YOU in the spotlight

IMG_0419An Interview with YOU…“You” is a free weekly paper zine. A copy has been published every week since November 2001.  “You” zine usually appears as an anonymous hand written letter sealed with staples in a paper bag. For me the experience of “you” is strangely intimate and uplifting.

 What was the triggering point for the conception of YOU?
There were a few different influences on how YOU developed.  YOU came into life in the weeks afters the terrorist attacks on September 11th 2001.  The news was full of mysterious parcels appearing around the world which may or may not have contained anthrax.  The idea of mysterious parcels sparked something in my imagination.  I had been making zines since 1994 but at the time was making more wall based installation type visual art work using found objects.  I had been enjoying working with found photographs but felt uncomfortable with the idea of using other people’s stories without their permission.  I came to the idea of creating my own found photos by printing my own photos and throwing them on the floor for other people to find, this seemed impractical as they would probably just end up in the bin, so the idea morphed into a zine that could be given away for free and left in places safe to leave free things… The zine needed to be small as it would need to be made every week so the idea of a letter worked as it could be true to the size of a letter and not just feel like a tiny zine.  The first issue of YOU came out at the start of November 2001 and I was worried that it might be mistaken as a ‘threat’ and possible anthrax parcel and might get me in hot water, but there was no issue the first week so I followed it up with another zine the next week and by then I was hooked.  Interestingly YOU was interpreted as a threat at Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga NSW in 2009 – many years after I thought that would be an issue.

YOU has been around for a nearly a decade now – what have been some of the highs and lows? – Or what have you found to be pivotal? Is there a type of evolution you can trace?
One of the first big developments was asking other people other than me to write for YOU.  It came about because my partner’s sister’s partner is French and I thought maybe putting out an issue of YOU in French would be fun.  So I wrote a letter and was just about to ask him to translate it to French for me when it struck me that it would be easier to just get him to write his own letter in French.  From then on I started asking interesting people I met if they would write a letter for the project.  I found that asking someone to write a letter is not too daunting for them, compared to asking them if they would write a poem or a short story, it is a format they are comfortable participating with.

Continue reading “YOU in the spotlight”

An Audience With…Alex Mitcalfe Wilson

Alex is the author of  the zines: hetic lifestyle, thermodynamics and cupcakemonsters.  When we analyse the issue stats (which being good zine librarians we do from time to time), Alex’s zines always come out near the top. So even though we have interviewed Alex once before, it was a long long time ago so we thought we best do it again. Ocelot Happy 1

Many zine makers start making zines because someone else encouraged them to do so, would you say this was true in your case? How did you get into zines? Were your first attempts similar to CupcakeMonsters?

The first proto-zines I made were little comics about skateboarding. My mum had an amzing collection of independent comics and small press publications from the 60s to the 90s and I spent hours reading them as a kid and then trying to make my own. They were all one-offs and I never really shared them with many people. My first attempt at a recognisable zine was with my girlfriend, in sixth form. It was called Print and was all about the music we were into. That was inspired by Blink, from A Low Hum, showing me some of his old zines from before the magazine went professional. I started Cupcakemonsters in seventh form and my other zines flowed on from that, with each encompassing different aspects of my interests that didn’t sit well within the music zine format.

CupcakeMonsters is an awesome name for a zine. Where does the title come from? What does it mean to you?

The name came about through a word association exercise. I’m not that personally attached to it to be honest- it’s just been around for so long that it’s impossible to change. I’m very cheerfully resigned to using it for the rest of my zine-life, though.

 I’ve noticed that your zines reflect a lot of thinking and planning. How long does it take you to put a zine together? Where and when do you usually make them? Do you have a studio in town? Do you personally find the process of making them enjoyable or a bit overwhelming? cupcakemonster

It takes an age. Mostly in finding enough people I want to write about and then emailing back and forth, over a period of weeks to put the interviews together. The actual design and production is comparatively rapid. I’ve set the design in stone now, which simplifies things- I used to go nuts thinking of new things to do but now I always use hand cut layouts, typeset in Lucida Console on black backgrounds. It’s very nice and simple. I do manage to speed things up by doing almost all of the content myself. I enjoy all the work but I do find it quite intense. I’m a very driven person, though and I do think I thrive on stress more I’d like to admit.

Continue reading “An Audience With…Alex Mitcalfe Wilson”

Listen to Al Fraser on our Music Ad Lib podcast

Putorino3aWellington City Libraries has a monthly radio show on Wellington Access Radio. For a recent show (16th April), we interviewed Al Fraser, maker of beautiful taonga puoro (maori musical instruments) and multi-talented Wellington musician.

He’s a musician on the The Woolshed Sessions, Tahu, Reo and Rosy Tin Teacaddy and we chat about music, making music and making musical instruments…

PutorinoSongs featured in the podcast came from these albums:
The Woolshed Sessions – “Our World”, Tahu – “Mataa”, plus “Te Take o Te Raku” and “Reo” by Reo

Listen to the interview here

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.

Continue reading “An Audience With…Isobel Rose Cairns”

An Audience With…Hayden Currie

BookHayden produces the awesome zine comic ‘Book’ along with Matt Henley and James Rowsell. We have numbers one and three of Book in the zine library waiting eagerly for you to discover (sorry we have no idea what happened to two!). Thanks for answering our questions Hayden!

Describe an average day:

Since I’ve got a new job I wake up really early. My current job is pretty brainless; I just have to stick posters around the city. I only focus on getting them straight. Before the zine fest I was working very hard on Book, our latest zine. We really wanted to get the zine finished and it was hard work but lots of fun. Soon after the zine fest I started this new job, so I have been really tired for the last few weeks because I did not get a chance to rest in between. I tend to do some illustrations before going to work. To do so I have to wake up really early. But I think it is really important for me to draw, even if I need to wake up so early.

Describe your work:

I would say that it is mainly a satire or really crude humour. For example, the stuff in Book is a kind of cartoony and funny as well as a raw critique of our society.  But I think other people would be better than me at describing my work.

How did you first get into zines?

It was a bit accidental. James and I started to print out our first zine in an A5 format because it was cheaper. Then we sold it at the 2008 zine festival and it went really well. So I guess we just wanted to make a comic and distribute it in a cheap way and the result was a zine.

What do you like about zines?

I really like the fact that they are small and easy to carry. They are a great cheap form of showing your own work. The zines I like the best are the ones that manage to combine good illustrations and entertaining stories. Overall I tend to prefer zines with really nice art.

Is there anything you don’t like about zines as a medium?

Yes, I think many of them do not show a lot of thought about entertaining other people. It looks like they have been written as a personal diary and then turned it into a zine. The final product seems to be a compilation of personal stuff, interests and thoughts. I find this very boring and superficial.

steph book photo

How do you get inspiration for a zine?

I think I get inspiration from a basic reaction to things from popular culture. I find inspiration in everyday culture and I think most things in life are quite funny and ridiculous.  Let’s take for example Miss Green Consumer, a character from Book, who tries to make a difference through consumer’s choice. I personally find the idea that you can save the world by buying something eco-friendly quite ridiculous. Miss Green Consumer goes through a series of accidental adventures, it is actually really funny.

monsters 1

Tell us about some of your favorite zines…

Monsters by Ken Dahl is one of those zines that has a great story and really nice drawings. I highly recommend it.

– Carla

We talk with Wellington Zinefest organiser Kim Gruschow

Kim from the Wellington Zinefest Committee 2010 (also Lady Fest co-organiser) very kindly answered some of our questions about all things zinefest.

How did Wellington Zinefest get started?

In New Zealand there had been zine events, such as Auckland’s Small Print, Zinefestbut never much in Wellington. In  2007  Kylie Buck was working at the Wellington City Library, they had just started their zine collection and she and I organised the first Wellington Zinefest, which was also a nice welcome platform for the Library Zine Collection.

What is most challenging about organising an event like Zinefest?

There hasn’t been any notable struggles this year really, there are four of us on the team this year, three of us have organised Zinefest in previous years, so we know or at least sort-of know what to do now. The first time round was the hardest probably because everyting was new

What are zine people like to work with?

Zinemakers are all kinds of people, there are nice reserved thoughtful types, but there are also those who got into zines through punk music like me….

What cool things will be happening on the day?

There is a workshop about interesting zine construction methods and a chat about the history of zine events, distros and people in New Zealand over the last few years. The Comics Show, which is a documentary about comics in New Zealand will also be screening throughout the day, and once again the lovely folk of Wellington City Libraries will be present with some of their zine collection. There is also an afterparty at Watusi with bands Teen Hygiene, Widows, Paper Ghost & Natural Glow all of whom have close ties with zine-making and self-publishing.

Why do you think there has been such a revival of zine culture?

I think there has been a real turn towards DIY culture in general, particularly with crafts but also with music production and other creative arts. People realize that it is an easy and empowering and inexpensive way of sharing what they do. I think the presence of zines in Wellington, through the library collection, the annual Zinefest, and shops in New Zealand like the High Seas (sadly about to close ) must be very encouraging too.

Are there any zines you are hanging out to see/buy at the Fest?

I’m looking forward to the third Book, a comic made here in Wellington which is being unleashed at Zinefest. Infinity Bag has new work that I am really excited about seeing too.

Thanks Kim!

Wellington Zinefest Committee 2010. Left to right:  Matt Whitwell, Bryce Galloway, Claire Harris and Kim Gruschow
Wellington Zinefest Committee 2010. Left to right: Matt Whitwell, Bryce Galloway, Claire Harris and Kim Gruschow

Zines: An Audience with… Yelz

Yelz-interviewSo it’s been a looong time since our last zine interview, but Carla was lucky enough to catch up with Yelz recently (of Around 21 fame) and asked him a few ziney questions.

Describe an average day:

After a hearty and oaty breakfast with lots of honey and raisins I tend to doodle some stickers to loosen me up and prep me for the day.

If I’m working a full day at ‘work’ I usually don’t get too much drawing or painting done, and I spend the day daydreaming about what I want to be doing the rest of the week. This might involve looking for walls to paint, and sketching and painting if I have a commission or there’s a show coming up.  I like street-art missions the best during summer and tend to paint more in the studio during winter.

How did you first get into zines?

I don’t know if I’m that ‘into’ zines yet. Lately my girlfriend has been getting them out of the library though, and she has great taste so they are a growing sensation. I get very excited about the little wee booklets now.
Also this year my friend drypnz started creating his ‘massage’ zines with PNTR. This immediately spoke out to me and I realised I had something public and personal to illustrate as well, so the zine process began.

What do you like about zines?

Raw thoughts, poetry, pictures and doodles

Is there anything you don’t like about zines as a medium?


How do you get inspiration for a zine?

I have to feel like something that I’m doing is vital to public interest or appeal, or to my own I guess. For “around” it was very easy to get inspired, when your doing an arty info zine about endangered animals, those feeling fuel you through the process pretty easily. I’d like to keep collecting data and doing sketches, and do an ‘around’ zine perhaps for every country I reside in for a while. It seems it’s a good way to learn about a place and its natural history.

Tell us about some of our favorite zines…

There’s some pretty cool zines lying around at the mo –
‘The Ultimate questions’ – a collection of humorous and sadistic Kiwi collages.
‘Massage magazine’ filled with the best upcoming NZ street artists, photographers and the like
‘The weakly mushroom’ is also present in my room, filled with philosophical thoughts and doodles.

And there’s some issues of  ‘around’ left, if you would like a copy send me a mail at

Kia ora.

Thanks for the ad!!


Zines: An Audience with… Alex Mitcalfe Wilson

cupcakemonstersDescribe an average day:

First thing:  I get up at about 7 am and have some fruit for breakfast or leftovers, if it’s a weekend. Then I get dressed and either go to some school or other if I’m teaching, or attend university if I have classes.

Once I’ve made that choice, I do nerd stuff and talk about inclusive teaching and science for a few hours because I’m training to be a teacher (my two degrees are in Maori Studies, Environmental Studies and Chemistry). Once I’m done with learning I usually try to hang out with some of my friends, I often try and do this over dinner, because cooking is rad. People are my new thing and a great way of avoiding reclusiveness when one lives alone.

Notwithstanding marking and/or homework, I then work on my music or art and email people about their interviews or writing for my zines. Actually, that stuff usually happens after about one in the morning, if at all. I’m pretty busy at the moment.

How did you first get into zines?

My mum is most excellent and had heaps of small-press comics in the house when I was young, stuff like Tim Bollinger’s early strips and the original Pickle series by Dylan Horrocks. Continue reading “Zines: An Audience with… Alex Mitcalfe Wilson”

Zines: An Audience with… Justine Telfer

For the sixth in our interview series with zinesters from around the globe, we have Melbourne-based Justine Telfer, mastermind behind the incredibly popular Mixtape zine…

Describe an average day:

Have breakfast with the family, check emails and try and answer as many as possible, check my fav blogs, try and get some sewing done, all this while raising a 4 yo! Continue reading “Zines: An Audience with… Justine Telfer”

An audience with Pinktricity

Pinktricity coverThird up in our series of interviews with our favourite zine producers, we have Kim Gruschow. Kim is the author of the trivia filled Pinktricity, member of two or three punk bands, notorious karaoke microphone stealer and general sassy lady about town.

Describe an average day:

Up, coffee, bus, bookshop, coffee, bookshop, snack, bookshop, bus, gossip, read, mope, homework, wine, bands, karaoke, sleep.

How did you first get into zines?

Punk music & the wonderful red letter zine distro.

Describe your work:

I make zines concerning the stuff I love most and the stuff I loathe most. Sometimes I use a computer but sometimes a biro. I am fond of pictures. I like lists and reviews. I like to cover fads and people that have long since gone. This may be because I take a long time to make a zine.

What do you like about zines?

They are cheap & accessible to produce and have uncensored, uncompromising charm. I have total control.

Is there anything you don’t like about zines as a medium?

I struggle with photocopier margins ruining my fun.

How do you get inspiration for a zine?

I hang around at karaoke bars a lot of the time.

Tell us about some of your favourite zines:

Murder Can be Fun is all about death and disaster arranged by subjects including Disneyland and sports. Craphound is a joy for magpie-like picture scouts who like to geek out over hundreds of similarly themed pictures. I also love music zines with extensive review sections. I like to sit around ticking off bands that I may be interested in, should I ever seek them out or hear them by chance.

To borrow Kim’s zines, come up to the Zine Collection on the first floor of the Wellington Central Library.

For more info about the WCL Zine Collection, please visit