A fond farewell to Pretty Nostalgic

by Jo Keeling


A little under two years ago I left my job on Countryfile magazine to help launch Pretty Nostalgic - an independent magazine for creative and sustainable living. It’s been one of the most rewarding projects I’ve ever worked on but, now that it’s established, I’ve decided it’s time to move on and make other exciting ideas happen. So, in an attempt to do justice to two incredibly satisfying years in one blog post, here are five of my personal highlights...

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1. Starting from scratch

I don’t think there’s anything more exciting than creating a new project from scratch. I got a taste for it on the launch team for Countryfile, when I was tasked with developing a series of walking route guides and days out in the centre of the magazine. But Pretty Nostalgic was a delicious blank canvas - a strong ethos in our publisher’s mind and a million different ways to portray it in mine. I filled countless notebooks, absorbed inspiration from every source and sketched out features every evening, then assembled an awesome team who could make it real. I felt deliriously out of my depth at times, but with each issue our confidence grew and we pushed our vision ever forward.

2. Getting thoroughly absorbed with tactile design

Perhaps the most rewarding aspect of Pretty Nostalgic was being able to experiment with physical, tactile design. With the help of some incredible crafters, we iced headings onto cupcakes and chiselled them into wood; we stitched articles in wool on tweed and laid out entire double page spreads on my housemate’s bedroom floor. It’s not the easiest way to design a magazine that’s for sure, but as least you won’t see it anywhere else!

3. Unearthing a world of British makers (and spending way too much money in the process)

Each member of the team lives and breathes the content of the magazine and, as a result of two years of constant inspiration, I discovered a new love for needlefelt and willow weaving, made my own Christmas decorations, joined a Lindy Hop class, bought more chalk paint that you can shake a brush at, rescued a vintage wrought iron treadle sewing machine, gave a new home to two textile taxidermy creatures I couldn’t bear to send back and started new collections in botanical illustrations, enamel camping ware, natural history books and vintage baubles. Not to mention how much I’ve spent on renovating our new home with well-made British things.

4. Enjoyed bizarre but wonderful interviews, experiences and photoshoots

Life on Pretty Nostalgic came with its fair share of peculiar experiences: soaking in a roll top bath in the middle of Welsh field while our hosts stoked a fire beneath us, weaving a merry dance between fact and fiction when interviewing the intriguing Insect Circus, trying desperately not to break anything while shooting a Lindy Hop feature on board the SS Great Britain (and failing), arranging a most unlikely menagerie of textile taxidermy creatures in a hidden Welsh grotto and camping out in a stranger’s back garden. Then of course, there are the awesome homes I’ve been lucky enough to explore - from the Bristol artist who turned her front room into a window shop to the family who decorated their house solely with things they found on the street.

5. Reaching issue 10!

With distribution stacked against you, a newsstand of shouty titles and a tiny budget, it’s no surprise that many indie magazines go under before their first year (apparently 10% is an optimistic success rate). So I’m chuffed to bits to leave Pretty Nostalgic in fine form as it heads towards its second anniversary. And I'm doubly excited about building on everything I've learnt along the way - so here's to new ventures!