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Inside Steven Alan

Q&A: Kinfolk Magazine’s Nathan Williams

  • Kinfolk Magazine recently released their 4th issue. We spoke to Editor-in-Chief Nathan Williams about what inspires the content, the now-legendary monthly dinners, and his favorite spots in Portland.

    {Nathan’s favorite shoot: Beekeeping for the Honey Harvest feature in Vol. 2}

    We love that Kinfolk celebrates gatherings and puts such a focus on the time we spend with family and friends (which seems harder and harder to do these days). You do this by bringing people to the table. What inspired the idea?

    The inspiration was simple. We wanted to focus on the social aspects of entertaining and eating with a beautiful, image-heavy format. There are other publications and blogs that do a great job with recipes and the nitty-gritty details of cooking, so we wanted to complement them with a simple reminder of why most of us we cook—traditions, friends, memories, family, community.

    For each issue, you manage to assemble a great team of collaborators and seem to have a knack for bringing the right people together – much like the way you’d gather friends for a meal. What do you look for in the writers, artists, and photographers who contribute to the magazine?

    Many of the artists involved were friends or online acquaintances before we started the project, and the team has grown organically since then, as other artists reach out with ideas. It seems like both the editorial focus and the style of the magazine attract writers and photographers with a similar sensibility, so finding new contributors has been an easy and exciting process for us. We like when photographers are comfortable shooting both food and people, and we’re keen on film photographers. Over half the images in each issue have been shot with film.

    {Behind the scenes}

    There’s a very finely honed aesthetic to Kinfolk, both in terms of the stories and photography. It’s beautifully done, but also very warm and natural. Do you have a clear story in mind with each subject or does the story just sort of develop organically?

    When we’re planning an issue, we decide on a general direction, then create a theme guide with sample imagery, color schemes, styling tips, and writing prompts for our contributors. We usually ask for their own story ideas before we pitch something specific, because both the writers and photographers usually have something to contribute that feels more personal to them, and I think that it ultimately feels more genuine if they’re heavily involved in the story-building process. The specific theme we originally planned might be undetectable in the end, but having one starts everyone in the same direction, and then they add their own creativity.

    About those monthly dinners – how do you choose the cities, and the menus?

    We choose the cities by considering the amount of interest and local support that has been offered for the dinner. We partner with between twenty and forty businesses and artisans in each city to put it all together. We find a good caterer (or talented friend!) and encourage them to do whatever they’d like with the menu, sourcing ingredients from our event partners and local markets to create the meal. Each chef and caterer seems to get excited about the flexibility, and the menus have a unique, local touch that feels specific to that region.

    {The set up for the Brooklyn dinner in February, Nathan’s favorite}

    Kinfolk just turned one. In the year since the first issue came out, what have been the biggest challenges, and what’s been the most rewarding thing about it?

    Honestly, it’s a constant challenge for us to maintain a good balance of work and leisure. We’re working on a very young publication, and everyone on our team loves it and feels personally invested in the project (a labor of love!) which can translate into a lot of hours and a lot of work-related conversions, even when we’re not in our office. Ironic that we spend too much time working on our computers in order to publish a magazine that encourages others to spend less time on theirs, but at least we’re aware, and working to do better! The most rewarding aspect so far has been seeing how such a geographically diverse group of artists can work together so seamlessly.

    What are some of your favorite haunts in Portland?

    Tasty and Sons, Woodsman Tavern, and Cup and Saucer. Some great streets to explore for shops are Alberta, Mississippi, 23rd, and Hawthorne.

    Many thanks to Nathan! You can now find Kinfolk in our web shop and at the following store locations: Chelsea, Brooklyn Women’s, Nolita Women’s, West Village, East Hampton, Venice, Hayes Valley and Fillmore.

    - Photos by Leo Patrone (1, 2, 4, 5) and Kelly Searle (3)

    This entry was posted on Tuesday, July 31st, 2012 at 1:11 am and is filed under Home, New Arrivals, Photos. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

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4 Responses to “Q&A: Kinfolk Magazine’s Nathan Williams”

  1. arlina says:

    What I love most about the heart behind Kinfolk is that they are venturing to re install value to a concept that time, trends, and everyday obligations have unintentionally led us astray from; which is the purity of spending time together in the simplest of ways. All of sudden we’re reminded of the satisfaction offered freely in front of us just by truly being with one another doing things like enjoying a homemade meal. Not only does sitting down with an issue of Kinfolk give you that warm fuzzy feeling inside but it’s also beautifully crafted for the ascetically obsessed. Every element is enchanting.

  2. Clare says:

    What a lovely interview. It’s fascinating to learn about the vision behind the magazine. Looking forward to Kinfolk making their way (please, one day?!) to Victoria, BC.

  3. Camy says:

    This is a beautiful interview with very inspired answers. Which just further proves my belief that being with a bunch of people who love food can’t go wrong.

    Also, that when work becomes love, it isn’t just work anymore. Amazing energy and I hope Kinfolk keeps going!

  4. arefeh says:

    i like it