The readers of American Craft, the magazine of the American Craft Council, expect to read stories about the creative process – both the struggles and the triumphs – and the life of artists and creators. The magazine staff is now telling its audience about the triumph of the magazine itself.
American Craft earned the overall 2018 Magazine of the Year award at the recent MMPA Awards of Excellence. Editor in Chief Monica Moses and her coworkers surely have struggles like all artists, but those are not on display in the pages of the magazine. Congratulations to American Craft for its excellent work. We spoke with Monica Moses recently to learn more about her work.
MMPA: How important is American Craft magazine to your association?
Monica: We’ve surveyed members on this, and the magazine is definitely the Number One benefit of membership; it’s the top answer. We have asked what type of content people are most drawn to, and they’re interested in information about artist exhibitions and events nationwide. They’re interested in artist profiles – more than half of our readers are artists themselves, so they want the life stories of other artists. Our readers have interest in travel, and we do that in every issue. The magazine is a member benefit, but we do sell in limited locations on newsstands.
MMPA: Your title also includes “Content Director” for American Craft Council. What does that encompass?
Monica: We’re making some adjustments right now to our communication and content work, but I help drive digital content and strategy, and our overall content approach. We are making efforts to re-align our content and our communications, to our marketing and our editorial. We want to ensure we’re reinforcing each other’s work through all our communication.
MMPA: You have a journalism background. How important is traditional journalism for what you do today?
Monica: I think journalism skills are paramount. In some ways, marketing is eclipsing editorial in the world today. That’s understandable, but it also presents pitfalls. I’m all about accuracy along with being meaningful and interesting. We have created significant processes to make sure our content is accurate. Because of that, we have few errors. We employ a fact checker, which many do not today. If we don’t get things right in our content, we lose credibility. My preference is always to work with writers who are experienced journalists. They need to know how to form a story arc.
They also need to know our style. We want to be conversational and plain spoken; we know that art can be off-putting to people. We don’t cover art in a rarefied way. We don’t like art speak. Our entire team is united behind this. We are insistent that our content is clear to the average reader. Intelligent but not pretentious.
MMPA: You’re an artist too?
Monica: I mess around with art. I make jewelry. I paint, and I’m taking a ceramics class. I’m also working on a wood mosaic right now. My extended family includes a lot of creative people, including writers. I think it’s in my DNA, and I was an art director and designer. The visual arts have always appealed to me.
MMPA: We’re enjoying a huge craft movement today, from furniture to beer. Do you embrace all this craft work or do you filter some out?
Monica: We are discussing this a lot today. We have had the Balvenie Distillery people at events talking about their work. We have had craft coffee makers. Craft beer is wildly popular. And we believe it’s a good time to work with your hands. We strive to reinforce that message. Many people today are glued to their digital devices, and we represent the antithesis of that. We encourage people to meet the person down the street who is creating things the slow way, by hand. We say that you ought to know where stuff comes from. Get to know the people who make things. When I remodeled my kitchen, I bought handmade lights from a craftsperson nearby and it didn’t cost much more.
Many of us of a certain age grew up with school classes such as woodworking. A contingent of people today are increasingly concerned with a lack of hand skills. And this hits all age groups. Still, the younger you are today the less opportunity you’ve had to create with your hands. We believe people should try making things with their hands. Not because it’s somehow healthier, though I believe it is, but because it is fulfilling. We think it’s important to keep the old ways alive. Yes, I’m on my devices as much as anybody. But it’s not ultimately satisfying.
MMPA: So then, digital vs. print for American Craft content?
Monica: We do spend a lot of time thinking about digital and realize that is the future. Our website is full of content. But our magazine is a craft piece too. We carefully select photos and words for each story. We choose our paper with care for the craft.
MMPA: Who is your competition?
Monica: Good question. We don’t really have obvious competition. We do compete with some of the medium-specific publications – those covering ceramics, glass, woodworking. We work to address the broad range of creativity. Within our team, we push each other to be better. We’re always challenging each other to come up with the best ideas. We don’t let each other settle. It’s not a competitive space, but we always want to improve our work.