By Hayley Coble
The Breakerspace at Walter Library regularly hosts workshops run by people with a passion for making. Early in fall 2018, Jimmy Cooper, a UMN student, approached staff about his desire to create and host a regular zine (pronounced zeen) workshop in the Breakerspace.
The result? An every-other Monday event where Cooper breaks out the zine-making supplies and works with anyone who drops by to create a zine.
The Breakerspace provides the room and materials, and Cooper brings the content and atmosphere. It is a workshop where everyone can exercise their creative voice in a heartfelt, paperback format.
Zines are a way for alternative voices to be heard
Zines are typically geared towards a particular subculture and audience. There are zines for sci-fi, punk rock, feminism, and DIY culture. Some zines are simply individuals reaching out into the world to tell their unique stories.
While an increasing number of zines are online, most retain their traditional format: hand-made and decorated paper books, typed or handwritten, and photocopied on 8 ½ x 11 printer paper.
The zines I own are primarily fanzines for extreme metal music. My own interest in zines was also fueled by an experience I had working with some zines from the collection at Minneapolis College.
I find zines to be unique and charming, and I am thrilled that there is a regular zine workshop now in the Breakerspace — not least of all because it is headed up by one of our students!
I met up with Cooper in the Breakerspace one Friday afternoon to ask him some questions about zines and the workshop he hosts.
For the people who don’t know — what exactly is a zine?
Any independent publication that calls itself a zine. Once you get into history you get into debates (history being the 80s). Anyone can make them, anyone can do them, they can be as low effort or high effort as you want to make them. (Cooper notes that often people will come to the workshop and ask “What is a z-eye-ne?,” pronouncing the word with a long “I”, too.)
How long have you been making zines? How did you get into it?
I’ve made zines for like seven years now, which I know sounds crazy because I’m a baby, but I started making zines when I was 11 through my stepmom. I said “I want to do that,” and made some bad zines because I was 11. And then I took a break and got back into it at 13 through my library back home and have been doing it ever since.
What about making zines appeals to you?
I’m a writer and a creative person — always have been. The appeal to me was always to have my voice out in the world. I’m angsty. I wanted to be able to put my words down on something and get it out into the world. A lot of my zines are focused on change — I want to focus on education and activism. I did a series of sex-ed zines (for Reach One Teach One from Planned Parenthood). I’m also an academic now, so I guess that’s part of it. Also, I think that they’re so intimate. It’s not like a book that’s mass-produced, or glossy like a magazine; it’s handmade. Seeing them and trading them; it’s very intimate.
Do you have a favorite zine?
Oh, I don’t know. I think there are always zines that will have a place in my heart but I don’t know if I have a favorite. Everything Cristy Road has done, she’s been a huge influence on me. Ben’s Snakepit’s Tattoo Stories… I don’t know if that’s my favorite zine but that was my first one. A zine from around town is Restless Legs by Bryan. If you see it, pick it up! It’s portraits and it’s really good. Also, Ollie Schminkey from around town.
Can you describe what a typical workshop is like in the Breakerspace?
Here’s what happens: I sit here in this chair, and what I want to do is make zines with people. And then someone comes along and says “What’s a zine?” and then we talk about zines. If people come and want to make a specific zine about something then we can talk about how to do that. It’s all very individual, and it’s very informal. I just want to make zines with y’all!
What do you find most rewarding about the zine workshops? What do you find most rewarding about making zines?
My favorite part about doing workshops is talking to people and seeing what they want to do. It’s really empowering to make something with your hands and put it out into the world.
About zines, it’s about making that connection with people. There are times it’s made me cry. A friend picked up one of my zines and said “This is the first time I’ve felt comfortable in myself being trans.” Having that connection with someone, having that personal connection, like “I made this with my hands” is more personal and emotional than reading something from outside.
furious beautiful zines workshops happen in the Breakerspace at 6:30 p.m., every second and fourth Monday of the month. Cooper also hosts a Queer Sewing Circle with Charlie Breslin on the first and third Mondays of the month in the Breakerspace at 6:30 p.m. Both workshops are open to everyone!
Want to know more about zines?
Why are so many musicians releasing zines all of a sudden?
The Amazing Zines that Kicked Off Geek Fandom
Ripped, torn and cut : pop, politics and punk fanzines from 1976
Whatcha mean, what’s a zine? : the art of making zines and minicomics
Zines in third space : radical cooperation and borderlands rhetoric
Girl zines : making media, doing feminism
Papercut heart : a book of zines