Zines and the Eternal Power of Low Tech Art
It's 2017 and there's an app for everything. Digital culture has permeated our everyday and tangible, tactile arts and crafts like scrap-booking and book binding have been replaced with Shutterfly and Snapfish; and guess what? I'm right there on the bandwagon with you and everyone else. After my first trip abroad, I came home and created a book of my travels with my husband to commemorate the experience. I used Shutterfly, spent less than $50 and an hour of my time, and had a book in 2 weeks time. I work in tech - I love tech, and I love digital cultures; Cushy is a digital community! But, I'm also an old soul with six years worth of English Literature training and a lifetime of loving books (especially old books with their smells) that keeps me forever tethered to paper; one foot in one foot out, as they say.
There's a power in making something with your hands, in having to make a mess and get messy. There's a power in sharing a physical object, as opposed to sharing an article on Facebook or retweeting someone's Tweet.
I've been collecting zines since 2004 and they're just as precious to me as the hardbound books overwhelming my bookshelves. I love how anyone can make a zine and share it, how you can say anything you want, big or small, political or personal - there is so much freedom in zine making. But what are zines?
"There's a power in making something with your hands"
Erin E. Barrio
A Brief History
Zines have been around since the 1930's - some cite the first as being The Comet, produced by the Science Correspondence Club in Chicago. Zines remained more or less relegated to the sci-fi genre and fandom through the late 1960's and then, a technological shift occurred that changed us, as people, forever.
Photocopying. Yes, friends, photocopying! Xerox came out with their model in 1959, and by 1966, Americans were making 14 billion (yea, you read that right) copies a year. While you should immediately react with derision at how many trees were mowed down in the name of 14B copies a year, you should also consider the power of what these copies meant: mass distribution and access. Photocopies changed the way information was passed and received and it thrust zines into a wider purview of sub-cultures, namely, punk.
Zines did for punk what myspace.com did for indie bands in the early 2000's - but by the 80's, zine culture had begun to taper off, only to be reignited again with the full force and fury of the riot grrrl movement.
Zines were the perfect vehicle for spreading the messages and values of the riot grrrl movement: DIY culture, radical politics, community, and an insistence on having a seat at the same dingy, sticker-ridden table as everybody else.
So why are zines still important today? Why still make them?
For the same. damn. reasons. Zines are still an EXCELLENT vehicle for espousing your political views, for creating a dialogue around social justice, for supporting an indie band or author, for writing and sharing that personal narrative you hand't told yet - zines are still powerful, generative objects, just as their makers are.
Which is why it gives me great pleasure to announce that Cushy will at this year's Albuquerque Zine Fest, held at the Harwood Arts Center on October 7th. Our Founders and Contributors are participating, producing original zines to be featured on the collective Cushy booth.
Our creatives are tackling everything from self-care, to motherhood & identity, to a feminist burn book inspired by Mean Girls (spoiler alert, the 45th may or may not have a cameo).
As a community, we decided that proceeds from our zine sales would go towards Hurricane Harvey relief. One of our dear contributors, Melanie, lives in Spring, TX and our proceeds will specifically go to the preschool her son attends, School in the Pines, and the County Friends of the Library, to help the public libraries that suffered damage.
So give us a holler and a visit on October 7th if you're in the Albuquerque area, and if not, share your zines with us on social media at @cushy_blog on instagram and Twitter!