What is a zine? According to local artist and zine maker Jill Clair, a zine is “a booklet of self-published work in the DIY tradition” and “a collection of art/writing that you have either created yourself or have coerced out of your friends and acquaintances as an editor.”

As Jill explains, zines have a rich history. “Zines are intricately tied to pre-internet fandoms. Their social role has changed a lot since the early 90s, aka ‘the Golden Age of Zines,'” she explains. “A lot of underground cartoonists got their start self-publishing and distributing zines through mail order services. If you can get your hands on a copy of “The Complete Deep Girl” by Ariel Bordeaux, Robyn Chapman has an excellent article chronicling zine culture at its apex.”

“Taking a DIY approach to anything eliminates the implicit and explicit barriers which exist in more commercial routes,” she adds. “The more control you have of your product at every stage of production, the more it remains truly yours. You’re less likely to have your integrity compromised or your vision changed if you do it yourself.”

That idea of maintaining personal vision was a draw to zine making for Jill. “I initially started making zines because the content I was making wasn’t something anyone was going to publish. I wanted to see if I could start something and finish it, and I wanted something that was truly mine from cover to cover.”

Jill Clair working on a concert poster. Photo by Sammy Roach

Of course, Jill isn’t the only zine maker – or zine fiend – in town. Taking on the role of head fiend, Jill has put together a new iteration of Zine Fiends.

What is Zine Fiends?

Zine Fiends is happening Saturday, April 22 at the East Village Arts Collective (EVAC). From this point forward, it will be the third Saturday of every month at EVAC (the next one is May 20th). I’ve asked all interested fiends to show up at noon, but you know—artists. Zine Fiends is free. I ask that you donate a copy or two of the zine you make to EVAC so that we can sell it.

Zine Fiends are zine makers and/or people interested in making zines. It’s kind of like a book club for zines, but instead of a group of people reading the same book, everyone brings a zine they’ve made and they talk about it. People can bring copies of their zine for sharing and trading. No vendors at this point, although I’m hoping this event will evolve into a zine fair in the fall. I have no workshops scheduled at this time, but anyone who’s interested in making or collaborating on a zine is welcome to come out. I’ll show you the ropes.

Why Zine Fiends?

The value of an event like Zine Fiends lies in the nature of zine culture itself. Zines are a means of self-expression that dodge any fixed definition. You can labour over a zine for months, sweating over things like paper quality and layout, or you can fart out a bunch of silly doodles in a few hours and print them off. Both are zines. A zine can be as much work as you’re prepared to invest. That has a lot of appeal for people who have limitations on their time.

A pair of zines by Jerrold Hrafn.
A pair of zines by Jerrold Hrafn and Rin Vanderhaeghe. Photo by Sammy Roach

Any attempt at bringing together diverse parts of London’s art scene is valuable. A lot of extremely dedicated people have made London’s DIY community strong. They don’t have many opportunities to occupy the same space together, let alone discuss their work.

What’s your impression of the small press and self-publishing scene in London?

Very impressive. A lot of generosity and a lot of folks interested in collaborating and helping you get your footing. We live in an age where there are a lot of resources available to us, but getting access to those resources or even hearing about them is difficult. For no other purpose than to name drop, the folks at Runciman Press are literal angels and they have a number of publications you can submit work to if you’re interested in getting yourself out there. I’m not super familiar with the goings-on of Print London, but they seem to be putting on a lot of great programming.

What advice do you have for someone interested in making zines but doesn’t know where to start?

We’ve all been there. Self-doubt is a very real part of the human condition, but it’s better to try something and fail than to do nothing and always wonder. The best advice I can give is actually terrible advice, and that is to “just do it.” Beginning a project and seeing it to completion is an incredible feeling. Don’t let your insecurity prevent you from that sensation. Also, come to Zine Fiends. Learning and collaborating with a group is the ideal way to develop a new skill, and we are full of advice.

Check out Zine Fiends Saturday, April 22 at EVAC. Admission is free, just bring an extra copy or two of your zine for donation if you are planning to! 

Featured image, A zine by Melissa Parrott taken by Sammy Roach


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