There’s a brand new outlet for creative provocateurs in the Catskills. Launched on Saturday, March 21, the first day of spring, Catskill Made is a “quarterly digital journal of artists and makers in the Catskills.”
Writer and editor Alecia Lynn Eberhardt and photographer, designer and web developer Tom Smith, both based in Saugerties, are the team behind the publication, which is built on a web application platform and can be accessed from a smartphone or a computer.
Catskill Made will investigate a different theme each issue; the first, “Equinox,” examines the idea of “balance” through multiple lenses. There are meditations on the coming of spring, on art therapy, and on the ways in which the cold winter months impact the making process. There are in-depth maker profiles: a potter, a weaver and a singer/songwriter. There’s a photo essay of luminous night time shots, and a collective interview in which random creatives describe their morning routines.
Abobe: Alecia Eberhardt and Tom Smith outside their Catskills cabin.
Watershed Post correspondent Anne Pyburn Craig asked Eberhardt, whose writing has also appeared in the WP, to tell us a little bit more about Catskill Made and the new boom in Catskills magazines.
Watershed Post: What's your background, creatively and personally; how did you come to be in the Catskills?
Alecia Eberhardt: I'm originally from Long Island, went to school in Boston, and moved to New York City to work in publishing before realizing it was not the right environment at all for me. I felt creatively stifled, since working for a paycheck to afford to simply exist in New York City occupied most of my time.
Tom is my creative partner as well as my actual partner; this has been a labor of love for both of us. We moved to the Catskills together from the NYC metro area. We had both been frequent visitors as we have family here, and we yearned for a place with a slower pace of life, fewer pretensions, friendlier people, and more authenticity — something we had always experienced on our trips here. So in the summer of 2013 we made the leap, and almost two years later, here we are.
I studied creative writing and publishing, and when I'm not editing Catskill Made or writing for our other project, Diner Porn – the book is coming out soon! — I freelance as a writer, copywriter, editor, and social media strategist. Tom and I run a creative company called Eberhardt Smith, and through that channel we conceptualize and produce digital and print media. Catskill Made is kind of an extension of that.
Q: Why create a maker’s journal as a flagship?
AE: When we first moved here, we were really inspired by the fact that the Catskills have such a maker-driven culture. I think it's a combination of things. The lifestyle is a little slower, so people have a bit more free time to devote to passion projects, maybe, or more financial freedom (sometimes), or the fact that they're so close to the raw materials for many of the products — especially true for food and drink — or the fact that there's a necessity for making in a place that doesn't have every product known to mankind at its disposal 24/7, like in a city. (I touch on this a bit in my piece on crafts in the Catskills.)
But whatever it is, people here are very hands-on, very creative and I totally connect with that. We wanted to explore what it is about this environment that fosters or allows that lifestyle. In fact, if CM were ever to expand to include other regions — we're talking way in the future here — I could see us taking on the wider focus of rural and mountain-based artists, creators and makers who live outside of the major "art" capitals of the world.
Catskill Made actually had a brief life last year as an online shop, and we were writing and photographing pieces about the makers to accompany their collections in the shop. But after we realized we're not business people (creatives, through and through) and that we loved the storytelling and documentary aspect much more, we shut down the shop and transferred our attention to the editorial aspect. And voila — the magazine was born.
Since the Catskills have been having their "resurgence" as of late, we'd been seeing a lot of publications and websites out of the city about the region but aimed toward New Yorkers just visiting. These publications seemed to hit on the same places and feature the same people again and again. It's impossible to deny the effect that New York has on the Catskills region, but we wanted to expand the horizons a little bit, and create something that featured a larger group of people and was appealing to locals, visitors and people just interested in art and creativity.
Q: Catskill Made has a very distinctive look. Does art director Tom Smith have an articulated guiding philosophy in creating it?
AE: I think minimalism played a big role here. While Tom was conceptualizing and developing the site, a sticky note with the words, "Do you need it? No? Delete!" stayed stuck right next to his computer. He really wanted to create a platform on which the content could really stand out, and a platform that was flexible enough to allow us to use all the benefits inherent in a digital publication — the ability for links, videos, etc. He actually built the site specifically to fit the parameters of what we needed for Catskill Made — it's a custom web app. So that allowed us to really slim down the appearance and only include what we need.
The photography, too, was all done by Tom, and I think there's definitely a strong cohesive "look" to his work that complements the magazine. It’s warm, it has a very authentic and real feel to it. Authenticity and honesty and breaking away from pretentiousness was a huge consideration throughout the development of the magazine, and I think that affected the look quite a lot.
Q: What type of work do you hope to publish in Catskill Made?
AE: We are open to all different kinds of work. We're quarterly, so we're definitely not a news magazine, but feature articles, personal essays, historical narratives, research-based pieces, poetry or flash fiction, interviews, all of those could find a place in the magazine. We're also open to the contributions of other artists who create drawings, paintings, videos, photo-essays, that kind of thing. It's content-driven — we have a theme each issue, so we're looking for a variety of content that explores that theme to really thoroughly. Our spring 2015 issue — issue 1 — is called "Equinox," and the work inside deals with the changing of the seasons and finding "balance," both in nature and in life. The next issue is tentatively themed "Tribe," with the idea being how the artistic community works together, supports each other and collaborates.
Q: Where’d you come up with the idea for the "collective interview," in which random people are invited to chime in? That was a lot of fun to read.
AE: I don't exactly where it came from! I was doing a lot of surveys for my marketing/branding clients at the time, and if I had to guess, I'd say it originated from that process—asking a lot of people their opinions on the same topic. I think it's pretty cool to be able to see everyone's answer side-by-side and see the trends, or the differences. For example, in the morning one, I was surprised to see how early everyone woke up! Kind of debunks the myth of the lazy freelance artist. Now that I can demonstrate the collective interview to people and they can see how it works, I hope to get a wider array of responses. Now I just have to think of a good one for the next issue.