Launched earlier this year, & Of Other Things — an online magazine dedicated mainly to art and creativity in Hanoi — has already developed a following of art lovers in the city, both expats and Vietnamese. Pure, simple, but elegantly designed and easy to navigate, the website demonstrates a good range of quality photography, artist interviews, videos and stories.
“We wanted to create a magazine where we can look for ideas and inspirations through local artists — rather than just looking to the West,” says Rose Arnold, Word Hanoi’s former staff editor and one of the two founders of the site.
Co-founder Fabiola Buchele, an Austrian resident of Hanoi with a journalistic background, agrees. “While we have loads of material in the West documenting our artists and the art scene, that really doesn’t exist here. And we felt like it should.”
Since starting out, their team has now grown to 23 people with the addition of volunteer writers, photographers and translators.
Out of the Box
Though the content of the website has become more diverse, & Of Other Things has stayed on top of the city’s art scene. Their monthly In the Studio and Things about Me columns have revealed many interesting ’behind the scenes’ stories from the workshops of talented artists and creators in town. The topics are diverse — from music, painting and photography to theatre, dancing, films and even cartoons.
Among their favourite pieces, Fabiola’s still amazed she had a chance to get to know Ha Tri Hieu, a grandmaster of Vietnamese modern art but super humble; or to interview Le Giang and Le Hoang Bich Phuong, two up-and-coming female artists. Through these meetings, she has again got the sense that she’s part of a growing community.
When asked how they choose subjects to feature, Fabiola says, “We wanted to feature artists who are doing something different, coming up with original styles, setting trends rather than following established styles.” On some occasions, artists from other Asian countries like Korea or Singapore are featured in the magazine — their way of reaching out and looking for inspiration in the East. Although the site is currently art heavy, the team says they aim is to expand their coverage to take on more aspects of life. The fact that they chose the name & Of Other Things also carries this intention — aside from the visually appealing quality of the ampersand.
Back in the UK, Rose used to have a big drawer packed with weird stuff from artists that inspired her, which she collected over time from torn-out articles, obituaries of interesting people, snippets from plays and cool scientific memorabilia.
“While I’m interested in art, I think that most topics can be interesting. We want to broaden the content somewhat, and the name is a reminder to us to carry on looking outside of art, at other things. It doesn’t limit us, instead it inspires us to look more widely,” says Rose. They wanted a publication that could support fairly weighty issues alongside playlists, fashion, interviews, beautiful things and more.
The only topic they’re avoiding at the moment is travel. Explains Rose, “There is so much travel writing already and it’s often a tricky to create a really good piece, with an informed, involved angle, and without the element of outsiders talking about their perspective on a place they don’t really know about.”
Growing Despite Challenges
In this early stage, they’re not yet focused on turning a profit — instead they’re running on passion, and the generous voluntary contributions of freelancers.
Sadie Christie, associate editor, has been a key member of the team since before the site went live: writing, editing and managing social media.
“The evolving contemporary art and culture scene here is what drew me to Hanoi. So when I got the opportunity to work hard with these wonderful women, monetary motivations had nothing to do with it. The value of this experience lies in the passion for connecting with the energy in this city and developing my skills.”
Adds Fabiola: “When we first started, we thought we would have to try and make money from the site. But actually we would hate to compromise doing whatever we feel needs doing for the sake of being popular and getting advertisers.”
Being not able to pay staff, however, means that the magazine relies on interns, which also results in a quick turnover of their key contributors. There is an urgent need for important positions, such as a sub-editor.
“It makes me cringe a bit, publishing things I know will have errors,” says Rose, “but not so much as to not do the project because of it. But a sub-editor is definitely on the wish list.”
To see what they’re heading towards, and to get an inside view of local artists, visit andofotherthings.com