Caitlin McLoughlin’s design for Worms celebrates printed matter as ephemeral objects of representation
The designer and editor of Worms discusses the bookish practice’s dedication to material and tactility.
- Harry Bennett
- 23 January 2024
“My practice is very much defined by books,” designer, writer and editor Caitlin McLoughlin tells us, “reading them, writing about them and designing them.” This sets the scene for her electric, tactile editorial practice, one that celebrates materials and physicality. “For me, text and image have equal prescient in what they can communicate,” Caitlin continues, “which I think has come from my background in illustration,” where she cemented her interest in image and text as objects of representation, “and also deviation and interpretation,” asking how the two can work together, inform one another and contrast.
This fascination with meaning and material led Caitlin to Worms, a literary magazine and publisher celebrating underrepresented voices in underground literature. The magazine founded by editor-in-chief Clem MacLeod in 2019 is biannual and each issue is thematic, featuring interviews, essays, poetry and fiction. Cailtin has been involved since issue 5 and is now editor as well as designer where, together with the team, she has shaped the publication’s distinctly undefinable dedication to tactility – involving printing methods and papers to create an object that ultimately draws the reader in, becoming part of the conversation.
“Human touch is definitely celebrated!” Caitlin says, talking of Worm’s material choices. “I think it’s because this is how I like to experience things,” she continues, celebrating the beauty of holding and engaging with any printed matter. “A lot of the inspiration for the magazine comes from DIY zine culture, punk zines from the 70s and 80s,” she details, also noting Anne Turyn’s Top Stories as influences. “It’s an aesthetic that I’ve always been drawn to because I also love the content,” she adds, describing how pieces are dedicated to making communities and pushing boundaries. “Worms has a rebellious streak, and I think that’s what people are responding to,” Caitlin notes, giving her the space to test and not be precious about layouts and hierarchy. “It’s fun, and I think it should be, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be serious as well, or that it needs to compromise on quality.” Worms’ DIY spirit, whose restrictions playfully help define its direction, has continued into Worms Publishing, a platform dedicated to other works. “This has opened up lots of opportunities to work within new formats,” she adds, “but, as always within publishing, it’s about finding ways to be playful within tight budgets.”
Caitlin is currently celebrating the release of Worms’ eighth issue, themed around the four worldly elements – earth, air, fire and water – featuring writing from the likes of Anne Waldman, Tyson Yunkaporta, Isabel Waidner, and Alexis Pauline Gumbs. “Aside from Worms, I’m also working on a newspaper for the Arts England-funded organisation Three Rivers called The Bexley Responder,” as well as the next issue of radical trans-anarchist zine, Sissy Anarchy. “I’m hoping to get time to work on my own stuff at some point soon,” Caitlin concludes, “and I’d love to get back to some more printmaking and bookbinding.”
GalleryWorms (Copyright © Worms, 2023)
Worms (Copyright © Worms, 2023)
About the Author
Hailing from the West Midlands, and having originally joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in March 2020, Harry is a freelance writer and designer – running his own independent practice, as well as being one-half of the Studio Ground Floor.