Ypsi's Zine Show brings local creators out of the woodwork

For Ypsilanti tattoo artist Nick Melody, making zines is both a way to improve his craft and to work with truly inspiring office supplies.

Melody describes the freewheeling process behind the "creative playground" of his art zine, "Reaping Pink": "Just draw from your head and have fun. Loosen up and be free of restrictions. Use little to no reference and just see what happens naturally." Then he slips in something a little more tangible: "I also finally purchased a long-reach stapler, which got me real excited to make and assemble a new zine."

A one-day event celebrating that mashup of freeform expression and populist ephemera returns to Ypsilanti this Saturday, when the Zine Show takes over 22 North Gallery.

For the uninitiated, zines (short for "magazines" or "fanzines") are generally defined as handmade publications with small circulations and low-budget production values typified by the use of copy machines in place of printing presses.

The format has arguably been around in some form for a hundred years or more, but was popularized as it's known today by creators and collectors in the '70s and '80s as a sort of literary companion to the do-it-yourself spirit of punk rock and underground music.

Organized by local zine makers and enthusiasts Erin Anderson-Ruddon and Jen Munford, Ypsilanti's Zine Show is less about highlighting specific artists, writers, or titles than it is about exploring the form itself. Now in its third year, the show has featured a wide variety of literary, art, and comic works. Some feature personalized touches, like stickers, coloring sheets with customized crayon packs, hand-printed covers, and one-of-a-kind editions consisting entirely of hand-drawn illustrations.

This year's show features the work of more than 60 artists and makers from across the country, including many one-offs published just for the show. Forty-five of the artists on display will be from Ann Arbor, Ypsi, and the Detroit area.

"I am ever impressed by what a creative and talented community of artists and makers that we are so lucky to have in this area, and the work that they come up with for the shows," Anderson-Ruddon says.

While there's no shortage of local talent, the show's organizers say there isn't necessarily one central hub for zine-making, so the Zine Show also serves as an annual meet-up for many zinesters who tend to work alone or with a few close collaborators.

That's not to say you can't find their work around town. Local zines are available at Vault of Midnight in Ann Arbor.

Melody sells his zines at Name Brand Tattoo and his webstore. Launched last spring, "Reaping Pink" features 20 illustrations by Melody and sometimes a collaborator or two. For his debut issue, Melody drew, printed, and assembled the entire zine himself, putting more than 50 hours of work in before it was done.

"It's great to get in there, climb the mountain, get your hands dirty, and end with a finished product that you're proud of," he says.

That feeling seems to be shared by a growing number of makers nationally and regionally, as large-scale zine expos have popped up in bigger cities like Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, and even Grand Rapids.

Anderson-Ruddon says the appeal comes from how easy and cheap zines are to make and collect, as well as how versatile their content can be. They also offer a nice change of pace from blogs and other online outlets for self-publishing.

"In this age of digital content and mass production of objects, there’s something really special about a thoughtfully crafted, physical object of art that can be handled," she says.

Eric Gallippo is an Ypsilanti-based freelance writer. 

2015 Zine Show photos by Liz Sullivan.

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