Back in the wayback days, the Artist used to be an obsessive zine-reader. (And before that, if one wants to be technical, a zine maker, though she didn’t know they were called “zines” back then.) Some of you might even know about her artzine, IN(ner) QUESTION, that came from it — all about creative living and making stuff.
Even with all the digital stuff in life now, zines still exist.
They’re lovingly made with glue sticks and photocopiers and mailed to people all over the world. (Among other methods, of course.) The heyday of artzines (in the early ’00′s) seems to have abated a bit, but a lot of really cool artsypeople are still out there doing it.
At this point, about half of you are salivating, wanting to get your hands on some, and the other half are completely confused. Let us explain.
What’s a zine?
While this is a simplistic, watered-down version of the whole Zine Thing, essentially, a zine is a self-produced publication that ignores all the traditional/commercialized methods of distribution. (Entire books have been written trying to define them, but that’s a pretty good blanket statement.) They range, in pure form, from personal zines (perzines) which are like blogs on paper or self-produced artist’s books, to highly-political, informational publications. Some are handwritten, some are computer-generated, some are cut-and-pasted. Most are photocopied, and we’ve seen some that are even letterpressed and hand-bound.
In other words, it’s kind of a zine if you make it yourself and say it’s a zine.
Art and Zines
Way back in the way back (like, in 1999, when we rode the internet to school both ways uphill in the snow, barefoot), artzines didn’t really exist as A Thing. There were some zines that had art, or featured art, or talked about art stuff, but not a whole lot of them. (We hesitate to say they were kind of a counterculture thing, because that’s not really it, either, but there were definitely more of them from the alternative than from the mainstream types.)
One magazine, being produced by a well-known artist, started up in 1999 (we think…we’d have to send the fact-checkers off for that to be sure.). It was slick and art-filled, and professionally printed, and not really what the other zines were about, to be honest. It was more maga than zine.
In late 1999, two more hopped on board that were more ziney than maga. Memory and Dream, by Lori Ludwig, and the Artist’s, IN(ner) QUESTION, were the first ones to be photocopied and cobbled together like “real” zines, even though they dealt with different parts of creative life. (Lori’s was more of an art book thing; the Artist’s was kind of more about creative life and nurturing the whole artist rather than just techniques.)
Then it exploded.
No, really. From those first three (and a few that came out just after, like Pisces Rising and Home/Arts), for a while everybody had their own zines. You couldn’t swing a glue brush in any direction and not hit a new publication.
(Not that this is a bad thing. Much like blogs now, more voices meant more choice and more perspective.)
It’s a lot of work to run a zine the way that artzines were run, though. Since it’s a hybrid of traditional zines and an art magazine business, the challenges of deadlines and schedules and the mailings weren’t always fun. The creation of them was fun. Really fun. The challenges of subscribers, not so much.
Which brings us to now…and you.
The artzine heyday may be over, but there are still a bunch of people creating publications out there. One search on etsy will bring up a bunch of great zines, in fact. It’s because zine creation is a really fun process — you sit down, decide what you’re going to talk about, talk about it and art it up on paper, and photocopy it for the world to see. (Or digitize it or whatever else your heart can dream up.) There are very few rules, and at the end, you have something tangible in your hand.
Plus, for those of us with publisher delusions, you get to indulge the urge to be a reporter and an author and an artist, with no pressure at all. It’s free creation, and a sharable object. You can capitalize on your strengths — are you a good writer? write articles. are you fabulous at drawing? do a sketchbook zine. are you great at collage? collage up a story.
The possibilities are endless.
Got a free day in July?
The 24 Hour Zine Thing is an annual challenge put on by some traditional zine folks. In it, you create a whole 24-page zine, start to finish, in 24 hours. It can be about whatever you want, in whatever format you want, done however you want. Sit down one day with blank paper and a desire to make a zine, and in 24 hours, you photocopy that sucker and bask in the accomplishment of it all.
We’re planning on doing a monsterZine at some point in July, with a friend of the Artist’s, in fact. (And hoping to digitize it so you can all see it.) 24 hours of writing and arting and laying things out? Count us in!
And it’s not too late to join, too.
The more of us arting it up in July, the better. Do a miniature 24-page art journal, or finally write up those stories in your head. Compile your poetry and illustrate it all. (Or make up new poems.) Take lots of pictures and document the day as it happens. Pick a topic that’s close to your heart and tell everyone about it in 24 pages.
Pick anything and make it the Most Creative Day Ever.
You can sign up on the 24 Hour Zine Thing website. (Just click the “sign up” link in the title bar and fill out the form.) They need a copy of your physical object to make you a “winner”/participant, but just the act of making an attempt makes you a winner in our book.