out of my pocket for most of the shipping charges, which was $3.66 per issue for shipment in the US and $10.72 per issue for international shipping and we sold 430 issues!!! I did my research but when it came time to ship all the information turned out not to apply to my dinky 430 magazines! It was almost over before it began but my husband said carry on and so we did.
I also sold yearly subscriptions for once price and then I had to stop that because I realized although I was collecting that one-time subscription payment, I was spending that money on things for the magazines and there was no money left to cover the printing of those future issues. Yikes! So I took a beating for those first two issues that we put out but I was able to fix those two major issues to where I was not coming out of my own pocket.
There has been a lot of discussions lately about the lack of representation in traditional sewing magazines. And Sewn Magazine offers a fantastic counterpart to that. What are your thoughts about representation and Sewn’s place in that movement for change?
So the need for change was exactly why I created Sewn Magazine. I have noticed more representation but not nearly enough. When I started this venture I created my own opportunities to show my personal work in some of those same national sewing magazines that lead me to create my magazine.
I have also noticed that makers of colour need to put themselves out there to be a part of these publications and not just talk on the sidelines.
What dreams do you have for the future of Sewn Magazine?
I have big dreams of where I want to take this magazine. I am getting closer with every issue and if I am afforded the opportunity to quit my day job…or rather get up the nerve to quit my day job, I know I can put more focus and time into making this a profitable venture. I want this magazine to leave a positive mark in the sewing community and to be something I can leave to my children.
Michelle was also interviewed on the Love to Sew podcast recently.
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