Olympia’s First Ever Zine Fest:
By Jules Prosser
Zine Fest is the first of its kind in Olympia, though the zine scene itself has been thriving for decades. Old and young people alike, from all down the West Coast, gathered at The Olympia Center on Saturday, October 24th to network and sell their crafty wares. This was the second day of the fledgling festival, and the large room was packed with faces familiar and foreign. The space was abuzz: vendors smiled patiently as passersby slowly browsed their way through the expo, people discussed zine content at length, and nearly everyone quietly contemplated these books at some point or another.
Upon entering, I was a bit overwhelmed. There was lots to see, lots to rifle through, lots to think about. I slowly walked down the aisles and chatted with vendors with a chattery awkwardness that I hope was endearing. I talked with Courtney K. of Punk in My Vitamins, about the crowdedness of the festival, how she got her start in the ‘90s, and how we both like to be smartasses on Twitter (she promptly followed me afterward). That seemed to be an overarching theme–many artists started their craft twenty years ago, before lots of us were born! Jimi Sharp, creator of the F.I.B zine (focusing almost exclusively on bands from Fidalgo Island), also got his start back then. He was a cool guy.
The content of zines varied wildly. There were zines focusing on current social issues (racism, sexism, ableism, intersectionality, etc), zines focusing on obscure bands, zines celebrating fatness and motherhood, comic zines, and zines filled with straight-up rambling and scribbles. There was a booth in the far corner run by Seattle artist Greg Sharp, who created after-school zine-making programs for middle- and high-schoolers. Beloved Olympia artists Arrington de Dionysio and China Star shared a booth, filled with Dionysio’s familiar colorful figures, and a giant collaborative coloring book page created by Star. A fellow Cooper Point Journal writer and I worked on it together and got our photograph taken.
Upon entering the room, there were two tables, one covered in various bits of paper and writing utensils, the other with three typewriters: a “Make Your Own Zine” station. My friends were absorbed in them, banging happily on the keys, while I typed out an awful lot of cool-looking nonsense, and left with a fun piece of patterned paper that had jumped out to me.
I did not have money with me during Zine Fest, which was unfortunate, because all the zines were ridiculously inexpensive. However, I brought a stack of stickers I’d made with which to barter. I successfully traded most of them for new stickers, pins, and, of course, zines. The vendors traded with me happily and excitedly, and in this way, Zine Fest genuinely embodied the spirit of zine tradition: they celebrated the act of trade with the art of DIY, two inextricable pieces of the culture.
I was able to attend an event on Day Three of Zine Fest, which was dedicated to workshops, which took place in Obsidian and Le Voyeur, from 11 AM to 5 PM. On that rainy Sunday afternoon, I found myself in the back room of the cafe Obsidian, sitting with some pals on an erasure workshop, taught by Portland-based A.M. O’Malley, of the Independent Publishing Resource Center. Erasure is the practice of taking pages from books and removing/blotting/altering parts of the texts to create something new. O’Malley described it as a way to give texts new life, and lauded the value of constraint-based art/poetry. She had us–a
group of fifteen or so—play with a variety of experiments, for instance, choosing a letter and blotting out every word that did not start with it, creating a poem about birth, etc. I used pages from a stolen archaeology magazine and a gold paint pen. O’Malley gave us little pamphlets of bright orange paper and glue sticks with which to adhere the passages, and after that, I had completed my first ever zine! (Check out O’Malley’s brainchild, #anerasureaday, on Twitter/Tumblr/Instagram to see cool examples.)
Zines are an important cultural artifact, manifesting from a grave, collective need for unrestrained countercultural expression. Zines are the art of the weirdo, the outsider. Zines take a single idea, or string of ideas, shoot them into the realm of the infinite, and see what comes out. For example:
Let’s say, reader, that you have a favorite word. A word that you think about all the time. A word you obsess over, and use in conversations too much. Now let’s say someone points this out, and you begin to bottle your love for this word up, and it makes you miserable. However, you could make a zine out of your love for this word! You can type out the word a million times, in a million different colors, fonts, and sizes. You could write the word out in different languages. You can write the word multiple times in such a way that the configuration of the word makes the shape of the word. You can fill a page up with sentences full of this word. Essentially, you can do anything with the word in your zine, and it will be superlatively beautiful and engaging art. You have immortalized the word, and your love for it. That is the heart of the zine: unabashed, fearless expression of passion.
Olympia Zine Fest had a great turnout. Hopefully, it will return. Hopefully, if it returns, it will bring more activities and workshops with it: while this year’s workshops were rad, I did not feel like there was enough, and I crave more of it. I don’t think I’m alone in this one.
You can get your zine fix at The Timberland Regional Library, the little zine library at Obsidian, Orca Books, friends, strangers, your imagination or your own hands.