Tag Archives: DIY

About ‘Zines and Art

“Rocktober.” Russell Etchen/FAL ‘Zine Collection.

The event referenced below has already occurred.

This Thursday (11/3), five local artists will gather for a panel at the Fine Arts Library (FAL) to talk about how they were impacted by the presence of the DIY ‘zine movement.

The FAL began collecting ‘zines in 2010 with some guidance from Russell Etchen, the manager/curator of the much-beloved and gone-too-soon Domy Books, which provided Austin (and Houston before) with an opportunity for browsing (and occasionally purchasing) niche publications and other media in art, design, literature and photography. Domy closed and Etchen moved on, but he’s maintained his ties to Austin, and he recently generously donated his personal collection of ‘zines to FAL — four large boxes of rare and sometimes unique works that represent a breadth of formats and genres, and superlative examples of the form.

Russell is returning to Austin for a visit and a show at Co-Lab Projects’ Demo Gallery (721 Congress Avenue), and kindly accepted an invitation to moderate the panel at FAL. He also took some time out to answer a few questions from us about his own experiences with self-publishing.


Russell Etchen.
Russell Etchen.

Tex Libris: Since they are such a very outsider form, what was your entrée into the world of ‘zines?

Russell Etchen: I started reading Mad Magazine and superhero comics first. Had a subscription box at my local strip mall comic and game shop and went weekly.

A subscription to Wizard led me to odder corners of comics like Jeff Smith’s Bone, anything by Jim Woodring, and early Mike Allred’s Madman (the black and white work).

Simultaneously I was discovering music ‘zines like Maximumrocknroll, the underrated Chicago based Rocktober, Punk Planet, and many more smaller publications in the punk and hardcore scene.

Met some like-minded friends who helped me make the leap to “adult comics” like Dan Clowes’s Eightball, the self published issues of Adrian Tomine’s Optic Nerve, and John Porcellino’s King-Cat.

John’s mini-comix/zine distro Spit and a Half, and the long-deceased Factsheet Five opened me up to everything that followed.

Which were you first, creator or collector?

Etchen stamp of approval.
Stamp of approval.

RE: I was always both. I collected to create. I created to collect.

How many ‘zines have you produced, and are you still making them today?

RE: I’ve produced two dozen, maybe three dozen ‘zines to date. I still self publish now and then for myself and others. Two last fall. Nothing currently in the works.

My personal memory of you is from Domy Books, and I know that (former head librarian) Laura Schwartz connected with you during that time to get your help in developing what became the ‘zine archive at FAL. Can you tell me a little bit about how you met Laura and what you did to help guide her in choosing materials?

RE: Unless I’m mistaken, I met Beth and Tim Kerr first. They both work/worked in the UT library system for decades. Beth introduced me to Laura, and Laura let me know that she was working with a budget to start purchasing interesting small press and self-published publications.

Selfishly, I guided Laura to works I was particularly fond of and publications I felt wouldn’t get archived anywhere else.

Did you use the same criteria for developing your own collection, or was that more organic?

Unboxing Etchen's 'zines.
Unboxing Etchen’s ‘zines.

RE: A mix. Mostly organic, but sometimes strategic. I was seeking the underground and was trying to go as deep as I could. I was looking for fellow outliers and I found them. So many of them.

How would you describe the purpose(s) of a ‘zine? Or does that question even have an answer?

RE: A ‘zine is self published self-expression. An extension of a perceived community and was/is cultural currency. You want to trade? I make one, too.

How would you characterize the relevancy or currency of ‘zines today? What’s their relationship to technology? This is a recurring question that we have to consider at the libraries regarding physical/digital.

RE: To me, these days, they seem to be primarily an extension of the business card or portfolio. Or one-upmanship within a scene (echo chamber). Too precious. A digital generation discovering the analog and turning it into a fetish. Exceptions abound, but it feels like an inversion of itself. I don’t trust them anymore. The intentions have been blurred.

What made you decide to donate your collection to FAL? It’s pretty amazing, and based on the small segment I’ve seen, encompasses a broad variety of types and formats.

More from the collection.
More from the collection.

RE: After spending twenty years collecting and editing the collection, moving it everywhere I went and hardly ever looking at them anymore, I finally decided that someone else will get much more out of them. That, and I need the space while still wanting to know my “stash” is relatively safe and accessible. Plus, someone else is going to catalog it all for me!

What do you hope people get out of having access to your collection?

RE: Should one person rifle through them and find inspiration, my job is done. Should another person find that obscure publication that helps their research, my job will be done. Beyond that, I just know they’ll just sit in boxes in my closet and continue to decay and that would be a waste. I care too much about analog history to do that to them. And I’m done with them.

Are you still collecting?

RE: I’m actively un-collecting at this point, but I will still pick up cheap paperback literature for the same reason I picked up comics or ‘zines. To feel like I’m saving a small slice of history from absolute oblivion, and ’cause there are just too many books I want to read before I’m dust.

Gallery of covers from Etchen’s ‘zine donation:


Thursday’s panel features photographer/publisher Kelly Dugan of Peachfuzz, visual artist James Huizar of Puro Chingon Collective, editor/curator Amarie Gipson of MUD Magazine, designer/curator Phillip Niemeyer of Northern-Southern, and mail artist/musician Josh Ronsen of Monk Mink Pink Punk. Click for more info.

The Copier as Canvas

 Study Group zine cover

“Zines are not a new idea. They have been around under different names (ChapBooks, Pamphlets, Flyers). People with independent ideas have been getting their word out since there were printing presses.” ― Mark Todd, Whatcha Mean, What’s a Zine?

As institutions traditionally charged with gathering and providing access to the broadest range of information, libraries have in large part transitioned their focus from the physical to the digital realm of resources. But there are pockets of attention that remain fixed on collecting those materials that hold significantly greater value in a corporeal state.

Laura Schwartz shares zines with an studio art class.In 2010, Fine Arts Library (FAL) Head Librarian Laura Schwartz joined a fledgling movement of librarians across the country in establishing a collection of DIY pamphlets, popularly known as “zines.”

Zines — short for “fanzines” — take a variety of forms, but are generally self-published and noncommercial, homemade or online publications often devoted to specialized or unconventional subject matter. Traditionally, zines have been published in small runs — less than 1000 copies — and most are produced on photocopiers or by other, more economical means.

At a time when virtually anyone with access to the web can reach an audience, the idea that your local Kinko’s still has the patronage of a subculture of the most indie of independent publishers seems almost absurd.

And yet, the niche market continues to thrive, and has even seen a degree of proliferation, especially in the area of social justice, an association which would no doubt have pleased Thomas Paine.

Schwartz is determined about her motivation to build the collection. “This is a form of art,” she says. “Museums or galleries do not typically collect this format, so it is incumbent upon libraries to do so.”

“Libraries have a history of collecting ephemeral and personal materials,” says Schwartz. “That is the essence of archives.  Libraries are capturing a slice of history and culture of a particular time period by collecting zines.”

Thing Bad zine coverThe FAL’s zine collection currently maintains over 200 items of state, regional and national origin, and recent donations will potentially double the size of the resource. The content of the materials covers a range of subjects including art, photography, music, skateboarding and Texas culture.

Schwartz was fortunate at the time of the collection’s inception to have a ready resource for development in the form of the manager of a specialized local bookstore, Russell Etchen of Domy Books. Being an artist and autodidact in zine history — as well as a curator/manager for the shop/gallery —  Etchen had an informed perspective on the significance of the genre, and offered his insights as a service to preserving the form.

“Laura had an innate sense for what would and wouldn’t work when she started building the collection,” says Etchen. “We would walk through the store together a couple times a year, and I would share the works that I felt, at the time, were most deserving of preservation.”

“When it comes to the underground, there are no ‘right zines’,” says Etchen. “There is a very decentralized history behind self-publishing and generally we chose works that I felt had a unique history behind them or ahead of them.” Continue reading

Everything old is new again

In a harried world where you can hardly escape the din of constant communication and the proliferation of electronic gadgets, there’s a nascent desire to slow down and take in the mad rush of life. You can find this peaceful revolt against modernity in the community of vinyl music enthusiasts or the slow food movement or in DIY communities that encourage personal creativity and self-sufficiency. And now there’s a community of like-minded folks who have found a similar passion in a device that is an almost perfect antithesis to modern concepts of technology.

The rediscovery of the typewriter by retro fetishists prompted filmmakers Christopher Lockett and Gary Nicholson to embark on making a documentary about the machine’s importance to both our past and our future.

The result of their work — “The Typewriter in the 21st Century” — will receive its Texas premiere in a screening at 6 p.m. on Friday, April 19, in the Fine Arts Library at the Doty Fine Arts building.

The documentary features 30+ interviews with authors, collectors, journalists, professors, bloggers, students, artists, inventors and repairmen (and women) who meet for “Type-In” gatherings to both celebrate and use their decidedly low-tech typewriters in a plugged-in world. Authors Robert Caro and David McCullough, combined winners of 4 Pulitzer Prizes, 3 National Book Awards and a Presidential Medal of Freedom, and both avid typewriter users, provide fundamental commentary about process and the value of slowing down, writing actual drafts and revising in a world of instant, draft-less editing.

The film was inspired by a May 2010 article in Wired magazine called “Meet The Last Generation of Typewriter Repairman.” Director Lockett and producer Nicholson discussed the importance of the typewriter in 20th century literature, their conclusion being that every great novel of the 20th century was written on one, and if typewriters are in their final days, they deserved to be celebrated one last time.

Funded largely through a Kickstarter campaign, the film eventually featured not only typewriter people — the aforementioned technicians, collectors, bloggers, users and fans — but famous typewriters as well. The film features machines once owned by Ernest Hemingway, Jack Kerouac, Tennessee Williams, John Steinbeck, Jack London, Sylvia Plath, George Bernard Shaw, John Lennon, Joe DiMaggio, Helen Keller, the Unabomber, John Updike, Ray Bradbury and Ernie Pyle.

The screening of “The Typewriter in the 21st Century” will be followed by a Q&A featuring producer Gary Nicholson and John Payton, owner of a typewriter “museum” in Taylor, Texas.

The event will be preceded by a small public reception at 5 p.m.