An Audience With…Isobel Rose Cairns

Isobel writes the awesome and lovely zines – Things We Have in Common and I Like the Light in Here. They are both beautifully designed and packed full of interesting goodness that we think you should read right away!

ionlyclosedHow did you first get into zines? Did someone suggest you to make one?

I made my first zine at the first Zinefest event in Wellington. I spent all day at the zine making table and struggling with the photocopier and finally I had my first little zine, which I called Upset. And then I realised that zines were the perfect thing for doing writing AND drawing!

Photocopying zines can be tedious, hard work while making illustrations can be lots of fun… What parts of the zine making process do you like and dislike the most?

Yes, I think I would have to say that I’m not too good with the photocopier. I’m a bit better than when I first started but something always seems to get messed up! With some of my zines I’ve put them together the night before Zinefest so I don’t have time to do illustrations, but I like them! And I like interviewing people, and also getting glue on my fingers. I don’t like spending ages typing everything out on my typewriter though.

What do you like and dislike about zines in general? And what do you think about them as a medium?

I like that they’re so very versatile and that they can be used for so many things. I like that they’re self produced and compact. I like being able to draw and write, and it’s good that they’re cheap to produce, although I would like to start experimenting with nicer papers. It’s sometimes hard to make them interesting to other people; I think that I just have too much fun making them and don’t think about who will read them.

Do you prefer making personal zines or zines about others? Why?

I think I like making zines about others more; they’re more interesting than me and it’s nice when I can get contributions like the poems in my latest zine. I know some very talented people and they make me feel good!

I really like the titles of your zines: things we have in common and I like the light in here . Where do they come from? How did you choose them and why?

I think ‘things we have in common’ seemed to fit because the zine is all about similar things, it’s part of the whole thing! I really like sitting in sunny rooms, and I think that’s when I thought of ‘I like the light in here’. And I like the way those words sound together, and that they’re about being happy about simple things, and also good lighting is very important. I think that I often think of names for things before I need them and I store them up.

I really enjoyed your small zine things we have in common, I found it really cute and romantic as well as a bit sad. I am assuming you made it thinking of someone you really liked at the time… would you like to tell us how the story unfolded, did these things we have in common lead to a romantic relationship?

Yes, I made that zine one day when I was separated from a boyfriend. I was pretty sad and it was hard to make sense of the fact that I’d always thought we were so similar but that didn’t really mean anything any more. I am happy to say that we got back together because of all the things we had in common! So maybe I will have to write a sequel.

Things we have in common is full of beautiful illustrations, do you draw a lot in your spare time? When and how did you get into drawing?

I like to draw for zines! My family have always been into art things, so I went to drawing classes when I was very young. But it would only have been when I made my first zine, in 2007, that I started drawing properly I think… I found I really like tracing photographs, so I do that often, as well as little freehand drawings.


In I like the light in here you interviewed some really cool  people, they seemed to know you well or at least they seemed to feel comfortable enough to answer personal questions such as about childhood and the like… do you only tend to interview friends? Do they share some sort of common trait, as to say, are they all artists?

All the people in the last issue of ‘I like the light in here’ are musicians, and only one of them, Kate, is a good friend! The other two were just kind enough to answer my questions. One of the interviews was by email and I don’t know why but I felt more comfortable asking personal questions because of that. I like to interview friends and extended friends and strangers! All of them.

I really like your photo compositions in I like the light in here, do you usually take photos for fun? Why do you have so many of roses? Did you take them all? Are they from all around the place or just your garden?

I’m afraid I didn’t take any of them! They’re all from magazines and then I cut them out. But I do like taking photos, I have a film camera that I like to use. Mainly I take photos when I’m travelling because it’s easier to see things with fresh eyes.

Getting back to the topic of zines in general, do you have a favourite one? If yes, which one and why?

I really like one that my friend Hera made a few years ago. It’s called Perpetual Companion and it has lots of good drawings and little pieces of story writing and things that Hera found in the street, including a roll of film which she got developed. It’s really great and it took her like a year to put together, but Hera is quite a subtle person. I also like Neighbourhood Cats, the drawings and the words are great.

What other things do you enjoy doing besides taking photos and drawing?

I like to cook a lot. Although I spent most of this afternoon trying to blend a soup and I don’t think I’ll do that again. I really like to make things! Like jewellery and clothes, and I make my own cards to give people. I do music writing as well, and normal writing too. I like to read books, I’m reading Margaret Atwood’s ‘Cat’s Eye‘ at the moment. And I also play music and ride my bike everywhere. This year I want to play badminton and learn ballroom dancing.

I’ve seen you in your band. Can you tell us about it and how it started? and anything else you think we should know about it?

Our name is St Rupertsberg and we’re an eight piece girlband. I play guitar and hand percussion, and we all switch around instruments. It’s really amazing being in a band with seven other girls, it hardly feels like lots of people because everyone is individual, but also together. We formed at the start of last year, all because of Kate who had the idea to have a huge band of girls to play music with. All of the girls are very brilliant and lovely.

Now, we’d love to know about your favourite things! What is your favourite:

book: The ‘His Dark Materials‘ trilogy by Phillip Pullman; also ‘Invisible Cities‘ by Italo Calvino recipe book or blog: illustrator: David Wiesner painter: Tomas Sanchez breakfast: pancakes with fresh fruit game: Scrabble destination: Rome language: well, I only speak English; but Arabic is pretty cool! magazine: Frankie

And finally, can you make us a mix tape please?

1. Lawrence Arabia – The Kinds of Feelings That Happen on Summer Beaches
2. The Sing Songs – End Times
3. Jens Lekman – Black Cabwehavethe
4. Joanna Newsom – Good Intentions Paving Co.
5. Steven Steinbrink – Huachuca City
6. The Ocean Floor – Am I?
7. Laura Marling – Ghosts
8. Johnny Flynn – Kentucky Pill
9. LAKE – Sing 99 90
10. The Ruby Suns – Haunted House
11. Butcher Blades – The Swan Machine
12. Psychic Powers – Glide

Thanks Isobel! PS: We LOVE that your first zine was made at the zine making table at Zinefest! Woo hoo!