Chloe Firrell-Ray on not being ‘Idle’ at all

Features September 6, 2015

“I run all of it by myself, but occasionally I’ll have help from family and close friends. I start out by thinking of a theme – here I usually panic and worry that I won’t be able to think of something strong enough to run with. But bizarrely at that point in time, events happen in my life and it sparks an idea.”

Chloe Ray is the latest addition to our small team. Chloe is a designer who studied Graphic Design in Cambridge a couple of years back. She is also the creator of Idle Magazine, “a magazine for the quieter readers, who wish to get away from the mundane and chaos of the real world. For the five-minute biscuit break or the indulgent bedtime reading.” Idle aims to feed curiosity and shed light on the overlooked things in life. We think this is a noble cause and met up with Chloe a while back on the pebbled beach of Brighton where we browsed each other’s magazines and made plans to take over the publishing world.

Chloe_1Chloe_2 Chloe_3 Chloe_4 Chloe_5

Hello Chloe, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I come from the South of England and I’d love to say I live in a quaint village somewhere but actually my town is pretty non descript. But it also means we don’t get any tourists. There’s always a silver lining! I’ve lived here for all of my life, 22 years of it, but temporarily moved to Cambridge in 2011 to study Graphic Design. I think I had a very good childhood, I may have missed out on certain things, but my family and their love made up for it. So I don’t think I have a favourite memory because all of it was good.

You run Idle magazine, a magazine for the quieter readers. Can you tell us a little bit about the philosophy behind that statement?
Growing up I was quite a shy child, I really didn’t like kids parties or great family gatherings but I loved to sit and listen to everything they had to say. Even when the adults were talking, I’d still love to sit and listen. Now, I still go quiet and just listen to people chat away. That was the initial idea of it. You can read what someone has to say and just take it all in.
It’s also about being curious of another person’s opinion and life. You can read about how they feel on certain subjects without feeling like you’re intruding or being nosey.

What attracts you to the publishing business?
I love how versatile it can be and the connections you make within it. For example, in issue one, I found Susannah van der Zaag’s work and asked her if she’d like to contribute to my first issue. I felt, through our emails, we had a good rapport going and the photography and words she sent over was great! For me, I need some sort of connection (big or small) with the photographer or illustrator. So that I can organise/curate their work, with them in mind, and really give their work its own light.

How did Idle come to be?
It started as my Final Major Project at university. And when my degree was over, I thought about how much joy it had brought and the people I had met and spoken with. I thought “Why stop now? This has obviously made me happy, why would I stop doing something that makes me happy?!” So I didn’t and I completed issue two in December 2014 and issue three in May/June 2015.

Who is behind Idle?
I “run” all of it by myself, but occasionally I’ll have help from family and close friends. I start out by thinking of a theme – here I usually panic and worry that I won’t be able to think of something strong enough to run with. But bizarrely at that point in time, events happen in my life and it sparks an idea. Then with that in mind, I write a brief down giving prompts and questions that might spark an idea for those that submit their work. And after that’s done, the fun really begins! I search through Flickr, Instagram… anywhere really and email those who I think show the same passion as I do in their work or I look for creatives that I believe have something perfect for each topic. I email them, converse a little, answer any questions they might have (get that good rapport going!) and then once the work is sent and the deadline is over I start to piece everything together. This part is somewhat lengthy and requires me to print out all spreads and lay them on the floor to reorganise and get a final layout. I look like a mad man, I’m jumping from one end of the room to the other and throwing paper around until I’m happy.

Kellen Mohr writes travel journal entries for your magazine, what is your own connection with traveling?
I’ve only ever travelled twice and that was in the last year or two but it has given me itchy feet for exploring. I have one life on this big rock and I want to see what it’s given us and how people have adapted to it. I don’t want to be stuck in one place for all of my life. There’s too much to see and learn. Although I say this, I’ve only been to The Netherlands, once to study there and then back again to visit friends I’d made during my education. It certainly feels like another home for me. I’d grown so independent in my time there – I’d learnt little bits of another language, learnt how to take care of myself when homesickness really hit hard and I’d taken that jump of talking to strangers and making new friends. For me, places like that will always have a special place in my heart.

What are you currently working on?
At the moment I’m on a break from Idle, but ideas for issue 4 are brewing away. But I’ve been doing a little bit of work for Sunday Mornings at the River, helping out with some designs, making plans for future collaborations in the Gallery space you guys took over at Bethnal Green. It’s been really nice to collaborate! And I’m really looking forward to things that will come.

If you could pick any artist in the world, who would you really want to have in your magazine and why?
Johannes Huwe! I’d love to have a chat with him and feature his work in Idle, but I don’t know what I’d say. I feel like it’s some weird internet girl crush. But his work is amazing. He was the first photographer I came across when I started Idle and I’ll always admire his work. I don’t know really, I just get good vibes from him!

Where do you get your inspiration from? Who inspires you? What inspires you?
I like to browse bookstores and magazine shops (best one I’ve found so far is Magazine Brighton, in Brighton of course) I like to look for artists I haven’t found yet. I’m on Flickr a lot looking for new photographers. At the moment, I’m looking at a mixture of creatives. Illustrator Ruby ( is one of them, her work is in a category of it’s own. Her humour is very close to mine, so I totally relate to her work. I also really appreciate how she can make mental illnesses understandable and show them in their real light. Rather than a generic depiction of them – someone looking through a rainy window, or looking frustrated and running their hands through their hair. I’m also looking at Shaun Flint’s work. It’s like he’s constantly in Summer, even when he’s taking pictures of snow covered mountains! His work is a great escape for me in the midst of rubbish weather or exhaustion from work. It’s kind of romantic really.

What are your plans for the future? What can we expect from Idle?
I have no idea what my plans are for myself. They constantly change not only because I’m very indecisive but because Life happens. But for Idle, I’d like to have a small team behind it and bringing out issues bi-monthly and just having fun with it.

What would you advise people that want to get into publishing?
I’m still learning about it myself, so I don’t have any solid advice. But I’d say, don’t teeter around the edge, just jump in. Talk to people, ask their advice on things and make connections. People say ‘yes’ more than they say ‘no.’

Any famous last words?
A wise lady once told me “Fake it til’ you make it”.

w. e. hello at

portrait by Roberto Rubalcava, interview by Rebecca Rijsdijk

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