The 13th annual Richmond Zine Fest came to the Richmond Public Library last month and introduced attendees to an entire world of unique and wonderful do-it-yourself artistic expression.
On the second weekend in October, the Richmond Public Library’s main branch played host to the 13th annual Richmond Zine Fest — a small festival dedicated to the plethora of zine creators and artists around the city. Saturday’s Exhibitor’s Day showcase found tables crowding the perimeter of the basement and third floor of the downtown library, all cluttered with small, self-published booklets, as well as comic books, art prints, buttons and keychains, action figures, and even the occasional self-portrait. It was truly a wonderful sight.
I was first introduced to the idea of zines when I was in high school. I was astonished by the idea that I could input all my esoteric ideals and understanding of the world into a small booklet that I put together and printed myself, which would then be readily available to be picked up and read through by anyone.
I was also amazed by the variety of genres and categories zines could fall into; I’d only ever seen the highly-polished formats of the magazines you could buy in the grocery store, but the world of zines went in so many other directions. By the time I was out of high school, I’d officially decided to sacrifice my hands to the thousand paper cuts that come with self-publishing in order to create some of my wildest ideas.
Attempting to fit into the mainstream’s idea of literary and artistic creativity can leave a lot of creators at a dead end, searching for a way around the corners of creativity in which they’re less than comfortable. Zines allow artists to stretch out beyond the strictures of mainstream ideas and highlight their own unique talents for the world to see. The opportunity to go in all sorts of unconventional directions — replacing words with images, images with an artistic reformatting of word structure, and much more — makes zines a limitless space where everyone with a creative inclination can find a home.
That feeling is common in attendees of Richmond Zine Fest, even if they’ve never attempted to make a zine themselves. “I came here a year ago with a friend of mine and fell in love,” said one Zine Fest attendee. “It felt like a reunion of sorts… almost like a celebration for all of these artists.”
Finding your creative medium is only part of the battle for zine makers — finding your audience is just as big a struggle, one many zine creators face in the course of their work. Locating people who are as interested in your zine as you are is one of the hardest parts of the process. However, Richmond Zine Fest helps deal with this problem. If you’re a creator, at Richmnond Zine Fest, the audience comes to you.
“I’ve been coming for a couple of years now and every year it gets better,” said another Zine Fest visitor. “I always either find new work from some of my favorite artists, or find new artists with amazing work.”
This year’s Zine Fest brought many different writers and artists together in one place, to enjoy the talents and ideals of their fellow creators. The floors of the library transformed into a sort of mall showcasing the independent art scene of Richmond and the surrounding reason. You could find all sorts of different work.
Richmond’s own Brian McDaniel, known around town for his fashion photography and his involvement in Dialogue Magazine, brought a selection of personal zines featuring his own writing, photography, and what he called “doodles.” DC-based zine publisher Budget Press brought a selection of work by many different creators, including founder Johnnie B. Baker. Yonic Youth, a collective focused on the work of women, POC, and the LGBTQ community, were on hand with issues of their zine as well as stickers and hats. And there were many, many more on hand as well.
“I’m a writer myself so it’s great to see things like this happening in the city,” said a visitor. “It’s a reminder that there is space for me and others like me to have our work appreciated in the public eye.”
Richmond Zine Fest stands as an annual mecca for writing and illustrative artists from every subcategory imaginable. For anyone who feels there is no home for them in this vast, subjective field we call art, it offers a fire-lit cabin. If you missed it this time around, never fear — Richnond Zine Fest will be back next year. Until then, you can keep up with them on Instagram @richmondzinefest. Start working now and maybe next year, you can bring a zine of your own.
Top Photo via Richmond Zine Fest/Facebook