Archeologist of Style: When Cultural is Personal
Daring Fiell triumphs with thought provoking, visually sumptuous books in the age of click and spin
BY MAGAZINE EDITOR SUSAN MAIER-MOUL
Book Review The Little Book of Shocking Food Facts
Book Review The Little Book of Shocking Global Facts
The publisher Fiell caught our eye this summer when we found their beautifully made series The Little Books of Shocking Facts. Both as professionals and as a married couple, Peter and Charlotte Fiell prize the beauty they encounter in the unique and in the mass produced, so much so they’ve staked their careers on their young venture.
In a world bent by the tactics of shock and awe, Fiell has curated a determined path of artisanal skill and collector’s appreciation that conserves the value and character of cultural expression.
Photo: ©Fiell from Memories of a Lost World: Travels through the Magic Lantern, edited by Charlotte Fiell
Susan Maier-Moul How did you arrive at the subjects of your focus in publishing?
Charlotte Fiell The subjects that we have decided to publish, whether it is books on ethical issues, fashion, photography, design or architecture, are all areas which we have a real interest in personally.
Some of our books are broad historical surveys, such as “Hairstyles: Ancient to Present” or “Plastic Dreams: Synthetic Visions in Design”, which involve a large degree of primary research and we often feel like cultural archeologists when we are working on projects such as these.
Other projects are very much focussed on contemporary issues, such as our series of “Little Books of Shocking Facts”, which contain information that we believe is really important to get out there in the most eye-catching and thought-provoking way possible.
Susan Was it more or less what interested the people you with whom you wanted to work?
Charlotte For years we had wanted to do a project with the ethical issue graphic designer, Jonathan Barnbrook and “The Little Book of Shocking Global Facts” was the perfect project on which to collaborate.
Similarly, we have known Rian Hughes for a long time and knew he was the perfect person to work with on books that are about popular culture and typography, such as “Lifestyle Illustration of the 60s” or “Custom Lettering of the 60s & 70s”.
Photo: ©Fiell from Hairstyles: Ancient to Present, edited by Charlotte Fiell
Dress for Success
Susan Was there an area for which your previous work/ life experience prepared or thwarted your interest?
Charlotte We were extremely fortunate to have spent 15 years as design editors and writers with the German publishing house, Taschen, and this experience prepared us for becoming our own publishers.
We also ran a design gallery many years ago, and this allowed us to gain a real hands-on knowledge of design which we have been able to translate into a number of bestselling books on the subject.
Susan Making the choice to publish must have involved some interesting conversations. Was it largely between the two of you, or do you involve someone else in your decisions as a sounding board or collaborator?
Charlotte Most of the time we come up ourselves with the ideas for the titles. We have, however, been really lucky that certain projects have been brought to us, and you just know when a project has potential.
For example, “Ugly” by Stephen Bayley is a great book, which is not only a wonderful discourse on the nature of beauty and its opposite, ugliness, but also a highly readable history of art and design.
Photo: ©Fiell from Ugly: The Aesthetics of Everything by Stephen Bayley
The virtue of tenacity
Susan What gave you the courage and energy to do it?
Charlotte Setting up a publishing company in the midst of a recession is rather audacious, but we see lots of opportunity and really believe in our books. That is what keeps us going – you have to have a passion to work as hard as we have over the last two and half years. As for energy levels, Peter swears by various health supplements, whereas I try and just keep a positive outlook on life…
Susan If someone you knew wanted to follow their dreams but was hesitating, what is the single most important experience you would share or advice you would give them to support their process of decision?
Charlotte Don’t expect to get everything right the first time, and if you make a mistake try and make it learning experience. Also just keep on going towards your goal even if you experience problems on the way…tenacity is a great attribute!
Photo: ©Fiell cover Autumn/ Winter catalogue 2010
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© 2011, The Magazine of Yoga, LLC.