Weylin Garnett is in his seventh semester here at Sterling — he’s majoring in Outdoor Education, and first discovered zines in the spring of 2014. An alumna of Sterling College, Kendra Dempewolff, class of 2014, was doing an independent study on zines at this time, and turned him onto this new art form, though he didn’t begin making them until several semesters later.
Zines are cheaply-made and are distributed for free throughout the community. They’re usually in black and white, and mass-produced via photocopier for distribution. Zines are an art form in their own right and tend to revolve around music, artwork, poetry, cartoons, editorials, or short stories. Because zines don’t have any sort of corporate backing, they are rugged, individualized, and much more charismatic than larger, more popular magazines whose content is often dictated by their advertisers. The following is an interview I had with Weylin about his process.
Can you share a bit about the history of this art form here at Sterling?
In the Spring of 2015 Brighde Moffat (class of 2015), Renée Barry, Alice Haskins and I designed a 3 credit Independent Study called “Social Justice Zines”, where we made zines that focused on a variety of subjects such as race, gender, feminism, self care, body positivity and other social justice issues. We produced weekly material on these subjects, put on workshops about zine making, and organized a trip to the CLPP Reproductive Rights Conference at Hampshire College for the community. Our hope was that by distributing these zines, we would be able to create an increased awareness, develop common language and understanding around marginalized identities through educational resources, and ultimately create a safer space.
How long does it take you to make them?
Depending on the size, material and personal relation to the subject it can take me anywhere from an hour to several days to complete.
Pick your favorite, more abstract zine and dissect it for me. What’s it mean to you?
“721 days. congratulations” is inspired by the french playwright Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit, as well as all of the times that I’ve felt strong connections of intimacy with another person. Images of places align and accompany the text. City streets, park benches, dorm rooms, a cabin in the woods. All places that we existed at the same time.
“Hell is not a place, hell is people.”
We are forever reminded that hell is a physical dimension whether it be underground or on earth. This phrase challenges that concept by redefining hell as those who we encounter. Those who smash our existence into nothingness, destroying every shred of mental sanity that we thought we ever owned. The images are of physical spaces but only mean anything when the person exists, and they can only exist (thus ruining or defining a place) if you let them.
An image is repeated twice in the zine. One initially inside and one crumpled up on the back cover, thought to be destroyed but still existing in the back of your mind. The person who correlates with this place is the person I felt the most for and creates the theme for the zine as the others follow along trying to replace what he left.
721 days marks how long we were apart when the zine was created. 721 days marks that I am still breathing, that I am alive after thinking that I could not be. The front cover is of the upstairs Merlin Common Room, a place that was initially where we parted but was redefined because of other people existing there, thus redefining a space. Hell exists if you let it.
Where do you get inspiration for subject matter?
I usually only create zines when I’m feeling particularly passionate about a subject. In the past I’ve focused more on controversial issues and current events, the ones I’ve been doing lately are mostly personal. I’ve done a few for class projects, for Nutrition last year I presented “HIV/AIDS and Nutrition.” For an Independent Study, “Clouds and Constellations,” I developed guides identifying summer constellations and the ten main types of clouds.
Where do the images come from? Are they your drawings/photographs?
The images are a mix of my own photos, the internet, tumblr, and other interesting things that I find in the library. I’m still slightly confused/unaware around copyright issues but I’m not trying to make a profit around them, so we’ll see.
How do you decide what images go where?
I try to align and connect the text with the background images through the emotions that I feel around them. I tend to spend the most time picking the cover and back image because, to me they are the most important, because they hold so much of the story.
What feedback have you gotten from the community about them? How has making zines affected you?
The reason I make zines is because it is the only real way I can truly express myself. For me, it’s easier to articulate thoughts and emotions in my head by putting them onto paper, word by word. One of the most humbling experiences to happen to me at Sterling is when I go into people’s rooms and I see my zines on their bookshelves or hanging from their walls, people I’ve never really even talked to, but can somehow relate the material so well, they keep it and display it.
Do you plan to continue making them after Sterling?
I would like to but the future can be cruel at times. Currently I’m in the process of digitizing all the zines I have onto an online site, making them more accessible to a wider audience. I’m also designing my Senior Project 1 around interviewing queer identified individuals about what it is like to be queer and living in rural areas. Their stories will be recorded, transcribed and ultimately turned into zines for Senior Project 2, where I will also be trying to design and create a Zine Library for the college. Another goal during this project would be to create a Humanities and Social Science Course around zine making for the college itself