Last weekend, the first Atlanta Zine Fest was held in Castleberry Hill. The event included local artists as well as those who made their way across the country to participate in the event designed as a small marketplace for handmade books and a series of panel discussions on DIY culture. CL sat down with event organizer Amanda Mills, founder of the Atlanta Zine Library, along with Kory Calico, current head of Kill Your Darlings writers workshop, artist Becky Furey, and Jessie Feigert, Ar'nt I A Woman blog author, to discuss the importance of zines as a platform, the challenges of DIY, and the art of documenting Atlanta subculture from your bedroom floor.
CL: Talk a little bit about the zine-making/DIY process.
Jessie: This was my very first zine and I very foolishly went in thinking, "This is gonna be really easy," because the appeal is that anyone can do it. I still believe that, but you do have to do hard work to get it done. Printing was my biggest headache. I spent three days straight at FedEx.
To me the content was more important than the aesthetics, it was just more of using this as a platform. I wanted more people to start talking about mental health, and women that suffer from mental health issues.
Amanda: I have a sincere interest in the copy machine. Knife!! of Atomic Heat Ray, who gave a sticker-making workshop during the Zine Fest, has an entire printing press. He has like some ancient steel thing - not a letterpress, but it's kind of similar- two or three office copiers and a risograph.
A risograph is the exact same thing as a photocopier but instead of using toner it uses actual ink. Another thing is it prints really fast for some reason so when you hit copy, and you hit like 100, him and I were doing this just for the fun of it, and paper is just flying into your face, like 20 a second.
Becky: I'm really old school. I just can't spend that much time on the computer. It drives me insane. So my process is getting books and photocopying them, drawing things out. I sit there and just cut things out with scissors and an X-Acto knife. Glue sticks are cool, and I get really nerdy about layout stuff just sprawling out on the floor and putting it all together.
Kory: Kill Your Darlings is an ongoing writers workshop with me, and I feel there's a lot of parallels with workshopping stories and zine-making. The workshop is like this Pandora's box of great ideas that really tests the mettle of the artist, and like zines, are crude, time-consuming, dirty, messy, and challenging. It's like the great equalizer.
CL: What are zines able to say that other media outlets/art forms cannot?
Becky: It's really akin to comic book-making where there's this marriage of words and images that distinguishes it as a format, because there are emotions evoked when you pair images with words that's just really different than writing a book or having an art show. I'm always coming from a place where I want these things to be funny, but there are jokes that only make sense when you have this image in your hands to look at.
Jessie: It's one of the very few means of communication and expression where no one else has that voice. The reason why I did the zine I did was because I think I kept expecting someone to do that. Just to be able to go on the Internet and just read a personal collection from women and how they felt mental health related to womanhood, but no one was making it. So I felt sort of compelled.
CL: What are some challenges you face as DIY artists and what keeps you committed to making art in this city despite these challenges?
Jessie: I did a video blog which was about suicide. The video blog was entitled "Suicide Invoice," which is a Hot Snake song and not a manifesto of me wanting to commit suicide. The things I talk about are super personal, and I had my therapist tell me that I shouldn't blog about those types of things because if employers were to see my blog and see my name than they wouldn't want to hire me.
It's a personal thing you have to ask yourself. "Do I want to abide by these rules?" "No, because I'd be selling myself short."
Amanda: In planning the Zine Fest, there were moments of me feeling undermined, and I do feel like they were deeply gendered moments. Women are often associated with private spaces, and in putting myself out there, I'm up for a kind of sexist criticism.
I just basically keep on going and not reward that behavior. That's my platform. There's no mistake that queer politics and fringe politics and feminist politics are centric to zines.
Kory: I know plenty of artists who have tons of resources and exhibit across the world and are recognized. Their art is good and valid, but there's someone who is sitting in their bedroom right now who has just as good, if not better art. I think that's what community building and zine-making is a response to. Saying, "This is just as valid, and we want to be recognized as such."
CL: What do you see happening in Atlanta right now that you hope to have archived in the Atlanta Zine Library 10 years from now?
Amanda: I am definitely going to start a show flyer archive in conjunction with the Zine Library. People like Becky Furey and Erin Bassett make fucking works of art for show flyers and this is part of it. We have stacks of these artists underneath our mattresses.
Becky: I walk and bike everywhere and I have such a connection with things I see. And it's weird when you walk by something for two, or three, or 14 years and then suddenly it's gone. I kick myself all the time for not documenting how my neighborhood is changing.
There's this one thing outside my house right now that I need to have a picture of. It says, in the sidewalk: "'Fuck you.' Period. 'Tia said it.' Period." She took the credit, or somebody else is putting it on Tia, but either way I love it, and if that was just gone, I'd feel like such a punk for not photographing it.
Kory: I would love to document people's process, because it shows that real people actually make this thing happen. A lot of times I would see art as this thing separate from me. Like, how could I do that? I could never do anything like that. But if I could actually see the process documented it would give me motivation and confidence in myself that I could achieve that.
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