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The First Issue of Puss Puss Magazine, Featuring Ai Weiwei

Using cats as a jumping off point to delve into art, fashion, environmental issues and more

by Nara Shin in Culture on 07 August 2014

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In a world where the permakitten Lil Bub has her own media empire and Grumpy Cat graces the cover of Time magazine, an annual internet cat video festival attracts tens of thousands of people and Karl Lagerfield's dear Choupette is the face of Shu Uemura's beauty campaign; the feline frenzy doesn't seem to be declining anytime soon. Raising the bar for cat-inspired creativity is London-based Puss Puss Magazine. Heralding the niche publication is graphic designer and art director Maria Joudina, a Royal College of Art alum who's worked for Burberry along with other luxury brands and, of course, is the proud mother of a Russian blue named Sputnick.

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For Puss Puss' first issue, Joudina has commissioned writers, illustrators and photographers to create a print publication that's beautiful to look at and interesting to read: an essay on the celebrity super cats, a sneak peek at an upcoming documentary on the fascinating world of pedigree cat breeding, interviews with tattoo artist Liam Sparkes (known for his now-retired cat motif) to silk scarf designer Vicki Murdoch to Chinese artist Ai Weiwei—and plenty of cat photos in between. While some of the written pieces feel more suited for blogs than a print publication, Puss Puss is a pleasant break from the typical downpour of videos and memes that feed the internet's hunger for more cat. We spoke with Joudina to learn a bit more about what's inside the first issue of Puss Puss.

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Why were you interested in pursuing an interview with Ai Weiwei?

Interestingly, when you read any interview with him—which is the reason why I wanted to interview him for Puss Puss—even when nobody asks him, he still always mentions his cats somehow. He uses them as a metaphor for freedom. He often says he loves how cats are so independent. In China there are so many restrictions on him, like the fact that he can't travel outside the country because the authorities took his passport away. So I think he kind of associates with cats and their free-spiritedness: they do what they want and nobody can tell them what to do. I wanted [the interview] to be not just about cats. But the whole magazine—everything—has a connection to cats but sometimes there's more, sometimes there's less.

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What was it like visiting his compound in Beijing and seeing his 30 or so cats?

When we arrived, he was with another person—it seems like people are coming and going all the time at his compound constantly. He can't leave the country, so the world just kind of flocks to him. The big ginger cat, his name is Garfield, he's like the boss of all the cats—he even looks a little bit like Ai Weiwei—he jumped on the lap of our photographer and he was very friendly; the cats were literally hanging around with us. We almost didn't notice when Ai Weiwei came.

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Aside from the traditional art, culture and fashion pieces, environmentalism and philanthropy are a major part of Puss Puss' first issue.

Two features that are going to become regular are the [pieces] on endangered species and animal charities. For this issue, we met with Celia Hammond. She was a really famous fashion model in the '60s and she gave it all up to devote herself to animal welfare. She has several clinics in the London area where she provides free healthcare and it stops people from dumping their sick pets because they can't afford to pay the vet. She has a very, very interesting personality.

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What are your personal musings on why cats make such a popular topic, especially on the internet?

If you like dogs, there are many occasions when people can physically meet and talk about dogs—when they go for walks, the park, etc. They've got an outlet for communicating and stuff like that. While with cats, your only outlet for sharing your cat love, in a way, is the internet because you don't really take them for walks, etc. This is the perfect place for people who love cats to meet and share it. And of course, just the fact that they're really cute and make you feel better when you look at them.

Order the first issue of Puss Puss Magazine online for £10; Puss Puss plans to publish twice a year.

Lead image courtesy of Marc Henrie, Vicki Murdoch images courtesy of Max Knight and Martin Zahringer, Ai Weiwei images courtesy of Matt Robinson, Liam Sparkes image courtesy of Rasha Kahil

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