What's on your lips

“I just can’t do that thing where someone else owns my time”

Twenty-year-old Anemone Sejr has published two magazines – Insert Yourself Here and Second Publication – and lately a paper in collaboration with Adidas. She makes everything herself and her magazines are sold in shops in Copenhagen and in New York.

When she was at school, Anemone Sejr knew that the school system with its fixed rules and rigid framework was not for her. But how do you know that you are going in the right direction when you choose to go it alone?

How did you get the idea that you wanted to publish your own magazine?

I’ve probably known for a long time that I wanted to do something creative. After school, I took another year at Bernadotteskolen (creatively orientated school in Hellerup, north of Copenhagen – ed.) to find out what I wanted to do. I could just feel that staying on in upper secondary school was just not for me. Not because I’m not organised or disciplined. On the contrary. I very much know what I want. I just can’t do that thing where someone else owns my time. I’ve never been very good at compromising, and I’m very stubborn about the things that I want to do.

When I was younger, I did pretty well in the school system. I’ve always gone to school and done my homework, had friends, been popular, but I never really thought that it was that interesting. It was just something I did. There were many things in the structure of school that made me uncertain and anxious so I just closed down a bit and withdrew – even from social interaction.

Society is structured in such a way that everyone expects you to go on to upper secondary school so it was hard to choose something different to the majority. Being outside is difficult – not being able to take part in your friends’ conversations, not being on their wavelength, because their everyday lives are completely different. But that wasn’t the life I wanted to live, and now I’m truly happy about my decision.

First, I went to the textile college in Holte, but it was very much focused on sewing and that didn’t interest me very much. I haven’t got the patience to sit down for six months to learn a craft. I’m much flightier and believe it’s much more fun to do a lot of different things. Get a great idea and run with it.

That was an odd period because if that wasn’t what I wanted to do either, what was? I dropped out after six months, but I learnt an enormous amount about idea processes and design. That clever ideas don’t just come out of the blue. Sometimes you have to work your way towards them. You make room for them. That was a very useful thing to learn.

Then I thought that I needed to do something crazy, believe in myself – live a little. So I took a language course in San Diego in California. It was a fantastic experience to find out that I was able do all sorts of things that I didn’t think I could do when I was so far from home. It gave me a lot of courage to try a lot of new things.

The magazines started as a few moodboards on my computer. Then I came up with the idea of working with people I thought were cool, and the format just developed from there. It was a way for me to throw myself into all the creative tasks I enjoyed: photography, styling, digital design, creative direction, marketing. A project that I myself was able to design and manage, where it was ‘just’ a collection of my aesthetics – a mix of my own taste, but also things by other people that I think are cool. I started to look into what it would cost to have it all printed, and I found a small printing company in Jutland. They were fine with my turning up and asking a lot of stupid questions. We just clicked, and this opened up the opportunity to publish a print magazine.

Insert Yourself Here, my first magazine, was published in January 2020. Just as I launched it, I got a trainee position at Office Magazine in New York which was so cool. I’m very inspired by American culture so I was really looking forward to the whole thing. But I’d only just arrived when corona hit. So I had to go home again. That had been the place where I’d hoped that my life was really going to start so it kicked me completely off course. Finally, I’d felt that I’d found a direction – and then I was completely lost. But you also have to allow yourself that.

Just before I left New York, I went into McNally Jackson, my favourite bookshop in SoHo, and gave them a copy of my magazine to see whether they would be willing to take it. They did so we agreed that I’d send them a box. I’m really proud of the fact that I’ve created something that’s being sold in New York. I’d really like to be there in the shop and see it on display. It’s completely surreal.

How do you start the magazines?

Getting started is always the most difficult. I have quite a few ideas, but it’s difficult for me to take the first step without being sure that I’ve thought it all through which isn’t a very flexible approach in a creative process. I have real difficulty getting ideas out of my head, but I practise by just starting something without thinking about it too much.

I really work best alone, but often I become completely blind to something if I’ve been working on it for too long. I mostly discuss things with my mother. I really value her input. She sees things that I don’t see. I’m very stubborn about something just having to look like that because that looks cool. She thinks about whether it works and asks questions that make me think.

Can you tell me a little bit more about who the contributors to your magazine are?

I’d very much like to get in touch with other creatives from abroad, people who mainly work visually and to a certain extent do some of the things I see myself doing in the future. I’m quite introverted, but the magazine has given me the opportunity to ask all sorts of questions that I want answers to.

I don’t really know where I found the courage, but I wrote to a lot of people and didn’t think that anyone would be interested at all.

I DM’d them all on Instagram where they can see the aesthetic on my profile. That was where the interaction began. Just the fact that they saw my message was a success. But most people responded and were very interested. That was a pretty cool experience.

I don’t have any experience doing interviews so it was a bit difficult to start with. I was unsure about how it would all turn out, but I found out that it actually works quite well by e-mail. It felt safe. I interviewed some people by phone and took notes. I just applied my curiosity.

What are the topics covered in your magazines?

Both my magazines are about being young and confused and the doubt that comes with that, but also about having the drive to do something creative. It’s my own journey about identifying your strengths and weaknesses, reconciling yourself to them and proving to yourself that you are able to do something. I hope that people out there who read the magazines will become motivated and dare to go for it and believe in themselves.

Why did it have to be a print magazine?

I like having a project that results in something physical. There’s something special about holding something in your hand after having put so much work into it. Everything in my world, even the way I work, is digital so I chose to print it because this prolongs its life cycle. Not everyone can see the content, but if you really think it’s interesting, you can buy and own it.

What inspires you?

People who dare to be themselves. I become enormously fascinated by people who live life simply and just get on with things. Groups of friends and communities – like skater culture – also inspire me a lot. Young people who gather around a shared interest. That’s probably because I have a longing to be like that myself. I’ve always been a loner so that’s the opposite of me. But I think that people who come together around things, an interest, an aesthetic or a sport are fascinating because you really can’t do everything on your own.

I’m also inspired by things that are immediate and not very polished, but otherwise it’s quite random: an image, a song, a documentary, a sound, a feeling, a personality – a way of seeing or describing life.

What had you never imagined?

That I would get such a response as good as the one I got. I’d never have dared to think that the people I look up to would think that it was cool. Getting that recognition has been quite overwhelming.

What makes you happy and proud when you think about it?

There have really been a lot of things that have been difficult so I celebrate my victories and try to remember that although I have no experience, I’ve published two magazines. Unfortunately, that feeling doesn’t last very long – at least not for me. It means a hell of a lot. It’s enormous. And then it’s gone.

What have you learnt from self-publishing the magazines?

I’ve learnt many things. Not to be so afraid of reaching out. Especially with Second Publication, my second magazine, I learnt a lot from working with others. I’ve also learnt that you can do much more than you think and that you have to dare to venture out into deep waters sometimes.

I’ve also learnt to accept that I work better within my own structure. There are so many things I want to learn, and maybe I’ll learn them on courses or something, but I don’t want to spent many years on formal education. I want to do so many different things so if I had to take a course in all of them, it would take me more than 20 years. That would be a waste of time. I want everything to happen now.

Are you very impatient?

With ideas and life, yes. But not otherwise.

What is it you feel you have to hurry to do? What is it that you want to suck out of life?

I already feel that I’m late to the party. A lot of what I want to do isn’t something you would usually do when you’re 50.

But you're 20, aren't you, Anemone?

Yes, I know, but I’ve never been as big or cool as all the others. Well, I have in my own way, but never in the right way so I always feel that I’m lagging behind.

Who are your role models?

I have quite a few role models who inspire me in various ways, but… Luka Sabbat and Noah Dillon/HOTMESS, one is the creative director and the other the photographer. They do shoots for magazines, gallery exhibitions, printed T-shirts – anything they think is fun. They just do it without having any experience of it and that inspires me a lot. I also love Kerwin Frost TALKS. The musician Asap Nast, architect Rudolph Schinder, models and photographers Joanna and Sarah Halpin and the fashion designer Maryam Nassir Zadeh.

I also think you have to be careful about looking up to people too much. You have to watch out and ensure that you don’t just want to be them. That can easily overshadow your own identity and creative process. But maybe you will find a balance as you gradually find your own path.