Talking zines with the tablers of the Brooklyn Zine Fest

jordan alam brooklyn zine fest

From left to right: Jess X Chen, Jordan Alam, Barnard Zine Librarian Assistant Juliana Strawn, and Barnard Zine Librarian Jenna Freeman. Photo by Kirsten White

The Brooklyn Zine Fest, the now annual celebration of zine culture that draws over 200 independent publishers, zinesters, and comic artists together in one place, took place at the Brooklyn Historical Society this weekend. The Zine Fest is co-organized by Matt Carman and Kseniya Yarosh, who we’ve profiled before, and to help do the heavy lifting on this year’s panels, they brought in Jordan Alam from Feminist Zine Fest to curate them.

We decided to talk to zinesters about how they hone their craft, where they like to gather their supplies and, keeping in the spirit of the event, their favorite DIY venues. Many of the artists are from here in New York, though a number of them traveled from all over the East Coast, coming as far as Boston, Philadelphia, and Baltimore. Below, you’ll find some encouraging and inspiring words on how you too can make zines at any time of day.

Jordan Alam (pictured above) is a new co-organizer of Brooklyn Zine Fest with Matt and Kseniya. Jordan got her start in zines at the Zine Archive & Publishing Project (ZAPP) in Seattle, worked at Barnard Zine Library, co-organized the Feminist Zine Fest, and currently publishing zines 24/7 from the Bronx to Brooklyn. At Brooklyn Zine Fest, she tabled with a friend, Jess X Chen, and both focus on Asian-American zines and poetry and art zines.

Jordan, what is your favorite DIY space/venue?
I like outdoor spaces a lot cause I usually work in coffee shops a lot – such a cliche. I like sitting on the outside. There’s a place off Avenue A called Cafe Pick Me Up where you can sit there forever with your laptop. They have funny pictures on the wall, and they totally don’t care if you stay there forever. As an inspirational space that I wouldn’t necessarily sit in for too long is the Church of St. John the Divine. It’s got that huge statute interpretation of Noah’s Ark, but it’s a really creepy interpretation. I think I like that a lot.

What is your favorite art supply store/Where do you get your zine materials?
I’m a classic copy-scan person. I still take things from various places, collect a lot of collage items in my life that come from the world so I don’t have a specific place. There’s a spot called New York Art Supply downtown that has amazing paper. That was the first place that I’ve been introduced to sewing zines and where I go back to for more involved craft zines.

How do you find the time to make zines?
I feel like zines express my personal life in a way that professional work does not. Zines express a part of my personal life that’s not in my professional life. I don’t necessarily have to have the highest language or the most put-together drawings. It can just be fun and a space to test things out. I’m always in my head making zines and trials of what I want to be working on next.

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sarah mae brooklyn zine fest

Sarah Mae with her new zine Wild Women Are Witches. Photo by Kirsten White

Sarah Mae traveled from Northampton, Massachusetts with Big Womyn Press and her new zine Wild Women Are Witches. She tells us about the DIY scene in Baltimore.

What is your favorite DIY space/venue?
Though it doesn’t exist anymore, there was this awesome venue in Baltimore called Hexagon that was an art gallery, music performance space, and a bunch of other stuff. You can do anything there. I used to volunteer there. I feel like nothing else I’ve found as been quite as cool as Hexagon.

What is your favorite art supply store/Where do you get your zine materials?
Most of my stuff is just collaged on to paper directly and I typewriter a lot of stuff. Most of my supplies are gluesticks, scissors, scraps of paper… I’ve kind of accumulated a lot of supplies.

How do you find the time to make zines?
The thing about zines is because you’re making the zines, you’re deciding what you put into it, and what your deadlines are, you really can fit them into your daily life in any way. Sometimes I go weeks without fitting zines in, sometimes it’s every day. I feel strongly that everybody actually has the time to make zines and it’s the moment when you feel inspired to make zines and be creative.

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courtney menard brooklyn zine fest

Courtney Menard, left, with Tyler Boss.Photo by Kirsten White

Courtney Menard, pictured with Tyler Boss, from Brooklyn defies the normal cut-n-copy printer offset zines and makes beautiful silkscreen art zines.

What is your favorite DIY space/venue?
I really, really like Desert Island on Metropolitan, off the Lorimer L Stop. The guy who owns it, Gabe, is fantastic. He’s really into people bringing in their own work to sell it there. They do a bunch of events and have artists, comic book guys come to do events. They’re tabling Sunday.

What is your favorite art supply store/Where do you get your zine materials?
I am a student at School of Visual Arts so they let me use their silkscreen lab and it’s fantastic. A lot of people in this room were actually from SVA. Silkscreening for zines is cool because I have to work in multiples and have to have a first edition zine. It’s so easy to make multiples really quickly without having to deal with a printer. I like the fact that it’s a hands-on process and you’re designing everything.

How do you find the time to make zines?
A lot of the zines I have on the table are actually compilations of sketchbooks. I like to catalog stuff that I’ve done in my sketchbooks. Once I finish a sketchbook, I will go through and pick out images to put together. It’s not as time consuming as you might think because everything sort of falls together on its own. With going to an art school, it’s encouraged. I’ve done zines for projects and promotional materials.

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april Duangjumpa brooklyn zine fest

April Duang runs Fluxxii Mental Health Distro. Photo by Kirsten White

April Duang traveled from Philadelphia, where she runs Fluxxii Mental Health Distro.

What’s your favorite DIY space?
I’m not from the area, so I don’t know what’s around here. In Philly, there’s a ton of coworking, not so much DIY. The Wooden Shoe Bookstore is a great little space and South Street is a sweet area.

Where do you get your art supplies?
Again, this is more Philly-based. I live in Chinatown in Philadelphia. There’s always really random things but unique findings. I wander through stores there.

How do you find the time to make zines?
I clamp in my head over the course of months and then spit it out in one night. I don’t make time every day. This zine here, I’ve been thinking of writing it for months. Sometimes it comes in my head, but I have to sit down and do it all in one night. I’m more of a “get it over with” type person.

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anne hayes brooklyn zine fest

Anne Hayes. Photo by Kirsten White

Anne Hayes lives in Brooklyn, publishes the Alex zine series, and runs Sleeping Creatures Distro. Anne also facilitated the “Zines From The Borderlands: Mixed Heritage Zines” panel co-presented by Brooklyn Zine Fest.

What’s your favorite DIY space?
I used to volunteer at ABC No Rio and was definitely influenced a lot by the zines I read while cataloging zines. They gave me the idea that I could make zines. I would also say Bluestockings is another great place to see what zines are traveling through New York City. Now you’re making me think, I wish I had more DIY spaces!

Where do you get your art supplies?
I’ve been going to Paper Presentation in New York City. All they sell is different kinds of paper, but it’s a little too nice. I want to find a place that sells crappier paper. I am still on the lookout for that place. Sometimes I will just go to Staples for office supply paper that’s more scrappy. What I want to buy is crappy paper that people throw out so that I can refurbish it, as opposed to wedding invitation paper. (Anne repurposed wedding invitation paper for the cover of her Alex series).

How do you find the time to make zines?
That happens without my trying. I actually feel like I have to make zines. Even if I’m really, really busy and stressed out about other things, I’d take a break from work to make a zine which will actually decrease my anxiety and make me feel better. Zines seem to happen to me regardless of whether I was trying or not.

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brooklyn zine fest

Maya and Nate published Ordinary Events and Quitting. Photo by Kirsten White

Maya and Nate publish a lot of different zines – some words, some comics – and both finished new zines for the event. Nate with Ordinary Events and Maya with Quitting, about quitting smoking.

What is your favorite DIY space/venue?
Nate: I love the Silent Barn. I used to go to the older venue [in Ridgewood] and I’m just now warming up to the new venue [in Bushwick]. The new one has more options of things to do in there.

What is your favorite art supply store/Where do you get your zine materials?
Maya: It depends on the zine. We usually just get a lot of paper from Staples. We also get nicer watercolor paper from Paper Presentation.

How do you find the time to make zines?
Maya: We don’t sleep!

Nate: Three in the morning!