Thursday, March 08, 2012

Where My Zine Research Led Me

As I said in my last post, and most people who commented seemed to agree, the trouble with most zines is their lack of aesthetic appeal (to our eyes anyway).


By Billy Pringle [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I was expecting to be howled down by at least ONE zine-aficionado, and the fact that this hasn’t happened makes me think most of my much-loved readers are like me, from a book arts background. I say this rather than assume that I am correct!

I decided to search a little more on the internet and discovered We Make Zines  a Ning community for zinesters, Zine World (a reader’s guide to the underground press), ZineWiki, as well as The Sticky Institute. Based in Melbourne Australia, Sticky is a volunteer group which run a not-for-profit retail space for zines, as well as mail order sales from their site. They also run The Festival of the Photocopier, an annual zine fair.

What I was really searching for was a nice clear definition of a zine, so I could decide whether it was for me. The Sticky Institute FAQ say: “The general consensus on zines is that they are independently-produced cheap short-run publications not intended for mainstream distribution, and created because of passion rather than profit. Different zine-makers have certain opinions on what zines can and can’t be – whether they can be produced by a group of people rather than just an individual, for instance – but that is a sufficient broad definition. It often involves a lot of photocopying.”


By Mcld (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (

That was quite helpful but then I found this site, The Book of Zines.  There is all sorts of wonderful information about zines here, including pages on what’s a zine, zine history, online zine catalogue, legal issues, publishing online, how to distribute your zine, recommendations and reviews and more!

I have barely scratched the surface of all the information there, but I found this article by Fred Wright about the history of zines very interesting. Understanding the context of zines beyond punk, encompassing beat poetry, Dada, propaganda broadsheets and lettrisme made me feel all the more drawn to make my own zine.


By Gianni Simone, aka Johnny Boy, (editor and designer). CC-BY-SA-3.0 (

It also made me realize that back in the 70s when I was at school, I myself had been a subscriber to a short-lived zine called Zoot. It’s focus (from memory) was predominantly Australian rock/pop bands, but I also remember there was a penpal section, where I placed a small ad. A short time later our letter box was full to overflowing – I think I received 70 or so replies. Being the polite young thing I was, I chose half a dozen or so as “penpals” but proceeded to write to every single person who had written to me to thank them and explain why this would be the only letter they would be receiving from me.

So, back to the Imprint call-out. I had an idea, but it relied heavily on colour. As I wondered whether my idea was suitable for a zine, I remembered that the amazing Melbourne duo Gracia & Louise produce zines. So I popped over to to check out their approach. Looking through the archive of their zines told me that they felt free to flaunt the black and white photocopied aesthetic.

I decided to follow in their auspicious footsteps and my series of Wabi-Sabi zines was born. More next time!


  1. Oh this is fantatsic, really interesting. Back in the day and before computers were so readily available I was heavily into photocopy art and zines and mail art. I even ran workshops about photocopy art and got Photocopier companies to sponsor them.

    I think the original zine aesthetic was very hands-on, get on with was punk: i.e. dont worry about it being proefssional looking/ how it's 'supposed' to look /Just do it.

    This is an interestng link too:

  2. Now I am really intrigued. I'll follow all your links and will probably end up making a zine myself. Won't do at all! Thanks for the research, I'm looking forward to your own zine.

  3. Thanks for that link Cusp - I hadn't got that far. It's a great article - very interesting.
    What I am really liking as I read more about zines is the freedom I am sensing to "do my own thing". "Just do it" - as you say, and don't worry about fitting in with a specific aesthetic. With the advent of computers, it really is obvious that the aesthetic can readily change.

    And thanks ersi - glad that I have piqued your interest. Try Cusp's link too. I'd love to see you try a zine - I'm sure it would still be very "you".

  4. thanks for all the great ziney links ... its an interesting if still amorphously defined area wot...

  5. You've got a lot of people thinking about zines Amanda. I personally believe with most things that there are no rules, and you should just make what you feel is right for you. I'd love to collect your zines and those lovely zines of Gracia and Louise too!

  6. Thanks for all the lovely links but I'm sure we'll all do our own thing despite the definitions. I think maybe the hardest hurdles to overcome for our way of thinking could be our working towards a "finished" product and our feelings of preciousness that comes from making "one offs". Does it matter??? In the end lets do what feels good.

  7. This is a great thread.

    This link:

    leads to a site that's full of interesting stuff and it might be worth you looking at Jon Savage's stuff too. His collection of zines and fanzines has been archived by John Moore's Uni in Liverpool.

    There are some good books about the whole business of fandom and pop culture by Fred & Judy Vermorel (and some of their books are very 'zine' in their design)

    Can you tell I wrote my thesis on fandom and pop culture ? :O)