Founders | Women Series | Rupi Sood
Women series is a monthly edit to explore creative entrepreneurship amongst women globally. Through this series, we wish to understand creative journeys, challenges, inspirations and develop a community. This month we interviewed Rupi Sood, the Founder of and independent magazine J’aipur Journal based out of New York.
Tell me about how your creative journey started. Did you have creative influences growing up? What education/training did you receive?
I grew up in a traditional Indian household as an only child where academics were valued more than the arts, so I missed out on opportunities to cultivate artistic expression. I remember losing myself in books though, and Bollywood films were always playing on the TV at home. As far as my studies, I went on to complete university degrees in Political Science and Education. But, I’m making up for lost time and exploring the creative life more fully now. I began freelance writing for various magazines after having my first child, and four years ago, launched J’AIPUR Journal online which has evolved into a coffee table style print publication as of 2017.
I’m a curious person by nature, and as a result, am currently pursing a Master’s degree in Contemporary Art to further my knowledge and understanding of the intricacies of the art world. I’m excited to see how I can contribute to that space as well here in New York City.
What has been the source of inspiration for you (people, travel, places, cultures , etc.)?
I am an avid traveller so experiences in different places definitely inspire my creative work and personal life. Living in a culture capital like New York is hugely inspiring in itself. Every day is a new adventure and I definitely don’t take the city for granted. The people I meet here, and abroad, especially those working in creative fields, inspire me immensely and remind me that we have so much to learn from each other.
Can you also talk about your experience of working in the field of print publishing? Do you think a digital medium is more accessible to express yourself?
My publication began as a website with only a handful of articles. I was traveling between New York, Paris and Marrakech at the time and simply wrote a few pieces about the places I visited and people I met along the way. I had a strong vision for the website and was lucky enough to work with a good friend in Madrid who shares a similar design sensibility. He provided me with a beautiful digital home for my articles. Now, there are people from all over the world who want to contribute to the magazine. The growth over the last few years has been slow and organic. It’s not a money-making business and I don’t run the magazine based on a traditional advertising model. It’s completely reader-supported (with most online sales coming through Instagram) and we have some of the best bookshops in the world that carry the magazine on their shelves. No one should launch a print magazine thinking they can make lots of money. What I do is fueled purely by passion. But I think if you make something that is unique and of high-quality, you will find the right audience.
Digital and print serve separate purposes and have different audiences. My heart is in print though. I collect beautiful coffee table books and always wanted to create a magazine that readers wouldn’t want to throw away but share with others or display as an object of art in their homes. So I’m working with one of the best printers in the world and am really particular about the papers and inks we use to create a pleasurable reading experience. Of course, the content and creative direction matter equally and I like to be involved in every step of the process. I think it’s easier to create, consume, and distribute content using the digital medium. Plus, it can have a wider reach and offers more ways to generate revenue. But it’s all about what makes you happy. I was always being asked by my online readers to create something in print so it was my way of giving back by producing a beautiful publication that celebrates diversity in the arts. J’AIPUR is one of only a handful of independent—meaning self-funded, or reader-supported—print magazines in the world that is rooted in the East. Hopefully, this number will continue to grow as we need more publications that match meaningful content with beautiful design and bring stories from the East to the West and vice versa.
What is the step forward for your personal projects? Would you like to share any? Could you comment about being a ‘creative soul' and does travel facilitate your ideas?
The plan is to always produce an edition of the magazine that is better than the previous. It’s a work in progress and it evolves as I grow as a person. I might experiment with publishing artist books at some point. The learning curve is huge in launching a magazine especially when you’re trying to do it all by yourself. I just want to make something of substance and style that people will collect and not discard. Plus, within the platform of the magazine, I feel really passionate about supporting artists, especially those of South Asian and other Eastern backgrounds. I can see myself publishing a certain number of editions of J’AIPUR, perhaps five to ten, before moving onto a new print project.
I’m drawn to the arts but I can’t paint, draw, sing or play an instrument because I wasn’t encouraged to do so as a child. However, it’s never too late to tap into your creative side so that’s why I began writing and then launched a publication where I have complete control of the design and editorial process. My creative soul needs to filled with a constant stream of arts and cultural activities such as seeing exhibits at galleries and museums, listening to live music, watching theatre, etcetera — Iife can be difficult enough to navigate so I like to fill it with as much art and beauty as I can. Through the stories within the magazine, I want to spread this message to my readers so they too can keep nurturing their creative souls.
Travel is indeed a huge source of inspiration. As I mentioned earlier, I’m filled with curiosity so I have this inner desire to keep exploring the world and expanding my mind. I can’t imagine living my entire life in only one city or not traveling. I think it’s essential to the creative process to see, experience and learn as much as you can. You can’t do that sitting in one place.
Could you comment on the current landscape of independent publications?
There are so many niche independent titles being launched across the globe right now, and of course just as many magazine titles shutter. It’s a tough business, especially for small independent publishers who don’t have generous ad budgets and rely solely on reader support to cover costs. But I think some of these publications have seen tremendous success because they’ve been able to figure out the financial side (by operating as creative studios, for example) along with the editorial.
Independent magazines are an important part of the publishing landscape since they provide something that is unique from what’s seen on the typical newsstand which is filled with big, glossy publications that are more like ad catalogues and made for monthly consumption. Independent magazines have more of a cult-like readership that’s looking for quality over quantity and an alternate to mainstream content. They have sophisticated readers who have to come to expect the best of content, design and creativity and don’t mind paying $20-30 for something that forms a part of a collection on their bookshelves.