Interview with Marta Roca, Editor, Four&Sons
Interview with Marta Roca, Editor, Four&Sons
Recently, I had the great pleasure of interviewing Marta Roca, founder and Editor of Four&Sons, and online and print publication. Marta possesses a graphic design background and a passion for dogs. Four&Sons is based in Australia and this print and online publication documents the relationship of man and his best friend. Four&Sons covers art, design, fashion, music, and lifestyle. Four&Sons brings together an eclectic mix of inspiring ‘dog-centric’ content to dog-lovers passionate about culture and creativity.
KATHERINE CARVER: What were your beginnings as a graphic designer and when did you realize it would become your chosen path and form of expression?
MARTA ROCA: I was lucky to meet a very inspiring teacher during high school. Although she was a painter, she was our ‘Graphic Design’ lecturer and she was great at bringing the best out of us, while honing our different skills. I have no ‘artistic’ talent (I can’t even draw!); however, I love the creative side of design, the fusion between form and function, and the beauty of good thinking. Once I started University, I realized editorial design was my real passion. Some people start designing album covers because of their love of music. I love reading, and I love books and magazines for their culture value and also as objects. That was the start. I cut my teeth working in great studios in London and Melbourne before setting up my own studio. It’s a tough gig to get projects in editorial, so ended up founding Four Publishing to work on self-generated ‘love’ projects.
KATHERINE CARVER: How did your fascination with dogs come about?
MARTA ROCA: A happy accident! Christina Teresinski from accessories brand Best in Park and I have been meaning to collaborate on a project combining all our passions: dogs, art, culture, and magazines. We started to wonder how we could bring it all together from a ‘dog-centric point of view.’ We then started to dig deeper on the ‘creative’ relationship between humans and dogs. The lightbulb moment came when we started to examine dogs as the ‘muse,’ as the inspiration.
KATHERINE CARVER: What impetus inspired you to begin Four&Sons?
MARTA ROCA: I got totally hooked on the somehow kooky, weird, and wonderful bond between humans and dogs — how it inspires people to create and how it breaks down barriers. The deeper I went, the harder I fell in love with it. We set out to discover more about the role of ‘dogs as muses,’ about the art and design behind it, and about the social/cultural aspects of it. And what we found was too good not to share it!
KATHERINE CARVER: How has your own dog(s) influenced you?
MARTA ROCA: Believe or not, I don’t have a dog of my own. I live vicariously through Four&Sons, through the interviews, and the art. I am a sort of ‘dog/culture’ voyeur. Sometimes I feel very deprived, but most of the time I feel this can bring a different edge to our content. A chocolate labrador is in the works though…
KATHERINE CARVER: What is your favorite breed (and type) of dog?
MARTA ROCA: I have a soft spot for dalmatians. I think it is the designer in me, for the black/white graphic factor. For aesthetic reasons, a Weimaraner. For fun, French bulldogs. Labradors for how sweet and dopey they are…
KATHERINE CARVER: How and when did you decide to move to a print version publication for Four&Sons, while maintaining an online readership?
MARTA ROCA: In 2013, we published a newspaper. It was a limited-edition ‘souvenir’ to celebrate our first year anniversary as online publication, and to say thank you to everyone who had supported us. We had always intended to move to print, and the response was so positive, we felt we were on the right path. People noticed us and understood better what we are trying to do — we featured beautiful work by artists inspired by their relationship with dogs, and our ‘dog as muse’ motto started to sink in. It would have been a shame not to publish on paper regularly. The content is really visual (almost tactile) — you just want to reach out and touch those mutts! We feel our content deserved to be on a medium that becomes an object, a gift, and a collector’s item.
KATHERINE CARVER: How did you bring your vision of a Four&Sons printed publication to fruition?
MARTA ROCA: The first thing we realized is we needed a more ‘specialized’ team, so to speak. We appointed our editor, Sam Gurrie. Sam is mad about dogs, loves art and culture, and it shows. Together we fleshed out the content –which sections we wanted to cover, how to get the right mix of features, who we wanted to approach (writers, photographers, and artists), and we set up to chase it all. It is very important to us that the content would appeal to someone who is not necessarily a ‘dog person;’ and it would still be interesting and culturally relevant. We have been really lucky that people understands the magazine is still a labour of love and people have been really generous with their time, and also trusting us with their work.
The biggest learning curve has been on the publishing/marketing/ business side — understanding how magazine distribution works (we have three different distribution houses covering different markets — Europe/UK, USA/Canada, and Australia/NZ. We are still trying to crack Japan). Additionally, we are learning to make decisions both from the heart and the head (well, still working on this one); how to position of the magazine (we are not a pet magazine!); which partners we want to associate with; and how to engage the support of dog-lovers around the world. We are fortunate we have a readership which is really passionate about the subject matter.
The stockist list for the United States for Four&Sons is: Alder&Co; B_Space; Bookmarc by Marc Jacobs; Casa Magazines; Hennessey + Ingalls; McNally Jackson, MoMA PS1; Mulberry Iconic; Portland Trading Co; Print Text; Shinola; Skylight Books; Space Ninety 8; Spoonbill & Sugartown; and The Primary Essentials.
KATHERINE CARVER: How often will you create print editions for Four&Sons?
MARTA ROCA: Twice a year.
Issue Two, available for purchase now, features: Nacho Alegre; Pia Arrobio; AtelierAce; Roger Ballen; Carrie Brownstein; John Darwell; Sam Edmonds; Lucian Freud; Matt Furie; Sophie Gamand; Amy Hempel; Daniel Johnston; Anna Kleberg; Thakoon Panichgul; Robin Schwartz; Romance Was Born; Ware of the Dog; Bruce Weber; William Wegman; and Eric Yahnker.
(The images contained in this interview features spreads from Issue Two, Four&Sons.)
KATHERINE CARVER: What is the most challenging aspect of being designer?
MARTA ROCA: Editing yourself down! Keeping things simple and fresh. It’s tempting to over-elaborate but restrain has always worked best for me.
KATHERINE CARVER: What does “being creative” mean to you?
MARTA ROCA: It’s a bit like daydreaming meanwhile you are at work!
KATHERINE CARVER: What inspires you to keep going and what keeps you motivated?
MARTA ROCA: To the risk of sounding like the biggest cliché, I just love what I do. I get to work on something I believe in, which is fun and challenging. We get to meet very interesting people, have great conversations, and chat about what they love.
KATHERINE CARVER: What are the most rewarding and satisfying parts about creating your work?
MARTA ROCA: Learning is a pretty fulfilling part of what I do, which feeds my curiosity; being involved in many aspects of the magazine; and feeling personally invested. From an ‘ego-boasting’ point of view, it’s great when people tells us that they enjoy what we do. That keeps us going too.
KATHERINE CARVER: What artists inspire you?
MARTA ROCA: Artists who don’t take themselves too seriously! Being quite a dry person, I love seeing humour, even recklessness, in art.
KATHERINE CARVER: What advice do you have for someone who wants to start a print publication?
MARTA ROCA: Do it! Enjoy the process, not just the end goal. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and make some mistakes. Take into account all facets from the start — from the content to the design and print and distribution and the business. Be patient and respectful and you will be amazed how generous people can be trying to help you.
KATHERINE CARVER: What is next for Four&Sons?
MARTA ROCA: Hopefully we can become a quarterly publication in the near future. We are in for the long run, so longevity is key for us. We are also starting to focus on other ‘off-shoot’ projects: events; exhibitions; collaborations; product; other publications; and a pop-up store perhaps…? We would love to become the ‘one-stop-shop’ for any dog-lover passionate about culture and creativity.
KATHERINE CARVER: How can people learn more about you and Four&Sons?
All images contained in this interview are courtesy of Marta Roca, Four & Sons.
You can read additional interviews here.