Zine is pronounced /ziːn/ as in “magazine.” The lovely Jayla Patton, artist and zinemaker who will be tabling at this year’s Pittsburgh Zine Fair, graciously brought my mispronunciation to light. In this kind act of correction, Patton reflected the warm nature of the zine community. It is a culture where no one is thrown to the waste side, a do-it-yourself approach is a requirement and no subject is off limits.
Pittsburgh Zine Fair defines a zine as “a self-published, non-commercial piece of work (comic books, fiction and poetry booklets, mixed media) that fosters individual or small community expression.” This year the Pittsburgh Zine Fair ventures to the Ace Hotel on Sunday, October 27th from 12pm to 6pm to bring together zinemakers for an accessible and celebratory gathering.
The event is free to enter, and all ages are welcome. Zine prices typically range from $3 to $10.
“A DIY element is sort of implicit in the definition of a zine,” said Christina Lee, a local artist and a Director of the Fair. “You don’t really have an expectation of how polished everything should be. When you have a zine in your hands, you don’t know what to expect.”
“Deep down, for me,” said Juan Fernandez, an artist and comic community organizer who also serves on the Board of Directors, “zines are ways to bridge the gulf between ourselves and others in this deeply individualistic culture that we live in.”
Fernandez continues, “If you want to see a really unique kind of independent, accessible, local culture that has an extremely wide range of content and style, the Zine Fair is a perfect place to see that.”
Let’s start bridging that gulf now. There will be over 70 exhibitors at the Pittsburgh Zine Fair on the 27th.
Here is an introduction to a handful of them.
Jayla Patton (@jpatton_pending)
Jayla Patton is a teaching artist and diction defender (thank you again, Jayla). She teaches comic design, stop motion animation, legomation as well as other classes at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts in Shadyside. Her path to zines was encouraged by other artists, such as Caitlin Rose Boyle and Asia Lae Bey. Patton’s first experience with zinemaking resulted in a 10-page comic, Flight, and to her surprise, it went better than expected.
“At its core, zinemaking is DIY and it has lots of heavy ties to punk culture and rebellion in assembly,” said Patton. “You don’t really have a boss. I love that.”
Patton has tabled at fairs around North America including the Hamilton Feminist Zine Fair in Canada and the New York City Feminist Zinefest. This will be her fifth-year tabling at Pittsburgh Zine Fair where she will be debuting a new watercolor-painted zine.
“It has abstract paintings and figures and bits of poetry,” said Patton. “It has feelings of loneliness and introspection that I have been trying to work on and unpack at my own pace. It will have some distressing imagery in it, so it will not be for young people. I hope it will be an interesting read at least.”
Patton doesn’t see zines, and specifically the Pittsburgh Zine Fair, as an “exclusive clubhouse.” Artists, including Patton, are accessible and very willing to discuss their work.
Patton describes her art available at the Zine Fair as “whimsical, disjointed and colorful.”
PULLPROOF Studio (@pullproofstudio)
Members of PULLPROOF Studio, a screen printing collective in Garfield, will be showcasing their zines as well as a large selection of printed editions at this year’s Fair. PULLPROOF Studio is young. It was founded in February 2018 and opened later that summer after a successful crowdfunding campaign.
Christina Lee, an organizer of the Pittsburgh Zine Fair quoted earlier and the Communications Director of PULLPROOF Studio, will be one of the artists featured within the collective. Her work focuses on internet anxiety accompanied by tongue-in-cheek illustrations. Lee will have two zines available, Why Isn’t Anybody Listening to Me? and The Power of No.
“I have always been attracted to the format of visual storytelling, and the zine gives the artist a lot of room to combine text and imagery,” said Lee. “It also allows me to explore writing as a medium.”
Other members sharing work include Charlie Barber, Matthew Constant, Deavron Dailey, Aaron Regal, Anna Shepperson, Harriet Smith and Matthew Van Asselt. Zine topics at the PULLPROOF table will range from political commentary to depictions of food to landscapes.
“Even if you don’t necessarily like art, you might pick up a poetry zine, or something more story and text based,” said Lee about the Fair. “It’s a really exciting event. You don’t even have to buy anything, but you can meet some of the coolest, smartest, most talented people in Pittsburgh.”
Asia Lae Bey (@asialae)
“I’ve always been an illustrator,” said Asia Lae Bey, a full-time artist, illustrator, performer and storyteller. “I have been making comics since I was a little kid.”
Growing up, Bey wanted to an animator, but it seemed out of reach. “It felt daunting to me as a kid who loved art but didn’t really have the resources to develop it to the next stage,” said Bey, “Intermittently, I continued to make comics; comics that I could eventually turn into animation. At a certain point, I fell in love with them as much as animation.”
Zines and zine festivals became a way for Bey to share her comics. Bey’s first Pittsburgh Zine Fair, she and Mont Tucker, a fellow artist and writer, premiered a zine collaboration, Bxtch Slap. The momentum of the project could not be denied. “The story unfurled instantly,” said Bey. “The characters developed themselves. The space developed itself, and we have issues upon issues written.”
Bey will be selling Bxtch Slap at the Fair this year in addition to screen prints, a series of depressing mini comics called Jaded and prints from previous art shows.
“To me, zines are about taking this really high potential medium of information and art and making it accessible to people on a broader community level,” said Bey. “There’s a zine for everyone.”
Bey describes her art available at the Zine Fair as “visceral, sexual and absurd.”
Bill Wehmann (@nowehmann)
Bill Wehmann’s level of intricate detail in his work, from zines to illustrations, comes from his everlasting crush on comics. “I do make a lot of zines,” said Wehmann, “but I consider myself more a comic artist.”
Comics are Wehmann’s main focus as an artist, but it doesn’t keep him from gravitating toward the wide-ranging culture of the Pittsburgh Zine Fair.
“I really like doing this Zine Fair because I get people that are just into literature zines or photography zines or who are in to seeing new things. Comics are new to them. It’s nice to be able to surprise people.”
“People can get really specific,” continued Wehmann. “They can talk about things or write or draw or take pictures of things that are very personal to them. I find it’s a culture that people are looking to connect.”
Wehmann will be debuting an illustration zine at this year’s Fair called Face Melter. “It’s more in the psychedelic, science-fiction, zany way than a more serious thing,” said Wehmann. “It has a giant flying skull that’s propelled across the universe.” A second issue of his serialized work, Death by Comics, will also be available.
If you are new to the Pittsburgh Zine Fair, Wehmann gives these comforting words, “Don’t feel bad if you are just looking. Be open, there is no real protocol. That is what’s cool about it, it’s a lot of people searching and not knowing what they want and miraculously finding it.”
Wehmann describes his art available at the Zine Fair as “psychedelic art comics.”
Comic Website: https://www.pacificreverbsociety.com
Steph Neary (@rusnearious)
Steph Neary, an artist and artist mentor at VaultArt Studio, a progressive art collective, started making zines about ten years ago because artists around her were making them. “It felt powerful in some way, I am my own mass factory creator,” said Neary.
“When you are a younger person, no one has any money to buy that cool painting you made,” continued Neary, “but they can buy your zine that you’re charging $5 and start their own underground art collection.”
Neary was involved with the Pittsburgh Zine Fair in its early years, and then took a six-year hiatus. She is excited to be back and looks forward to trading with artists, discovering new artists and engaging with patrons.
Neary will be selling a zine in the style of a contemporary children’s book that will appeal to all people, not solely children.
“I want it to be a call to action, that’s something I am very drawn to doing right now because of how the world is and I am really angry,” said Neary. “I think that art can communicate that and let people know we are all feeling this way and take collective action and stop these injustices. It will be a juxtaposing of informative social injustices and also just like whimsical bullshit.”
In addition to her zine, Neary will have two playful sticker sheets available as well as other pieces of folk art. “Zines are a stapled or made book,” said Neary, “but zines are also the paraphilia that go along with it. Zine people have their own renegade brand.”
Neary left me with these words, which, to me, embodies the essence of zines and those who create them. “You don’t have to go to school to make art. If you are compelled to make something, you will.”
Neary describes his art available at the Zine Fair as “contemporary folk art.”
Etsy Shop: https://www.etsy.com/shop/RuSnearious
October 27th, 2019
Ace Hotel (120 S. Whitfield St)
12pm to 6pm
Header image drawn by Jason Lee