Long Beach's Indie Publishers Find Outlet At L.A. Zine Fest

zinefest3

Dierdree Prudence of Sunflower Gray Productions talks to attendees at her L.A. Zine Fest table. Photos by Sarah Bennett.

Megan Rank was nervous. The cute blonde who lives in Long Beach and works in corporate banking stood beside a small table at the L.A. Zine Fest Sunday showing attendees her text-based paper art projects. One was a matchbook-sized book of perforated sheets of paper, each with a sentence from an obituary printed on it along with the name and age of who the quote was about. Another was a wooden dowel wrapped with a 100-inch roll of paper printed with tweets made by her best friend about the book 50 Shades of Grey.

S P O N S O R
Rank reserved her spot for this table at the L.A. Zine Fest last November, but Sunday was the first time her handmade work--created under the name Thundertheft--was displayed in public and available for sale. 

"I was kind of scared about today because I've never charged money for any of my stuff or had to talk about it with new people," Rank said as customers thumbed through and traded dollar bills for her independently published art. "I don't even know anyone else who does this, so it's really exhiilarating to be here."

On either side of the Thundertheft table were other do-it-yourself publishers with their own wares displayed: photocopied anarchist booklets, hand-bound poetry chapbooks, silkscreened concert posters, professionally printed graphic novels and all sorts of textual and artistic expression. Nearly 100 purveyors in all filled the Ukranian Cultural Center near Los Angeles City College for the second annual grassroots conference this weekend and several of them made the drive from Long Beach for a chance to share at this unconventional collaborative event. 

 

zinefest4Traditionally, zines (short for “magazine”) were half-letter size, spine-stapled paper goods used by underground communities in the pre-internet age to spread information quickly and portably, but the term is today used to describe a wide range of handmade, self-published print-based items. The idea originated with small-run, photocopied fanzines that emerged from groups of science fiction movie fans in the 1940s. Over the years, however, zines have become a publishing-house-free voice for all kinds of marginalized people from punk music fans to transgender poets to all the bedroom illustrators in between.

Despite the proliferation of blogs and webcomics that would seem to serve the same purpose as zines have in the past,  a resurgence in craft in general has increased interest in these handmade wonders, with a movement that has slowly spread from places such as Portland and Berkeley down to Southern California, where some small bookstores now have a consignment-based zine section.

But in smaller cities like Long Beach--which just suffered the loss of {open}, the only local spot known to carry zines--the connectivity between these like-minded zinesters (as those who make zines are known) and options for exposure is minimal at best. 

"The Long Beach scene was so big ten years ago, it felt like so much was happening--even the Mars Volta guys had a little zine they were passing around. But then everyone moved away to Portland," remembered Long Beach zinester Dierdree Prudence, who was tabling at the L.A. Zine Fest for her small press, Sunflower Gray Productions. Prudence has been creating the black-and-white photocopied quarterly compilation zine Gag Me With A... for the last two years and--together with boyfriend Steven Hughes Purkey--also makes mini "pocket readers" that sell for 50 cents a piece and cover subjects like Barack Obama and Joy Division. 

Though Thundertheft and Sunflower Gray have been operating more or less in their own respective worlds, more than a half-dozen artists who met while attending Cal State Long Beach were stationed at three adjacent tables in the corner of the room, selling everything from custom Giclee prints to woodcut-print zines to cookies shaped like hand-drawn breasts. 

zinefest2

Sarah Lyons (left) and Jennifer Cotterill of Library Sciences

"We started attending events like this to help our friend Steve [Pillai] sell prints of his illustrations," says Chris Lim of Long Beach, whose zine Cheese, Eggs and Potates was for sale at one of the CSULB-occupied tables. "We would sit and doodle while he sold his stuff and finally realized, 'Hey, we can do this too.'"

Next to Lim, artists and musicians Jennie Cotterill (of Huntington Beach) and Sara Lyons (of Long Beach) were selling burned CDs of their cutesey not-so-love-songs expertly packaged with booklets full of drawn-out lyrics, a collaboration audio zine called Library Sciences born from the girls' eight-year friendship that will soon be sold at the clothing boutique Moss&Rock on Broadway.   

Sure, some of the exhibitors at the L.A. Zine Fest could probably have written all their words onto a blog or sold their songs on Bandcamp instead of going through all the effort and cost of printing, binding, hand-decorating and selling their work in person at a once-a-year gathering. But many expressed wanting to bring value back to the printed word, to the physical image, to the ability to communicate with others offline and to challenge themselves to think about information in a world outside of Facebook or Tumblr. 

"This is the opposite of a Tumblr," says Thundertheft's Rank, pointing to her perforated obituary quotes for reference. "I'm all about tactility...I want this to be the thing that you find in the bottom of your purse or you leave on a table for someone else to find. Part of the job is to get stories out there. You can't always do that online."

Read more

Notice: Our Commenting Policy has changed. Click here to learn more.
comments powered by Disqus