On being heiter (cheerful): An Interview with Katharina of Heiter Magazine
I have been admiring Katharina Geissler-Evans’ heiter magazine website and Instagram account for over a year at least. It really is such a thoughtfully curated and aesthetic space for ‚Heiterkeit‘ (German for cheerfulness). So I am very pleased that Katharina said yes to doing this interview – telling us more about celebrating life by appreciating the little things, creating a heiter community and what the future holds for her magazine.
Hi Katharina, thank you so much for agreeing to do this interview. That already makes me very heiter! Please tell us a bit more about yourself and your background?
Thanks so much for having me, Krissie! Well, as you already mentioned, my name is Katharina. I am Austrian and live with my husband Ben in Munich, Germany. Before we moved to Germany two years ago we spent several years in England, where I also went to university (I have a degree in Fashion Media from London College of Fashion) and worked in the fashion industry. I still work in fashion now and outside my day job I run heiter magazine, a bilingual collective that is all about celebrating cheerful moments in everyday life.
How did you come up with the idea for HEITER Magazine and what is the message behind it?
A few years ago, when we were still in the UK, I worked as an editor in a fast paced environment and was also a student which meant that I was at work all day and went to classes in the evening and on Saturdays. The situation itself was already very stressful for me and then I ended up with a heavy tendonitis on my right hand, which was the worst given that I had a writing job and was about to start my final project for uni. The condition was so bad that I wasn’t able to type, hold a pen or even lift a kettle for several weeks. My employer informed me that they would stop paying me if I didn’t return to work soon, my course leader at university made clear that I wouldn’t get my degree if I didn’t hand in my essays soon. I was devastated.
Luckily, I had my husband by my side who didn’t stop believing me. He encouraged me to be gentle with myself and focus on the little things I enjoy, everything else would fall into place. And that is where I started to find my personal heiter (cheerful) moments. I read books that made me happy, treated myself to coffee at the local café, went for walks in nature, listed things I am grateful for and just allowed my hand to heal. It felt great!
I soon realised that I was not the only one with tricky situations and decided to share my joy in heiter moments with others. Back at uni I introduced heiter magazine as concept for my final project, and when I graduated a few months later, I presented the pilot version to a committee of tutors. I ended up getting a first (even though my course leader had been sceptical about me finishing university in the first place)! I also went back to work and landed myself a managing position which allowed me to write less and have more responsibility.
Long story short, if you focus on the little things you enjoy, you allow yourself to be positive, live a happier life and achieve the things you want, and that is also the message behind heiter.
Has it been an organic development from blog to Instagram or vice versa?
Once I had the concept for heiter I started my Instagram account. That was back in February 2016. I enjoyed styling and taking images (I still do) and soon made some lovely connections on the social media platform. I knew I would have to start writing eventually to realise my magazine idea so I began to interview some of my Instagram connections for the blog (that was in May 2016). I loved finding out more about those people, how they started their (often) creative businesses and how creativity added Heiterkeit (cheerfulness) to their lives. After a while I began to add a few reflective essays on how to be heiter too. So yes, I would say, the development was organic.
Your website is a fantastic meeting of interviews and articles, and your Instagram also contains such thoughtful and inspirational writing/photography. How do you create/curate the content?
My website/blog planning is fairly structured. With not that much time on my hands outside of work it is important to plan and be aware of the hours I can invest in heiter. I have a diary in which I write down when I can publish my blogposts. When it comes to planning my blog content I think in categories: Your Heiter Moments (all things that make one heiter), Creative Life Heiter Life (all things and people that are linked to creativity) and The Heiter Community (which is about spending time with other people). Of course, it does happen that I come across someone I would love to interview or that I get in a wonderful contribution I would like to publish too, then I simply move my content round.
Instagram is more of a creative outlet for me. The photos and captions come naturally to me. I do make sure the images sit nicely next to each other (with a planning app) but apart from that I go with the flow and my feelings. I am very lucky to have a husband who studied photography and is happy to help out when I have a photo idea that directly involves me. He is also a big part when it comes to proofreading my English content. My English is not bad at all but he is native and I feel more comfortable with him subediting my writing.
You seem to have a very loyal and personal follower base on Instagram. What is your ‘recipe’ for connecting and engaging with people on social media?
I try to be open, honest and kind with everything I do, also in real life. When I write my captions for Instagram I bring in something that I personally think about and I always try to include my audience too. It is important to me to find out what they think, what they like and what they worry about. I want to know and connect with them. I guess that is my recipe.
The second tip is not to be shy. Talk to people who’s work you admire and build yourself a support network. I am very lucky to have met several wonderful people via online Instagram and blogging courses. We share similar interests, support and check in on each other, even though the courses have long finished. If I have days where I don’t feel great about what I do or if a post fails, I know that my “pocket friends” are there for me and cheer me on.
You recently hosted your first HEITER Event. Please tell us more about it. Are you planning to do this on a regular basis?
My heiter events are to celebrate The Heiter Community. I do believe that spending time with other people and creating something alongside each other can bring Heiterkeit.
Last month the first heiter event was held in Munich. It was a lovely evening where everyone had the chance to make their own flower crown (suitable for Midsummer) and attend an Instagram workshop. The response was wonderful, everyone seemed genuinely heiter and I was so happy I got to meet many new and like-minded people.
I would love to arrange more events going forward. I am planning another one or two in Munich this year and one in England. Potential locations for future events are Hamburg, Cape Town, maybe also Vienna and Paris.
Currently being an online magazine, do you have plans to move this into print? I was so excited to see your mini magazine!
Definitely! I am very passionate about print and had so much fun creating the mini magazine (very happy you were excited to see it btw :)). I would love to bring out a bigger physical publication early next year but there is still a lot of planning to do. Furthermore, the printing costs are high and I have to figure out how I can finance it all first. Crowdfunding is an option but I might need help with it.
What’s in store for us with HEITER?
More blogposts, events, posts on social media and another mini magazine (in e-magazine form). I would love to come up with an inspiring newsletter concept and as mentioned, publish a bigger print publication. Collaborations with other creatives are a fundamental part of the heiter content too, and I have a few more lined up for the next months, can’t wait!
Last but not least at all, what is it that makes YOU feel heiter… and grateful?
Quality time with my husband, walks in nature, sunshine, flowers and having a good laugh with my friends. I am always heiter when travelling and exploring new places, and when I can spend time near water.
Over the years I have learned to be grateful for the small things in life. The cup of coffee I have in the morning, my daily run, lunch with a colleague at work, a lovely DM on Instagram or a photo of the mini magazine that someone shares with me. I am also very grateful for this interview, Krissie, and for your help to spread Heiterkeit to the world.
Thank you so much Kiki for connecting us in Heiterkeit!