• For The Record: The Printed Peace

    Introducing the UO Music Newsletter, For The Record. Our first issue is dedicated to the art of collecting and the collectors who put in the work. Read more below. For a full look at everything the newsletter has to offer, click here. 
    Words by Nilina Mason-Campbell, photos by Parker Woods

    Giving voice to individuals and counterculture movements, anything goes when it comes to zines. Whether they be photocopies or professionally bound, collages of collected imagery or illustrations, text heavy guides, essays or explorations, it’s an inclusive medium where there’s room for every voice. And even though zine making practically stands as a tribute to independence through its self-publishing ethos, the very existence of zines brings people together through distribution, collaboration, collecting, and the wide culture zines have spawned. 

    Held every summer for over 15 years, the Portland Zine Symposium brings zine fanatics and newcomers together for a weekend of workshops and tabling. Creators display their array of prints alongside accompanying accoutrements like buttons, patches, and even candles. Maker and collector aren’t mutually exclusive terms, as everyone who’s making them seems to build their personal collections just as passionately.

    For zine maker and collector Ivy Adams, who creates the longform comic Clone Void, and who’s been attending zine fairs for the better part of a decade, the appeal of zines is simple. “It gives a voice to people that you might not necessarily hear all the time. Self-publishing is really important, not everyone has the privilege to get published on a large scale, so zines are what bring those voices out here. I love it. You read stuff you normally wouldn't read.”

    Around the floor, there’s a constant buzz of various people carrying armloads of pamphlets and booklets of all kinds. If you step up to a table, you’re likely to overhear a deal being made as makers feverishly barter and exchange with others. While there’s definitely a market of attendees ready to pay, you’ll often see zinesters pull up to a table with their own stock in hand, asking to make a trade with their fellow indie publishers. Zines can act like a currency in themselves. 

    Fitz Kuttruff is a first-time attendee. He holds a stack of various zines in his hands while speaking about his now growing collection. “There's definitely some interesting political ideology around anarchism which is something I'm learning more about and [am] interested in.” His prized find of the day is a zine entitled The Sacred Feminine, which came via a friend’s recommendation. 

    Billed as “a zine by People of Color, Queers and Trans People,” The Sacred Feminine is a collection of writing that seeks to present and reclaim feminine energy. One of the authors is Edgar Fabian Frias, who describes themselves within the zine’s pink pages as a “nonbinary mutant, healer, artist and visionary.” Frias’ entry into zine culture came while living in England. “I knew anarchists who were there who were making zines interviewing bands that they liked, or a lot of them made recipe zines, but it was a small community. It wasn't until I got to Portland that everyone was doing zines and there's so much more.” 

    Frias solely collected zines for two years before transitioning into making ones of their own. Collaboration is key when it comes to what they self-publish. The Sacred Feminine, born out of conversations, meetings and a call for proposals to contribute, took three years to come together. Its 38 pages brings together 10 contributing artists that all explore the idea of shifting energy.

    Frias has since left Portland and now resides in Los Angeles, but they still return in order to attend the Symposium to bolster their already impressive collection. “[My zines are on my bookshelf with all my other books. I would say most of them are about alternative marginalized lifestyles. Maybe that's a big reason folks do zines, to bring different voices that normally aren't seen or heard.”

    All around the conference room, there’s evidence of the prevailing notion that there’s a home for everything and room for all within the world of zines. Publications cater to a wide range of lifestyles and attitudes: vegan, bears of the queer scene, stripper poems, indigenous Native Americans. Because of the low-cost, DIY reality of self-publishing a zine, many who might not receive a voice in mainstream media have a chance to establish theirs on their own terms with no barriers but the pocket change to pay for a xerox.

    The content of these publications and their all-inclusive message brings many into the zine collection game. 

    “I thought it was a different kind of scene that I couldn't approach, but then I found a zine by Yumi Sakugawa,” Elise Bernal of Long Beach, California said. She’s been involved in zine culture for eight years. “She's a published artist, but it was all about meditation and self-love and that's where my work started,” she said. Bernal’s own self-published work focuses on personal care. For many, zine collecting is less about the printed matter and more of a method of sharing different thoughts and viewpoints within an expanded community. 

    “The good thing about zines is a lot of them are short, so when you need a pick-me-up, or you want something to read but don't have a lot of time, it's good to have some inspiration from people who have really good energy,” Bernal, who walked away with a hefty stack of zines said. “That's why I like it. The community's been really helpful in my personal life, [in] becoming an artist and staying positive and knowing that you have an important voice.”

    Attendee and tabler Christine Liu made several and frequent laps around the room, acquiring bundles of zines and then dropping them off behind her table. Even while sitting at her own display, Liu was propositioned for trades with other attendees. 

    Liu studies neuroscience as a doctorate student at Berkley and it was academia that propelled her interest in zines. “I was drawn to zine culture as a way to deliver scientific information in a very unpretentious way and combine it with art,” she said. “I got drawn into the culture because, as a scientist, I'm always surrounded by people who bottle up their emotions for objectivity in science or just because it helps them succeed more. But here it's really cathartic to talk to people who really focus on their personal experience, whether it’s being a woman or a minority in whatever field they're in and just talking about the emotions they go through.”

    There’s been a persistent buzz in the conference room of people connecting across tables, friendships being forged down aisle ways, people finding kinship in the printed matter they flip through and in meeting the creators behind the page, so many different types of people from all backgrounds interacting in one hub. A sense of interest, acceptance, and invitation is ever-present. “It’s real community here,” Liu says. One that lives on in the palm of her hands every time she turns a page.