Tag Archives: DIY

Have You Zine It?

Zines at the University of Texas Libraries

What costs approximately five dollars but can be considered rare ephemera in academic libraries? Zines, of course! We three (Daniel Arbino, Gina Bastone and Sydney Kilgore), who work with zines, hope to share our enthusiasm for the format in this quick overview, as well as three exhibitions during the coming year.  In explaining the who, what, when, why, and where of zines on the UT Campus, we hope to capture your imagination and get you as excited about zines as we are.

What do zines actually look like?  Think of the appearance of all the instruction pamphlets you have ever received that accompany all the objects you have ever bought, and you will get some idea of the many ways zines can look.  And like these enclosed sets of instructions, zines are most often staple-bound pages of images and texts that are light to hold, easy to flip through, with subjects galore.

The OED states that zine is a shortened form of the word fanzine, a term coined by a group of ”makers” that created handmade publications for their fellow science fiction fans in the 1930s. This same zine format – small circulation, handmade, often self-published – was picked up as a way of publishing social and political views in the 1960s by activists, then in the 1970s-1990s by punk rock and feminist groups. During subsequent decades the number of people making zines has grown huge, with a resultant rise in the number of zine formats and subjects.  Which brings us to the present and to thoughts the three of us have about zines and the zine collections housed in the UT Libraries’ Collections.

What is a zine?

Gina Bastone: My gut-response to this question is that a zine is a just photocopied, staple-bound booklet. Most are really that simple, but at the same time, this flexible format is a vessel for anyone – and I mean, literally anyone – to have a voice. That means zines can be as varied and diverse as their creators, which also makes them difficult to define and categorize. Zines don’t cost a lot to make, and they’re accessible, portable, and easy to share. For writers and artists, creating a zine provides a way (outside of mainstream publishing) to put creative work out into the world, and for activists, zines are an effective and low-cost way to spread important information and mobilize others.

Daniel Arbino: This is something that I’ve been trying to pin down for the last few years. In my estimation, a zine is a do-it-yourself publication that historically, has had a very small audience of family of friends. It can include art, photographs, poetry, short essays, or stories. I often think of those materials as highly personal, whether it is the creator’s reflection on their own life or a television show or music genre that they connect with on a deep level. Nowadays, zines can reach larger audiences through online purchasing on Etsy or through zine fests. However, the explosion of zines through these outlets has also made their identification murky for me. Sometimes a self-published graphic novel can look like a zine and vice versa.

Sydney Kilgore:  I, like Daniel, have struggled with what defines a zine.  Yes, there is the handmade aspect to them or their suggested small circulation number.  Zine texts and images are also usually original to the artist.  But zines can contain text and images appropriated by the artist as well.  Pages in zines can be stapled together in the simplest way or can approach the artist book category in their complexity and beauty.  Zines can be self-published or not.  They are usually reasonable in price when initially bought, but, with time, can become rare and attain Special Collection status.  In truth, I think the inability to easily define what zines are add to their mystique.  People want to know about them, and interested, they go to zine fests, meet the artists, look in libraries and books stores and learn what can always be said about zines – they are limitless in their formats, subjects, and appeal.

Bookcover: “Exciting Places for Boring People” by Andy Rementer
“Exciting Places for Boring People” by Andy Rementer

 

What is your personal history with zines? 

Sydney Kilgore:  Zines escaped my notice until I started working in the UT Fine Arts Library (FAL) and learned of the Zine Collection that my boss, former FAL head librarian Laura Schwartz, was building. Her enthusiasm for zines was contagious. I recall one UT Library event, a Zine-A-Thon, Laura organized during which a group of PCL catalogers first explained the perils of cataloging zines – not easy to assign subject headings; numerous contributors with unclear roles; no listed publishers or publication dates; and so forth.  Then we attendees attempted to crowdsource-catalog three zines of our choice from the amazingly diverse UTL collections of zines.  We ran out of time to complete our cataloging, feeling some sympathy for our cataloguer colleagues.  About a year later, armed with limited knowledge and inspired by Laura’s proselytizing, I headed for a conference in Seattle, where I bought my first zine from the famous Seattle bookstore, The Elliott Bay Book Company. I remember grinning as I left the bookstore. I was now one of the Zine initiates.

Gina Bastone: I first discovered zines in college, when friends of mine created staple-bound booklets to showcase their creative writing projects. Back then, it was just a fun thing a few friends did to circulate their writing to a small audience of peers. I didn’t really think much more of it, and I didn’t know anything about the history of zines in punk culture or the Riot Grrrl movement. When I was in my 20s, I learned more about those punk, feminist roots, and I contributed my own writing to more sophisticated art/poetry zine anthologies. I also started collecting poetry chapbooks at public readings. I’m fascinated by the connections and similarities between zines and chapbooks, and why some writers use one term over the other. The “chapbook” as a format has been around for hundreds of years and has its own interesting evolution. But at its heart, a chapbook is a lot like a zine – it’s a simple, low-cost mechanism for sharing creative work outside of mainstream publishing.

Daniel Arbino:  I wish that I had my own zine growing up, but alas, I only discovered zines about three to four years ago. I was working on my MLIS at the time and living in New Orleans. For one of my course assignments, I went to the Amistad Research Center and used their zine collection. I was immediately struck by how unique each zine is. Whether it is by shape, size, format, or content, it seems that every zine carries a distinction. The fact that the zine is an outlet for historically marginalized groups captivated me most of all. I thought, here is a chance to incorporate voices that publishers are overlooking. When I started at the University of Texas at Austin, that sentiment contributed to my desire to advance the Benson Latin American Collection’s zine offerings.

 

Book cover: “Bodily Memory” a poetry chapbook by Leticia Urieta
“Bodily Memory” a poetry chapbook by Leticia Urieta

 

What is the University of Texas Libraries’ institutional history with zines?

Daniel Arbino: Speaking for the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection, I can say that adding a zine collection was perhaps new in name, but not in practice. We are the official repository for the Puro Chingón Collective, who regularly publishes their own zine. Additionally, my colleagues and our predecessors at the Benson have collected a plethora of DIY and small press publications from across Latin America – Caribbean graphic novels, Brazilian cordeles, Argentine chapbooks, and cartoneras. Curating our zine collection to match these similar materials has been a project of mine for two years. In that time, I have purchased approximately 200 zines focusing on U.S. Latinx creators through zine fests in Austin, Albuquerque, San Antonio, and New York City as well as online acquisitions. In the Spring of 2019, I processed these zines as an archival collection that can be accessed in our Rare Books and Manuscripts Reading Room. The collection is a small, but noteworthy addition to UTL’s commitment to popular culture.

Sydney Kilgore:  The Fine Arts Library’s Collection of zines began to grow in earnest in 2012 under the stewardship of former FAL head librarian Laura Schwartz. Laura, fascinated with zines, wanted to build a collection that could be shared with library patrons; the reasonable cost of zines making their collecting possible. She set her collecting parameters – art and music, and/or local and regional artists; and frequented Austin stores such as Domy Books, owned by zine collector Russell Etchen. This relationship later resulted in Etchen gifting his Zine Collection to the FAL.  Laura also worked with knowledgeable library colleagues like Beth Kerr, former FAL Dance and Theater Librarian, and Katherine Strickland, PCL Maps Coordinator, who shared their knowledge and made their own additions to the FAL Zine Collections.  Laura then made the decision that the zines be searchable in the library catalog and available for checkout. Former Arts and Humanities Liaison Librarian Becca Pad, equally enthused about zines, continued to make additions to the FAL Zine Collection; wrote a LibGuide for them; and helped head the UT Libraries’ participation in the immensely popular Lone Star Zine Festival.  Thanks to Becca’s vision, there are now also plans for a new zine exhibition space on the 5th floor of the FAL which will focus interest on these unique collections.

Gina Bastone: When I started at UT in 2016, I knew about the Fine Arts Library’s zine collection, but I figured I wouldn’t work with it too much because I’m based at the Perry-Castañeda Library. However, I oversee the Poetry Center collection, which was founded in the 1965. I quickly learned that the Poetry Center has a wealth of poetry chapbooks, some published as far back as the 1950s. I found a chapbook published in the 70s by a Tejano activist-poet. It has cut-and-paste images interspersed with lines of poetry, and I thought “Is this a zine? Is it a chapbook? Is it somehow both?” And that’s the fun of the Poetry Center collection – it has these treasures, some of which are pretty rare, that document a history of creative writing in Texas entirely outside of mainstream publishing. I’m proud that the UT Libraries is able to preserve these little books and make them accessible to readers!

Book cover:  “Masa-mericanos” by Mercado Merch Art Collective
“Masa-mericanos” by Mercado Merch Art Collective

 

Over the next few months, we will be rolling out three different digital exhibits that highlight zines and chapbooks from UTL collections. In the meantime, be sure to visit our table at the 2019 Lone Star Zine Fest from 2-8pm on Sunday, September 1st at Northern-Southern Gallery on 1900 E. 12th St. We will be answering questions about zines, showing off a small sampling of our collections, and even handing out a zine that we made ourselves.

 

 

 

Creating Space in the Public Domain for Feminist Literature

Earlier this year, the UT Libraries hosted a panel discussion called, Can I Use That?: Remix and Creativity. The event was the brainchild of Juliana Castro, a graduate student in the School of Design & Creative Technologies. She worked with librarians Becca Pad, Gina Bastone and Colleen Lyon to plan a panel event that dove into issues around rules of copyright and reuse as they relate to creative fields of inquiry.

The Yellow Wall-Paper

The panelists for the event included: Dr. Carma Gorman, Design; Dr. Philip Doty, School of Information; Dr. Carol MacKay, English; and Gina Bastone, UT Libraries. The question and answer session of the panel was particularly lively as participants engaged with our experienced panel on a variety of reuse issues.

The capstone of the event was an opportunity to bind a Cita Press public domain book, The Yellow Wall-Paper, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. UT Libraries is pleased to work with scholars like Juliana Castro who are interested in exploring new ways to freely share information, and is excited to help her introduce Cita Press.

Learn more about Cita Press.

BACKGROUND

Public domain is a legal term used to refer to visual or written works without intellectual property rights. Works enter the public domain for different reasons, including expiration of the rights, forfeiture, waiver, or inapplicability, as in the case of pieces created before an existing legal framework. At the end of the eighteenth century, copyrights lasted only 14 years in the USA, with an option of renewing for another 14 years. However, copyright terms have expanded dramatically over the course of the twentieth century in the USA.

Since the passage of the Sonny Bono Copyright Extension Act of 1998, most copyrighted works do not re-enter the public domain until 70 years after the death of the author. These extensions are created to benefit creators’ interests, but not only do they oftentimes fail to do so, but can stifle creativity, free speech, and the democratic exchange of ideas.

In the last three centuries, women have gradually made their way into the publishing industry as active writers, often exploring topics considered inappropriate or even immoral for women to address. The printing press was developed by Johannes Gutenberg c.1439. By 1500, printing presses were operating all throughout Europe; by 1539 Spanish colonists were printing in Mexico; and by 1638 English colonists were printing in New England. However, until the early nineteenth century, writing was still a suspect occupation for women. Because often times writing was viewed as unfeminine, the few women who had the educational background to write works of public interest would often publish anonymously, using masculine pseudonyms to avoid jeopardizing their social status.

Art and literature have been sexist arenas, and as Joanna Russ points, for centuries women have had to fight outright prohibitions, social disapproval, lack of role models, isolation, and other forms of suppression in order to get their work published and recognized.  Most of the nineteenth century’s feminist literature is now in the public domain, but many of these writings are not being republished by commercial publishers. When publishers do reprint public-domain texts, they rarely do so in open-access book formats. Because commercial publishers invest in curating and marketing well-designed collections of reprints, they frequently commission original annotations or introductions from scholars, which in turn enables them to copyright and profit from their new editions.

In contrast, Internet-based archives such as Google Books, HathiTrust, and Archive.org make an enormous corpus of public-domain books available for free online, but do so as scans or in poorly designed digital formats. Moreover, internet archives usually do not make their collections particularly navigable or appealing to non-scholarly audiences, nor do they make it properly designed and easy to print.

WHAT’S NEXT?

Cita’s purpose is to celebrate and make accessible the work of female authors, and inspire people to explore open publishing formats. In the future, I plan to extend Cita’s reach as an active open-source editing platform that is committed to intersectionality and that welcomes diverse voices and backgrounds by republishing new works, especially in Spanish, including those of living authors who are willing to open-license their works.

As is the case with most successful open-source projects, Cita needs user-contributor engagement in order to grow. The existing collaborative community is likely to extend their work towards creating new material, and potential new contributors will be encouraged to join in at different levels of the book-creating process, including cleaning texts, reformatting HTML, designing covers, laying out texts, marketing the site, etc. I plan to apply for small grants that can cover certain parts of the book making process, such as formatting and free distribution of printed copies. But Cita’s success will ultimately rely on the efforts of those who are interested in celebrating and making women’s art and literature more accessible.

Please follow, join, contribute and share: citapress.org

Juliana Castro is a Colombian graphic designer and editor, and  a graduate student in the School of Design & Creative Technologies at The University of Texas at Austin.

About ‘Zines and Art

“Rocktober.” Russell Etchen/FAL ‘Zine Collection.

The event referenced below has already occurred.

This Thursday (11/3), five local artists will gather for a panel at the Fine Arts Library (FAL) to talk about how they were impacted by the presence of the DIY ‘zine movement.

The FAL began collecting ‘zines in 2010 with some guidance from Russell Etchen, the manager/curator of the much-beloved and gone-too-soon Domy Books, which provided Austin (and Houston before) with an opportunity for browsing (and occasionally purchasing) niche publications and other media in art, design, literature and photography. Domy closed and Etchen moved on, but he’s maintained his ties to Austin, and he recently generously donated his personal collection of ‘zines to FAL — four large boxes of rare and sometimes unique works that represent a breadth of formats and genres, and superlative examples of the form.

Russell is returning to Austin for a visit and a show at Co-Lab Projects’ Demo Gallery (721 Congress Avenue), and kindly accepted an invitation to moderate the panel at FAL. He also took some time out to answer a few questions from us about his own experiences with self-publishing.


Russell Etchen.
Russell Etchen.

Tex Libris: Since they are such a very outsider form, what was your entrée into the world of ‘zines?

Russell Etchen: I started reading Mad Magazine and superhero comics first. Had a subscription box at my local strip mall comic and game shop and went weekly.

A subscription to Wizard led me to odder corners of comics like Jeff Smith’s Bone, anything by Jim Woodring, and early Mike Allred’s Madman (the black and white work).

Simultaneously I was discovering music ‘zines like Maximumrocknroll, the underrated Chicago based Rocktober, Punk Planet, and many more smaller publications in the punk and hardcore scene.

Met some like-minded friends who helped me make the leap to “adult comics” like Dan Clowes’s Eightball, the self published issues of Adrian Tomine’s Optic Nerve, and John Porcellino’s King-Cat.

John’s mini-comix/zine distro Spit and a Half, and the long-deceased Factsheet Five opened me up to everything that followed.

Which were you first, creator or collector?

Etchen stamp of approval.
Stamp of approval.

RE: I was always both. I collected to create. I created to collect.

How many ‘zines have you produced, and are you still making them today?

RE: I’ve produced two dozen, maybe three dozen ‘zines to date. I still self publish now and then for myself and others. Two last fall. Nothing currently in the works.

My personal memory of you is from Domy Books, and I know that (former head librarian) Laura Schwartz connected with you during that time to get your help in developing what became the ‘zine archive at FAL. Can you tell me a little bit about how you met Laura and what you did to help guide her in choosing materials?

RE: Unless I’m mistaken, I met Beth and Tim Kerr first. They both work/worked in the UT library system for decades. Beth introduced me to Laura, and Laura let me know that she was working with a budget to start purchasing interesting small press and self-published publications.

Selfishly, I guided Laura to works I was particularly fond of and publications I felt wouldn’t get archived anywhere else.

Did you use the same criteria for developing your own collection, or was that more organic?

Unboxing Etchen's 'zines.
Unboxing Etchen’s ‘zines.

RE: A mix. Mostly organic, but sometimes strategic. I was seeking the underground and was trying to go as deep as I could. I was looking for fellow outliers and I found them. So many of them.

How would you describe the purpose(s) of a ‘zine? Or does that question even have an answer?

RE: A ‘zine is self published self-expression. An extension of a perceived community and was/is cultural currency. You want to trade? I make one, too.

How would you characterize the relevancy or currency of ‘zines today? What’s their relationship to technology? This is a recurring question that we have to consider at the libraries regarding physical/digital.

RE: To me, these days, they seem to be primarily an extension of the business card or portfolio. Or one-upmanship within a scene (echo chamber). Too precious. A digital generation discovering the analog and turning it into a fetish. Exceptions abound, but it feels like an inversion of itself. I don’t trust them anymore. The intentions have been blurred.

What made you decide to donate your collection to FAL? It’s pretty amazing, and based on the small segment I’ve seen, encompasses a broad variety of types and formats.

More from the collection.
More from the collection.

RE: After spending twenty years collecting and editing the collection, moving it everywhere I went and hardly ever looking at them anymore, I finally decided that someone else will get much more out of them. That, and I need the space while still wanting to know my “stash” is relatively safe and accessible. Plus, someone else is going to catalog it all for me!

What do you hope people get out of having access to your collection?

RE: Should one person rifle through them and find inspiration, my job is done. Should another person find that obscure publication that helps their research, my job will be done. Beyond that, I just know they’ll just sit in boxes in my closet and continue to decay and that would be a waste. I care too much about analog history to do that to them. And I’m done with them.

Are you still collecting?

RE: I’m actively un-collecting at this point, but I will still pick up cheap paperback literature for the same reason I picked up comics or ‘zines. To feel like I’m saving a small slice of history from absolute oblivion, and ’cause there are just too many books I want to read before I’m dust.

Gallery of covers from Etchen’s ‘zine donation:


Thursday’s panel features photographer/publisher Kelly Dugan of Peachfuzz, visual artist James Huizar of Puro Chingon Collective, editor/curator Amarie Gipson of MUD Magazine, designer/curator Phillip Niemeyer of Northern-Southern, and mail artist/musician Josh Ronsen of Monk Mink Pink Punk. Click for more info.

The Copier as Canvas

 Study Group zine cover

“Zines are not a new idea. They have been around under different names (ChapBooks, Pamphlets, Flyers). People with independent ideas have been getting their word out since there were printing presses.” ― Mark Todd, Whatcha Mean, What’s a Zine?

As institutions traditionally charged with gathering and providing access to the broadest range of information, libraries have in large part transitioned their focus from the physical to the digital realm of resources. But there are pockets of attention that remain fixed on collecting those materials that hold significantly greater value in a corporeal state.

Laura Schwartz shares zines with an studio art class.In 2010, Fine Arts Library (FAL) Head Librarian Laura Schwartz joined a fledgling movement of librarians across the country in establishing a collection of DIY pamphlets, popularly known as “zines.”

Zines — short for “fanzines” — take a variety of forms, but are generally self-published and noncommercial, homemade or online publications often devoted to specialized or unconventional subject matter. Traditionally, zines have been published in small runs — less than 1000 copies — and most are produced on photocopiers or by other, more economical means.

At a time when virtually anyone with access to the web can reach an audience, the idea that your local Kinko’s still has the patronage of a subculture of the most indie of independent publishers seems almost absurd.

And yet, the niche market continues to thrive, and has even seen a degree of proliferation, especially in the area of social justice, an association which would no doubt have pleased Thomas Paine.

Schwartz is determined about her motivation to build the collection. “This is a form of art,” she says. “Museums or galleries do not typically collect this format, so it is incumbent upon libraries to do so.”

“Libraries have a history of collecting ephemeral and personal materials,” says Schwartz. “That is the essence of archives.  Libraries are capturing a slice of history and culture of a particular time period by collecting zines.”

Thing Bad zine coverThe FAL’s zine collection currently maintains over 200 items of state, regional and national origin, and recent donations will potentially double the size of the resource. The content of the materials covers a range of subjects including art, photography, music, skateboarding and Texas culture.

Schwartz was fortunate at the time of the collection’s inception to have a ready resource for development in the form of the manager of a specialized local bookstore, Russell Etchen of Domy Books. Being an artist and autodidact in zine history — as well as a curator/manager for the shop/gallery —  Etchen had an informed perspective on the significance of the genre, and offered his insights as a service to preserving the form.

“Laura had an innate sense for what would and wouldn’t work when she started building the collection,” says Etchen. “We would walk through the store together a couple times a year, and I would share the works that I felt, at the time, were most deserving of preservation.”

“When it comes to the underground, there are no ‘right zines’,” says Etchen. “There is a very decentralized history behind self-publishing and generally we chose works that I felt had a unique history behind them or ahead of them.” Continue reading The Copier as Canvas

Everything old is new again

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In a harried world where you can hardly escape the din of constant communication and the proliferation of electronic gadgets, there’s a nascent desire to slow down and take in the mad rush of life. You can find this peaceful revolt against modernity in the community of vinyl music enthusiasts or the slow food movement or in DIY communities that encourage personal creativity and self-sufficiency. And now there’s a community of like-minded folks who have found a similar passion in a device that is an almost perfect antithesis to modern concepts of technology.

The rediscovery of the typewriter by retro fetishists prompted filmmakers Christopher Lockett and Gary Nicholson to embark on making a documentary about the machine’s importance to both our past and our future.

The result of their work — “The Typewriter in the 21st Century” — will receive its Texas premiere in a screening at 6 p.m. on Friday, April 19, in the Fine Arts Library at the Doty Fine Arts building.

The documentary features 30+ interviews with authors, collectors, journalists, professors, bloggers, students, artists, inventors and repairmen (and women) who meet for “Type-In” gatherings to both celebrate and use their decidedly low-tech typewriters in a plugged-in world. Authors Robert Caro and David McCullough, combined winners of 4 Pulitzer Prizes, 3 National Book Awards and a Presidential Medal of Freedom, and both avid typewriter users, provide fundamental commentary about process and the value of slowing down, writing actual drafts and revising in a world of instant, draft-less editing.

The film was inspired by a May 2010 article in Wired magazine called “Meet The Last Generation of Typewriter Repairman.” Director Lockett and producer Nicholson discussed the importance of the typewriter in 20th century literature, their conclusion being that every great novel of the 20th century was written on one, and if typewriters are in their final days, they deserved to be celebrated one last time.

Funded largely through a Kickstarter campaign, the film eventually featured not only typewriter people — the aforementioned technicians, collectors, bloggers, users and fans — but famous typewriters as well. The film features machines once owned by Ernest Hemingway, Jack Kerouac, Tennessee Williams, John Steinbeck, Jack London, Sylvia Plath, George Bernard Shaw, John Lennon, Joe DiMaggio, Helen Keller, the Unabomber, John Updike, Ray Bradbury and Ernie Pyle.

The screening of “The Typewriter in the 21st Century” will be followed by a Q&A featuring producer Gary Nicholson and John Payton, owner of a typewriter “museum” in Taylor, Texas.

The event will be preceded by a small public reception at 5 p.m.