Melbourne Zine Fest 2013

Just over a week ago, the Sticky Institute's awesome annual festival, Paper City 2013, laid on four days of zine-inspired events, culminating in the famous Zine fair.

Unfortunately I couldn't make the workshops this year, but I happily scooted along to the Melbourne Town Hall last Sunday afternoon to catch some of the fair in all its papery madness as the festival drew to a close. 

While the fair is one of my favourite things ever, it should come with a warning. It's pretty big these days! The hall was brimming with writers, drawers and makers set up at over 100 stalls that wound about the floor like a snake of paper and colour that made me a bit giddy really. I could smell fresh printer ink in the air and it was obvious from the dark circles under eyes and abundance of coffee cups that plenty of people had been up all night printing off their latest edition!


To conquer the impressive labyrinth while remaining sane and financially liquid, I decided that I would set myself a bit of a challenge:

  1. Stay for one hour
  2. Spend only the cash I got for Chinese New Year
  3. Stick to buying solo or duo work (not big collaboration comics)
  4. Blog about my top 10 zines and spread the goodness.


Other than breaking rule two at the very first table within 5 minutes of my arrival and stretching it out to 12 zines, I was pretty happy with my haul. In just over an hour, I met dozens really interesting people and uncovered an equal number of little works of genius.

In no particular order...

The lovely Lou, perched at a table draped in what appeared suspiciously to be a genuine 1980's Mickey Mouse bedsheet, introduced me to her mini folded cartrip inspired zine, Hoon Haiku. It's kooky and clever with great drawings by textaqueen (2) and funny little observations about Australia in Haiku style.  Being from country Victoria, one that made me chuckle: "My holden is me, I've never been out of town, I demand respect." Being clever and lovely, Lou of course does a bazillion other things, like run BreakdownPress - independent publishers based in Melbourne. She also handed me a free copy of their 30 page broadsheet of provocative Peace Posters. I can't wait to tack up the "Paper planes not war planes" poster!

Arlene "Texta-Queen" is Lou's collaborator on Haiku and is obviously a very talented lass. I didn't meet her, but I couldn't resist one of her textanude postcards. On her flickr she describes her work as 'drawing her fabulous friends naked - feminism made fun'. I adore them! This one reads 'Eventually they were released from prison, and sold their stories'. It reminded me of the story of Pussy Riot, the Russian feminist punk band whose members received 2 years jail and hard labour last year for 'hooliganism' after a guerilla performance in an orthodox catholic church. I have a feeling those ladies might do more than sell their stories when they get out though. Look out Putin! 

Li-Kim Chuah's Mini Cat Zine was a pretty easy pick for me since it came with this set of wacky cat collage postcards.  We discussed the sad fact that most people, when asked about their pet cats, after saying how cute they are, relay a story another cat's unfortunate but dramatic and memorable demise. It is a cracker of a read, and I chuckled loudly most of the way through its 16 charmingly wonky little typeset pages. There were even some surprise references to exorcism, skyping, and sex changes,  demonstrating that Li-Kim is at the forefront of cat journalism.

Marta Tesoro is damned clever. I caught her sketching her little bunny character in poses that were being debated among her stallmates: cute? coy? seductive? You can see the doodlings for yourself here. She's an animator of clever kids content by day, and clearly has a techno/steampunky bent too. I loved her illustrations of Great flying machines of the ocean in her zine Fishbones. Skipping over the clips in her blog its clear she's also versatile as hell. Love it! 

Willo press (the genius of Joy Serwylo) was a bit of a surprise find. I just wan't expecting to find  miniature (I'm talking centimetres) books with hand stitched binding at a zine fare. I was delighted though, particularly at the quality of craftsmanship, attention to detail, and the themes of geography and biology that littered the pages of her little gems. I asked her how she got into making little books, and she said she'd always had a fascination with small things. As a kid, when her scientist/geologist father went to Japan, he asked her what she would like him to buy her as as a gift. She replied 'get me the smallest thing you can find'. He returned weeks later with a little piece of card that had two rice kernels attached. When she looked up close she could see one kernel was painted with excruciatingly miniscule detail as a girl, the other a boy. Go Dad - killing it in the gifts department! Joy is also a talented paint and textile artist - you can check out more here.

Amy is obviously a very talented drawer and painter. She modestly assured me of this by pointing to the lovely display at her stall and apologised profusely that she had nothing I could buy that would impress me! Amy you are funny and way too nice! Ha! No seriously though, the display was super clever, and the zine that I did buy from her was, as dad would put it, a real ripper. Build yourself a clothes forest is a reprint of  an activity book that she made for her friend, including challenges like opshop treasure hunts, hosting a favourite record party or trivial pursuit pie party, and Melbourne bride spotting. I really think this one is a goer Amy! She is so modest that she doesn't even have contact details! However, she was thankfully sitting with her friend (7) Peter if I ever need to back-order.

Peader Thomas is a talented freelance illustrator and comic man and is also very dapper. He was sketching an astronaut when I met he and Amy, and he wasn't sure what do do with the little character! I love stumbling on these artistic conundrums! Its like you're right there inside the brain when you watch someone sketch like that. Bit creepy. Anyhow, Peader's Sketchy Sketch 3 really brought out the scifi nerd that lurks below my thin membrane of normality. Robots on bikes? Yeah! Check out his site to see for yourself! I would really like a print of that one actually...

It was so lovely to meet two artistic brothers stalling it up at the fair. I think the Fulton bros. must have had a nice childhood, going by their drawings and also their general friendliness. I could be way off the mark, but there's this nostalgia in both the guy's styles that is really appealing.  

Andrew Fulton's Pubes of Fire, really caught my eye. A really little comic that tells the story  of a guy unlucky in love due to his unfortunate physical predicament of, well, flaming pubic hair. We can all relate to this guy on one level or another. Hmmm. Andrew's illustrations are sometimes kind of naughty and the illustrations are so charming they're impossible to resist. 

Stewart Stwee Fulton was sketching away, and had a totally different style that I also loved.  I was so distracted chatting and also hooked on Stew's amazing merchandise that I bought a one of his great hand drawn badges (which I adore) but didn't buy one of his zines (idiot). Anyway, thankfully I can check out his amazing flickr account, and so can you! I particularly like the quirky fluidity of his characters and clever simplicity of their faces - somehow they have a real vintage quality to them. I'd love to see them animated!

Kate 'Gert' Geyer had one of the prettiest stalls I must say - even a fresh picked rose! She is a really clever illustrator and I had a bit of trouble deciding since her little zines were so appealing. I decided on Objects in my bedroom, partly because it was so tiny, and partly because one of the objects she had in her room was an empty whiskey bottle from an ex boyfriend, which I figured must have a good story behind it. We had a bit of a chat about guache paint as I've been wanting to try it for forever. She assured me the colours have more zing than watercolour and I would not be disappointed. You can buy some of Gert's lovely work in her Etsy shop, including zines!

Keeping Gert company was her friend Briony. After a bit of annoying prodding from me, she described her own art projects that bring together art and science. I had a bit of trouble understanding precisely what she meant, but it sounded so intriguing I just had to follow it up! Now I've had a chance to browse her flickr and her projects with the scalefreenetwork collaborative - definitely worth it. The projects are so complex and beautiful, I'd love to follow it up and write a feature on her work sometime!

Dave Mahler was one of the loveliest people I met at the fair. I came across him cutting and pasting paper 'spirit feathers' to the inside of his little magenta comic Crimson Ginseng, which was kind of a bizarre but lovely touch! He told me he was super tired from an all-nighter (suspicions confirmed!) printing off zines on his dad's printer, and the ensuing conversation revealed him as one of those brutally honest people that make a great friend. This comes out in his writing. Crimson Ginseng mostly tells stories of everyday things, particularly man things, in a really charming way. What could have been mundane stories of conversations with friends about growing a moustache, or the day his friend forced him to go for a walk, artists' insecurities, housemates youtubing exploding cysts, and debates with his parents about what constitutes funny, all come to life in his quirky comic strips. A good reminder that almost any story can be interesting if told the right way.

Last but definitely not least was my fortunate find of the gorgeous Gemma Flack. What a girl! With purple hair, rosy cheeks, amazing smile, and irresistable stall, it was a joy to browse her amazing zines.

Gemma is a very clever illustrator and marker of things, with a quirky perspective and great sense of colour and space. I picked up two of her publications. The first, a sweet little mini-storybook called The girl with the pigeon tail, is kind of like the girls edition of  Andrew Fulton's (8) Pubes on Fire, only in the end pigeon girl finds solace in making art. If only pubes boy and pigeon tail were compatible. Second, was About the Artist a collection of portraits and profiles of Gemma's artistic and creative friends and acquaintances, trying to understand what goes on in their brains.


Gemma's About the artist felt quite serendipitous. It captured a key reason that I enjoy the zine fair so much. There is something beautiful about the creative brain, and a special electricity when makers are doing their thing. And when everyone is squished  together in one place like the zine fair...phew...its magic! I stopped for a breather up in the stalls and took some photos, and looking down I felt I was peering into a creative hive - a swarm of busy all-sorts shooting about the place, new ideas feeding off every moment.  It's in these moments that I realise how lucky I am to live in Melbourne, brimming with such a big lovely community of writers and drawers and makers and thinkers.


If you missed out on this year's Paper City, all is not lost. The Sticky Institute are always up to something interesting, and this Saturday 23 Feb they are doing an all nighter, staying open from 7pm to 7am as part of Melbourne's inaugeral White Night Festival, including a 12 hour zine marathon! Definitely worth checking out.

Also. I think zines are mad. You should make one! There's an easy minizine you can start with, that's made with one A4 page, and after folding winds up with 8 pages. This Rookie mag article gives some great tips on making zines if you need somewhere to get started.


Mysterious messages in bottles and sticks
Gals sharing some great music
Lou (1)
Li-Kim (3)
Marta (4)
Joy (5)
Amy (6) and Peader (7)
Andy (8) and Stew (9)

Gert (10)
Dave (11)
Gemma (12)