Five years ago this week, the first issue of Living Crafts hit the newsstands across the United States. Right from the first issue, it was distributed in major bookstore chains, Michael’s, and JoAnn’s. As a matter of fact, it remains the only one to this date distributed to natural food chains and co-ops. We have decided to cease publication of the print magazine due to increasing costs of production and printing, which exceed the revenue from subscriptions and advertising. Summer 2012 issue is our last issue, and after five years we cease publication of Living Crafts magazine and become a web-only company.
Living Crafts was inspired by motherhood, created to serve families embracing a natural life and a desire for self-sufficiency. Having worked for natural lifestyle magazines since 1996, starting a natural craft magazine was the “natural” step. Using our own savings, my husband and I started the magazine in 2007. Living Crafts was welcomed very warmly and with the support of subscribers and advertisers, grew and flourished. Many of you paid for your first subscription before we even had published our first issue, and have stayed loyal subscribers to this day. I am filled with gratitude and thank you for your support. Subscribers are what make a magazine, and those of you who supported us helped keep it going. During the last five years we have served thousands of mothers, grandmothers, and teachers in the United States, Australia, Canada, and Europe with our editorial, customized just for you. Many blogs, online magazines, books, toy and crafts companies were created, inspired by our seasonal editorial. As I watched everyone’s progress online, my hands were tied with the print production aspects of the magazine, and did not start a blog until three years later.
In the first couple of years our articles were ahead of the mainstream craft magazines in providing articles on natural family crafts. We were the first magazine to dedicate our editorial to address the mother-child need for a natural play environment that went beyond the craft itself, but covered the emotional and spiritual aspects of a child’s world and the crafting mothers’ community. We were pioneers in articles that connected a woman’s hands and heart through connecting with her tribe, and the spiritual realm. Soul Crafts column, Our Tribe, and Evolving through Handwork became our most popular columns. With Sage, we honored those who contributed years of their lives to making toys, creating art, and …. Many crafting mothers’ groups were formed, and the readers were encouraged to buy local and visit local farms to buy their wool or dye their own yarn and sew their own. Soon after, with launching of new magazine-like websites, like Pinterest, many of our subscribers replaced buying a subscription or a back issue with marking their favorites, creating their own online albums, organizing ideas and patterns available online, quenching their thirst for stacking up printed magazines, books, and craft supplies.
Right in front of my eyes our loyal community of natural crafters moved towards the web even more, and while so many still loved Living Crafts in print, they did not subscribe to our magazine. We finally did start our own blog in December 2010, and our online audience grew while print subscriptions stayed still.
The most basic team required to print a magazine includes a customer service representative, a graphic designer, photographers, editors, contributors, and illustrators, and a newsstand manager. Add a printer’s invoice to that and the cost becomes enormous for a publisher that carries a single title. Three specific reasons have come together to end Living Crafts as a print magazine. First, just a year after the launch, our community moved increasingly to the Web. Unfortunately we did not have our blog and good content yet (until December 2010) so we lost some of our readers to the various Web community, as most crafters now check Facebook or Pinterest before they check their e-mail. The second reason is the increase in printing and production costs in the U.S. In order for us to print on recycled paper in the U.S. we had to pay higher costs than most craft magazines. The third reason is the advertisers’ exedus to the Web where they can capture higher number of people for the same dollars, including on our own website. Even our own web community of FaceBook, Pinterest and blog visitors are larger than community of our paid subscribers. Obviously many of our advertisers have been hard hit by the economy. The first item to cut is usually advertising dollars. Our subscribers, too, have been affected by the economy, and although many would love to subscribe to Living Crafts, family priorities draw them to the Web for their crafting needs. In addition to all the above, in order to keep the magazine profitable, I had to work extra hours. This affected my family, and my health, to the point that I developed chest pains. Luckily, the test results came back negative, as they were due to stress, but it was a big scare. My heart was talking, and I had to take note. If we were to continue to print the magazine, it would only mean more stress.
When a magazine ceases publication, its subscriptions are usually fulfilled by another magazine within the same publishing house. Publishing a single title, we had to go outside to find a suitable magazine. When I thought about which magazine is most compatible with Living Crafts, I remembered Linda Ligon, founder of Interweave Press, and my former employer. She was the first to call. She immediately made an introduction to the executive management and we thought their Stitch Craft Create was the closest to our publication. Stitch Craft Create will fulfill Living Crafts’ subscriptions beginning with their Winter 2012 issue. If, for example, three issues remain on your subscription to Living Crafts, you will receive the next three issues of Stitch Craft Create. My wish is for your understanding and that you enjoy their magazine.
While this is a huge change for those of us who love the print edition of Living Crafts, myself and my team included, we are still a community. We have a growing social-media community, with 7,000 Facebook fans and 2,000 followers on Pinterest, and 3,000 followers on Twitter. It was inevitable that our community should move to the Web. Even though most people love the joy and comfort of reading a magazine or a book, most people now spend the majority of their reading time online.
Recently, when my sister wanted to felt a silk-wool scarf for a friend, even though she knew about the Fairy Scarf in the Summer 2008 issue of Living Crafts, she went right to our website to look up the supplies. Fortunately she found her Summer 2008 issue and used it for instructions; otherwise, she had gone to the Living Crafts website to save time, and found a similar project, competing with our own print issue!
If you haven’t already, please join us at LivingCrafts.com. Our blog posts include free projects, giveaways, book reviews, and product sources, and above all friendship. Soon we’ll revamp our website and provide many of our natural and organic product databases and articles online. Our plan includes a chat room and store.
You can still purchase back issues until they last, and we’ll also be providing some of the projects as digital online patterns for sale.
My heartfelt thank you for all of your goodwill and support for the last five years. Many of your letters have brought tears of gratitude. Please leave a comment and tell us how you feel. I look forward to many many years ahead providing the same service online, when self-sustainability and use of Mother Earth’s supply become the norm in our society.
Pardis Amirshahi, Founder