Cover illustration by Kristian Hammerstad
With comics, trivia and original illustrations, new magazine Amuseum provides a light-hearted look at objects - from bizarre historical artefacts to everyday items.
Published by art director and illustrator Dan Stafford and editor Simon Yewdall, Amuseum presents some fascinating stories about the making of various objects and unusual uses of different materials. The inaugural issue features an 11th century Chinese clock tower; a sex aide made from elephant ivory and the Jolly Chair (pictured below), a charming piece of furniture designed by Janet and Allen Ahlberg, creators of children's book The Jolly Postman.
The magazine opens with a series of articles in which writers reflect on their relationship with a particular object, from dental braces to a prosthetic testicle. The rest is divided into three sections, each containing comics and articles based on a particular theme. Section A, for example, looks at clocks and time machines; section B presents objects of lust and desire (such as the aforementioned ivory item) and section C focuses on chairs.
Stafford says he and Yewdall had been planning to make a magazine since studying together at Loughborough University. "We wanted to make something that would have a mix of high and low brow content, and really make use of illustration to convey ideas," he explains. The idea for a title about things was inspired in part by the British Museum's Radio 4 series, A History of the World in 100 Objects.
"It was an amazing series," says Stafford. "The objects led to discussions about culture, science, art, history, and some really abstract ideas. As it was the British Museum, though, it had to be academic - they couldn't really be silly about it - and I thought it would be fun to do something more contemporary, with more of a sense of humour," he adds.
With its mix of amusing comics, serious subject matter and interesting anecdotes - from the love story behind the invention of rubber gloves, to the accidental discovery of Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce and different styles of sitting practised in Japan, Amuseum is a curious and entertaining read, combining silly and thought-provoking content with articles in which writers document their personal fascination with all manner of objects.
The magazine's content and layout is inspired by exhibition catalogues and Graphis annuals as well as comics and satirical magazines, explains Stafford, and with its busy design (each inch of every page is filled with text or illustrations), it looks more like an ecyclopedia than a glossy coffee table read. Photography is used sparingly, and most articles are illustrated by original artwork from Stafford and contributors including Jack Cunningham, Rami Niemi and Simon Landrein.
"The design needed to be capable of holding a lot of information, while still being readable and playful," explains Stafford. "I wanted to make a magazine stuffed with stuff, if you like, rather than something that looked very cool and minimal. I think the heavy use of white space that a lot of magazines like to use now can often feel quite sterile, and I wanted to showcase how illustrations and comics can inform and explain as well as just decorate."
The structure of the magazine is designed to encourage readers to "dip in and out", says Stafford - while it's a dense layout, almost every page contains a mix of longer content and short columns detailing unusual facts or statistics, while on some pages, facts are placed along the edge of pages to draw readers in.
"We spent a lot of time thinking about the way people consume magazines nowadays [when designing Amuseum]," says Stafford. "I like to flick through them, and rarely stop to read a whole feature, but when I do, I'm quite happy to sit down with a 6,000 or 8,000 word essay. Hopefully [with Amuseum], people have a glance, spot a factoid and decide, 'maybe I'll give that essay 20 minutes of my time now'," he adds.
While there are various magazines devoted to showcasing objects of beauty, Amuseum features an unusual mix of the odd and the banal, and is more about the history of objects than their design. Each issue will include the same balance of contemporary, historical and sensational artefacts, says Stafford, with items chosen not just on their aesthetic merits, but their ability to reveal something about contemporary culture or society.
"I hope the magazine will encourage readers to look at things differently," says Stafford. "Having the broad theme of 'things' allows us to be very flexible - we could write about fashion in one issue, or geography or food - but every object should have a surprising story to tell, either encouraging readers to appreciate it in a new light, or introducing them to an unexpected subject matter they wouldn't normally associate with that object," he explains.
"I also hope it will make people think differently about the things they collect, buy and throw away. The things we own are such a huge part of our identity, and the magazine is quite anthropological in a sense, but I hope in a way that is fun and not stuffy," he adds.
Repro and pre-press: PH Media
It's a great use of illustration and in its content and visual approach, Amuseum provides a fun and educational look at things that surround us every day, as well as some extraordinary items from decades (and centuries) past.
Issue one costs £10 and is available to buy online at amuseummag.com