Gleeson Library transformed into a zine-making workshop station last Wednesday, with half a dozen desks rearranged near the entrance, topped with cutting boards, discarded magazines, and various craft supplies. A zine, derived from “magazine,” is a comic, book, or magazine that is traditionally self-published.
In 2016, the library hosted a workshop with Tiny Splendor, a zine distributor based in Berkeley and Los Angeles, and opened the Gleeson Zine Library a year later. They’ve hosted a zine-making workshop every semester since.
Gleeson’s Zine Library aims to “collect LGBTQIA voices, BIPOC voices, and USF voices,” Reference Librarian Matthew Collins said.
As I browsed through the displayed zines before the workshop began, a printed cover titled “How to Eat” in oozing lettering caught my attention. The inside of the zine was filled with simple recipes and quips about food accessibility issues. Another glossy cover titled “Beautiful Brown,” was filled with stories and excerpts about navigating a colorist and racist world, and affirmations of people of color’s worth.
For a warm-up, Sarah Maloney, the guest artist leading the workshop and crew member at Silver Sprocket comic shop on Valencia Street, encouraged us to design pages that will be compiled into the new issue of the Fog Catcher, Gleeson’s collaborative zine series, which can be found on Gleeson’s second floor in the Zine Library.
Maloney showed us “This is a Zine About Making Zines!” an informational zine they created to show beginners how to fold and cut their own zines. Students immediately began crafting, sketching out ideas, and ravaging for source material through piles of scrap.
Feeling thoughtful and inspired, I tried my hand at making a 12-page, book-style zine about my experiences with San Francisco’s culture compared to my hometown. Titled “The Magic Home Twinkling in the Sky,” the zine was a messy collage of text and other excerpts pasted on top of torn-out children’s book illustrations, state maps, and whimsical patterns.
Sofia Haase-Oliva, a fourth-year critical diversity studies major, designed an interpretive collage-style zine titled “A Covid Story.” In it, an illustration of the sky peeks through boulders and an opening cut out of desert sand, giving the illusion of the sky being reflected underneath itself. “The first part I started with was this reflective piece where the sky meets together, because it feels representative of something that’s endless, like the uncertainty of not knowing when [quarantine] was going to end,” Haase-Oliva said.
The library was rife with chatter and the sounds of magazines being snipped and shredded by hand. Maloney was light-hearted and encouraging, cracking jokes with students, and encouraging us to let go of perfectionism. They said, “People are hard on themselves — the world is hard enough.”
Maggie Grabmeier, a second-year graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison interning at Gleeson, showed me the photo zine she made of her band, Maggie Gently, on tour. “I like the intersection of music and zines, that’s one of the historical reasons why people made zines: making fanzines for punk bands,” she said. Grabmeier, an organizer for the workshop, said the turnout was “awesome.”
“Community, and artmaking, and getting into a different headspace — that’s really what zinemaking can be,” she said.
Maloney has been making zines for more than five years, and described their typical genres as “weird sci-fi, educational, and memoir.” They said, “[Tonight] felt really good. I know a workshop is going really well when I don’t feel that needed.”
Haase-Oliva said, “Art is something that’s always been very healing for me. Especially amongst a time in the semester that’s really chaotic and can feel really overwhelming, coming to just sit down and be hands-on […] was definitely something that I needed.”