Who are you? Where are you based?
Heyo, I’m from Germany and I create zines under the name de.construct. I don’t post my name or my face because I like the freedom it gives me to create what and however I want. I don’t want to make it about my person too much because I feel it’s safer that way to post political content. Right now, I major in social work and draw, read, write and tie-dye all my clothes purple and black in my free time.
What are zines to you?
Zines are a medium to get my thoughts and beliefs out there. I can combine my hobbies to draw and write with my need to speak up. I can reach people and get to know others who think the same way or I can learn from their knowledge and opinions. When I feel like something needs to be addressed, I can do it myself through creating and sharing my zines. That really empowers me.
What was your first encounter with zines?
I think the first time I heard about zines was at a talk about the riot grrrl movement. I loved what I heard about that movement and therefore searched for more about it online, and there were zines again. I loved the history behind them and the diy punk black-and-white style they had at the time. I draw and write a lot anyway, so I wanted to try making one myself. It felt like the perfect medium to bring that and my activism together, but first I had to overcome the idea that mine had to be perfect somehow.
How did you overcome the idea of your zines having to be perfect?
When I gave out copies of my first Zine I felt insecure about it, I got a few positive responses that encouraged me to do more. When I had only 2 zines finished, I learned about a queer Zine Fest and worked up the courage to ask if I could lay out my zines there. They said yes and I created 2 more zines for that Zinefest. When I got there, I was nervous and anxious that I wasn’t good enough, but the other zinesters were so welcoming and no one seemed to care that my zines didn’t look professional at all. Everyone had their own style and encouraged each other and I realized more and more that zines really were about creating and speaking up and being self-made and imperfect. It helped me a lot to be more confident in my work. Also, a little later another zinester of a much bigger Zine, @okapi_riot, gave me another nudge to be more confident when I had a booth beside hers and the copies I made just for that day came out wrong. I didn’t like them at all, but she just looked at them and said “Hey, at least people can see that they’re really DIY and that’s what zines are about”. I always think about that when something turns out different from what I wanted it to be.
Tell me about your zines. What kind of zines do you make?
I mostly make the mini 8 pages out of one piece of paper kind of zines. I’m able to make them with stuff I have at home and they’re easy to multiply. I also like how a glimpse on a topic fits in there that is fast enough to read so that people can do it right away and on the go. My goal is to call people’s attention to the topics I write about and then hopefully make them think about it more and look it up. Most of my zines are political, for example about feminism or lgbtq history, but I also make artsy and personal ones. Most of them are in black and white.
What inspires you to create zines?
To be honest, my zines often result from me being angry or sad about societal beliefs or things that happen because of them. For example, there are refugees dying trying to reach European countries or are in refugee camps in Europe right now. The EU doesn’t want them here and endangers their lives because they value them less in their racist, classist, nationalist view of the world. Before making zines, I didn’t feel like I could do anything about that, but now I go and draw or write something and share it to raise awareness. Zines give me a way of escaping the feeling of powerlessness, because through them I have a voice and a platform. However, I’m not always angry when I’m creating though, I also have zines I made because I felt it would help people or just because I had fun creating them.
What’s your favorite thing about zines?
There are many things I love, but I think my favourites are how easy it is to create them and the community. In Germany, it’s not that big, but it’s such an empowering and supportive network. I wouldn’t have the platform I have without other zinesters sharing my stuff, and asking me to be part of their projects, and telling me my zines are good enough when I struggled to believe that at first. I got to know so many creative, talented and clever people. Also, the zine community is very queer, feminist and anti-oppression in general, which makes me happy and always educates me on new aspects of that.
Do you recall your first zine ever, what was it about and what inspired you to create it?
My first zine ever was a small collection of feminist quotes. I searched for them online, wrote them down and drew cute little illustrations on each page. It was mostly to try out making a zine and I was very unsure about sharing it at the time, but it’s actually still quite popular when I have a booth somewhere. At first, I attributed one quote to the wrong person though and therefore unknowingly erased the person who actually said it. When I got told, I glued some paper over that page in the original and made it right. Mistakes definitely happen. I’m responsible for the content I create, so I apologized and corrected it. It was a learning process to not be ashamed about mistakes like that, but just see them as part of creating and an opportunity to learn.
Tell me a little about your zine-making process.
I mostly create in two ways: I either plan the zine beforehand, research my facts and sketch everything out before I actually work on the original, or I get an idea that I want to make it happen right away and just wing it, which mostly happens right before dates like the International Women’s Day or Pride: I suddenly want to make something to share then, so I sit half through the night hunched over a piece of paper and run around searching for an opportunity to copy it in the morning. But apart from that time-aspect, I mostly draw and write everything in black marker on the paper and then copy it, cut and fold. Sometimes, I make collages and write the text on my laptop, but that’s only an option for when I have enough time to print it, cut it out, glue everything on and then copy it. I really like the diy punk aesthetic of it though.
What do you hope people get out of your zines?
In general, information, thought-provoking impulses and empowerment. I want my zines to support people with less privileges and to make those with more privileges acknowledge them and try to change something. I want my zines to convey solidarity and that “I am not alone and I have every right to be angry about injustice”-feeling.
Name two of your favorite zinesters.
Oh wow that’s tough, two is such a small number… One whose artstyle and messages I really love is @zine.me.up, most of the zines are in german though. But they are so on point and unapologetic and I learned a lot from them. In English, I can recommend Alyssa Giannini (@craftordiyofficial), who also has a distinct style and incorporates dried plants in their work, which looks so cool and interesting. Both not only make zines, but buttons and other stuff, too.
Do you have any advice for new zinesters?
Honestly, don’t be afraid to start. I feel like the hardest step is overcoming the idea that what you want to create and the thoughts you have or your skills or whatever are not good enough. The whole idea behind zines is that everyone can make them, that they are diy and nonprofit and imperfect and that’s okay. It’s about your thoughts, your art, your voice, about getting seen and heard. And there will be people who will like it, who think it’s cute or interesting or empowering or beautiful. And you made something, that itself is empowering. Also, don’t be afraid to ask people if you can lay your zines out somewhere if you want to distribute them that way, often people are kinder and more interested in your work than you think. You are good enough, never give into thinking you’re not.
Is there a zine website or resource you would recommend new zinesters to check out?
Not a specific one, but in general search for videos of others making zines online—learn and let them inspire you. And try to connect with others zinesters, they know what it takes to create zines and are interested in them so they will most likely support you. Also, you can learn from them as well and find lots of great art, thoughts and people. Searching for zinefests in your area or online submissions can help you engage with others.
Interview conducted Solansh M
Pictures provided by de.construct