Long Beach Zinesters Talk Gluesticks, E-Zines and Zine Fests

 

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Photo courtesy of Brianna Jam.

Deirdree and Steven make a living off of four basic tools: glue sticks, scissors, paper and a crappy photocopier. 

Inside their bedroom, Deirdree works amongst scraps of colorful paper, glue sticks, small trinkets and pens that practically cover the couple's bedspread. Adjacent to their bed is Steven's worktable decked in all his craft supplies that are scattered in a somewhat organized manner.

The duo's favorite time of the year is Back to School sales mainly because it means low prices on craft supplies and most importantly: glue sticks.

Deirdree and Steven use their Etsy shop to sell their zines, under their penname MC Sunflower Jones. They have dedicated readers throughout the United States and even as far as Scotland. The two don't get to enjoy lavish meals or luxurious items and it isn't uncommon for them to resort to Top Ramen for dinner, but their craft pays the bills and it's something they wouldn't trade for anything else.

Welcome to the World of Zinesters. 

Zines—short for magazine—originally started in the late 1930's with the first science fiction zine "The Comet," according to Duke University's Bingham Center of Zine Collections. 

Zines didn't gain popularity until the late '70s when it became trendy with the help of punk rock music and the do-it-yourself movement.

The movement encouraged individuals to independently publish their own work and completely bypass corporations. In simple terms, a zine qualifies as a zine as long as it's created independently--although this definition is up for debate amongst hardcore zinesters.  

From political rants to personal experiences to music critiques to literary experimentation, zines can be about everything and anything. 

While zines may not be as prevalent as they were in the late '70s and '80s, there is a small niche of zinesters within Long Beach that are keeping the art alive. 

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Photo courtesy of MC Sunflower Jones.

It's a full-time job for Deirdree and Steven, who have been creating zines since the early '90s and '00s. It's only recently that the two decided to start selling their work instead of simply giving it away. 

"We decided in August of last year to sell, so we started an Etsy shop," Deirdree said. "Then we started going door-to-door to stores we thought might carry them."

They currently have a variety of their zines for sale at record stores throughout Long Beach like Fingerprints. And although they are self-employed, they do work on deadlines but it's mainly to help them keep up with their creative ideas for future zines. 

"If we work hardcore on a zine, it'll take about a month and a half, but it also depends on the size," Deirdree said. "We do have self-inflicted deadlines because we get ideas for new zines and we get all excited, but we have to finish what we're working on first."

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Photo courtesy of Daniel Garcia and Vanessa Rosales.

For others like Daniel Garcia and Vanessa Rosales, it's more like a labor of love. Garcia works full time and Rosales also works and is a student in college. Between work, school, and life, the two have been creating Influentza for the past two years. And although life can get a little hectic, making zines are always on their radar. It's a stress-relieving activity for the two.  

Their first issue of Influentza was a compilation piece, which included works and art from friends, but the two love the idea of exploring new themes. They even created an electronic zine for Urban Cycling. Their collection includes typography-art zines, some focus more on photos and writings, and others focus solely photography. The duo may even venture into creating comics. 

"We really like to find contributors, the way we see it, [Vanessa and I] are the people that drive, but we love having different passengers with us," Garcia said. 

Photocopiers vs Computer Software

With computer programs like InDesign and Adobe Photoshop, it's easy to take the advanced method of creating zines and skip cutting paper all together. For some purists, however, zines must be created by hand. This is an on going debate within the community.

"People are really tired at looking at their screen," Deirdree said. "It's one of those things you can put in your purse or backpack, take it to work and look at it on your lunch break."

Steven wholeheartedly agrees.

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Photo courtesy of Daniel Garcia and Vanessa Rosales.

"I think a lot of what draws people to zines is the punk, DIY aesthetic: the shitty photocopier aesthetic, the shitty graphics--it's like each one really is like a piece of art."

Garica and Rosales, however, view it through a completely different lens. It isn't necessarily so much about classifying zines, but instead using it as a creative outlet. 

"We got into this to share our work with as many people as we could," Garcia said. "It seems silly if someone wasn't interested in putting [their zine online.] I've actually had this conversation with Vanessa about putting previous issues online, and maybe we'll even do some only e-zines."

Cal State Long Beach student Brianna Meli, another zinester, also views it similarly. More specifically, Meli’s background in art encourages her to rely on her own, hand-drawn art versus computer graphics or stencils. 

She originally got introduced to the world of zines through volunteer work with the non-profit organization, Food Not Bombs. The organization's encouragement of radical thinking and being in total control of knowledge and agency is what really sprouted her interest in zines.

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Photo courtesy of Brianna Jam.

"My first zine was in conjunction with Food Not Bombs in Santa Ana. It was through an organized DIY Fest workshop and it inspired me to create a 'How To Crotchet' zine," she said. "It's cool to be your own resource versus academia; zines are very much about shying away from that." 

It's only recently that she tried her hand at her first e-zine with InDesign. To Meli, zines are outlets meant to be creative, and being able to use whatever medium of art is a freedom she values highly. 

"Overall, I think if you're creating something that channels an idea, the format doesn't matter or it shouldn't dictate [its worth,]" she said. "A lot of e-zines are awesome and making copies can be costly. Ideally, I'd like to hold it, but I wouldn't call e-zines any less. "

To Trade or Not To Trade

It took a while for Deirdree and Steven to feel comfortable with the idea of selling their zines—for a long time the two were simply giving away their work after slaving hours over it. 

In the zine community, it's common for zinesters to trade their work amongst others. Although it's common courtesy to accept, there are unspoken rules for trades that should be followed.

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Photo courtesy of MC Sunflower Jones.  

"We're 100 percent down to trade though as long as it's a like for a like," Garcia said. "It's kind of awkward when someone wants to trade a mini-zine for one of our big, digest size zines. We're loose on it, but we'll definitely trade."

Deirdree said she typically ties to accept all trades, even though she may not be pleased with some of the outcomes.

"I've seen people not trading, but doing a lot selling and a lot of snippy comments about people not trading--I don't want to be like that, but then again…" she said. 

"We have a small zine library and we use it mainly for trading," Steven said. "Usually, if you get asked to trade, you trade. We have a lot of zines, so it's really rude to not accept a trade."

Long Beach's Zine Fest and the Future of Zines

There have been numerous attempts to set up a Long Beach Zine Fest. A collaborative group of individuals set up the bare bones of Long Beach's first zine festival last year, but only a Facebook page was set up. It never took off enough for the festival to follow through, especially since it was scheduled to take place the same day as the popular Los Angeles Zine Fest.

This year another group of individuals have banned together to get the fest up and running. Garcia is one of those individuals. 

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Photo courtesy of Brianna Jam.

"A lot of the people who are [organizing] it met at the OC Zine Fest over the summer last year," he said. "We met other Long Beach locals who were also interested in the zine community and wanted to do something. We just had a meeting a couple months ago."

Deirdree fully supports the festival, especially since it would allow a chance for local zinesters to mingle. 

"[While in Long Beach,] I've been into zines hardcore for four years, and I haven't really seen that much," she said. "I do know of a few people, but before we started selling our zines, we didn't see them anywhere around town and even around the Los Angeles area there were only certain nooks to get them."

Although the first Long Beach Zine Fest didn’t follow through, the newly formed group is dedicated to the cause. As of now, the festival is planned for April 12, 2015 at the Museum of Latin American Art.

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Photo courtesy of MC Sunflower Jones.

While print media appears to be struggling, zines defy the trend and continue to gain popularity.

"Zines have always been there ever since it started, but right now it's getting big again," Meli said. "So many forms of zines have existed, it's almost like the Riot Grrrl scene, it comes in waves."

Garcia accredits the Internet in helping it gain momentum again.

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Photo courtesy of Brianna Jam.

"I think zines will probably gain more popular than in the '80s the way it's all going," he said. "With the internet and all the resources we have, it's so much more power than what we had before. I think moving forward zines will be more popular as artsy people stumble upon it."

Making zines isn't the typical 8-5 PM job, but it’s an art that Deirdree and Steven have made work for them. For Garcia, making zines is all through a labor of love, and it’s something that is always on his radar. And for Meli, it only helps further hone her artistic endeavors. 

Purist or not, zines will be around forever as long as there is paper, glue sticks, a photocopier and a drive to go against the grain and create radical and independent content. 



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