As a kid growing up in California, much of my young life was spent walking and playing on beaches. For almost as long as I can remember, my dad took me beachcombing, which is basically walking along the beach looking for interesting things to collect and take home.
For a while it was colored glass that had been polished and worn by the tide and sand into smooth opaque jewels. Then it was fishing tackle and lures left behind by fisherman. As I got older, we graduated to shipwrecks abandoned by their owners.
All of this beachcombing led to a fascination with gathered things and some very interesting mantle decorations. I still have an immense bottle filled to the brim with flotsam, much of which I can remember gathering.
These physical objects each have memories attached that create a frisson or wave of sentiment whenever I look at them, touch them or even smell them.
This is the kind of physical narrative that Quarterly founder Zach Frechette is looking to bring to our primarily digital online world. When Zach was working at Good magazine, he often got comments from readers and friends about their favorite articles and he began to think about the editorial process and the way it related to the magazine as a physical thing.
This led to the creation of Quarterly, a service that allows you to subscribe to an interesting person and receive a quarterly shipment from them containing a narrative (read: story) component, as well as several physical objects that they have hand picked.
Effectively, you’re getting a care package from one of a carefully curated bunch of interesting people. These people are hand-picked by Quarterly (for now) and include people with expertise in their area, good taste and a significant social media footprint.
Once you subscribe to a person, which is a $25 per shipment fee, you will receive a package that contains several objects hand picked by the contributor and a message. These objects could be anything but will generally surround a theme of some sort and be representative of the general bailiwick of the contributor.
The narrative component might consist of the reasons why they picked these items and how they fit them into their own lives.
Honestly it sounds like Quarterly is a sort of matter replicator for creatives that allows them to transmit, not just words, but physical objects that help them to tell you a story.
Frechette gave me an example of one of the first sample mailings that he sent out which contained items based on elevating daily rituals like brushing your teeth. His shipment contained a tube of toothpaste from Portugal, a bone-handled toothbrush from England and a toothpaste tube key used to wind it as you used it up.
Other examples that he might explore would be the ritual of making coffee or making the perfect cocktail.
Frankly the service sounds fascinating to me and I can’t wait to see what the contributors that he has lined up will deliver.
The logistics behind the project are interesting by themselves, as Zach and the folks at Quarterly work with the designers on a ‘writer-editor’ basis to help them refine their packages into things that are feasible in the budget and logistically possible. They have relationships with vendors and boutiques that help them supply the decided-upon objects within that $25 budget.
Quarterly launched two months ago with the site going live just a couple of weeks ago. They are opening signups for a limited launch window of 48 hours beginning every Thursday. That means that you still have about 18 hours left to sign up in this period if you’re reading this article close to publish.
I’d highly recommend you check it out to see if any of the contributors strike your fancy. I personally can’t wait for my shipment of the sharp edges of other people’s broken dreams from Mike Monteiro.