28 May 2011


Today, I close my zine review blog.  I have read through my four boxes of zines and have even had the chance to review a couple of trades.  Looking over all of my zines has been a useful review of my youth.  With hindsight, I can see how important zines and the independent zine culture have been to my identity as an artist and to my motivation to continue to create and to organize creative groups. 

Tomorrow is the Ravenswing Craft & Zine DIY Fair in Minto Park in Ottawa.  We'll have over sixty vendors selling crafts and zines, live music from local bands, skill-sharing workshops and the Clothesline Project.   I'm giving out my zines to volunteers and selling the rest to help pay for fair expenses.  Check out the Info Table for a great deal on some great zines!

Keep reading and keep thinking for yourself! xoszio

27 May 2011


In John Isaacson's second issue of his Do-It-Yourself Silkscreening series, he brings us to the street to show us his experiences with joining an outdoor market to sell his hand-designed and printed t-shirts.  I enjoyed this issue because it covered most of my own experiences with selling my crafts at fairs and markets.  Overall, it can be a real pain in the ass.  However, John turns it all into a great comic that is worth the read whether you have ever tried selling your own art on the streets or not.

John's zines are among my treasures.  They are sincere and make you feel like you've become his friend by the end of every issue.  You can buy the whole series of  Do-It-Yourself Silkscreening through Microcosm, or visit Octopus Books and see if they have a copy or can order you one.  You can also visit John's page on the web.

This Sunday, you can find your own fair share of crafters and zinesters in Ottawa at the Ravenswing Craft and Zine DIY Fair.  Along with an excellent crew of artists and writers, I am anxiously putting the final touches to our plans for the fair.  With live music, skill-sharing workshops, public feminist art, crafters and zinesters, it's going to be magic. 

25 May 2011

THE ARTICHOKE [by Verwho?]

In The Artichoke, Verwho? transforms the act of eating an artichoke into sensual pleasure.  Using the image of peeling, preparing and eating an artichoke, she takes the reader through a seduction of the protagonist, removing her hard defense to uncover her softness within. 

When I received Verwho?'s zine, I wasn't expecting much.  It was short.  It was a comic.  However, when I opened it up, I was amazed.  Not only was her zine attractively illustrated, it was beautifully worded as well. 

Damn, this zinester is cool.  Check out her website and buy her art: www.verwho.com.

24 May 2011

ONCE [by Kera Willis]

Once is a record of one of Kera's visits to Burning Man.  It is told in her poetic voice, which flows from image to image and makes mystics out of her characters and narrative voice.  She is also a true artist when it comes to her zine design, using cardstock and golden ribbon to make a unique cover. 

23 May 2011


Combining portraits of Ottawa neighbourhoods with comics of encounters with people passing by while he was drawing, Colin White has created a unique document of the nation's capital.  In fact, since its publication in 2006/7, it has already become an archive of how Ottawa used to look like.  For example, he has an image of Bank Street and Laurier before the massive condo was built on that corner.  It is weird to note how quickly the city can change. 

When I worked at Octopus Books, I hand-sold Colin's zine like mad.  Any tourist who came through the doors was guaranteed to leave with his or her copy of Colin's zine by the time he or she left.  The zine shows a more intimate and gentle side of Ottawa than the typical tourist merchandise of the city, and I always felt happy knowing that Colin's portraits of my hometown were being sent out into the world for strangers to show their friends and family.

To admire more of Colin's work or to order your own copies of Cool Drawing, Dude, go to his website.  Alternately, you can visit the Ravenswing Craft and Zine DIY Fair this coming Sunday at Minto Park between 11am and 4pm.  He will be there with his zines and I am confident that he would be happy to sell you signed copies.

22 May 2011


In one week today, Minto Park in Centretown Ottawa will transform into a celebration of art, music, skill-sharing and kindness toward women.  In other words, the Ravenswing Craft and Zine DIY Fair will take over for an afternoon. 

In June 2005, Festrell (aka Faye) and I began Ravenswing as a monthly craft and zine fair at Jack Purcell Community Centre.  With a mutual love for zines and independent art, we brought together a small community of zinesters and crafters and poured our time and love into organizing the fair. 

In January 2006, Festrell made a zine for Ravenswing with vendor's bios, a list of skill-sharing workshops and short articles by her and me.  Reading this issue was nostalgic for me.  Following is an excerpt of my impressions of our second-ever Ravenswing fair:

"Everybody's spirits at the fair was uplifting and positive.  Throughout the afternoon, I was surrounded by the fantastic buzz of people chatting.  Nothing compares to that sound of several conversations merging into the noise of an event.  You can get lost in it, trying to imagine what each conversation is about.  And people were talking about all kinds of things: crafting, writing, music, weddings, the art of culture in Canadian cities, and much more. 

I have high hopes for Ravenswing.  I can dream it as a space for people to gather, to share their creations, and to make a few bucks for a drink, for groceries, or for a new project to be unveiled at the next fair.  Nothing compares to the excitement of something green and wanted by the community.  I feel gloriously grateful to be helping organize an event that creates a space for us as artists to breathe in the city."

The zine itself was well designed by Festrell, filled with great backgrounds of found images in a cut-n-paste feel.  This year, we are going into our 5th annual outdoor fair and we are fortunate to have Festrell designing its program.  We will be giving out a limited number of copies throughout the day, so come early to make sure you get your copy.

See you there!  Fore more information on Ravenswing, see www.ravenswingottawa.com.

19 May 2011

LITTER HEARTS [by Pierre Richardson]

Litter Hearts is a quarter-size zine that features the drawings of Pierre Richardson.  His style was immensely popular in the early millenium, and he designed a number of posters for events during that time.  To see more by him, check out his blog.

17 May 2011

DREAM ZINE [by Mary Ellis]

The first issue of Dream Zine is a short exploration into some of the subconscious minds of Ottawa's artists, including me.  Moving from poems to drawings to stories to comics, it offers the reader a delightful little taste of tales made up of odd imagery and the scattered story-telling typical of dreams. 

I'm not certain if we'll get to see more issues of Dream Zine.  If you want more, or even just a copy of the first issue, email Mary.

16 May 2011


Nontoxic Housecleaning is a useful resource that includes recipes for household cleaning products and tips on cleaning.  The cleaning products are eco-friendly and made with inexpensive items easily found at the local grocery store.

I definitely recommend this zine.  For a couple of dollars, it is a better resource than many of the books I've seen written on this topic.  For your copy, check out Microcosm.

15 May 2011

SMALL TOWN GENESIS [by Jayda Kelsall]

Small Town Genesis is the story of an atheist's relationship with Christianity from childhood into adolescence.  Raised an atheist, Jayda's perspective is the genuine view of someone looking at Christianity from the outside in.  Her childhood misunderstandings of Christian concepts, like sin, are told with humour and tenderness. 

She also describes the prejudice and bigotry of Christianity as a social institution with endearing judgement.  My favourite story in the zine is about the time when she was told, for the first time, that being gay was considered sinful and wrong by Christians.  Just before, she had met a friend of her older sister's who was gay and who was super fun.  He painted her nails and let her paint his, too, and she "had a burning desire to be as cool as he was."  When she was at a youth event, the leader opened the topic of homosexuality and, before the leader could begin telling the group about the Church's view on it, Jayda jumped into the conversation and shared with the group how much she liked her sister's gay friend and how lovely he was.  She wrote, "After enthusiastically telling the group about him, it got really quiet."  The group was then told about how not lovely the Church considered gays.

Homosexuality is the one breaking point between Jayda believing and not believing in Christianity.  In her zine, she does a wonderful job of showing how Christianity isn't all awful and how not all Christians are bigots.  However, by the end, the baby does get thrown out with the bathwater because, let's be honest, gay-haters are people-haters.  Nevertheless, Jayda concludes her zine by discussing how polite she is with others who believe in Christianity, ever the one to practice ending prejudice in any possible way.  

14 May 2011

ZINE WORKSHOP [by The Independent Publishing Resource Centre]

Out of the many 'how to' publications on zine-making that I have read, the Independent Publishing Resource Centre's (IPRC's) version is, by far, the best. It covers everything from format and design to distribution and tabling at fairs.  Its writing is clear and concise, and it is incredibly useful, even for a seasoned zinester like me.

The IPRC is located in Portland, Oregon, and embodies everything beautiful about independent writing and publishing.  For more information on this organization and its services, please visit its website.

13 May 2011

LICKETY SPLIT #1 [ed. Amber Goodwyn]

 The highlight of Lickety Split #1 is a sample of vintage porn in the form of a comic strip that, in one panel, features Popeye with a big boner ready to pound a Betty-Boop-looking girl on a park bench.  The rest of the zine is a heterosexually focused compilation of erotic images and stories.  At one time in my life, I was certain that I would meet lots of gays in the hipster world.  Many, many years and many, many hipster events later, I have discovered that, like the Lickety Split zine, no gays populate this social scene.  Major bummer.   

11 May 2011

KISS OFF 12 [by Chris Kiss]

In, I believe, the final issue of Kiss Off, Chris writes in a nostalgic mood, contemplating locations, people and music as they are and as they were.  This double lens of his life creates a more mature voice, portrays an older self suddenly capable of recognizing the affects of time on places and relationships.

Poverty also makes an interesting appearance in this issue that pushes Chris into a new awareness.  He quotes Elizabeth Gurley Flynn as writing, "poverty was like a dismal country that only those who have been to can speak of with authority," and he laments, "I seemed to have an extended visa."  I remember that when I first read this issue, I was also struggling as an underemployed, freelance worker and his writing about hunger and poverty were helpful to me, were the notes of a kindred soul.  My favourite quotation in the zine comes from his grandmother and was meaningful to me at the time.  Speaking about Poland's social climate under communism and democracy, she notes, "In either case there's the same problem: young people could not find work.  And if young people cannot work they are not really free."

A feature of this issue that I especially like is the quotations that open every article.  They are profound, meaningful and speak to the following article very well. 

I don't plan on keeping many of my zines after I complete this blog of reviews.  However, Kiss Off 12 is one I plan on setting aside as one of the dozen that I preserve to read again when I'm an old man or when my kids find them in an old box and help me rediscover them. 

For your own copy of this insightful and tender zine, go to Microcosm.

10 May 2011


In the second issue of Beautiful Mess, AF moves from Calgary to Montreal and meditates on the changes that this move has brought onto her life, career and self-image.  This issue of AF's zine is my favourite.  In her usual style, she is bold yet reserved, confessional and endearing.  However, in this second issue, we witness her partly shedding her skin and partly developing a new, thicker one.  In fact, the zine's centrefold features a discarded snake skin, which perfectly sums up the theme of transformation that preoccupies this issue as a whole.

If you haven't read a copy of Beautiful Mess, order your copy now!

09 May 2011


I might just be in a grumpy mood right now, but I hate it when zinesters don't put their name in their zine.  You're going to write a zine and send it across the globe but you don't want anyone to know you wrote it?  C'mon now!

Anyway, issue number four of I Hate This Part of Texas was the first issue I read of this zine.  I immediately fell in love with the zinester's lyrical writing and his images of skeletons riding bicycles.  This issue includes an interesting article on the bicycle shop that he worked at called Plan B, which was also run as a community centre of sorts. 

Like his following issue, this one reads as a love song to New Orleans.  Although he and his contributors describe the city as a pretty scary hell-hole, they all agree that it is the greatest place to be.  I think romanticism plays a larger role than sincerity in these opinions. 

Overall, I definitely recommend I Hate This Part of Texas.  It is well written and is a delight to look at with its great images and type-written pages.  To get your hands on this zine, go to Microcosm.

08 May 2011

QUANTIFY 5 [by Lauren Martin]

I bought this copy of Quantify at the Toronto Women's Bookstore.  The last time I was there, they had a great selection of zines.  It has been a while since then, however, and I can't vouch for their current inventory.

Quantify 5 is a great zine.  Lauren is an intelligent and critical writer, and she engages very well with her topics and views.  The main focus of this issue is the intersection of gender and race in feminism, academia and art.  Lauren's discussions of this topic expertly show its complexities.  Much of what she writes about centres on seen identity in dominant and alternative cultures and how that identity influences the rights of individuals. 

One article in this issue does veer away from political discussions on identity and speaks about the zinester's urge to create art and about the importance of the act of creating art to the survival of the human creature.  She briefly writes about do-it-yourself (DIY) art, "I also have a hearty appreciation for that which is DIY.  Making shit yourself is a fucking radical concept.  Crafting is a political act in that it can enable one to opt out of a consumerist culture."  I love when zines politicize crafting!

I don't think that you can order copies of Lauren's zines anymore.  But, the next time you are at a zine library, like the Toronto Zine Library or the Independent Publishing Resource Centre, definitely seek out her work. 

07 May 2011

CULTURE SLUT #23 [by Amber Forrester]

I first met Amber at a Canzine a few years ago.  The afternoon was near ending and I was taking a final break from my table to have one last tour of the zinesters and artists.  My eyes popped and I broke out into a massive smile when I saw Gwen Stefani pinback buttons.  I picked them off the zinester's table as if I would have to fight others to get them and told the stylish young womon behind the table how cool the buttons were.  She agreed and told me that she was surprised that no one else liked them.  "No worries," I said.  "They're all for me!" 

My Gwen Stefani Button!!!
That is the story of how I was introduced to Culture Slut and Amber's zine-amazingness in general---she also runs a rad distro and catalogues her adventures and writes great zine reviews on her blog.

As a blogger, Amber doesn't use her zine to archive her writings.  Instead, she uses her zine as an opportunity to showcase her design talent.  In Culture Slut #23, she shows details of the places where she lives and has lived through colour polaroids.  In addition to these polaroids, she writes short articles about her family and friends, as well as little self-reflective snippets.  Nothing about this zine is excessive.  In fact, it is a wonderful balance of colour, image and idea. 

An added bonus of this issue of Culture Slut is the super cute boy who appears mid-way in the zine.  You have to buy your own copy to see him for yourself.  You can email Amber to see if she has any copies for sale.

06 May 2011

HIP HOP DON'T STOP #2 & 3 [by Tyler Debelak]

I received these copies of Hip Hop Don't Stop through a zine trade a number of years ago.  Both issues are really good.  Tyler writes introspectively and sarcastically, which make a satisfying mix, surprisingly.  His zines are filled with both typed and handwritten articles, as well as found images.

My favourite article is about 'thinking movies' and how college students act like "their entire world has opened up and they have somehow experienced something totally unique and awe inspiring" after watching them.  He writes about how these students tack meaning onto every little detail in these films to a point of ridiculousness.  His attitude toward these viewers is really funny and critical. 

04 May 2011


Red Alert is a women's health and feminist zine produced by members of the Concordia QPIRG.  It includes poems, stories, cool 'grrls rule'-type stickers and many articles on menstrual health. 

The coolest part of this zine is a poem by Evalyn Parry, who I will be opening for as part of the Kymeras at a show on Saturday, June 4th in Almonte.  In the zine, she writes a poem about her early experiences with her period and it is very endearing and touching.  On the 4th, she will be performing her new show Spin.  For more information on this show, visit Evalyn's website.

03 May 2011


Curses is a quarter-size zine about science written in rhyme.  Issue number four is about the sense of smell and the biology of the nose.  It is filled with diagrams, big science words and interesting facts.  Its most impressive aspect is the zinester's ability to incorporate some very obscure words into a rhyming scheme.

Curses is written by a friend of mine who, I am certain, would be pleased to provide you with a copy of this zine.  However, neither her name nor her contact information are in this zine, so get in touch with me if you want a copy.

02 May 2011

INVINCIBLE SUMMER #10 [by Nicole Georges]

Issue 10 of Invincible Summer is mostly about the lives of Nicole's pets and twice reminds readers to be responsible for the care of their pets.  I love when Nicole writes about her life through the lens of her pets.  It is a sweet mix of frustration and innocence. 

Another great feature of this zine is Nicole's comics.  My favourite comic strips were called 'Invincible Bummer' and showed some heart-breaking moments in her day-to-day life with drawings that are as cute as buttons.  The rest of the zine is full of her unique drawings. 

To order copies of Invincible Summer, see Nicole's website.