Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Zines + Craft

Here is installment number three of a series of work I wrote for the latest Toronto Zine Library resource zine. This time no interview...just a short piece on the co-relation between zines and craft. Enjoy.

And happy c-day, by the way.

I think it was in about 1999 or 2000 when I noticed the big shift. Suddenly it seemed like there was way more STUFF at zine fairs-I remember tables full of wearable bits and pieces, loads of t-shirts, pouches and patches. Later buttons became insanely popular, as well as hand printed posters and artist’s books, magnets, and hand-crafted one-of-a-kinds. Soon enough the few zines left at such fairs were drowning in a sea of knick-knacks and bric-a-brac. I remember grumbling about this at the time, concerned for the future of
MY MEDIUM, which was without a doubt the noble zine of the olde-fashioned cut’n’paste variety. My mantra was FUCK CRAFT. I was truly afraid that the people around me were forgetting their roots- opting for commodity over community, style over communication.

Well, I was wrong. It took several years and my delving deeper into my own life as an artist and compulsive maker to see the many connections zine and craft-based work share. Among these shared connections are:

The Power of Intimacy- Both zines and crafts are intimate in nature. Zine-makers make zines for the love of it, for little profit, and for a small (sometimes SUPER small) audience. Makers of craft objects are in the same boat- the limitations of the hand and one person making small runs of carefully crafted objects ensures that only a few people will be the recipients of such objects, making the power of the object to it’s owner all the more. Also, because both zines and craft objects are made by hand, evidence of the creator remains attached to the zine/craft- whether it be hand cuts, hand-drawn elements or handwriting, to crocheted embellishments or off-register hand-printing, the evidence of the creators hand makes for a more visceral experience for the keeper of the object.

Intellectual Accessibility- You don’t need to go to school to learn how to make a zine. Zine-makers make their own rules, write about whatever they want, and work intuitively. Craft-based artists make work with materials that are familiar to all walks of life (string, wool, fabric, and other natural/organic materials). Everyone has natural associations to such materials, which makes the general public infinitely more likely to engage in craft-based work than a lot of contemporary art that employs remote concepts (that are the product or 4-6 years of study within an institution) and materials. Not to mention many craft traditions are handed down from generation to generation- a way of learning and making loaded with significance and history.

Material Accessibility- Making a zine requires little more than paper, a pen, a glue stick, a pair of scissors, patience and motivation. Photocopying is a cheap and accessible method of self-publishing. Craft materials are also cheap, and are often plentiful and involve simple techniques and processes unlike more conventional sculpture techniques such as casting, ceramics, metal/woodworking, and other methods of making which employ the use of special tools, machinery, and sometimes harmful and hazardous processes and chemicals.

Creation as Democracy- One of my favorite aspects of zine-making is that anyone can make one. I made my first zine at 13. I knew a family growing up who made zines together- the mother and her two sons, who were about 12 and 8 when they started, we equal partners in the creation of what ended up being a long-running and widely-known Toronto zine. Zine
makers come in all ages, races and backgrounds. Zines empower and engage all different types of people, regardless of social position, education, and personal wealth. The same could be said for craft- all parts of the world have their own indigenous crafts and folk arts. Much of these ways of making are handed down, and involve sustainable materials and
and the use of natural national resourses.

The Power to Heal- For more than a few people I’ve known over the years, their zine was the ear they had when no one else was there to listen. On the other hand, craft techniques often involve a meditative, slow production which soothes the mind and bears psychic rewards not often found in other contemporary ways of working.


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