Seven Questions for Vintage Magazine Founder Ivy Baer Sherman

The new issue of Vintage Magazine, with linoleum-inspired covers by Chip Kidd. Below, editor-in-chief Ivy Baer Sherman in a photo by Victoria Jackson.

Technically, Vintage Magazine is—you guessed it—a magazine, but the term fails to convey the visual and tactile pleasures contained within its covers, which for the fourth (“Quatrième”) issue are a multi-flap affair designed to evoke the look and feel of vintage linoleum. Inside is a cabinet of curiosities worth of architecture- and design-focused features that range from musings on the enduring legacy of Elsie de Wolfe to a glimpse inside the New York townhouse of Robert and Cortney Novogratz—in the form of a DIY pop-up created by paper engineer Shawn Sheehy. The woman behind this biannual celebration of design, culture, and the creative possibilities of print is Vintage‘s founding editor-in-chief and publisher Ivy Baer Sherman and as we pored over the new issue, she told us about the origins of Vintage, the challenges of producing each issue, and the importance of living with flair (and Flair).

What led you to create Vintage Magazine?
Several years ago I was introduced to Fleur CowlesFlair at a 2003 retrospective of the magazine, “Fleur on Flair,” at the Pratt Manhattan Gallery. I was struck, at first glance, by Flair’s beauty…and promptly judged the magazine, as we are taught to never ever do, by its exquisite cover. The distinguishing feature of a Flair cover was a die cut—which offered an artful glimpse onto the world within. Turning the cover revealed further delights—foldouts and fabulous illustrations—by Saul Steinberg, by fashion designer Rene Gruau; riveting writing—Salvador Dali on his search for a gypsy angel, Tallulah Bankhead on Louis Armstrong; short stories by Tennessee Williams. I left the show acutely attuned to the extraordinary physical draw of a magazine: the lure of stunning design, the striking sensation of ink on paper, the ravishing commingling of keenly-wrought words and fine art and editorial flair, the tactile quality of the read. I knew then and there that I wanted to create a magazine in the spirit of Flair for today’s audience. Voilà, Vintage Magazine.

How do you describe the editorial mission/philosophy?
Vintage Magazine aims to bring aspects of the past to the fore through a celebration of design and the creative possibilities of print—writers and artists are invited to survey the historical impact of art, music, fashion, food, and travel on today’s culture. With naysayers focusing on the demise of print these days, what better time to take the art of the magazine to new heights; to create a truly vintage publication, if you will—one that informs, inspires, surprises and delights.

Tell us about the amazing cover of the Quatrième issue and how it came to be.
What an honor to work with Chip Kidd—legendary graphic artist/cover designer. I wanted to do a Vintage version of an architecture and design issue. I talked this over with Chip at our first meeting, my only stipulation being that his cover design allow for the magazine’s signature open spine. Chip said that that he’d wanted to try something multi-layered and suggested the resulting homage to vintage linoleum.

Each layer of the cover reveals another pattern of linoleum—the construction is reminiscent of those sample rings of clacking linoleum chips that one finds in flooring showrooms; the paper stock has been selected to evoke a linoleum feel. The printer and binder worked to ensure that the integrity of the cover design would be maintained without compromising the magazine’s structural stability.

Chip’s cover thus sets the reader on a grand house tour from the floor up. One walks across the linoleum and through the jagged die-cut doors of the table of contents (embroidered by art student Heidi Loening)—and into a home (laid out as I like best)—greeted by books and library, into the bedrooms and interiors, then stepping outside to exteriors and facades, houses, villages, school buildings near and far—then back inside to the kitchen, the oven, the dining room and out…perhaps wishing for more to explore.

Lounge Act. A feature about bed jackets that appears in the “Quatrième” issue of Vintage.

Do the intricacies and exquisite design details of the magazine make it a challenge/nightmare to design and print? How does that process work?
Vintage is something of a portable museum, each issue a new exhibition that I have the pleasure of curating. Once I have a piece in hand, I work to see how best to interpret and represent it—seeking to explore how this particular artist’s/writer’s voice can blend and riff with graphic design, texture, dimension. Once a concept is in place for an individual piece, I pull back for an overview. Each piece must stand on its own while serving the overall flow of the issue.

Never a nightmare, always a thrill to design and print Vintage. A resplendent collaborative journey. It takes a village—or more precisely, “a trio of New Hampshire companies”—Puritan Capital Offset, Custom Die-Cut, New Hampshire Bindery—to produce each hand-crafted issue of Vintage. It takes expert skill and creativity at every step. It takes keen attention to detail. It takes myriad machines—the Heidelberg Speedmaster (that prints sheets from metal plates), the Polar-Mohr Eltromat (that trims), the truly vintage Heidelberg Schnellpressenfabrik (that die cuts), the Smyth Europea (that threads and binds), among others. It takes an intrepid paper engineer (Shawn Sheehy) and an exceedingly patient and talented graphic designer (Regis Scott). It takes many hands, each adding to Vintage’s distinctive personality.

Besides Vintage, what are some of your favorite periodicals, past or present?
Well, there’s Flair, of course. And avant garde magazines—as an English major at Barnard College I did a senior project on Dada-ist and avant-garde writers whose works appeared in literary journals which they designed and printed themselves—I discovered these extraordinary publications in the library and subsequently presented my paper in the form a mock avant-garde journal. I didn’t have a distinct career vision at that point, but the attraction to the majestic confluence of type/art/literature was established. I am currently reading a biography of the ballet dancer Vaslav Nijinsky—there is a description of the art magazine Mir Iskusstva (The World of Art) founded by Serge Diaghilev: “It was luxuriously produced with half-tone blocks on art paper and decoration in line in the text….” Ahh, how I would love to hold a copy!

What’s the best creative, business, or life advice you’ve received?
I go by the concept that if you have a vision upon which your mind’s eye holds constant gaze—bring it to life. Put on those blinders—don’t get distracted—give it your all—do it with integrity at every step, an eye towards excellence, and steadfast attention to every detail. Sprinkle in patience. You can make things happen. Really.

What do you consider your proudest publishing/magazine moment?
Removing the blinders, if you will, when the first issue of Vintage launched—I was overwhelmed by the response from so many readers from so many countries, of so many ages, with so many interests; I heard from students; from graduate and design schools in London, in Israel, wanting copies as examples for teaching; bookshops in Europe, in the Middle East and museum shops from Tate Modern to Chicago’s MCA all wanting to carry Vintage. Having the finest artists and writers as contributors—a great honor for me. I am deeply appreciative of it all.