Where did it all begin for you Matt?
Well, I was a child of the 70s. I was born and grew up in Norwich. Really happy childhood, playing out all the time, playing football, riding bikes, but I was always really obsessed with drawing, with art, that was kinda my thing. When I was a teenager I met someone who’d been to art school who was about 5 years older than me, and I knew that was what I wanted to do. I always wanted to be some sort of artist, designer, creative person. I didn’t know what exactly though.
I studied Illustration in Leeds I graduated in 1993. It was a great course because I had complete freedom to do what I wanted, but then suddenly I had a massive wakeup call.
I know everyone feels like they graduated when there’s a huge recession on, but I did. Everyone really struggled to find jobs out of Uni. I felt like I was just dumped out the other end of my degree going “What on Earth am I going to do now?”
I pursued trying to be a freelance illustrator which I did with varying degrees of success. Also, while I was at uni, I was really interested with the conversations I was having with my tutors and my peers and how all of that works. I think I maybe always had going into teaching at some point in the back of my mind. So I took a year out from my freelance practice to do teacher training and for about ten years I juggled freelance illustration and teaching at various colleges until I ended up teaching full-time on Graphic Design and then Fashion Marketing courses at Nottingham Trent University.
If you hadn’t gone down that path, what else do you think you’d be doing?
I’m also in love with music, so if I hadn’t done something with art, I’d have done something with that. I’m not musically gifted, but I love it.
I’d be quite happy just living on my foundation course, or just doing one degree after another and just learning and learning. Teaching feels a little bit like that because you’re always learning. You learn so much from the students, it’s such a fantastic environment to be in.
“Everyone you meet, they have a different story.”
Could you tell us about Raw Print?
Raw Print was a platform I set up doing some Zine projects with Fashion Communication & Promotion students back in 2010. We set a project where teams of 2nd year students on a 6 week project created their own zines. We then took them down to london for a big zine fest called the London Zine Symposium. We set up a stall there and were really surprised and delighted that people wanted to buy the students’ work.
The following years we carried on that project. We set up our own zine fest in Nottingham and ran that for quite a few years. We wanted to make it look and behave independently, so Raw Print was the public-facing name for that project.
We also used to have a monthly zine club that met at the Orange Tree where 30-odd people would come along and we’d make zines together, share things we liked and ideas.
I moved from running that module in second year to managing all of third year on that course, the zine project moved to earlier in second year… it naturally evolved into a different shape.
I then met Alex Smith from Ideas on Paper through a student, and he said: “Do you want to start a public lecture series and do some talks?” I wasn’t sure people would respond to it, but we started coordinating Raw Print live events, the first few were at Spanky Van Dykes, and we were getting 70-100 people turning up which made me think, “Wow, there’s really an appetite here.”
Raw Print has been a great vehicle to champion and promote anything independent print-wise at any level.
Including working with Stack magazines, launching student magazines, some of which have gone on to be really successful.
What is the Metazine?
I thought that all the stuff we were doing was really interesting and we were collecting so much material. We were doing something in real time but we wanted to document it, record it and archive it.
I’m a designer, I love making things, so it just seemed natural that we’d do an archival publication that collected all the talks.
I had a particular vision in my mind that I wanted it to look and behave in a certain way, and for that in and of itself to be an interesting project and to play with materials rather than a straight-forward magazine.
I then got to know about Dizzy Ink, they’d been going about a year at that point, and they’ve been instrumental in shaping the Metazine and to help me produce that.
It’s been a platform for students to work on it. I’ve done all the design, Dizzy Ink have done all the printing and production, but all the writing, articles and interviews have been done by students from my course and others who wanted to get involved.
“BE TRUE TO YOURSELF, BUT ALSO BE PATIENT AND KIND TO YOURSELF.”
There’s 2 Metazines now, right?
Yeah! That happened. I don’t know if we’ll do a third one. We have content for another, but it depends on funding and how the second one goes.
One of the really great things about the second one was we got sponsorship on the paper from G.F. Smith. Through my connections at Stack Magazines, and being a runner up for a Stack award too has helped get widespread attention and get it out there.
I just really wanted to shine a light on the reality of making a magazine and the people who make them, what is their workspace like, what does their day and life look like, and why the hell they do it because there’s not much money to be made from it.
Everyone you meet, they have a different story. There’s no definitive shape or look to a magazine. The one thing I’ve noticed from everyone I’ve met is that they’re all incredibly generous with their time, their attitude and information and it just feels like an incredible world to be a part of.
What do you think of the state of independent publishing?
The mainstream magazine market has suffered because of the digital revolution, but independent magazines have really grown. We’re at a point now where it’s really exciting and you don’t really know where it’s going to go next. The market is so saturated with good stuff that the future looks bright and ready for innovation.
My remit for buying when I’m browsing now is so much tougher than it was 5 years ago because there’s so much out there that’s already been done. It’s more difficult to get me to sit up and take notice. It’s going to be fascinating to watch over the next 5 years and how it changes.
Raw Print is going to change again. The live events will change, I’m trying to do more projects and we have a growing archive of magazines and zines at NTU as well with Dizzy Ink we’ve set up the Zine Library in Nottingham Contemporary. We have a residency there and the plan is to invite different zine collectives to do takeovers and run events.
“THE MAINSTREAM MAGAZINE MARKET HAS SUFFERED BECAUSE OF THE DIGITAL REVOLUTION, BUT INDEPENDENT MAGAZINES HAVE REALLY GROWN.”
What advice would you give to a young person starting their career?
I would say firstly, have as much fun as you possibly can, try not to feel under too much pressure to get a job and a career, that will come. I think I was far too stressed about that as a graduate. I went into freelancing straightway, I was on my own, so I would say to any young person to not do exactly that. Go work for people and network, experience working with different companies and agencies, travel, get some life experiences. Have fun. Once you get settled it’s so much harder to do that.
Another piece of advice, what have you got your eye on that is about the future, what could you do that might be different. That’s not to say you have to come up with something original, you could take something but look at it from another angle. It’s good to always be working on something personal, your own project.
When I graduated you didn’t have social media, facebook et cetera. You never know, the people you meet now – who they will be in the future and how you can help each other, so stick together.
Be true to yourself, but also be patient and kind to yourself. There are enough external pressures so believe in yourself (and others) and go for it!