Often printed on photocopiers and distributed at in-person conventions, most zines reach fewer people than a post on Facebook or Instagram. But the stakes can be much higher.
“When you make zines, you’re putting a bit of yourself out there in a way that is personal and vulnerable, in a way that social media isn’t,” says Dayna Moth Meyer.
Meyer is one of six organizers of this year’s KC Zine Con, a one-day event featuring approximately 120 artists and zine makers from across the United States.
“Kansas City is getting a real little DIY carnival,” adds artist Taylor Fourt, one of this year’s featured exhibitors.
Fourt says she’s been making zines for most of her life.
“I remember making some as early as elementary school. Every week there were stories about my friends.”
As Fourt grew older, she continued to pursue her love of art, first at the Alabama School of Fine Arts and later at the Kansas City Art Institute. These days, Fourt, who is an avid gardener, often turns to nature for inspiration.
“Illustrators are storytellers,” she says. “My work is like if rose-colored glasses were a painting style, but the work isn’t actually rose-colored.”
One of Fourt’s most recent projects was a booklet called “In Mary’s Words,” a series of eight India ink wash paintings inspired by poems written by her grandmother. Another zine, “Gardening Zine (Edition 1),” includes an overview for growing fifteen different herbs and vegetables. Both will be available at KC Zine Con.
This year, Fourt is especially looking forward to exchanging works with other artists.
“There’s just a wonderful lineup of artists coming from all these little pockets of the U.S.,” she says.
That includes places like Oklahoma City, Dallas-Fort Worth and Tacoma, though the majority of this year’s participants are local. Organizers expect this year’s festival to be the largest yet.
“In year one, turnout was good,” Fourt says. “We’ve seen it double since then.”
The KC Zine Con began in 2015. After traveling to the Chicago Zine Fest in 2014, members of the now-defunct KC Zine Collective decided to organize their own festival. Organizers Jess Hogan, Marc Saviano, Amos Leager, Stephanie Iser, and Bev Davidson planned the first convention.
After exhibiting her work during the first two years of the KC Zine Con, Meyer became an organizer in 2017. This year, she planned the festival with Jess Hogan, Katie Hogan, Stephanie Iser, Isidoro Leon, and JC Sparks.
Meyer will also exhibit her own zines again this year. Her work, which includes the series “Hagwitch #1-3,” tends to focus on personal experience and emotion. A later project, “The Witchy Zinester’s Pocket Book Of Spells,” features a series of incantations and tarot suits.
SugarBeans Shop, another one of this year’s featured exhibitors, creates zines ranging from coloring books to dream guides. SugarBeans is run by three area friends who work under the names Bekah, Olivia and Drew. Olivia and Bekah, who are sisters, have been collaborating since childhood.
“My sister and I were homeschooled for a long time, and we were allowed to do whatever we wanted creatively. That never left us as we got older,” says Bekah.
Though the two have been creating their own books for years, Bekah says that she’s still relatively new to the zine community.
“I really had no idea what zines were until about three years ago. We’ve made books before, but we never had the idea that there was a whole community based around DIY publishing.”
After learning about zines from her cousin, Bekah began working on her own projects. Last year, she entered the KC Zine Con for the first time, and quickly found acceptance: Her illustration was selected as the cover art for the KC Zine Con #3 Yearbook, a collection of pages by the festival participants.
Despite this win, Bekah sees her work as anything but a competition.
“I don’t think art is ever supposed to be competitive. If you love what you’re doing, you don’t need to feel threatened by anyone,” she says.
“We all have dreams,” she adds. “It’s just so important to us to continue to stay creative and enjoy being creative. Really, what else is there?”
The KC Zine Con, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 8, at UMKC’s Pierson Auditorium, 5000 Holmes St., Kansas City, Missouri 64110.