A new form of e-commerce is bubbling up on the web, involving the unlikely combination of luminaries, snail mail and subscription service.
The Thing Quarterly is a San Francisco-based subscription magazine that arrives at peoples’ doorsteps every three months. Far from your traditional print and-gloss-magazine, The Thing Quarterly is, well, a thing. It’s an object. An artifact. A gift sent to you by a carefully selected artist.
Issue number 1 was a vinyl pull-down window shade designed by Miranda July. Issue 6 was a blank book emblazoned with the words “Problems and Promises” attached to a tennis shoe by the shoelace, which was sewn into the spine, designed by artists Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla. Issue 14 was a switchblade designed by James Franco, called the Brad Renfro Forever blade, designed to commemorate his friend who died of a drug overdose.
For a yearly membership priced at $200, subscribers get four gifts, which arrive quarterly, making it seem like their birthdays comes four times a year. The Thing, which was founded by Will Rogan and Jonn Herschend, both visual artists, in 2007, also does one-off sales for non-subscribers with prices set somewhat higher. James Franco’s knife, which is an extreme example, can be purchased for more than $600.
And The Thing is no longer the only game in town.
Quarterly Co., founded this year by Zach Frechette, takes a slightly different angle by letting people subscribe to people they admire to receive quarterly gifts from them. Rather than having one artist each month and sending that artists’ creation to every subscriber, Quarterly Co. has a number of contributors, people respected in their respective fields, who create gifts every three months and deliver them via Quarterly to their subscribers.
Here’s how it’s explained on the website:
“Each product should reflect on the person who selected it, and help inform your understanding of them. So maybe you’ll get the same kind of notebook that your favorite author used to plot their recent bestseller. Or maybe it’s the tea a musician was drinking while they penned a famous track. Or a secret family cold remedy an artist used while working on a masterpiece. The point is, every object—while uniquely brilliant in its function—will also have a story, and through that story take on new meaning.”
Quarterly Co.’s subscription rate is $25 for every three months.