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Ideas & inspiration for zine-making

Once you know how to make your own zine, here are some activity ideas to get you started!

Cut-out collage

Since being made popular by the punk movement in the '70s and '80s, zines have always used cut-out collages to create artwork!

  • As a class, collect a whole bunch of material to cut up. It can be anything that’s not too precious: junk mail, old newspapers, flyers, old books, photographs.
  • If you want to go with a theme, you might like to collect a specific kind of material – like old copies of National Geographic, or a shopping catalogue.
  • Keep aesthetics in mind as well as content. Fabric, glitter, found objects, paint, even things that have been thrown out! Sometimes the materials a zine is made from can make as much of a statement as the words inside it.

Taking snaps

We take photos constantly, but sometimes we forget to stop and appreciate them. Personal stories have been told through photos by many artists – and many zines use that technique too.

Using a disposable camera, artist Robert Rooney would take 'dumb' snaps of the world around him. In taking multiple photos of the same objects, places and people, he found that capturing the tiny differences in them could create really beautiful art.

  • One idea for a class zine might be for everyone to try snapping the same object or place: does everyone see it the same way? What does it look like when you put all the photos together?
  • Another fun activity might be where everyone in the class takes a photo at exactly the same time: what different things does everyone see?
  • Rooney said that 'art came to him': what kind of artistic object might be hanging around the classroom that you might overlook in the everyday?

Blackout poetry

Poetry can take a long time to carefully create and craft, and sometimes it can be hard for inspiration to come to you!

Twentieth century artists like the Dadaists and Post-Modernists would take their inspiration from documents that already existed: making poetry by cutting out or blacking out the text in books or newspapers. It can be a great way to create inspiring phrases, or totally change the nature of a document.

  • As a class, collect a whole bunch of old books or newspapers. Op shops can be a good place to collect old books, and newsagents might have lots of newspapers left over at the end of the day.
  • Take a section each, read nice and carefully, and then black out words to create your own poetry.
  • A class collection of blackout poems can make a great zine, but a poem can just be one part of a zine as well.

Go for a photography walk

Going for a walk with a camera and snapping what you see has inspired many an artist.

David Wadelton started the Northcote Hysterical Society as a joke-y Facebook group dedicated to posting old pictures of his beloved neighbourhood of Northcote and over the years, a community sprang up around it. David now makes zines using the pictures and even goes on walks with his camera to capture the area as it is today. 

  • A group photography walk can be a great way to create a zine of your local area.
  • Even if a long walk is too difficult to arrange, a short walk around a school or community hall can allow for great photographic opportunities.
  • The images can be used to make a zine, or even to start an ongoing series of zines within the community.

Add a podcast to your zine

One of the coolest things about Bruce Milne’s Fast Forward zine in the '80s was that it also came with a mini radio show on a cassette. The cassette included interviews with musicians, new tracks from exciting bands, discussions of new trends and ideas, and even occasional comedy sketches.

  • When making a zine, consider recording a podcast to go with it. You can include interviews, music and discussions on whatever your zine is about.
  • You can use the microphone on your computer, laptop, or tablet or other smart device – you don't need fancy equipment.
  • After recording, you can upload it to an audio hosting website like SoundCloud that makes it easy to share for free. You might have a link or a QR Code that’ll take your readers straight to your recording.

Blocking out the haters

Getting horrible messages from people really sucks! With the growing connectedness technology gives us, there become more and more ways for people to send all kinds of messages to you.

One locally made zine – F.L.A.P.S – came up with an inventive way to deal with getting horrible messages online: they turned them into art! Over time they collected a bunch of negative comments they’d received online, and created the Hate Mail zine.

  • If you don’t feel comfortable gathering hurtful comments you’ve received over time to make a zine from, you could collect books or materials you dislike.
  • Painting over, artistically representing, or completely obliterating mean comments or objects can create some really lovely art books and zines.

Distributing your zine

You’ve finished your masterpiece, now it’s time to send it out into the world!

There’s no right or wrong way to distribute your zine: you can make it for one person to read or for 1000 people to read. Below are some ideas for getting your work out there.

  • Specialized zine shops, like Sticky Institute in Melbourne, are more than happy to distribute your zines on your behalf. (Sticky is also an artist space – they have stationery, cutting tools, photocopiers and workbenches for you to make your own badges and zines.)
  • You can set up an online store, Etsy, Tumblr, or BigCartel page to sell your work – like SlowQuest, for example.
  • You can leave your zines in random places for people to discover! Train stations, bus stops, cafes and milk bars are filled with people looking for something to read. For many years, copies of Melbourne zine You have been left in public places for people to find.
  • You can hand out your zines to friends and family, who would probably love to see your creative output.