Imagine the average person you pass on any given day – the cashier in the supermarket, the fellow student on campus, the person dancing next to you at a concert. Now picture them coming home, putting revolutionary ideas down on paper, making that paper into a little folded handout and then spreading it like wildfire. There’s something thrilling about the zine community as a whole, a powerful universality that declares anyone can make zines and anyone can read them. They’re swapped and traded with a certain excitement, like passing a secret note in class. A secret that’s meant for anyone who wants it. Zines don’t discriminate. Zines are for everyone.
Zines became a way for me to save myself and others. When I was going through recovery for an eating disorder, I realized that there were girls just like me who were trying to get well and ones who had succeeded. They didn’t need a book deal to let others know. Instead they documented their experiences or spoke out to other victims through handmade creations. I clung to zines like “Girls Who Eat Are Hot!” by Whitney Billings and Midge Blitz’s “Stigma” zine on body positivity and self-love. When someone I love dearly was dealing with depression in the aftermath of drug abuse and suicide attempts, I gave him “Sh-t’s F—ked: A Positivity Guide” by Ms. Valerie Park Distro and “Sub Rosa #7: The Sobriety Issue” by Taryn Hipp. If nothing else, zines let you know you’re not alone in your struggles, that being human is hard but worth it. Zines are a message to keep going, a way to share what works and what doesn’t, a way to connect, a way to unite.
I’ve recently made my second zine, Erasure, which is filled with blackout poetry on feminism, growing up, and other subjects. Since my experience is still fresh and my fingers are still stained black from copier ink, I figured I would give advice to anyone who wants to get started on making their own.
1. Gather your materials.
Zines can be made out of anything! My most recent one is made from simple printer paper, old magazine articles and a blank Polaroid from expired film. Aside from that, my only tools were a Sharpie, pencil/pen, and a stapler (if you don’t have one, most copy centers do). You can incorporate anything you want, from random bits of string found on your desk to fallen leaves off the sidewalk.
2. Think of a theme and put it into action.
Just because you’re making a feminist zine doesn’t mean it has to be entirely serious (although it can be!). You could tackle an important issue like catcalling or reproductive rights, or you could take a fun approach and just make a zine of feminist crosswords. Fill your zine will illustrations, words, collages, games, inspiration, anything. This part is totally up to you.
3. Copies copies copies.
The beauty of zines is that they’re widely accessible – most of them can be bought off Etsy for only a dollar or two. The easiest way to keep costs down in production so you can sell zines for cheap is to copy in black and white. If you’re on a college campus, there should be a copier readily available. If not, there are also places like FedEx Kinko’s and Office Depot that charge about 10 cents for black and white copies at self-serve machines. Don’t be afraid to ask an employee for help if you’re technologically challenged like me…I’ve learned the hard way that inanimate objects will always win in a fight.
Now that you’re home with your copies, make yourself some tea and settle down. Spread out the pages in piles and decide what order you’d like them to go in if you haven’t already. Once they’re organized, start binding. You can use staples, colored stitching, a hole punch and ribbon…I’ve even seen purple bobby pins used (SO CUTE) in Luna Dykstra-Santos’s “Reclaim Yr Girlhood #2” quarter-sized zine.
Zines can be exchanged in person or through the internet. Etsy is a great platform for this and making an account is super easy (plus all of the zines mentioned in this article can be found through there). There’s a whole community of zine readers on Etsy just waiting to do business with you! Don’t be afraid to shamelessly self-promote on your blog, Facebook, Tumblr, etc.
And on that note, if you’re not too worn out from making your own zine, you should check out mine here. Wink wink, nudge nudge.
Keep creating, you budding zinesters!
-Bridget Elizabeth Sweet, Blog Editor
Images obtained through Google Images and taken by the author.