Letter 2: Six Months

By Payal Khandelwal

The birds are pretty much indulging in debauchery on the luscious mango and coconut trees in a serene courtyard right outside my window. I am writing this letter from a rustic desk in a 150 year old spectacular heritage home. 

Gratitude’, which has been restored tenderly and meticulously over three long years, is located in Pondicherry, India. Pondicherry is a small spiritual and vibrant town that’s also a former French colony, and probably the most perfect place to write this letter from. There is a profound sense of time here. In fact, the popular saying here is ‘give time a break’. I am living here for a bit mainly to peacefully work and reflect on many things, in both TFM and my life (since the two seem to be inextricably intertwined).

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A statue in Vaithikuppam, Pondicherry

So here’s something about work and something about reflections.

TFM has been an immensely satisfying struggle so far (six months). Despite of it being an online magazine, where I don’t even have to deal with the massive pleasures and pains that come with putting together a print magazine, it’s been anything but easy. However, something that has truly kept me going is the support and feedback of some very interesting people around me. Anytime a thoughtful email, message or a comment about TFM pops up somewhere, I am shamelessly over the moon.

In this letter, I want to specifically mention that one person who has not only shown his support to TFM consistently, but has also helped lay the foundations in a way with his solicitous mail when I asked him for his feedback when the magazine was just launched – Ryan Hageman, a graphic designer and the founder of the brilliant Japanese graphic design website Gurafiku.

“I appreciate that you’re highlighting artists who do great work but might not be very well known, showing people an area that you’re familiar with and knowledgeable about. It’s great to see a number of female artists featured, as well. The focus on Asia and the Middle-East is a strength of the project. I like the layout of the site. The big header images are nice. I also like the logo. If I stare at it, I get the suggestion of a bookshelf or a magazine rack; the thin lines look the edge opposite of the spine, where you can see all the individual pages. Regarding the layout, you don’t have to make these adjustments, but in terms of readability, I think the font size could be a point or two larger, a tiny increase to the line height could be added, and the font color could be one shade of gray darker,” he wrote in the mail.

The layout was indeed so much better after Priya Savoor (designer of TFM) made the changes that Ryan suggested.

Those were still cosmetic changes. Ryan’s mail actually changed the way I have approached TFM over these last few months. His advice on consistency and about the patience required to build a loyal readership to any project is something I go back to time and again.

I also like the logo. If I stare at it, I get the suggestion of a bookshelf or a magazine rack; the thin lines look the edge opposite of the spine, where you can see all the individual pages.

“It’s important not to wear yourself out; these projects can take a lot of effort. Related to that and equally important, is consistency…” (excerpt from the mail)

And: “It seems like you’ve had a good reaction to the website, but keep in mind that when starting a new project like this, it can take a while to really gain an audience, so don’t let it get you down…..To me, making a strong connection with the artists and the dedicated fans of the website is the most satisfying part; for those people it can be a really big impact…” (excerpt from the mail)

I definitely still struggle with posting interviews regularly, and a lot of that has to do with being a one person editorial team, among various other reasons – none of which are good enough though. It’s something that I am very consciously working on right now, and you will see improvements soon.

Also, I would be lying if I say that I do not worry about the future of the magazine – about making it sustainable, getting a reasonably high number of hits on the website every single day, taking out a stunning print version of it sometime not too far away in the future, collaborating with like-minded people and companies, etc. There are moments when I frustratingly question everything. But again, as Ryan advised and as they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Almost everything takes time to metamorphose into its most beautiful and perfect form.

While TFM has been everything I imagined it to be, it still needs a whole lot of work, but all in good time. In the next few months, you will hopefully see more value, more consistency, and many new things on TFM including a monthly newsletter. Of course, our soul will always be the long and meaningful conversations with visual artists from Asia and Middle East.

And ultimately and most importantly, it all comes down to the unique relationships I am forming in this journey. TFM has come so far because of the artists who have been a part of it and the readers who have followed us. A big thanks to all of them. I wish I could send you all some delicious bougainvilleas from Pondicherry right now.

I would be lying if I say that I do not worry about the future of the magazine – about making it sustainable, getting a reasonably high number of hits on the website every single day, taking out a stunning print version of it sometime not too far away in the future, collaborating with like-minded people and companies, etc.

And once again, a big thanks to Ryan. He has not only been kind enough to provide us with a perspective for future, but  has also always acknowledged and often shared TFM’s content on the Gurafiku platform.

Also, thanks to Jeremy Leslie, founder of magCulture, for mentioning TFM in one of his posts. It was a big deal for us.

Please do write to us with your feedback and criticism, if you haven’t already. It’s a very huge factor that helps us steer the TFM ship forward, however wobbly it might be right now.

PS: It’s interesting how TFM is so much about places – places that one goes to and one belongs to – and from the moment I started TFM, I have lived in three different places and have visited another three in India.    

Regards,

Payal Khandelwal 

 

FEATURED IMAGE CAPTION:

Street art in White Town, Pondicherry

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