Zine Supreme #8: Kim Schwenk
Welcome to Zine Supreme, a series in which I ask women and gender non-conforming folks making magic happen through the written and printed word about their work. Today's interview is with Kim Schwenk of the Grrrlzines-A-Go-Go collective.
What prompted you to become a creator? How did you start making zines?
High school, literally. The first zine I made was purely accidental. I was involved with the other art students and friends who made a subversive zine calling out all the super popular kids at school. It was really a class zine. I distributed by handing it out to all students. It caused a stir and we almost were expelled. I continued making zines since 1987, in part, as a reactive way to make a statement.
What are your intentions as a creator? What do you hope to achieve when you make a zine?
I make zines that are visually stimulating, and represent my voice. Honestly, I'd like my zines to inspire or instigate others to make zines. Something about the format or message might trigger a creative surge for someone. Our collective, Grrrlzines-A-Go-Go teaches zines. It is important to give support to others about making zines, not just introspective work.
How do you feel your identities impact your work?
My identities were important early on, as far as a young girl from a troubled household. Throughout the 80s and 90s in punk, print was one of the ways girls, my age, were able to reclaim our words. Learn from each other and try and support. It was very insular, however. Now, I have recognized my upbringing in a white, middle-class arena and have realized how much work there is to do on my part to really deconstruct privilege and representation in the zine community and beyond.
What materials do you use in your zines, and what’s your creative process like?
I'm pretty analog based, so I continue to use clip art, found images, and a typewriter. I mixed up the process. Lately I've been hand-binding the zines or using formats with different folds or formats. I grew up with cut and paste, so it is really hard to change my a process that makes sense to me and fits with my work flow. I tend to think about format before topic, but write and create each page, as if it was a singular image. I spend a lot of time with composition. Perhaps too much time.
What’s the hardest part of this work - and why is it worth it?
Hardest part is finding the time to create a new zine. My story isn't unique, working and creating is a tipped scale for many. It is worth it when someone says they used to make a zine and want to start again. It becomes real when you donate your finished zine to a library collection. It is worth it when a young person learns how to use a typewriter or writes a story because you helped to inspire them to do so. It is worth it to see something unfold on your page that has been brewing in your head and the design and words just work together on a single page, but as a whole, makes a powerful narrative.
Which of your zines or zines you’ve been a part of is your own favorite, and why?
Zine making is one of the few things anymore that is truly your own, with your space, your own standards of privacy or levels of openness that you can regulate. Print on paper is the last vestige of posterity of community. I have a series that chronicles the last 12 years of my life and it is an opportunity to see how I have changed and how much more I need to grow. There are things I need to do and learn and relearn all the time. Zine making keeps you present, current, activated, and most importantly in check with yourself and a community.
Carmen Rios is the Managing Editor at Argot Magazine, Digital Editor at Ms., Feminism Editor at Autostraddle, and a Contributor at Everyday Feminism. Her words have been published by BuzzFeed, BITCH, ElixHER, MEL, and Feministing, among others, and she was once a blogger and activist with the SPARK Movement, a writer at Mic, and Managing Editor of THE LINE Campaign blog. Carmen's successful work for over eight years in digital feminism—as a writer, social media maven, and activist leader—has earned her the titles of “digital native,” “intimidating to some,” and “vapid and uninteresting.” She's too honest on Twitter , too vague on Tumblr and consistently uses the same Instagram filter. You can also find her at carmenfuckingrios.com