Behind the scenes: Oh Comely boxes

by Stine Fantoft Berg in September 2015
Women

There’s no limit to the stuff you can get delivered to your doorstep these days. While we specialise in bringing you the best of independent publishing, the intelligent women’s magazine Oh Comely has expanded its subscription offering to include carefully curated boxes of objects inspired by each issue.

Interested to hear more, I met up with the woman in charge, Alice Naylor. In a light backyard greenhouse, she’s joined by two members of the Oh Comely team, all neatly folding boxes and wrapping objects for their third delivery, due to go out to subscribers in a couple of days.

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This place is beautiful – where are we?
This is actually one of our editors, Rosanna’s house. We come here when we need more space than we have in our Holborn offices. We spend pretty much a week here putting the boxes together ready to ship off. Today, I’m joined by our publishing assistant, Tamara and our intern Aimee-Lee.

Tell me about the boxes! What’s the idea behind them?
The main idea is to add another layer to the Oh Comely brand. The subject matter of the magazine translates really well into objects, so it’s a way of making the magazine come to life. It all photographs very beautifully and we have received lots of positive feedback across social media.

It’s just a lovely surprise in the mail, and it’s very different to the other options out there. It’s also a way of building up our online shop, as all the objects can be bought from there individually. We want the shop to be a place where you can get a card for a friend, or a limited edition print, all aligned with the Oh Comely aesthetics.

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What’s in the box, and how does it relate to the editorial content of the magazine?
The aim is for the magazine and the box to be a cohesive piece, so the editorial content informs the contents of the box. For example, for each issue of Oh Comely, we have a guest illustrator whose illustrations can be translated into the contents of the box. Right now we’re putting together our third box, which is inspired by our 27th issue, the body issue, with Marie Gardeski as the guest illustrator.

The previous box we called the cartwheel box and it featured British illustrator Kaye Blegvad’s designs. It contained pin badges, a deck of cards, a face swap, and a notebook all featuring Kaye’s illustrations.

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Could you tell me about the process of building the box? How do you come up with the items?
I get an understanding of the editorial content quite early on, so that all feeds into the contents of the box. We’re a small team so everyone is involved and there’s a lot of brainstorming where we sit around with cups of tea and Post-Its. You also have the Eureka moment, and what I call ‘the rain on my parade’ – that’s when I’ve been cracking my head over something for weeks, and then one of my colleagues just nails it through a casual remark by the coffee maker.

It’s really lovely to do something that’s not computer based. It’s a great way to sit down and have conversations across the team. We’re such a small team in a really small space, so everyone is involved in everything. Everything we do is collaborative – that’s a really important part of what makes Oh Comely such a nice place to work.

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How about the physical process?
It’s a long process that requires quite a bit of manual labour. That’s the nature of doing it on this scale. Everything has been touched by our hands, and wrapped with our tender loving care. For the last box, 1,500 items were wrapped individually.

Even if, in the heat of the moment, 75 boxes left to go feels like a lot, it’s really enjoyable to sit here and work with our hands. Once they’re shipped off and we see the responses on social media, every bit of tissue paper, string and ribbon that you’ve folded up is worth it.

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