Name and location..
Emma Charleston, and I’m based in Hebden Bridge in Yorkshire.
How long have you been making zines for?
In a meaningful way, and actually calling them zines, for about two years. But my whole life I’ve made silly little pamphlets or drawings or other projects like zines for family and friends. Especially in my childhood I used to make weird little paper-based gifts, (mostly little books of drawings and words) for my parents all the time.
What do you like to create zines about?
My most popular zines have been fairly impersonal ones, and I do enjoy these — zines full of interesting or helpful broadly factual information, usually questioning or considering fairly mundane things about the way we live our lives, and often trying offer reassurance that it’s all okay. But I do like making more personal zines too, I’m wary of straying into too TMI/self-indulgent territory though, even though some of my favourite zines by other people do do this.
What is your favourite zine/comic/book?
I have a zine made by a friend of mine who first introduced me to the idea of zines, called ‘Thomas the Human photocopier’ and it’s basically a perfect parody of a boring photocopier instruction manual, but with the plot twist that the photocopier is actually a human in a box. It’s very funny and sometimes kind of poignant and sad and sweet all at once. Its launch was accompanied by a performance piece of him being the photocopier, which I really wish I could have seen. (My friend who made it works at famous/incredible zine shop ‘Sticky Institute’ in Melbourne which is very well worth a visit if you ever find yourself in that part of the world) You can read a bit more about it here!
I also have a great zine by Kristyna Baczynski called ‘make your own fun — a zine about making zines’ — I think I’ve actually given my copy away, but I found it a very useful way of explaining both what zines are and why you’d make them, along with some ideas for places to start, both in terms of inspiration and practical construction. I’d really recommend it to anyone who’s interested in starting to make zines and/or finding out a bit more about them.
(There’s a link here if you’re allowed to share such things!
Tell us a bit more about your creative process..
I get an idea and I try and figure out whether it’s an idea that deserves a bit more time and effort or one I should just bash out in an evening. If the latter I’ll just draw a load of drawings and write a load of words real quick, scan them in, lay them out and knock out around 10 copies on my home printer, often just to share with friends, maybe to sell at zine fairs if anyone’s interested. If it’s an idea that I think deserves a bit more (and might be one that would sell in a large enough quantity to be worth riso printing), I’ll spend a bit longer working on it, and will take into account the limitations and advantages of the riso print process as I design.
What does it feel like to have your zines in the London College of Fashion Library’s Special Collections?
I’m super flattered that they have a spot there! I still feel relatively new to this particular game, and I’m always so delighted when anyone is interested in the things I’ve made.
What influenced Everything is awful and I’m not okay and The outfits I was wearing for all of my first kisses?
‘Everything is awful’ was born from reading this great Tumblr post and just feeling like it deserved a wider audience (and a slightly better presentation than just plain text!) there were also a few aspects of the original that didn’t quite fit for me personally, so I wanted to make a slightly adapted version, and I hoped it would help/support a lot of people who stumble across it when in need of reminders about some of the simple steps that can be taken when life feels hard.
As for the kisses zine, I started a new romance after a number of years in a stable relationship, and, when talking with a friend about it, realised I could remember the clothes I’d been wearing for every ‘first kiss’. My friend said that was really weird and how on earth could I remember? It seemed interesting and strange enough to me that I did remember, and I realised that for the most part I’d made very conscious choices that reflected my own personal ideas about fashion at all these different points in my life. I found it kind of interesting, (if a little self indulgent), so decided to document it.
What one piece of advice would you give UAL students about zine making?
Don’t be scared to just get started. There’s really no barrier to entry when it comes to zines in terms of quality. It doesn’t matter if you don’t think you can draw, don’t think you can write, or even both — zines are about personal expression, and, if you want to, sharing that. I think making zines is a wonderful healthy creative outlet that can offer a lot of support and encouragement for both the maker and others who read them and see shared experience. Not to mention the sense of accomplishment when you’re holding your cute little finished book in your hands!