Who are you? Where are you based?
Hi! I’m Sheri Roloff and I’m a writer, illustrator, and overall mess maker. I live in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. And yes, the cheese and beer are topnotch here. Also, the Bloody Mary’s are spectacular (and served with a beer chaser!). Mmm, now I want to make a zine about Bloody Mary’s…! You can find my work on Instagram, Etsy and sheriroloff.com.
What are zines to you?
Zines to me are a way to find and share your voice without asking or waiting for permission. Since there’s no publisher to please, they tend to come from a particularly raw and authentic place. I also love how accessible zines are to create and share. There’s a low barrier to entry. You just need a pen, paper and, ideally, access to a copy machine so you can share them! But now, of course, you can skip the printer or copy machine and just share them online too! There are no rules!
What was your first encounter with zines?
I can’t actually remember when I first discovered zines anymore! But a really memorable encounter was when I visited Portland and Seattle. There were so many indie book and comics stores and several of them had zines! At Fantagraphics in Seattle, I bought a comic zine by Shing Yin Khor – the first in their Otherworld Science series. It is beautifully drawn and written, and it made me fall in love with their work and the format.
Tell me about your zines. What kind of zines do you make?
Lately, I’ve been making a lot of mini 8-page zines folded from a single sheet of paper. It’s been a great way for me to get an idea out quickly before I stall out by overthinking it. My zines are generally non-fiction – snippets from my life, list-style zines, concepts I’m thinking about, and sometimes really specific topics in a fun-facts style. Some are word driven and some are visually driven, but nearly all of my zines are illustrated in some way. Sometimes I make longer zines – Skyward is a zine I made during Inktober that is 32 pages long and features more detailed ink drawings. Lately, I’m also experimenting with using spray-painted papers to make super colorful zines. Basically, if there’s a way to get it on paper, I want to experiment with turning it into a zine. ☺
What inspires you to create zines?
I think there is something magical about the combination of words and pictures, as well as the interaction of the reader turning pages. It makes you feel like you go somewhere. You are physically moving through the story in a sense, by turning those pages in a way that brings even abstract stories and concepts into a narrative setting.
What’s your favorite thing about zines?
My favorite thing about zines is that there are no gatekeepers. Anyone can make a zine and put it out into the world. I also love how personal they feel regardless of the topic. Something as lovingly made as a zine creates a connection between the creator and the reader in a way that feels almost like letter writing to me. The act of thinking and caring about something enough to organize those thoughts into a zine and then having someone else care about it enough to consume it… it feels like a mind-meld that’s more personal than traditionally published books. More like looking into a sketchbook or diary. Maybe that’s why I like the autobiographical genre so much!
Do you recall your first zine ever, what was it about and what inspired you to create it?
My first zine ever is called Everything-ness. It’s a compilation of illustration, writing, collage, poetry and comics…a little bit of everything! I really enjoy graphic design, especially book layouts, and I wanted to create a piece that felt like an amalgamation of all the work I’d been doing lately, so I made it into a zine.
Tell me a little about your zine-making process.
For my mini zines, I generally write them first, usually long-hand in my notebook. Sometimes I’ll type them up if they are particularly long and I want to play with the wording or flow (and check my spelling)! If it’s visually driven, I’ll usually make some rough thumbnails to have an idea of the layout before I start inking. I don’t use pencil first in the actual zine. I like the pressure and forward momentum of diving straight into ink. There’s no undo! Each mark leads to the next and it forces me to problem solve on the fly. For the rough and ready ones, I’ll fold them first and draw page by page. If I plan to take a more time-intensive approach to the artwork, I’ll write and draw on the page flat before folding (which makes for less work when cleaning up the scan afterward!). I fiddle with the colors and contrast in Photoshop and if I decide I want to share it, I print and fold copies! Sometimes I’ll go back and digitally ink a zine if I’m interested in experimenting with color options, which is what I did with Shells. I ended up creating two color palettes because I couldn’t decide which I liked better! For larger zines, I gather up all the artwork (via scans or native files if it’s digital work) and lay it out in InDesign. I love designing layouts this way and getting the chance to think like a graphic designer.
What do you hope people get out of your zines?
For my zines about personal stories or feelings, I hope people will see themselves and feel less alone in the world! I love reading autobiographical zines and comics because seeing people’s innermost feelings really speaks to me! For my wacky fact zines, I hope people learn or see something that fills them with a little more wonder about the world around us.
Name two of your favorite zinesters.
Shing Yin Khor’s (@sawdustbear) zines and art style sucked me in right away. When I was walking around Fantagraphics the watercolor style stood out as incredibly unique. I didn’t realize comics could look like that until I found their work. I also love John Porcellino (@johnporcellino). His long-running zine King-Cat is fantastic. The earnest realness of it, the simple line art, the writing. I love it! I know you said name two, but I have to also mention Sarah Mirk (@sarahmirk)! Her Year of Zines project is what inspired me to get more into the mini-zine format, which has been a game-changer for me!
Do you have any advice for new zinesters?
Make stuff, share it, and connect with people! That’s what zines are all about. Don’t be afraid to share your work and be true to your unique voice. Zines are as diverse as the people who make them, and no topics are too small or too weird. Start small and don’t get too precious with it. Done is better than perfect.
Is there a zine website or resource you would recommend new zinesters to check out?
I have found the zine community on Instagram to be incredibly welcoming. For local stuff I turn to Milwaukee Zine Fest and Chicago Zine Fest. If you’re in Chicago, definitely stop by Quimby’s Bookstore. They have an incredible zine selection and tons of indie comics. You can order from them online as well!
Interview conducted by Solansh M.
Pictures provided by Sheri R.