Atlanta’s Zine Fest: Interview with Amanda Mills

By June 17, 2013
Crowd at the Atlanta Zine Fest, photo by Isadora Pennington.
Crowd at the Atlanta Zine Fest, photo by Isadora Pennington.

Amanda Mills—creator of the Atlanta Zine Fest—knows that zine makers are a courageous bunch that create without convention or permission. Without self-consciousness and fear, illustrators, writers, photographers, musicians and others with a DIY (Do It Yourself) ethos push the boundaries of productivity by following nobody’s guidelines but their own.


In its inaugural year, Mills and a small army of volunteers successfully created a space for many from that scene to come together, display their projects, and ultimately inspire the community to do what they do—create without boundaries. On Saturday, June 8 and Sunday, June 9 at the Erickson Clock Building in Castleberry Hill, crowds not only saw handmade art of all types from local artists, but were also invited to listen to panels of scene insiders discuss everything from putting on DIY performances, to urban renewal and gentrification in Atlanta, to music criticism and “Fanzine Journalism.”

Scott Daughtridge: For BURNAWAY readers that may not be entirely familiar with zines, can you tell us what exactly a ‘zine’ is?

Amanda Mills: In a nutshell, zines are any kind of self-made publication. They’re printed, and bound, and distributed. Beyond that it’s really impossible to say. I have opinions on what constitutes a zine and what doesn’t, but elitism isn’t my objective. I want to encourage people to create in any way they see fit. I am somewhat bothered by some other zinesters’s insistence that a zine must look a certain way. Color outside the lines! Have horribly unreadable text! Write crazy nonsense! As a medium, zines are not limited by a certain philosophy or aesthetic.  I also believe that zines exist in a liminal space—between public and private. They’re ephemeral. In some ways the zine culture is about the medium and less about content. Obviously content matters, but zines—super affordable, easy to make, limited distribution—allow one to experiment, make mistakes, evolve their project/ideas. This is what’s exciting and essential, I feel.

SD: You are very plugged in with the Atlanta DIY scene. What are a few of your favorite Atlanta-based zines?

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AM: The zinefest has representation from a lot of local zinesters. For instance, Becky Furey is a really talented local artist who also makes a mini-comic zine called Toxic Plants, which basically just makes light of drunk punks. SHAWTYARABIA, which features the work of two really talented people in town: Negashi (of Blunt Fang) and “Mickey.” Increase the Pressure is a new fanzine featuring a lot of the metal and punk scene. Atlanta has so many talented bands right now, and I think it’s important to archive what’s happening. To me, this is the significance of centralizing the DIY scene. It’s not at all that no one is creating—plenty of people are highly active. The gap that I saw was a space to highlight these projects and foster more.

Booth at the Atlanta Zine Fest, photo by Isadora Pennington.
Booth at the Atlanta Zine Fest, photo by Isadora Pennington.

The best compliment I’ve ever gotten is that I’ve had something to do with someone creating their first zine. In the longterm, I hope to rent out a physical space. My goal is to create a place where more ephemeral print—zines, flyers, brochures and pamphlets—can be printed cheaply and more accessibly. The zine fest, zine library and future print space all have the same objective to connect and engage the community. Maybe it sounds hokey, but it’s so important, I think. It’s incredible to me that such amazing things are happening with limited resources and archival attempts. I hope to be the person to help bridge these gaps.

SD: Where can we find the Atlanta Zine Library?

AM: The Atlanta Zine Library is located in Hodgepodge Coffeehouse & Gallery, 720 Moreland Ave, right outside of East Atlanta Village. I’m really grateful to have AZL there. The space itself is giant and so gorgeous, and the people who own it are incredibly supportive of the Atlanta arts community. The collection is very small—zines don’t take up much space—so we’re always looking for donations! And the catalog is available online.

SD: You also run Big Blonde Records. Can you talk about that a bit? How does that venture impact your role in the zine world?

AM: I feel like zine and tape making are virtually identical. Some of the tapes I’ve put out come with zines, too. My personal opinion is that all aspects of tape making should be made in house. It’s very much a bedroom project. I copy, cut, fold, stuff and even duplicate everything by hand. Obviously that means there are imperfections. It comes from the same DIY philosophy. It’s super accessible: The materials are cheap, and I can do everything myself. If I made records, I would obviously have to outsource. I’m much more interested in self-creating. A close friend of mine talks a lot about how I should move to London or New York. “There’s so much going on there that you would love.” I don’t doubt this, but I’m not drawn to passive participation roles.

Being an active participant—a supporter and a creator—that’s how I feel most fulfilled. Atlanta is ideal for this. Everyone is so pumped about each other. People go out regularly. Everyone knows each other, and not in an overly claustrophobic sense. We identify each other by our respective projects, which is important and validating. DIY is an identity politic, I feel. If you do it yourself you will most definitely identify with the outcome more.

Making and signing zines, photo by Isadora Pennington.
Making and signing zines, photo by Isadora Pennington.

SD: Zines have been around for a long time and typically are hand made. How has the internet effected zine publication?

AM: I didn’t go to public school for awhile. My mom put me in Catholic school and later home schooled me. Without the Internet, I would not have been introduced to zines in the same way. She, my uncle, and my grandpa were all computer programmers, so PCs made a very early appearance in my childhood. Zine ‘distros’ and message boards got me through pre-teen adolescence in a way. It was here that I discovered riot grrrl, punk, postmodernist art—everything that inspires me still today. So that’s how they are related on a practical level. But I also think zines and the Internet have a similar platform. Both really bastardize and muddle the boundaries of public speech—in good ways, I think. Anyone can make a zine; anyone can leave a YouTube comment. These mediums are obviously totally different processes with totally different outcomes, but they excite me equally.

This goes back to the liminal qualities of both, too. It’s obviously public, but there’s a level of anonymity, intimacy and control that makes your Internet handle or zinester identity a great tool for experimenting.  Also, many zines have blogs. Some blogs even become zines! Every time someone tells me they don’t have time to make a zine, I point out that we are constantly creating content. Tap into your blog, your Facebook status updates, your Instagram—there’s a wealth of material to draw from, and it’s archived and ready for you to mine.

Ashley Anderson discusses animation at the Atlanta Zine Fest, photo by Isadora Pennington.
Ashley Anderson discusses animation at the Atlanta Zine Fest, photo by Isadora Pennington.

SD: What do you think the future holds for zines?

AM: I think a lot of us who were creating zines as preteens and teenagers are now entering our late 20s and interested in revisiting the zine medium. This may be why there is a so-called resurgence. Importantly, this means there are now new crops of zinesters who can reach out to adolescents. Zines have pedagogical potential. Kids can use them to explore new identities, experimental modes of expression, subcultural connections… Much as I and other people I know did as kids. And this also means we have a unique group of zinesters who have been dabbling for up to two decades now. Art zines are definitely becoming a big deal. A lot of people can’t afford even their peers’ work, and art zines allow for a kind of art collection that is more affordable and accessible.

The Atlanta Zine Fest was held in the Erickson Clock building in Castleberry Hill on June 8th-9th, 2013.
The Atlanta Zine Fest was held in the Erickson Clock building in Castleberry Hill on June 8th-9th, 2013.



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