Shoshana Berger – Founder and Editor-in-Chief of ReadyMade Magazine

shoshana-berger-readymade.jpg

ReadyMade magazine remains a beacon for those who are DIY inspired. Every issue contains innovative features and projects that focus on reusable and re-purposed everyday objects. Their website and books are also a great resource for “people who like to make stuff”.
The co-founder of Readymade, Shoshana Berger, applied the same "roll-up the sleeves" approach when it came to launching and publishing ReadyMade and the magazine is now positioned at the forefront of many trends that are finally gaining a broader appeal such as building for sustainability, re-purposing and recycling, and clever crafting, while maintaining a cheeky attitude and playful perspective.
CH: Congratulations! ReadyMade magazine just celebrated it’s 7th anniversary after launching in December 2001. What do you envision for the magazine in the next 7 years?
SB: We typically don’t think more than 7 minutes ahead. But here are a few things that get my pulse up: publishing ReadyMade books; creating a sustainable design curriculum for grade school students; producing mini movies that feature the innovators in our pages; doubling the number of pages in the magazine; and upping our frequency to monthly (or as close to that as we can get without shooting ourselves).

CH: There are very few independent publishers who have achieved your level of influence and success, especially during a time when many publishers are cutting print magazines (i.e. Blueprint, House & Garden).  How has ReadyMade continued to evolve and has your location outside of the publishing mecca of NYC helped or hindered your growth?

SB: It helped that we started during a recession—the dotcom bust had hit the San Francisco bay area hard, and we published our first issue three months after 9/11. Our expectations for funding and early perks were adjusted accordingly. We were very scrappy and lean for the first three years of publication. Neither Grace (my business partner) nor I paid ourselves for the first two years and we had between three and seven people on staff during that time. We launched the magazine on about $100,000, which lasted us for two years. That’s unheard of in the magazine industry and laughable in New York. Being based in Berkeley, off the publishing radar, allowed us to play by our own rules and ignore the establishment.

Our evolution (until joining up with the Meredith Corporation last fall) was entirely grassroots. We relied on our readers to spread the gospel and indulged our whimsy whenever possible. We still think of the magazine as very young, with a lot of growing up to do.

CH: ReadyMade was founded on the concept of sustainability, what do you make of so many magazines now pushing that same agenda and how do you separate yourself from the crowd.

SB: I just finished an editor’s letter on this very topic. It’s gotten to the point where so many companies and publications are draping themselves in green, the environmental message is beginning to lose its impact. April/May is our annual green issue, but we kept the line off the cover intentionally. Our message won’t change – we still believe in the redemptive power of smart, sustainable design. But it’s going to take much more than Barney’s New York filling it’s window with recycled bottle art to airlift us out of this ditch we’ve dug.

CH: Along with the “green” movement, the “craft” resurgence is all the rage and there are now tradeshows and websites for people to actively participate and show/share/sell their creations. How is ReadyMade reacting to this shift and are your editorial features changing because of this resurgence?

SB: We welcome everyone to the party! Sites like Etsy and fairs like Renegade offer a way for cottage industry crafters to make a business out of their art. You can’t throw a cat in Brooklyn or Chicago or San Francisco without hitting a glue-gun wielding hipster. The resurgence isn’t changing our editorial, but it does make it harder to find people who want to be in print. Creative types who used to fall over themselves to get published in ReadyMade are now entirely satisfied having their work published online.

CH: As a bay-area resident are you enamored by your beautiful surroundings and does this natural beauty influence the “soul” of the magazine? If so how does that manifest onto the pages of ReadyMade?

SB: We’re equidistant between the mountains and the ocean, so our engagement with nature (and the congested, highway-tangled matrix that carves a path through it), are everpresent. The bay area has a long legacy of do-it-yourself mavericks, too. From the turn-of-the-century Craftsman movement in architecture to the 1970s Whole Earth Access catalogs to the garage entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs who built up Silicon Valley.

CH: Do you have a favorite DIY project and what did you like most about it and can we find it in ReadyMade (issue)? Difficulty level?

SB: Don’t make me choose! I do love last issue’s (Feb/March) Solid Wold project. A bookcase made with found fronts. It will be live in our online archive by the end of March. Thomas Wold, the designer, was a real find. After seeing his work online, we asked him to come down to HQ and a beautiful friendship began. Beyond his building talent, he’s the captain of a bowling league.

CH: Where do you find inspiration for creating featured projects?

SB: From our readers. We also do a lot of blog lurking and subscribe to a pile of magazines.

CH: What particular DIY/Design focused blogs do you enjoy or check into often?

SB: Besides Charles & Hudson? Apartment Therapy, Design*Sponge, Inhabitat, Core 77, Etsy, Treehugger.

CH: Thank you (blushing). What are your interests outside of DIY?

SB: Books. Art. Art books. And my husband and 14-month old daughter, Pocket.

CH: Can you share a DIY tip that has impacted you most?

SB: Excess of simplicity laughs, Excess of complexity weeps! (apologies to William Blake)

Thanks Shoshana!

Check out our other interviews.

The following two tabs change content below.
Timothy Dahl

Timothy Dahl

Founder/EIC at Charles & Hudson
Timothy’s background includes stints at This Old House, ELLE DECOR, Metropolitan Home and Woman’s Day. His work has been published on Wired Design, Bob Vila, DIY Network, The Family Handyman and Popular Mechanics and he has been featured on the Martha Stewart radio show and as a speaker at the ALT Design Summit, K/BIS and the National Hardware Show.