Calling all west coast zinesters! LA is on the loose and ready to shake things up in the zine scene with the freshly minted LA Zine Fest, happening this Sunday, February 17th. I sat down with three of the five core organizers – Meredith Wallace, and Bianca Barragan -- and asked them about the burgeoning DIY movement in SoCal, how the LAZF came together, and what it means to be a zinester living in LA.
Can you give SFZF readers a little bit of back story about the LA Zine Fest?
Rhea: I've been organizing events and playing shows at alternative venues in Los Angeles like Echo Curio, Pehrspace and The Smell for the past 5 or 6 years. While working for an independent business that had a studio for artists and crafters, I decided to start a zine club. Meredith and Bianca were pretty much the only people who showed up! That was a big conversation starter for us: we knew there was a community of zinesters, but the issue in this city is always establishing centralized locations where people can connect and meet.
Meredith: That was back in 2010; we started putting together small DIY/zine related events. We were struggling to put together a show of mini zines, but couldn't find a space to host it. Around this time, Bianca and I attended SF Zine Fest to table. We had an absolutely amazing time and met so many awesome people, but left wondering why we had to drive 7 hours for a zine fest. We knew there were tons of people in LA who made zines and comics, but there wasn’t a cohesive zine community. We wanted a more connected self-publishing community to foster collaboration. We also wanted to give writers, illustrators and cartoonists an alternative to flashier, more expensive events like Comic Con.
Do you feel that the LA zine community is different than SF bay area zine community?
Meredith:It wasn't until I was living in LA that I really got involved with the zine community. I think the SoCal and NorCal communities are similar in a lot of ways, but I see a larger crossover between various DIY communities at LAZF. Many local zinesters are also musicians, artists or creators in other capacities. That's one thing about LA: there is never a shortage of creative overachievers! It's been great to be able to use LAZF as a platform to promote various DIY communities in LA.
Bianca: Everyone always complains that L.A. is super-spread out. It is, don't get me wrong, but something I just realized is that it's not a disadvantage all the time. I think that it's made a lot of us very tolerant of traveling long distances to go places we really want to get to.
For this year’s LAZF, what can attendees expect – is there any one thing that you’re excited about, from an organizer’s standpoint?
Bianca: Well, I'm psyched the Fest is spreading out. This year our Zine Library will be across the street at a shop called HRLDRY, an art gallery and vinyl shop. Panels will take place at The Moth Theatre on the other side of the street. We try to use our event to draw attention to great neighborhoods and help local businesses. This year, it's going to be a block party.
Rhea: Each year we aim to curate a unique event that highlights the diversity of zines and local DIY culture. We have some exceptional women leading discussions and workshops this year, which is awesome. There’s a ton of badass ladies in the self-publishing and DIY movement! We’re also anticipating ten times the amount
of hugs and high fives this year.
As organizers of the LAZF, do you feel that a “zine renaissance” is currently taking place? Small press publishing seems to be everywhere these days. How has this awareness of DIY print culture helped get the LAZF off the ground?
Bianca: I think people have a hard time finding each other on the basis of liking zines. I did at least. At last year's Fest, everywhere I looked, I was thinking, "Who ARE these people?" I thought it was going to be, like, my parents and my best friends. But I think L.A. was just waiting. I like to think that we LAZF organizers are carrying a torch that's been passed to us from Jessica Gao and organizers of Super*market at UCLA, and the organizers of the Golden Apple Zine Fest before that. It goes back decades. L.A. has always loved alternative And I'll be honest: people have been so receptive and that’s something that makes me feel like all the work I do for LAZF is doing something. The more I pay attention to what's going on, the more excited I am to be part of something like this.
Rhea: It's really exciting to have one year of organizing under our belt. Presenting this opportunity for people to connect and share their work with each other has led to collaborations and events throughout the past year that may not have happened otherwise. Writers and artists who didn't imagine zines as an additional creative outlet are now coming out of their shell, turning blogs into print and creating some really incredible
Any other tidbits to share?
Bianca: Thank you so much for doing this interview--what a great idea! I hope we can return the favor closer to September and SFZF.
The LA Zine Fest takes place on Sunday, February 17th at the Ukrainian Cultural Center, 4315 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles CA.
For more information, take a look at their blog: http://lazinefest.com/tag/lazf/