How to make a zine. How to build community.

Pictured is a zine from the Sadleir House Library Archives. Photo by Jenny Fisher.

Dear readers, this is an interactive article that will require one sheet of 8½ x 11 paper and scissors.

Before I explain what this article is about, I want you to take your piece of paper (use recycled if you can as long as it has one blank side) and fold it in half three times creating eight squares. Open up your paper so that it is now only folded in half once and cut along the centre crease, from the folded side, about half way down.

Now open your paper up and fold it in half, length-wise. Holding the two ends of your paper push towards the cut opening until you have a diamond and push the diamond shape together until the sides meet and you have a paper cross. Then fold in half.

What you should have now is an eight-page zine.

Now what is a zine you may be wondering? A zine is a self-published work of art, which may include poems, visual art, radical information, or whatever you want! That is the beauty of zines—there are no rules or regulations. They are a form of expression that anyone and everyone has access too! While the one you’ve just made is a mini zine, typically zines are half pages folded and stapled with as many pages as you’d like, not limited to eight.

“Zines started in the 70s and 80s as underground counterculture movements for getting away from big publishing, for embracing grass roots kind of medium movement,” says James Kerr, program director at Trent Radio (who publish their own annual zine). They were created because there were so many things not being said.

“They can be about yourself, your own personal artwork or poetry, or they can be about a specific topic that is controversial. So there has been a lot of zines about feminist issues and environmentalism,” says Kristen Mommertz, a librarian at the Sadleir House Library. “I think they’re important because of the do-it-yourself style of publishing. It’s a great way of getting original content out without having to pay.”

The Sadleir House Library is in the midst of launching a zine library, so if you are ever interested in looking into issues of the past, head to the Sadleir House Library and check out the zines (many of the zines come from the OPIRG office just down the hall!).

The Library is also having a Zine Workshop on April 2 form 4:00 to 6:30. So, if my directions above weren’t quite clear enough, or (and more likely) if they were clear and you have now fallen in love with zines and want to learn more, come to the workshop, hang out with some great people, and make some great art.

While talking to several different people about zines, an important aspect that kept coming up was community.

In an age where information is overwhelmingly accessible via the Internet and where blogs are everywhere, what keeps zines relevant? Community.

While at any point in time I can publish something on the Internet, I am not meeting anyone in the process. The beauty of zines is the interaction that is involved with them.

When you have photocopied and stapled your zine together you have the choice of where you want that zine to go and the ability to reach out to the communities that you want to be heard by. How you ask? You walk there, or bike there or drive there or even fly there. Whatever your preferred form of transportation is, you get to place your zine where you want it and in the process you have the chance to meet the amazing people around you and say to them, “Hey, look what I published.”

And even on a smaller scale you can sit with your friends and make DIY zines like the one you’ve just made and it becomes a communal activity.

No longer do we have to be separated by the screens of our computers to get valuable information or information that is not easily accessed even on the Internet because we are now writing it and publishing it ourselves.

“There is a better sense of community. If I have a zine and I say, ‘Ok, I am going hand this out at Food Not Bombs, I am going to hand this out at The Spill,’ I am establishing the groups that I want to network with, and the groups I want to share information with. It’s grassroots, it’s local,” says Natalie Paproski-Rubianes, staff member at OPIRG.

If there is something you are really passionate about and have had a hard time getting published or haven’t tried to get published in a mainstream form of media, make your own zine and get the information out there because it has never been so easy. Zines provide us the opportunity to talk about controversial topics or silly topics or sexual topics. I cannot stress enough that there are no limits.

A common thing in zines are the DIY or How To’s. “How to dumpster dive” was an example provided by Paproski-Rubianes which just goes to prove that the options are endless.

“This is what is wonderful about [zines],” Kerr said, “it doesn’t matter your artistic caliber going into it. There’s very funky not-drawings and poor penmanship and brilliant ideas that don’t necessarily have to make sense. That isn’t really the point of it.

“The point is your ability to express yourself. You’re just expressing yourself,” expresses Kerr.

Below is OPIRG’s zine Subversion

About Caleigh Boyle 32 Articles
Caleigh Boyle, double major in English Lit and Cultural Studies is passionate about the arts, words—both spoken and written—and can often be found at Chapters buying more journals than she needs.