Photos by Will Marks
How do you define where it comes from? Even as I sit here to write this, a million random thoughts are racing through my head, darting back and forth and itching to stand out as that one solitary idea that I can put onto paper. But that’s how inspiration works, isn’t it? Like a spinning wheel at a carnival, only stopping when you let it. I am going to attempt to express my process of ten years creating Fine Living Lancaster, how we have decided on the covers of each issue, and why our audience’s passing look through the magazine (or even just at the cover) is a deeply personal process for me. If you are in it for the ride, sit tight and hold on.
The beginning is a very good place to start.
Before Issue 1, I was working as a freelance artist when “the next big thing” fell in my lap disguised as a client named Mark Pontz who just so happened to present a huge idea. “I have this idea for a magazine,” he said. “Are you in?” Well, yes, of course I was. And so our little 32-page adventure began. From it was born a premier issue cover of the Fulton Opera House. It started out small, but perpetuated into something so grand, which over the years has defined my career and basically my life. When I look back to Issue 1 now, I am a bit embarrassed by my lack of design skills and knowledge, but it certainly shows the progression of myself as an artist, of Lancaster as a county, of downtown as a hub for all things fine, and of course a significant progression of what Fine Living Lancaster has grown into. What better thing to begin with than the iconic image of the Fulton Opera House? The building and wonderful things they continue to do for our small town are a staple in Lancaster’s culture.
It’s all about the people.
After the second issue with another building and a really sharp looking Volvo on the cover, Mark became adamant about not creating another cover without putting a person on it. You see, what truly moved and motivated us to do what we were doing was the people and the stories they had to share. Sure, buildings have histories and cars are awesome, as are food and clothing, but what we were more interested in were the people behind these amazing ideas, objects, and businesses… The thinkers, movers, shakers, and the truly inspired are what make our county great.
The only exception to this “rule” has been our first political issue where we commissioned artist Liz Masters to illustrate a cover to show the political race. This was a solution based on our desire to remain non-biased to the parties. However, during the 2016 election, we conquered the non-biased fear by releasing an issue with two different covers, both Republican and Democratic candidates.
“We don’t choose the cover, the cover chooses us.”
Through the years, we have been asked many times, “How do you choose the cover?” In most cases, we don’t. The cover chooses us. With the idea that we value every feature in each issue, we believe that any subject can be cover-worthy. I have worked closely with our photographers over the years to ensure that we are capturing images both creative and compelling. Their talents have shown through and have immortalized eye-catching images for our covers and internal features for the past ten years.
That is not to say we never specifically shoot for a cover. For Issue 13, the artists who call themselves the Root 222 painted a life-size cover for us and then posed in front of it. For our fifth year anniversary in Issue 20, we sought out members of the community in a contest to be on the cover of Fine Living Lancaster. With an astounding number of entries, we were only able to narrow it down to seven instead of one, so we put them all on the cover.
Whether the cover finds us or we are shooting for it, it is imperative that the cover image is visually astounding and draws our audience to pick up a copy and crack it open. The cover of a magazine is much like a billboard—you have only seconds to make an impression.
Ten years in the making.
We knew we wanted to do something outrageous for the cover of our 10-year anniversary issue and so the idea of the paper gown was conceptualized. Pulling inspiration from various photos of dresses, we meticulously disassembled issues of the magazine from our back stock and folded the pages into shapes to be incorporated in the dress design. Help was enlisted from professional fashion designer Mercedes Maccarino of Merci’s Fine Alterations. She was able to run with our vision to create a paper gown that was beautiful, functional, and very nostalgic. Hair and makeup for the cover was carefully styled by the talented Darcy Taylor and Kelly Wimer of Salon Enso. Our model choice to wear this fine dress was easy. Danielle Hartman has been pictured in the pages of Fine Living Lancaster several times throughout the years and has the perfect Lancaster persona. Outgoing and bubbly, Danielle submerges herself in the Lancaster culture and arts scene by attending numerous live concerts and charitable events, and frequenting local restaurants. She has been a dear friend for years and wears our issues well.
The wave of nostalgia.
While working to fold past issues for the dress, I felt a wave of nostalgia wash over me. There were stories which I had forgotten. Photos brought back memories, such as throwing fruit at our models for the cover of Issue 14 and visiting five different stores in search of wallpaper for the background of the Kingsfoil portraits that very same issue; having a blast at Rehoboth Beach while photographing the cover of Issue 22; or the six-hour outdoor shoot in 100 degree weather for the fashion spread and cover of Issue 27. It was a bit emotional to go back and see how many wonderful people and personal friends have been involved in FLL and I owe my gratitude to each and every one.
The best way to put time into terms is to look at how much a child has grown. A close friend’s child modeled for us as an infant and is now entering grade school! My, has time flown! And our little 32- page idea has matured into something that is ever-evolving, educating, and entertaining. From the sheer aesthetic of what I design to the stories we write about, I promise you, Lancaster… I am always doing this for you. Thank you for joining us on our journey. Here’s to the next ten years
Dress by Merci’s Fine Alterations
Hair & Makeup by Salon Enso