Teach (1).

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Our small team of five full-time staff has recently slimmed down by two. That’s right. The three of us now, we churn out a magazine with a circulation of 750,000 every three months, with the help of freelancers and interns. My job is to lead the creative team to make sure all the pieces fall together and that our magazine improves issue on issue. But my not-so-secret motive (and this is one of the most meaningful aspects of what I do) is to help everyone on the team shape their careers.

Of course, I am just lucky enough to work with a group that is as enthusiastic about this as I am, and am at a position where I am able to instigate plans to make things happen. So aside from just “What would be best for the mag?” there are also many conversations of “How does this help you grow?”

But before even landing a job, we all have to start somewhere.

As an editor who first found her footing from a slew of internships, I feel for those looking to break into the challenging, and often times fickle, world of magazines. So I was upset when I saw Condé Nast pull the plug on their internship programme altogether due to a dispute with former interns. It just doesn’t seem right when interns carry out supporting roles so that we can do our jobs better. And while I’m at it, they really should be paid. (I am familiar with the considerations to be made in terms of payment for interns, but allow me to vouch for the newbies here…)

In both the programmes I’ve run in my work place, we treat interns as mini-editors. They do what we do, albeit with more guidance and clear-cut reviews. We hope to support mistakes (acceptable ones!), build interest (or discover lack thereof), hone talent, and for a lack of a better term, ignite passion and  encourage curiosities. Never once has anyone made coffee for someone else. Interns are just as beneficial to us as we are to their budding careers. It’s also fun to see what “grow up” to become. Some of my past interns are now a co-ordinator for a non-profit organisation, a scholar, a food editor, and more. So great.

In another lifetime, I would be a teacher. I owe a lot to the wonderful mentors that I had during my school days – I am fortunate to call some of my past teachers and instructors, friends. They are the ones who taught me, among other things, that there is no point in acquiring skills and knowledge for yourself if you’r unable to pass that on.

What I’m trying to iterate here is, I suppose, that the more you lead, the more you learn. And the more you realise you’re still to learn. So fellow managers, let’s make sure the team of the future is as good as what we share with them, and that one colleague you mentor, among the many in our working lives, rises to become another star in the industry.

PS. I realise this entry is laden with cliches, but sometimes that’s just what it’s all about.

Image: If I Knew Then

Mademoiselle C.

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Sometimes, I wish there was a better word for “inspired”. It’s a bit overused.

But that is how I feel when look at other world-class editors.

Being an editor is about infusing your view, your sense, your pulse of the ‘current’ into a publication. Carine Roitfeld’s is all attitude and personality, sass and authority. And her art direction is immaculate.

So excited for her upcoming documentary.

Image: Carine Polaroid

Re.

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热。[ Rè ].  HOT.

It’s the hottest I’ve experienced and we’re looking at two more weeks (at least) of this scorching weather. All I can think about is…

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Popsicles! Just look at these beauties. We embraced the challenge of shooting some for our last issue and while I moan about shooting F/W fashion in this heat, I’m glad we didn’t have to brave the temperatures while shooting our recipes for homemade popsicles. Despite it having been an indoor shoot, buckets and buckets of ice melted under the studio lights…

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As a child, these mango/banana flavoured treats were my favourite – but they’re only available in Hong Kong. Growing up in Canada, it was all about the Fudgsicle. Popsicles seem awfully trendy now, and I love all the healthy homemade varieties. This breakfast popsicle, for instance, is a great idea.  But you know, grown-ups deserve cheeky desserts too. This weekend I may just have to add a splash of vodka or champagne into a fruity popsicle mix to make for a good cool-down. Mmmhmm.

Photo: Weather, Shanghai, 2013. 
Images: Popsicles, Chocolate Popsicles, Cappuccino Popsicles, Rocket Popsicles

In the Mood for…

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Autumn.

Creating a moodboard and concept sheet for an issue is one of my most favourite things about what I do. Afterall, I get to call sourcing photography, surfing Pinterest, browsing recipes sites, and reading magazines my job. This is what this week was all about.

Those who know me know that I am awfully selective about being mainstream. Granted, in producing a magazine, we need to cater to our readers. And our readers are….mainstream. However, as an editor it’s my job to inject some unexpected into the expected.

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The palette we’ve decided on will use a lot of gold, orange and plum with hints of pale green. And as usual I will probably try to sneak in tints of blue, just because I feel it allows eyes to rest while being inundated with visual after visual. It’s difficult to not default to browns and reds so we needed to throw in some pops of contrast. I’m also eying the colours of Moonrise Kingdom.

As we all know, autumn is the season for harvest. But in China, it’s not just about flavours and staples, but more so about eating the right seasonal ingredients to keep your body warm – literally. Therefore we will be incorporating chestnut, gingko, white sesame, taro and ginger into our heartier-than-ever recipes. Lots and lots of wonderful, pungent ginger to keep our systems cosy.

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For this issue, I just want to evoke that special autumn feeling of coming home to something warm. Isn’t that what it’s all about? Coming home to the smell of hearty homecooking, gathering around with loved ones, jumping into piles of crunchy, golden leaves, walking into a room full of laughter. It’s always a challenge for me to fuse East and West together (we don’t have piles of leave to jump through here in Shanghai, or apple pie, for the matter), but it’s fun to see how many ways we can sneak new ideas in.

Alright, Issue 10. Let’s get you started.

Photo: Tart + Tea, London, May 2011.
Images: Bouquet, Lipsticks, Yarn, Apples. Tarts, Citrus, Porridge.

New [Work] Digs.

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Our little team of six moved shop this weekend and we are now located in a swanky, official looking downtown office building. Despite global headquarters’ orders to move in with the rest of the agency family, we were slightly reluctant to leave our cosy and creative loft office. We loved our space, our own little playground. We also happened to over-look the rooftop of a family’s home that told tales of an adorable puppy trying to befriend a Queen cat, 5:30pm al fresco dinners when the weather was warm, and the “interesting” daily laundry line. These little anecdotes became our daily work musings, which we will now miss.

But. New office means NEW SPACE TO DECORATE!

I dream of one day having a home office like the set-up above, simple and straightforward. Calming tones, clean-cut furniture with just enough softness. I admit that my tendency for clippings and inspiration will mostly require that I have a large overhead board of some sort, but this calming scene makes me think that efficiency will come with the territory.

8bde3b71-e032-4644-abcd-b08f8eb132e5-largeI am also one who needs at least two selections of pens on hand at all times. Don’t ask me why – I think I probably pluck two or three from the jars atop my current tabletop to use on rotation on a day of planning, and will grab my collection of Muji double-ended felts for editing. This little tray is perfect because it also houses more space for me to collect photos and artwork. Organised clutter, if you must.

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And then we have notebooks and paper products, which make me deliriously happy. This generally means one lined, one unlined, and one to easily tear pages from.

Here’s to hoping our new digs will inspire the team to produce even better work than we have been. And here’s to me dreaming of more perfect work stations…

Images: Office, Notebook+Notepad, Notebook, Organiser.

Good Work Isn’t Enough.

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Trying to find motivation to get back into “work mode” when I came across this article.

I’ll soon be wading through piles of CVs to hire a new subeditor, and it’s good to be reminded that sometimes just having a certain skillset isn’t enough.

“…it’s the personal interactions you have with your colleagues, peers, and managers that truly shape your destiny.”

A few more takeaways on the qualities of successful people:

  • They are humble. Their success doesn’t consume them.
  • They are universally respectful—to their friends, their boss, or to the person that makes their sandwich for lunch.
  • They are on time. On time for work, on time for meetings, on time for the train. They hate wasting their own time, and as a byproduct, anyone else’s.
  • They respectfully push back. It’s easy to push back. To do so with respect takes skill.

Lessons of the day. Now it’s time to power through.

Photo: Shanghai, 2012.

Snap Happy.

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From one kind of “style” to another.

Today’s photo was taken on a kiddie clothing shoot in London. Usually photoshoots with kids can get pretty crazy but the mini-models we had that day were so well behaved and one little darling in particular, Pepper, totally stole my heart. The theme of the shoot was spring (shot in the dead of winter, as all shoots go),  so we had these delicious treats to accessorise the set with.

I’m running a creative workshop tomorrow back here in Shanghai, a chance for our photographer, editors and designers to brainstorm and discuss all things related to food photography.

Rule of Thirds, backlighting, composition, white balance, depth of field – these are all things that we rattle on about, second nature to us when we’re so used to scrutinising each speck of pepper (the spice, not our sweet kiddie model) or each trail of sauce. It’s trickier when dealing with Chinese food since we can only be so creative with our plating before overwhelming the actual ingredients. So, this powwow is an extra push for us to think apart from the obvious so to give our readers an improved experience with our mag in the coming issues.

People make fun of me now because I style the heck out of every photo I take, even just with my Blackberry. But what’s wrong with wanting to create and capture the simple beauty of otherwise mundane details?

Photo: London, 2012.