Magnified: Kindling


Posted February 14, 2022 in More, Print

Kindling is the new kid on the publishing block. Exploring fresh perspectives that come with being a parent, through features, columns and interviews with leading psychologists and philosophers of childhood, this colourful, engaging and informative read is currently christening its second edition. Editor in chief Harriet Fitch Little keeps the rattle in the pram as she tells us more.

 

Kindling is the child of Kinfolk – what led to the decision to explore the worlds of parenting and childhood? What learnings did you take from Kinfolk in its creation and development?

Kinfolk magazine has been around for a decade now and our readers have grown up with it. More of them have children, or are at least spending a lot of time around kids in the context of friends and family. It made sense to make a magazine more geared towards family life. We were also just very keen on the name Kindling as a diminutive of Kinfolk!

There was a magazine with the same title that circulated from 2013 to 2014, a parenting magazine but specifically about fatherhood, and we acquired the rights from them a couple of years ago.

 

In terms of what we took from Kinfolk, we borrowed some structural things – the magazine is more or less divided up into the same sections, for example – and there’s obviously the same commitment to original, high-quality writing and photography.

Beyond that, the two magazines are pretty different. Kinfolk is quite refined in its aesthetic, whereas Kindling is more spontaneous and DIY-looking. It’s made to be read over a busy breakfast table.

 

Can you tell us about the advisory board you assembled and when/how you lean on them for insights and direction?

One thing I noticed when researching parenting magazines was that they were generally talking to a very narrow audience: mums, and – more specifically than that – mums raising children in a nuclear family. We wanted to make a magazine that could be enjoyed by anyone currently involved in raising a child, whether they’re a single parent, a foster parent, a friend of the family…everyone is welcome! Creating an editorial board made up of people with diverse perspectives on parenting has helped with that.

There are five of them, and they contribute ideas and give feedback on each issue before it goes to press. They’re checking for inclusivity, but also accessibility – so if we’re doing a piece on pillow forts, for example, we can’t presume that people have a large living room in which to build them. I haven’t had children yet, which I think is sometimes helpful in this respect, because I’m not tempted to universalize from my own experiences.

 

The content is utterly fascinating, even for someone sans children. From learning about neontocracies to forest schools and voluntourism in orphanages – how important is it to ensure Kindling runs the gamut from being fun to being educational? How was your approach to both editorial and design informed by this?

My friends who’ve had kids often talk about feeling like their personhood gets a bit lost along the way – even doctors and teachers might refer to you as mum or dad rather than by your name! So, I was really keen that Kindling didn’t patronize readers, or presume that their worldview had shrunk to only being interested in what socks to buy for babies, or how to get toddlers to eat more whole grains. If anything, a parent is more likely to be interested in a story like the one on orphanages – which I agree is a really tough read – because it touches on questions of childrearing they’re already thinking about in their day-to-day lives.

But Kindling is not all serious! In the second issue we’ve got pieces on whether Daddy Pig is a good dad, how to decorate plaster casts with glitter and gems, how to answer kids’ weirdest questions about burps and farts… it’s a total mix. Raising a child encompasses both utter silliness and profound challenges, and we wanted to make a magazine that had that same range.

In terms of the design, our design director Alex Hunting used a lot of graphic shapes and typography to illustrate the weightier stories – it felt like that was something that could fit with the overall style of Kindling, without diminishing the seriousness of those pages.

 

“This is the odd tension that comes with having achieved the sort of life that you want for your child: we hope to raise them to not have to experience the struggles of our own childhood, and yet we want them to have the same appreciation for life that those struggles gave us.” says Meena Harris, lawyer, the founder and CEO of lifestyle brand Phenomenal and, most recently, the New York Times bestselling author of two children’s books: Kamala and Maya’s Big Idea and Ambitious Girl. (Kamala is her aunt). Does this embody one of the key issues for what one might perceive as the optimum target reader of Kindling?

I think that particular tension is probably quite specific to Meena, given she is a phenomenally successful businesswoman and the vice president’s niece! But I definitely like the idea of Kindling being a place where people come to think about parenting as an intergenerational process, by which I mean that the way a person was raised will affect how they raise their children.

That means one thing for Meena, but it comes out in very different ways in other stories. For example, in the new issue we’ve got a piece on body image and parenting, and how hard it is for a person not to project the weird things they were told as a kid – that they were too big, too short, not athletic enough – onto their own children.

 

The magazine also throws up some startling global facts; one which stood out for me is the stigma unwed mothers face in South Korea leading to three in four to relinquish their children. “I think about how it is that a nation that’s advanced so much could also have progressed so little,” says your contributor Ann Babe. How important is it to ensure the magazine is global in its scope and attuned to under-representation whether in perspectives or backgrounds?

Our readership really is global – we did a giveaway for the first issue where we selected 20 random winners to receive a free copy, and we ended up mailing the magazine to 15 different countries! So it’s logical to avoid centering any one place or set of people too much.

In terms of representation, I’m definitely keen that we don’t parachute writers into topics they know nothing about. Ann, who wrote that piece on orphanages, was adopted from South Korea to the US as a child. She’s not telling her own story in Kindling, but she’s writing from a place of deep sensitivity and understanding.

 

Your data crunching on gender threw up some fascinating statistics such as the gender imbalance in progress praise which rewards children for their effort and strategies (24% boys, 10% girls) whilst you have the developmental psychologist Alison Gopnik in the current issue telling us how babies and young children understand statistics and statistical patterns. How important is confounding existing parental knowledge or perceived bias to the mission of Kindling?

We’re not really interested in weighing in on the “right” way to parent. We are not going to be the place that finally settles the debate on whether sleep training is a good thing or not, so why try! With that in mind, we choose to interview people who don’t hold particularly strict or dogmatic views on child rearing.

I think Alison Gopnik sums that up well in the second issue when she says that parenting doesn’t mean doing “a whole bunch of things in order to make the child come out a particular way.”

She says that it’s about nurturing a relationship “that will let that person go out and discover the world for themselves.” Maybe that’s also what we’re aiming for with Kindlingit’s about nurturing that curiosity in adults!

 

Kinfolk is associated with Portland and may, occasionally, be dismissed as a little too hipster or aspirational for some folk. How would you counter this viewpoint?

Well, Kinfolk HQ is now in Copenhagen rather than Portland! Does that help?

In all honesty, I think the perception of Kinfolk that circulates on Instagram – that it’s all white linen and posh coffee – has become quite separate from what the magazine actually does today. We’ve got a shoot in the new issue where the chef Erchen Chang made a sculpture of a bum out of bao dough, and a feature where we speak to anonymous influencers about how far they’ve gone to get the perfect shot. It’s still beautifully made and photographed, but it’s also smart and fun!

 

What are your ambitions for 2022 with the project? (maybe room to discuss the 16-page pullout here in issue 3)

We only put out two issues a year, so it’s important that we’re changing things up every time. I know our art director Staffan Sundström is keen on doing a photographic cover next issue, and we’re planning on creating a cool pull-out for kids. But Kinfolk grew very organically and I hope for the same with Kindlingslow and steady!

Issue no. 2 is now on sale, $11.95

kinfolk.com/shop/kindling-02/

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