The zine scene of Hamilton Five people, five perspectives on finding a voice in an inclusive community

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By: Adrianna Michell

The city of Hamilton is often associated with art, growth and income disparity, and all of these are reflected in the self-publishing scene. Specifically, zines offer local artists, writers and creatives not only a venue for expression, but a community as well.

Zines grew from the basements of outcast punk rockers to the photo clipping scattered floors of underrepresented creatives everywhere.

Self-published works are made and disseminated unprofessionally, and often through friend circles, organizations or through specific shops like record stores and niche bookstores. Zines can cover many themes, but are generally an art form of subversion where artists are able to share ideas not seen in mainstream forms of media.

The artists that live and work with Hamilton use zines to interact with the politics of the city. Unique voices and perspectives outside of what is acceptable on the shelves of bookstores can be freely shared.

 

Phoebe Taylor

As a Hamilton based OCAD university alum, illustrator and printmaker, Phoebe Taylor uses zines as autobiographical works. Her experience in the world as a woman is the thesis of her self-published material. This comes through as she collects her words and illustrations, and sometimes decorates them with dollar store gemstones.

“I think zines are a form of being pissed off, right?”

“I guess its like hyper-femininity,” Taylor says of the 3D component of her zines, “… that’s just another way of [representing myself]. It’s just like a little piece of me that I’m putting into it.”

“[Self-publishing] for me, it’s definitely making an artwork that is 100 per cent self-serving and something I can share with somebody that isn’t necessarily to represent … a fully formed idea. … [It’s] like when you’ve got an itch and you just need to get it out of your system.”

While the personal self-expression of zines is important to Taylor, so is the community that she has built through these creative works. Taylor connects to creators on Instagram and is in touch with the Toronto artist community, but her favourite is the Hamilton Feminist Zine Fair.

The Sexual Assault Centre of Hamilton and Area, a centre that provides services to survivors and community events, organizes the fair each year to showcase marginalized voices. The free event has allowed Taylor to meet zine-makers and local artists as well as readers who resonate with her messages.

“[SACHA’s zine fair is] an environment where everyone is willing to give you a little bit of themselves,” Taylor says. “[It’s] a lot of giving and receiving of love.”

Despite the love that Taylor has experienced at zine fairs, she also realizes the political nature the format.

“I think zines are a form of being pissed off, right? … I’d be curious in the next few years what people have to say about, you know Hamilton’s LRT. … I wouldn’t be surprised if somebody’s writing about gentrification of downtown.”

Taylor’s website is http://www.phoebetaylor.ca

 

Amy Egerdeen

After moving to Hamilton in 2013, Amy Egerdeen has found community through self-publishing. As a cofounder of SACHA’s feminist zine fair, she knows the importance of connecting with others in the community over arts-based activities.

Egerdeen is an artist, bookmaker and community worker. Egerdeen works in women’s shelters and youth groups to facilitate self-expression through art. In her zines and other art works, Egerdeen includes themes of “feminism, imagined futures [and] storytelling.”

“I want to focus on creating spaces for people to be involved in their own storytelling.”

Egerdeen likes the passion that goes into zine making. Without the incentive of money or a large audience creators are able to express ideas outside of popular conversations. Zines allow people to talk about things that they have strong feelings about, and topics that may not have a place among the bookstands.

“I love that they exist outside of commercial media, which means you don’t see ads. No one is trying to make you buy something. You can be honest and speak your mind. … Zines are about freedom.”

Collaboration is important in Egerdeen’s creative process. Through the collaborative zines Egerdeen facilitates in women’s shelters and annually at the HFZF, she is able to use her skills to help others share their stories.

“I want to focus on creating spaces for people to be involved in their own storytelling.”

Collaborative zines are able to gather a variety of lived experiences into one art piece, and therefore are a community building practice. By curating zines that source material from local artists, shelters and youth groups, Egerdeen allows underrepresented groups to come together and share their ideas.

“The zine and politically engaged communities in Hamilton, like most places, have a lot of overlap. Lots of zine makers are also on the front lines of fighting against inequality and injustices.”

Egerdeen’s website is http://amyegerdeen.com

 

Sahra Soudi

“Zines typically have narratives that aren’t shown, and usually those narratives come from marginalized voices, and I think that’s important,” says artist, activist and third year multimedia student Sahra Soudi. Soudi has displayed their narrative-based zines at HFZF and has space at HAVN.

They are currently working on a zine that revolve around themes of uncertainty as well as their personal experiences in Hamilton and regarding oppressions. Their zine is about “overcoming assimilation and then turning that into revolutionary thought.”

While zines provide Soudi an outlet for their ideas, they note that their narrative would not be shown in large bookstores or more mainstream, monetized forms of publication. Soudi connects the tradition of trading zines to the political issue of gentrification.

Soudi looks at “art exchange and art trading as opposed to very capitalist exchange with money, like currency and art, and the importance of that, then comparing that to themes of marginalized struggles.”

“Within my art practices … [I include] community organizing,” Soudi says. “I seek for communities who do the same work, and I also seek other people who do the same work.” Soudi uses their art works, zines included, as activism.

“Zines typically have narratives that aren’t shown, and usually those narratives come from marginalized voices, and I think that’s important.”

“I guess with zines, I don’t want to say it’s combative, but it is. … and so it almost always seems appropriate for Hamilton to be a part of [that].”

 

Jessica Felicity

Jessica Felicity is a Hamilton based artist and community organizer. Currently attending Ryerson University for English, Felicity uses zines as a way to reclaim conversations she has felt excluded from because of her identity as a Black femme.

“You can do whatever you want with a zine. It’s pretty much free space. It lets me have more of a voice.”

Zines allow Felicity to carve out space for herself within the Hamilton arts community, but the medium also allows her to confront the systems that exclude marginalized artists.

“[Zines] combat popular media with different, alternative messages, because you can just make a zine by yourself.”

Regardless of how politicized or personal her zines are Felicity always bases her work in real experience.

“The foundation is truth. You need the truth, not filtered, edited versions. I think with zines also it doesn’t have to be curated through an oppressive lense. It’s more free, like everyone’s true and messy selves.”

“You can do whatever you want with a zine. It’s pretty much free space. It lets me have more of a voice.”

 

Dr. Emily Bennett N.D.

Dr. Emily Bennett is a naturopathic doctor and birth doula that runs a community wellness centre on the west side of Hamilton. Ever since the wellness centre, Island Island, opened its doors, it has had zines displayed in the waiting room in place of traditional magazines. With poetry and illustration replacing fad diets and home décor, Bennett has given a space for zines to be presented to an otherwise unwitting audience.

“I wanted [to] offer a variety of reading material on topics that wouldn’t normally be covered in journals or magazines. Things that are a bit more niche, personal stories, stuff that would make people feel comfortable when they came in and saw their unique experience reflected in the reading material.”

Bennett’s centre offers community acupuncture and services on a sliding scale in order to accommodate people who may otherwise find the help they need inaccessible.

“Zines relate to wellness in that they are a vehicle for personal expression and maybe processing things that are challenging. … I kind of see zines as one of the many tools for dealing with things that could be challenging in our life or traumatic.”

Zines as self-published and financially accessible material relates to Bennett’s sliding scale practice, as both are able to connect people, regardless of economic situation, to community and wellness.

“It’s not infrequent for zines to be sold on a sliding scale or for barter or pay what you can or that sort of thing, so it does kind of match our overall aesthetic that we’re trying to operate outside of the conventional consumer system with the way we offer our services. And I think zines kind of reflect that as well.”

“I kind of see zines as one of the many tools for dealing with things that could be challenging in our life or traumatic.”

Zines hold a history of Hamilton’s artists in their messy, photocopied pages. Excluded artists and uncreative folks alike can find community through the collaboration that goes into the creation and dissemination of the medium. Zines aren’t a James Street North novelty, and they aren’t going anywhere.

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