HERE’S WHAT THE NORM QUESTIONING ZINE SCENE LOOKS LIKE

Despite what seems like everyone only living online now, a new wave of zine-makers shows that print is everything but dead. By using the internet as a promotion tool and covering issues that reflect generation Y’s reality, self-publishers from all over the world are getting more and more visible and use the tools at hand to fulfill their need of creating visibility for their communities in times that still seem to often cross over them – we have interviewed four zine-makers who decided to spread their messages through printed letters in our digital age.

Recipes for Self-Love

“Don’t be too hard on yourself” or “It’s okay to be angry” are some of the ingredients that make up a good recipe for self-love, according to Alison Rachel, founder of the same-named zine. In her publication, she and many of her contributors share what uplifts them when they feel down or suffer from low self-esteem.

Can you describe what “recipes for self-love” is all about?
RFSL is about women sharing their methods or “recipes” for how they manage to feel good in a world that seems determined to make women feel bad about themselves. I was at a particularly low point in my life and was suffering from depression and anxiety. I really wanted to find out how other women manage to survive and thrive so I thought about creating the zine where women could talk about their tips and tricks for loving themselves. There is clearly a need for uplifting content. Women are sick and tired of being made to feel like we’re not good enough and representation actually makes a big difference, also knowing that there are so many other people who feel the same way creates a community.

Is there a certain readership that you want to attract with your zine?
The zines are made by and for women so the content reflects the experiences of women. I’m not sure cis-het dudes would be able to relate to much of it.

Your zine features work from many different women. How do these collaborations happen?
For the first issue I reached out to friends and acquaintances and after that was so successful, for the second one, I threw the net a bit wider and for the third issue, I took submissions from Instagram and got loads of amazing contributions from women and girls from around the world.

It gets harder and harder for printed media to survive in a time that is so focused on digital content. Why is it important to you to offer a printed version of your zine?
Because print is just so cool! It’s just awesome to have something that’s tangible that you can keep on your shelf and revisit. All the print copies sold out of issues 1 and 2 – issue 3 was released digitally only because I was moving cities. Currently the only zines available are digital, but it makes them more accessible because they’re so affordable. That being said I’d love to have them all in print again and I am working on another very exciting print project.

Fem Zine London

Even though feminism has become more and more of a relevant topic in mainstream media, there still are many issues that stay uncovered. With her zine “Fem Zine London”, Mia Maxwell approaches these topics through writings, art and photography from a diverse range of contributors.

Can you describe what “femzinelondon” is all about?
Fem Zine is a book on art, text and fashion that gives creatives a reason and platform for producing meaningful content. Feminism is at the root of the work I produce. Women are often reduced to imagery, and so many of these images aren’t empowering, realistic or progressive. I always want to open a viewer’s eyes to different perspectives and a lot of women’s issues, particularly those on women of colour, are still overlooked in society and even ignored within feminism itself. In Fem Zine, we give a platform for all kinds of women and non-binary people to produce work, so the zine becomes a truly inter-sectional space. We are raising each other up and we are expanding the space that is ours.

Is there a certain readership that you want to attract with your zine?
Honestly no, there is no specific group of people I really want to attract. I’d so much rather reach a broad, diverse range of people than one single group. Right now we are being bought by people of different ages, genders and ethnicities, which is awesome. I think a lot of people see zines as a youth thing, but we have writers that are middle-aged, and buyers and followers that reflect that too, which is amazing!

What inspires the topics for your zine?
The topics are always a tricky one, as we want something that is easily accessible to a range of potential contributors. I normally go off what’s stirring me at the time – “Women and Hair” for example stemmed from my annoyance about my decision to not shave my body, which unwillingly upset so many people. I was also noticing how complex hair issues are for my black friends, and basically started to realise that ALL women have something to say about themselves and hair, no matter who you are. The next theme is even broader I think, which we’ll be sharing very soon!

It gets harder and harder for printed media to survive in a time that is so focused on digital content. Why is it important to you to offer a printed version of your zine?
It is so important to us that we don’t even offer an online version. To me everything we experience from visual content in this time is momentary. You see an image for a second and like it or scroll on. This means more work is being generated, and with less meaning every time, as you know your audience is just scrolling through in a few seconds. I always want to create work that is meaningful, and that has the power to change or open minds (as I think media and image has the power to do so) and to me the only way of creating work that people consider and revisit is by creating something physical. All of the physical art and fashion books I own are things I’ll keep forever, and that’s what I want for Fem Zine. I also think by paying for it, you’re more likely to dedicate your time to it, which is so rare in our climate. This makes it hard to survive for sure, but we’re so passionate that we manage!

Sweet-Thang Zine

When Zoe Thompson discovered that there wasn’t any arts and literary zine available that was dealing exclusively with the issues of black women, she decided to make one herself. “Sweet Thang Zine” was born and became a creative space for black women away from the white-washed nature of mainstream DIY spheres.

Can you describe what “Sweet-Thang Zine” is all about?
Sweet-Thang is an arts and literary zine that features and celebrates work by black women and femmes around the world. It’s a collection of poetry, artwork, photography, short fiction, essays and more, usually related to a specific theme and beautifully presented to the world. I always noticed that there was a lack of people of colour contributing to zines, especially black women, and this made me feel alienated. So, I thought why not create one specifically for me?

Is there a certain readership that you want to attract with your zine?
I don’t intentionally and strictly have a specific readership. With social media it’s hard to confine what you make to a certain group of people, especially with art – because I feel it’s something that should be universally appreciated. Of course Sweet-Thang is a collection of work by black women and femmes, making the majority of the readership comprise of this group. But there have been so many people who have supported the zine by buying it and appreciating the art within it, and I love that! But if I’m being true to myself, I want the zine to mostly be seen and read by black women around the world, since it is celebratory of our words and our art.

What do you think differentiates a zine from a common magazine?
Zines are historically linked to underground tributes to fandoms, and more prominently, 90s riot-grrrl culture! What I think differentiates the two is the emphasis on zines being “not-for-profit” and generally being more niche. I like the fact that they can literally be made on a kitchen table and then photocopied and distributed to anyone, anywhere. Apart from size, the independence of publisher(s), and distribution, some zines are actually starting to become similar to common magazines, especially with regards to being digitally and professionally printed.

It’s getting harder and harder for printed media to survive in a time that is so focused on digital content. Why is it important to you to offer a printed version of your zine?
I’ve always preferred reading real books rather than online, simply because there’s something beautiful about holding a book – the smell, the spine, the pages themselves and it’s a shame that it’s hard for printed media to survive in the digital age. I’m not really tech savvy either, so it bores me trying to create digital content, but creating online stuff is sick and I’d love to learn some day. Maybe in the future Sweet-Thang can adopt some online extension to make it more accessible for people who can’t buy the physical copy of an issue! Who knows.

SASSIFY ZINE

After hearing the word “sassy” over and over again as a description for his drawings, illustrator Jason Kattenhorn decided to further explore the term. With his zine, he created a platform for himself and other artists to connect topics like queerness, gender and identity with their work and discover every aspect of “sassiness”.

Can you describe what “SASSIFY ZINE” is all about?
SASSIFY ZINE is a lowbrow art publication. Every issue is a curated exploration of the word SASSY. We toy with illustrations, stories, and interviews to challenge perceptions of gender, sexuality, identity, the grotesque and the beautiful to revolutionize what it is to be sassy.

You want to “revolutionize what it is to be sassy”. Can you explain this?
For me sassiness is a way to explore gender at its purest form. Can a man still be manly and sassy; can a woman be sassy without being thought of as a bitch? I want to flip all preconceived ideas of it on the head. In my opinion it is also a euphemism for boldness, courage and the tenacity to make change. To revolutionize ideas of sassiness, I want to continue to illustrate and interview drag artists, trans advocates, and other creative people who use these qualities to make the world a more tolerant and accepting place to live. We were lucky enough to interview Trixie Mattel, Buck Angel and lots of other amazingly talented individuals for the latest issue.

Is there a certain readership that you want to attract with your zine?
The zine is mostly aimed toward 20+ something’s looking to indulge in queer and straight culture, however anyone can pick a copy up and take something nourishing from it. I mostly just want people to read the zine and be titillated by subjects that they would not normally read about. The best advice I was ever given was to create things from the heart, and each issue is a reflection of the subjects I love.

It gets harder and harder for printed media to survive in a time that is so focused on digital content. Why is it important to you to offer a printed version of your zine?
Print is definitely not dead – It is such a treat to hold something tangible and permanent, so buying a zine is like a little creative investment. With Sassify, I regularly post digital content on our website and across social media, the best of the bunch, along with new exclusive content is then used to create a printed version of the zine. All artists who create work for each issue receive a free copy of each issue, which is another reason why it’s important to print.

Header Image via Sweet-Thang Zine

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