Richmond Zine Fest doodles and staples its way to stardom

Mark Robinson
Assistant Spectrum Editor

What's in a zine? That which we call a zine/ By any other name would cost as cheap/ To make, and still be published independent(ly).
Over 40 zine artists and distributors registered to table at the fifth-annual Richmond Zine Fest.

What’s in a zine?

For Megan Osborn, a junior statistics major at VCU, it’s a chance to fight the stereotypes associated with mental illness.

A member of The Icarus Project, Osborne represented the grassroots mental health organization at the Richmond Zine Fest this past Saturday at the Gay Community Center of Richmond.

The group has produced numerous zines aimed at destigmatizing mental illness, including “Friends Make the Best Medicine,” a do-it-yourself guide to creating mental health support groups within a community.

“We’re just trying to get the word out that people with mental health difficulties are not odd; they’re not weird; they’re not scary; they’re people like you and me,” Osborn said.

The Icarus Project was one of the more than 40 tablers at the fifth-annual festival. Zine-makers, traders and fanatics from New York City, Philadelphia and Portland, Ore. made the trip to display their self-published work.

Despite the influx of out-of-state contributors, both Richmond and VCU were well represented at the Fest.

“Quail Bell,” a zine described as combining the “imaginary, the nostalgic and the otherworldly” by its art director, senior creative advertising and art history major Virginia Nickerson, is a conglomerate of photography, poems, comics and short stories.

As a result of “Quail Bell’s” success, Nickerson and her partner, Christine Stoddard, will host the “Once Upon a Dream” fairy-tale fashion show at Barnes & Noble on Sunday, Oct. 16.

“We want to get people to be more aware of ‘Quail Bell’; we have a lot of staff that we’ve taken on for the fashion show, and even them helping has gotten the word out,” Nickerson said. “We went from 73 followers on Twitter to more than 300 in the past five days because of Zine Fest and the fashion show.”

Though many tablers at Zine Fest were small groups with big aspirations, personal expression from individual contributors was not obscured.

Mara Hyman, a junior painting and printmaking major at VCU, took up zine-making as a result of her interest in the do-it-yourself (or DIY) aspect of Richmond’s punk community.

Although her zine series “You Are Not Alone (In Feeling Alone)” started as a hobby, Hyman believes it can function as an outlet to display her art. “Being an artist, it’s really difficult to get your work out there,” Hyman said, “so it’s kind of a way for me to get people to look at my drawings.”

Planned workshops for Saturday’s Fest included zine design strategies, the history of zines and DIY knitting lessons.

Patrick Costello, a five-year zine veteran, hosted the “Zines 101” workshop, which covered the history of zines and zine design. “We just wanted to give an idea for the range of zines out there and maybe leave people with some ideas of what they can do,” Costello said.

VCU sophomores Harry Stewart and Rellie Brewer produced their first zine and tabled for the first time at Saturday’s Fest. Their recounting of the gym class experience of Parly Pork, a half-pig, half-girl, struggling through the absurdities of middle school, was one of the Fest’s more quirky contributions.

“It’s kind of a satire in the regard that it’s about middle school, but not really,” said Stewart of his and Brewer’s work.

As there is only loose guidelines for what comprises a zine, and no restrictions on content, contributions at Saturday’s Fest ranged from worker’s rights pamphlets to vegan recipes on folded 8-by-11-inch paper, and everything in between.

So what’s in a zine? Whatever you want there to be.



For more information about Richmond Zine Fest, visit their website at

Photos by Chris Conway

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