Meet Abby Strangward, founder and editor of Sea Foaming, an online youth magazine run exclusively by teens that revolves around art, culture and music.
Fiona: How many people are behind Sea Foaming and what do you all bring to the table?
Abby: Currently there’s 8 people behind the blog. Myself (I do most of the writing and behind-the-scenes work, and creative direction), Iz (our web illustrator), Em and Isabel (mixtape curators), and Darcy, Emily, Furqan and Kyla (our journalists). They’re the most beautiful, supportive, talented group of girls you could ever hope to meet, and they don’t just bring their talents and creations, but they honestly keep me sane; we’re constantly discussing direction and ideas.
Fiona: How old are you?
“We just really, really want to offer an alternative to the teen media promoting ideas that a girls worth is all about what she’s wearing, what her hair looks like, how she’s going to find the perfect guy”
F: Tell me a little about the origin story of your blog. When and why did you decide to create your own platform and what is the purpose of Sea Foaming ?
Abby: It was mid 2016 when the idea kind of took root – I was looking for something to build, something to create, something to make my own. The idea of a blog first came to me as a suggestion from a publisher I was in contact with. It was originally going to be small and personal, more of a place for my work. But the longer I spent mucking around on WordPress, trawling the internet and Instagram for inspiration … the further my ideas started to evolve.
The blog has undergone several existential crisis in it’s short year of existence. The subtleties and direction of our purpose may morph and change, but we have always been, and will always be, a space for teen and youth art. We put the emphasis on embracing life in awkward, shitty, messy and imperfect ways. It’s – it’s media that inspires, educates, empowers, and promotes change from within. We just really, really want to offer an alternative to the teen media promoting ideas that a girls worth is all about what she’s wearing, what her hair looks like, how she’s going to find the perfect guy … I think your worth is in how you grow and learn and change, how you chase your passions, how you experience freedom and love and frustration and bliss and anger.
F: Sea Foaming is exclusively run by teens – something I as a teen myself admire so much. The content you publish is unbelievably inspiring. What does your creative process look like? How do you decide which content makes the cut?
Abby: I work from everywhere – my desk, couch, bedroom floor, a train or bus somewhere, at the beach, the library, classes at school … the creative process in working on Sea Foaming is always different and always changing. Usually, it involves a lot of music and a lot of mango smoothies.
Deciding what content makes the cut is always hard, and it’s only getting harder the more submissions we receive. Saying no to someone is so incredibly hard, but usually it’s not about the level of skill in the work, but simply that it doesn’t fit our theme as such. There’s no real formula for picking work – I try to rely on my instincts and emotions. If it makes me feel something, it’s in.
F: What has your experience with collaborating / working with others via social media been like? How do you stay organized through different time zones?
Abby: Don’t even get me started on the time zones thing. It’s been a nightmare!! Honestly, I have no idea how we stay organized. We just kind of roll with it. There’s girls in Spain, New York, LA … it can make things difficult. But we’re pretty relaxed with our deadlines and schedules, so everything rolls pretty smoothly most of the time.
Collaborating with others over social media has been the most incredible experience of my life. I have never felt as loved, valued or as supported than when I’ve been talking with the girls I’ve connected with through Instagram. Everything seems to happen through Instagram – I heard someone describe it as the Tinder of friendships, and I love that.
The art I’ve created with others, and been able to publish through our blog, is the most magical thing. And I think social media makes it a lot easier to reach out to people and share your ideas – not only when bridging gaps of age and physical distance, but overcoming fear, pride and shyness. Sea Foaming only really exists because of social media. So, yeah, my experience has been overwhelmingly positive.
F: This season of The Person Behind is all about feminism in the age of the Internet. Do you believe social media to be an asset or a disadvantage in the battle for equal rights?
Abby: Both. Oh, definitely, both. Social media has been instrumental in a surge of modern feminism – everything from #freethenipple to the 2017 Womens Marches. It allows discussion, education and organization on a worldwide level – and puts all that information at the fingertips of everyone, from a really young age. So I think it’s been able to bring the issue of gender equality to the forefront of the media.
But, of course, with every issue, social media opens up paths for hate, bullying, fake news… it can be difficult to explain to teenage boys that you’re a feminist, when all they understand about the word is ‘women who hate men’. That’s not feminism. And social media has a had an integral role in portraying it as something negative, which has taken a toll on the movement.
And then of course, you start talking about Donald Trump, Milo Yiannopoulos… it’s so easy to put your opinion out into the world, and some people have really, really toxic opinions. It’s difficult to promote their right to free speech when their speech is racist, sexist, demeaning, offensive and hurtful. And of course, social media is their tool. It makes it all possible.
I couldn’t say whether it’s good or bad, in the end. It’s had hugely positive and negative impacts in the fight for gender equality.
F: Do you wish to work in the creative industry one day? If so, do you think having a platform gives you an advantage?
Abby: I do. I have know idea where I’ll end up – taking Sea Foaming further, getting into film production, freelancing for magazines… I kinda want to make jewellery, and I’d love to take photography further. I just know it’ll be something creative.
Having a platform definitely gives you an advantage, particularly in the creative field, I think. Even if it’s just a tiny blog full of your personal work – it’s a piece of proof of your creations, your drive, and your abilities. But I also think it’s a huge opportunity just to practice and hone your talents, a place to channel your creativity.
F: Which post are you particularly proud of and why?
American Eclipse because of the all the effort and stress that went into pulling it together, and what a beautiful exploration of humanity it ended up as – all the from the point of view of teenage girls, exactly what I’m trying to convey through Sea Foaming.
Teen Art Gallery NYC because it was my first professional, over-the-phone interview.
And also, SALT: Sea Foaming X Acyd Puffs, because it was my first brand collaboration, my first shoot, and felt like the culmination of hours and hours of work and dreams.
F: What can we expect in the future from Sea Foaming?
Abby: Oooh so much!! Okay, I kinda can’t make any announcements here, but I can say something huge is coming 2018 that’ll turn the blog into something tangible. That will be announced end of Januray! We’re also going to start publishing something every two months (more details soon). Other than that, I want to launch our Surf/Skate category, write and source more personal, self-growth articles, and really get into video content and production.
F: What advice would you give other creatives who are new to the game?
Abby: Just start. Start clicking the shutter button, start painting random shit, start writing, start messing up and changing recipes, start singing into your voice memos, start filming your friends. Just start. Everything comes after that. Took three months for Sea Foaming to emerge from a mess of coding and confused ideas. You just have to take the plunge.
(Also, carry a journal everywhere, no matter what you do. Inspiration is weird, man).
Then reach out. 200 followers or 200 000 – reach out to everyone and everything (Sea Foaming included!!). Make connections. Collaborate. Exchange ideas. Get your work out there, or get other people’s work out there. The friends you make now, while you’re both small and messing up and figuring it all out, are the ones who will be there to watch you grow and cheer you on, and you’ll come back to them again and again.
“A world where women finally understand nothing at all holds them back – that would be something incredible”
F: I’d like to end things on a thought-provoking note. How do you personally define the term “feminist” and what would the ideal future for women look like in your eyes?
Abby: Feminist – someone who believes in equality for both genders. Defining feminism is something I’ve had to think about a lot recently. As a teenage girl, I think it’s difficult to refer to yourself as a feminist. You’re immediately laughed at, ridiculed, made fun of and labelled. Feminism gets a bad rep – but frankly, we don’t all hate men.
It gets tiring explaining yourself over and over to teenage boys. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, and people are always going to make assumptions about you. But I think it’s worth it, because real feminism, true feminism, matters. And people need to know about that.
An ideal future for women? I could talk about equal numbers of CEOs and better parental leave for mums and dads. Could mention colours and children’s toys and different exercises in PE class. But, in truth, I just want the women of the future to grow up never hearing their place should be in the kitchen, never hearing they can’t run fast enough or be strong enough or clever enough, never being taught to cover themselves so as not to tempt. A world where women finally understand nothing at all holds them back – that would be something incredible. And if we’re ever going to fix our planet and our race, that’s the world we need.
A big thank you goes out to Abby for taking the time to let me interview her. Sea Foaming has definitely risen up from the masses and proven that age has nothing to do with talent.
About this series:
Season two of The Person Behind revolves around fellow creatives and their individual experiences with social media and self-expression. This season aims to emphasize feminism and outdated social constructs and underline the significance of raising awareness and spreading the word.