Zines and DIY
By Helen Taylor Sometimes, it’s nice to say the things you have to say in a creative, I-don’t-need-no-rules kind of way. It’s nice to pick your own topic, to put a spin on it that is yours alone, and to put it out there into the world looking just exactly how you want it to look.
A zine (pronounced “zeen”) is a handmade, independent publication. It can be magazine-like, but the format really is up to the maker. Some zines are all writing, some are all drawing, some are both, some have collaged parts. Most often, they are put together in such a way that they are easily reproduced by way of a photocopier in print runs of anywhere between 20 and 500 copies. Many of the zines in my collection are A6 size; easily created with the help of your friendly photocopier. Some are thick A5 booklets with cardboard covers. Some are tiny; 4 pages at A7 size of cartoons.
A more academic examination of zine culture is “Intimate Ephemera: Reading Young Lives in Australia Zine Culture” by Anna Poletti, accessible as an e-book through Dixson Library’s webpage. Poletti examines zines as an expression of youthful experience; a response to popular culture which often standardises identity. She has chosen to study it as a form of autobiographical writing that is able to move away from the need to meet criteria otherwise required to make something acceptable for publication.
What are zines about? I have loads of favourites, but some of the best ones (according to me) include: “Updated Report of Observations Which Somehow Seem to Reflect Abstractly on Life” by Sarah McNeil, full of pie charts and graphs about things like “Things I Do When the Modem is not Working”, “Priorities” and “Food in My Fridge”, a collection of Kurt Vonnegut quotes illustrated with cat drawings by Gemma Flack called “Vonnecats” and “I dig you” by Nat, devoted to guitar-wielding band members she is crushing on.
The point is that zines can be about anything that captures your imagination. I have many potential zines bubbling away in my brain, including one full of half-finished letters, one on hot beverages that I like, a feminist one with other contributors... there’s an endless list. Sometimes the title of the zine is enough to inspire its content, for example: “Spoiler Alert”, “How to be Undead” or “Tyrannosaurus Rox”. Instead of trying to impress editors (after all, they’re not all as cool as the Nucleus gang), you get to self-publish whole zines full of cat pictures, or comics made of stick figures, or a poem and a story about a wombat and a photo of your shoes.
It’s a grassroots publishing situation: often zines are swapped, and sometimes sold for a few dollars to cover printing costs. My favourite zine store is The Sticky Institute in Melbourne – their site http://www.stickyinstitute.com is a place you can buy zines online and get a taste for the various zine-related events going on.
That’s all well and good for the big city, but I think Armidale needs to get on board. I want to start an Armidale Zine Collective. If you agree, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org and we can organise a get-together with butchers paper and markers for brainstorming. I’m thinking workshops and events, a zine library and a way to get our creations out into the world.
Winter is coming. Let’s stay inside making awesome stuff, and then cover the world in paper!
Helen is studying Arts Management, and things that make her happy include chocolate milk, paper goods and 80’s teen movies.