I’m not sure why I even had the idea to start self-publishing. I don’t think I ever saw a real live zine (except for my own) until about 8 years ago, and I have been making them or at least thinking about making them for over two decades.
The first one that ever actually left my mind and came into the tangible world was Back to the Garden. That title comes from the 60s anthem Woodstock, which was written by Joni Mitchell. Way before I was even a Christian, I knew something wasn’t right about this world, and since the Garden was an acceptable Jewish archetype, I latched onto that phrase, “We’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.” What’s funny is that a title which at the very least alludes to the concept of shalom (or peace and wholeness) is such an obnoxious little rag, full of my pompous mid-20s rambling. It is fairly easy, though, to find good art with a Garden of Eden theme.
Even at that time, I had the instinct to start branding – note the BTG stationery and brochure:
After Back to the Garden came Stand Your Ground, which documents the heyday of my obsessive libertarianism and my initial conversion to a Christianity I didn’t even understand yet. When I look back on this title, what stands out to me most is not my annoying ability to over-pontificate, but how my understanding of layout and design changed after I read a book called the Non-Designers Design Book. I read it between the purple issue and the white issue, and the difference in the simplicity of the layout between those issues is striking, at least to me (these pages are not examples of the more cluttered, too-many-fonts-together pages that dominate the colored ones).
I don’t think these first two titles would be all that interesting for anyone but me to ever read. I don’t feel like I am the person who wrote them, which is the main reason it’s interesting. I no longer have this kind of rabid interest in dry pedantic commentary about even the most fascinating issues, and even though I know I agree intellectually with a lot of what I wrote then, if I wrote about the same exact things now the style and tone would be completely different and (I like to think) at least somewhat more accessible to your average person.
The next zines were two titles that were always packaged together. Eclectic Domestic and Bohemian Housewife were once published as two separate zines, and once were printed back to back in the same binding. Eclectic Domestic and Bohemian Housewife were the start of my using so-called Alter Egos as one of my many tools for introspection and classification of myself.
These were made when my main focus was on developing my proverbial Godly Womanhood. My kids were still pretty young, and there is a lot in Eclectic Domestic about homeschooling, housekeeping and all that, and I still hear a lot of the kind-but-smug attitude that can be so common in young mothers. But I can also see (in Bohemian Housewife especially) that the cracks were starting to develop in my feelings of self-sufficiency and self-confidence. I could no longer fully delude myself into thinking I knew oh-so-much about God’s will and how to live it.
I’ve made three single title zines since that double issue of Eclectic Domestic/Bohemian Housewife.
The first is What Is a Zine, and Why Should I Make One…and How Do I Do It Anyway? That is just what it sounds like, a guide to creating a zine from start to finish. It was definitely geared towards teenagers, although I don’t think a single teenager even saw it. I don’t think many grownups saw it. Despite my unending dream of facilitating a Paper Zine Renaissance, the time does not appear to be now.
Aging Artiste was made as part of an artist zine swap. Most of the zines I got in return were way more handmade than mine, which was fine because the only requirement for the zine was that you included an art tutorial of some kind. I showed how to make a hand-bound art journal out of large envelopes, and the other article was basically my creative memoir. I really, really love this zine. It is truly a first glimpse of personal authenticity in my publications.
The most recent zine is Thirty Days. My very dear (and also local) friend Marisa had not only heard of zines, but had actually made them herself. So we gave ourselves yes, 30 days to fully complete a zine. That moment when I handed her my zine and she handed hers to me, was a moment of sublime contentment because I was no longer alone in the zinemaking world. This whole zine has a very stream-of-consciousness feel and talks a lot about my struggles to grow into an artist and also my very real desire to stop defining myself by what I do, to instead finally allow God in Christ to be foundational to my understanding of myself.
I enjoyed the 30 day format a lot. Most of my previous zines were created over months, and having that quick-looming deadline gave me focus and allowed me to write and design without overthinking too much. In the past I was more concerned about whether my zine content fit at least somewhat comfortably into a theme, but this one was unthemed by title and I enjoyed knowing I could put whatever the heck I wanted into it. It was exactly a year ago that Thirty Days was published, and I hope I get around to making another issue this year.