It all started with weekly zine workshops with the idea of bringing together local talent and ideas from across the county.
Mhairi Gibson, mother of two and teacher at Kettle Primary in Scotland, was visiting her daughter in Canterbury when she was introduced to the workshops.
Mhairi recalled: “My daughter took me to a lovely, small coffee shop in Canterbury. I thought I was going to meet with some of her friends but instead was encouraged to make zines.
‘Zines’ (pronounced like the end of ‘magazines’) are DIY publications that are used as a form of artistic expression. Zines are used to circulate information at low cost, act as a canvas for marginalised voices, and can also be a form of art therapy.
“My first zine was inspired by a visit to London with my daughter [earlier in the Spring of 2019]. I tried to fit text and picture cuttings into a theme that is meaningful for me; I found zine-making therapeutic, and a great social experience as well as a creative one.”
Since creating her first zine in Canterbury, she has also experimented with hand-drawing images in zines because she enjoys the aesthetic. Mhairi has submitted a few of her zines to @de_ziners over the past 6 months.
“It is motivating to see my zines being posted on Instagram and to monitor what interest there is. Pocket-sized art that packs a punch is a new, enjoyable concept for me, and I love that as a way of expressing your creativity.”
In future, Mhairi hopes to expand her personal zine-making styles and techniques, adding that the ‘randomness’ of co-creating zines has brought an incredible amount of needed joy over the lockdown period.
Feeling inspired, Mhairi decided to bring zines into the primary classroom setting. The language lesson involved folding an A4 sheet to become the classic A7 minizine, which the children then filled with French vocabulary on the topic of ‘rainforest animals’.
“The concise nature of a zine as a tool for the children to showcase their learning was very useful. Children are experimental and playful when trying out new things. They haven’t developed the barriers or fears that many adults have when faced with a blank page.
“Instead, children quickly pick up new concepts and will adapt these naturally, thus creating new and interesting ideas. Often, they will take what you have shown them, and create a unique take on a given subject.
“Somehow, the zine format comes across as far less intimidating than a standard sheet of paper, even though they are fundamentally the same object.”
Subsequently, the lesson was a huge success in terms of enjoyment and engagement. The children absolutely loved making the booklets, as it was a major part of the process.
In other formats, zines have more complex binding: saddle-stitched, perfect bound, spiral bound, or even hand sewn. So the fact that this origami-style minizine is self-bound was one of many fascinations the children had.
The finished zines “made a great display, as they were small and easy to hang from a ‘rainforest vine’”. Mhairi added that their miniature size made them even more appealing to children, teachers, and parents alike, “a cute factor, in a way!”
By the end of the lesson, the children had gained a huge sense of achievement. Everyone was delighted with the final ‘rainforest vine’ display and began sharing each other’s zines amongst themselves.
Mhairi reflected on the feedback from the lesson, saying: “The children were well motivated by the rainforest topic so that was very helpful to the success of the lesson. Many children expressed that they had enjoyed the experience and would love to go about their learning in this format again.
“Perhaps because it was new to them, or perhaps because those children were able to identify the many creative possibilities contained within one small zine.”
Bringing zines into the classroom for the first time was just a stepping stone to the next level of zine-making. Had there been more time, Mhairi would have liked the students to make a zine on a topic of their choosing.
Next time, Mhairi says she will show the children one or two zine examples as a starting point but that she would be looking for more spontaneity and creative freedom: “As we mostly used hand-drawn art and handwritten text for our rainforest zines, it would be interesting to observe how children might use magazine cuttings instead.
During Mhairi’s lesson, some of the older students in the school were completing a topic on the artwork of Banksy. “I felt that these kinds of political and environmental statements would have been very powerful zine material. An ideal recipe for zines!
“In all, the children loved their little blast of zine-making, so I would definitely recommend using zines in the classroom to other teachers or home-schooling parents.”
However, Mhairi reminds us that zines are not only for children. As a busy teacher, wife, and mum, “it sometimes requires a little ‘push’ to lay aside a morning, afternoon or evening to make zines.
“Once I have made the time, then actually putting the zine together draws me away from everything else on my mind. This process of ‘letting go’ while getting into a creative zone is especially great for your mental health and well-being. No matter the end product, the process is therapeutic.
“For both adults and children, zines are a great way to express yourself; to get your ideas and thoughts and interests on paper in a format that you like, whether that be intricate or minimalist.
With so much scope, it is impossible to fail at zine making – there are limitless possibilities for all interests and abilities. Even for those who do not enjoy art as much, or have a lack of confidence in their artistic ability, there is the ‘fallback’ of using magazine cuttings to create something effortlessly brilliant.
“There is no right or wrong in zine making, so let your mind run free”
@de_ziners is a UK-based zine collective founded in Kent, posting a zine a day from across the globe. Over the last year, De_ziners have been showcasing zines made by creatives from all walks of life.