I’ve had a huge girl crush on Katherine Jane Wood since I stumbled upon her on Twitter a few months ago, just as she was launching her erotic magazine Quite Frankly. Designed by women, for women, Quite Frankly is more than a magazine; it’s high-brow seduction, an exclusive invitation into the lush fantasy life of women. The images are spectacular, many of them Wood’s own erotic self-portraits. I was so smitten by Wood that I asked if I could interview her about the evolution of her ground-breaking endeavor. Read on to learn what she has to say about designing the first erotic magazine by women, for women.
How did you come up with the idea to design a magazine “solely by women, for women?”
The idea of creating a magazine by women, for women was always our driving motivation for the project. We never considered any alternative.
It is simply the case that the three people who conceived the magazine and worked towards its realisation – Alice, Simone, and myself – are women, and we curated the content based on what we ourselves would wish to see in our own ideal erotic publication.
Essentially we designed and produced a magazine for ourselves, and hoped that there would be a large enough audience of women just like us to make it viable.
Although you design the magazine for women, do you have men in mind as well? If so, how does that shape your editorial and pictorial content?
It is of no surprise to me at all that Quite Frankly also appeals to a male audience. It would be foolish of me to try to suggest otherwise.
Whilst it is absolutely the truth to say that we have not made any decisions based on ‘what men might like,’ it is simply the case that men also appreciate good quality design, and great photography – and that really shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone.
When we launched the Quite Frankly website the audience that registered their details for further information was predominantly female. Our social media audience, especially Twitter followers, comprises mostly women and the feedback from women has been really positive. We do have many more men though ordering the magazine than we had expected, but quite a few of the guys who have placed orders have said that they are buying it for their partner.
Actually, I am delighted that so many men view the magazine as something erotic that they can give to their wife or girlfriend as a gift and not fear it being in some way inappropriate or tacky. From the very beginning we discussed that we would be very happy if this magazine could be the type of publication that could be openly enjoyed by couples together, rather than it being like all of those other adult magazines that tend to be hidden under the mattress and only acknowledged with more than a little shame.
With regards to content, all of the articles have been written by women offering their point of view, for an audience of women. We probably would lean towards a bias of women contributing photographic content too, if we could, but we curate content on quality first and foremost. Circumstances have been such that far fewer women have submitted photography than men, but we will see more women photographers in Issue Two, and even a self-portrait biased issue in the pipeline soon after.
We are certainly not up for excluding men from contributing photography, buying, or otherwise enjoying the magazine itself.
You feature a stunning series of erotic self-portraits and you sell a journal of your editorial team’s ‘erotic confessions.’ There is a level of intimacy that comes from this choice to blur the line between professional and personal. What was the reason for doing this? Have you gotten any flak because of it? Have you and your team felt personally empowered by this choice?
There will always be a level of intimacy when discussing erotic imagery and attitudes towards sex and sexuality in an honest and open way. It is such a personal and subjective subject, which is exactly why it is so fascinating. I very much want Quite Frankly to provoke dialogues and ask questions of our readers. I am not saying to the reader that, “This image is erotic.” I am asking them whether they find it erotic, and then to consider why they do, or why they do not. I cannot expect readers to be honest, even if just to themselves, if I am being secretive of my own thoughts and emotions, or in any way appearing to take a silently judgemental position myself.
Do I feel empowered by the decision to share such an intimate version of myself? No, it’s utterly terrifying! Ha ha!
Have I gotten any flak? No. And that’s not an invitation.
How is your magazine different from other erotic magazines? What experience do readers get from yours that they don’t get from others?
Quality of design. High production standards. Fine art sensibility. Honesty. Personality. A personal touch.
A genuine attempt to explore sex and sexuality in a way that is prepared to be beautiful, and also unashamedly frank and fearless.
A publication designed for an audience of girls – and, yes, guys too – who are just like us, who have similar tastes to us, and would like to indulge a little eroticism from time to time.
And, again, who might welcome an opportunity to purchase an erotic or adult publication in an entirely shame free way.
Who are some of your role models and influences for your magazine?
It’s difficult to name anyone in particular but I am always fascinated by people that are prepared to hold their head up high when it comes to being honest about who they are and what they do…especially if they can also discuss their position in an intelligent and articulate way.
Creatively I’m inspired by so many photographers but especially so by the community of photographers and models online, and on Tumblr in particular, that work together time-and-time again, at their own expense, to often create truly great images. One of my driving motivations was to create a forum to showcase the best of all that creative energy. The bodies of work created by models such as Nettie Harris, Jacs Fishburne, Cam Damage, and photographers such as George Pitts, Mikey McMichaels and Ed Ross (and I could name so many more) fills me with admiration, and I am proud to be able to put their work in front of a new audience.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced as you’ve launched your erotic magazine? What have you learned about yourself professionally and personally?
Oh boy, so many lessons learned!
Many years ago I read somewhere that if you want to start your own business you need to give up two years of your life. I never really understood what it meant. I do now.
Our shared commitment to achieving our vision, without compromise, has been the biggest challenge – and realising that we’ve taken on a project that would elsewhere have a large team of people to make it happen, or a huge project budget. We’re trying to achieve something with just a team of three, and one of those three (me!) hasn’t got any previous experience whatsoever!
The most exciting lesson that I have learned is that if you have the balls to approach strangers and ask them for help – so many of them seem prepared to say yes and offer the support that you’re looking for.
Your editorial team is comprised solely of stunning blondes. I have to ask: was this intentional (it’s brilliant marketing!) or did it just happen naturally?
Ha ha, I was hoping no one would notice!
I never gave any consideration to the colour of our hair until Alice showed me the design layout for the Team Page. At this point I just laughed and said, “Oh no, we need to hire a brunette immediately!”
I shall try to assure you there is absolutely no cynical marketing ploy being employed here. Alice and Simone are very talented designers that have worked together for a few years and are both blonde – as am I – and it is simply a coincidence that the few friends that have written articles for the magazine are also blonde. Of course, when I took the portrait photos of the team we all made an effort to look our best, and I naturally selected the most flattering image to include in the magazine. I’m sure no one would have been amused if I’d asked them to make an effort to look a bit rough so we are more likely to be judged on merit, not looks.
Thank you though for the comment that we’re all stunning!
In your premier issue, you ran a feature on Marilyn Coles, a former Playboy centerfold now in her 50s. Do you plan on running more erotic photos of older women?
Yes, I would very much like to. When we were doing image research for Issue One we found a few very sexy images of older women but could never track down the photographer.
My attitude towards my own sexuality, and enjoyment of sex, is very different now that I am in my thirties than when I was in my twenties, and I am sure it will change again as I get older. Personally, I equate ‘older’ with ‘confidence.’ And whilst younger women are beautiful in their youthfulness, it is only with a real sense of self-confidence that women truly can feel sexy. Young women look sexy, older women are sexy.