Human and cat relationships have been well-documented throughout history – it was recently discovered that in the Mesopotamia region and Turkey, and on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, cats were curling up with people more than 10,000 years ago, and cats were revered in many of the region’s traditions. From artistically depicted cat worship in ancient Egypt to the now thousands of registered therapy cats across the globe, it’s clear we cannot get enough of our feline friends.
The same can be said of the creative folks behind Brocolli, who this month have released their latest publishing project, Catnip. Dedicated to our love of cats and cat culture, the issue features essays, editorials and interviews wrapped inside an adorable 216-page collectable issue. Highlights include an exploration of photographer Masayuki Oki’s feral cats of Japan, a hair-raising history of hairballs, and an interview with TikTok’s Catluminati on the art of the catwalk.
The artful, 70s-inspired cover design includes a charming portrait by Chicago-based artist Stephen Eichhorn, and clear, spot-gloss cat paws as if your kitty has crawled across its pages. “Some of Stephen’s work from his project Cats & Plants is featured inside the magazine too, and this orange cat collage is from his archive,” says the magazine’s founder and publisher, Anja Charbonneau. “I love the cat’s pout, like it’s slightly annoyed at being admired for its cuteness. We added in traditional cover lines and a strong typeface for the title to keep it from being too sweet.”
I love the cat’s pout, like it’s slightly annoyed at being admired for its cuteness.
Catnip is the latest offering from LA-based, women-led publishing house Brocolli, home to its namesake title – a quarterly zine exploring cannabis culture – among an array of “unusual delights”. Such delights include Mushroom People, Snail World: Life in the Slimelight Book and The Invisible Harvest: A Microhistory of Heretical Herbs, all of which can be purchased from Brocolli’s online store.
Below, Anja shares the inspiration behind their latest print, unexpected kitty trivia and the importance of independent publishing.
Firstly, congratulations on the launch of Catnip. What inspired you to create a magazine with this feline focus?
Thank you so much! On the personal side, I just love cats so much. I wouldn’t mind being a cozy house cat in my next life. They’re such funny, fascinating creatures, and cats and humans have such a rich history of coexisting. It seemed fun to explore the dimensions of cat culture through an editorial lens, and I knew there would be a lot of cat lovers like me out there who would appreciate a magazine like this.
As you were working on the magazine, how much of an idea of the end product did you already have, or were you guided through the production process?
Catnip definitely evolved as we were working on it. In the beginning, I was picturing something like Popeye or other Japanese magazines with really dense pages and lots of product features. Our editorial style isn’t usually very commercial, so we abandoned that concept for a more traditional flow of interviews, art features, essays and more, but added in surprise design treatments like glossy paw prints scattered throughout, die-cut claw marks, and a fold-out insert. Aesthetically, we wanted it to feel a bit like browsing the best thrift store, full of vintage vibes and weird treasures.
What has been the most surprising or unexpected thing that working on Catnip has uncovered about our relationship with cats?
I was surprised to find that there are so many cat landmarks around the world. There’s a feature inside rounding up cat places of note, and we had to limit the number because it was adding up so fast. From cat sanctuaries to museums, statues to galleries and bookshops, it definitely feels like a cat’s world out there.
What do you hope readers take away from Catnip?
My only goal is for Catnip to make people happy. It’s really a positive, fun magazine that offers some escapism and joy. It also allows cat lovers to go deeper than cute cat photos and videos online, a more long-form way to appreciate cats through media.
It’s no secret that it’s a hard time out here for print publishers, us included. I find it inspiring that Broccoli supports niche independent titles, and would love to know why this is so important to you?
Everyone on our team adores print, and we all believe that print is more important than ever. The digital landscape we engage with is so highly customizable that we rarely give ourselves over to a media experience that someone else is truly curating for us. When you open a magazine, you’re handing over control to the editors who put everything together, allowing for delight through the unexpected. Magazines aren’t ruled by clicks, so our team has a beautiful freedom to show the reader anything that we think is interesting, not just what we think will drive traffic and sales for affiliates and advertisers.
As women working in independent publishing who have just published a magazine about cats, you’re a shining example of defying the industry’s opinions on print’s purpose and relevancy. How do you feel about the future landscape for print publishing, particularly for niche titles like Catnip?
From a business perspective, I believe niche publishing is the way to go. It’s hard to sell something generalized, whether that’s to a reader or an advertiser. It’s much more fun to dive deep into a subject or subculture, that kind of creative restriction can be very motivating, and you end up with readers who are like, woah, this was made just for me. Everyone deserves to read the niche magazine of their dreams, so I hope more and more are published!
If you were to publish a second edition of Catnip, what cat-related stories or themes would you be interested in exploring?
A second issue seems really likely, maybe in a year or two. People have been begging for another chance to submit photos of their cats, so we’d definitely include that!
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