Embracing DIY Culture: Zine Fest 2012

It's amazing what a person can do with a pen, a piece of a paper and a copier machine. For a zine creator, these pieces of equipment are necessary items. Despite technology basically eliminating the need to create zines through the rudimentary process of literally cutting and pasting creative work, drawings, writings and ramblings, onto a sheet of paper and then running off copies, zines are still happening. Proof of the re-birth (if it ever died) of the zine was out for all to see this weekend during Zine Fest 2012.

Zine Fest has gone through various iterations. It joined forces with the Houston Comix Festival for a bit, then broke off on its own in 2008. It's also gone through some growing pains, such as closed down venues and last minute schedule changes. If Zine Fest has struggled to gain its footing, you wouldn't know it by this weekend's excellent turnout. Super Happy Funland, the location of this year's fest, was spilling over with zine lovers and creators.

Zine Fest organizer Lyndsey Simard was thrilled with the response. "It's the best turnout we've ever had," she says. In addition this year's fest also featured some new highlights. While there had been an artist's panel in previous years, Simard notes that she created specific topics that she felt would be more engaging to the audience. The panel discussed, among other things, the artists' lament over the desire and frustrations of making art. Musical performances were sprinkled throughout the day from Evan McCarley and Say Girl Say, among others.

Zine purveyors came from far and wide. Mitch Clem, whose comics are influenced by punk rock, drove over from San Antonio to be a part of the festival. While Clem has participated in many comic festivals, he mentions that there is something more "real" about zine lovers. Comic books have taken a turn towards commercialization, while zines have kept their DIY sensibility.

Georgi Johnston, a zine creator who came in all the way from Chicago, has a similar sentiment. "With zines," Johnston says, "anything goes. Because they are not expensive to make, you can take a risk."

Johnston also mentions the love between zine artists and aficionados. Zine fests are a good place to meet like-minded people, who enjoy this common counter-culture.

Another artist, Houston-based Jarrod Perez, has taken part in Zine Fest for several years and was impressed with this year's turnout. Perez had nice glossy books of his drawings for sale beside his paper zines. The fest gave him a reason to break out his old-school techniques.

"I literally went to the copy shop and spent hours shrinking the images and then recopying."

Perez mentions that the festival was an inspiration to get back into this kind of work, and he thoroughly enjoys creating art this way.

There is something to be said for a packed house of people who embrace a piece of paper with art and writing on it. When there are statewide debates over whether or not school children should receive all of their textbooks via electronic tablet, it's nice to see that people still enjoy tangible creations. Additionally, the concept of the zine has always been one that lacks commercialization, another one of our modern foibles. With celebrities being paid millions to tweet about their "favorite" products, the zine represents the antithesis of current culture. There is no product placement in a zine.

Sadly, Simard will not be organizing next year's festival but has handed the torch into the capable hands of Maria-Elisa Heg and Stacy Kirages. If this year's festival is an indication of the draw this event has, the two women have their work cut out for them; surely they know their way around a pair of scissors, though (lame pun).

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Abby Koenig
Contact: Abby Koenig