The Portland Zine Symposium is an annual event celebrating zines and printmaking that has been running every summer since 2001. This year, it took place on Sept. 17 and 18 at Portland State University (PSU).
During the two days, printmakers, illustrators, storytellers and poets from all walks of life congregated in the Smith Ballroom at PSU to celebrate the medium of zines. Zines are small printed or hand-drawn booklets containing anything from poetry to photography. These creations are a staple of the do-it-yourself (DIY) scene, which is alive and thriving in the City of Roses.
Historically, zines have been a tool of social connection for outcasts, punks, artists and leftists. These small books spread ideas, photography, poetry, youth culture and information about venues far and wide for the cheap cost of printing a few hundred copies. Zines can be about anything from anarchist revolution to pickling artichokes. They can contain photographs, drawings or even dried flowers.
The DIY-punk attitude was both obvious and constantly subverted. Zinemakers who resembled my high school English teacher mingled with queer people with dyed hair and platform shoes in the table-filled auditorium. I encountered presses dedicated to sharing marginalized voices. I talked with some graduate students from the Pacific Northwest College of Art creating work full of feral queer energy. I saw all sorts of printed goods, and left with business cards galore.
Jordan Paddock, a photographer and zine maker whose table was set up right by the entrance, explained the creative process that motivates him.
“It’s just as important for the ultimate physical medium that people are going to interact with, to be just as much (a part) of an art piece as the images themselves,” Paddock said. “And what that means to me is having a super high-quality feel to it.”
Additionally, Megan Delyani is a professional writer by day, and zine maker by passion. When asked about her advice for those just getting started with zine making she explained…
“Don’t be scared to put yourself out there,” Delyani said. “You have to make bad art before you can make good art, and it’s really just practice makes perfect.”
Zine making is a broad medium, and this event showcased that diversity. If you are interested in zine making, or even if you’re apprehensive about the medium, check out the symposium next year. At the very least, you’ll leave with a renewed sense of what makes Portland special.