Journal : Creating as Therapeutic Connection, Part One: Making Zines

Handmade books I made in the “Introduction to Bookbinding” workshop with Nina Eve Zeininger at the San Francisco Center for the Book

I’ve always loved art and literature and I was an early reader. My first books came from my mother’s coworker friend. She gave me Dr. Seuss’ “Mr. Brown Can Moo Can You?” and various elementary school text books when I was in preschool. It was the early 70s and simplistic stories about Dick, Jane and Spot were prevalent. The books were previously owned and scribbIed on with crayons but it didn’t matter to me. Words were magical mindscapes that I travelled to in a literary bubble. I remember feeling empowered and amazed when I realized I could read. Reading felt like a telepathic ability.

I readily (pardon the pun) 😉 consumed books, they were my freedom portal to other places and people. I traveled to Narnia and Thornfield Hall and escaped my lonely, shellshocked, domestically violent childhood. I loved spending nearly the whole day in a sunny patch by the sliding glass door on the abstract living room rug, which was tiered in a swirl of blue hues that I imagined was a lagoon. My mother supplied me with savory Korean pancakes cut into triangular wedges that I dipped into a soy and sesame oil sauce along with Mountain Dew, my father’s favorite soda, (which he called Mountain Juice, to make me laugh).

Books were my friends, they were consistently, reliably comforting. They were my requested birthday and Christmas gifts. I wasn’t interested in bicycles, skateboards and toys like most of the kids around me. I could disappear into a book and be quietly undisturbed while alone or in a crowd. The shame of loneliness didn’t exist while I was reading. Books permitted a space of acceptable serenity. In the western culture that I grew up in, Western values stressed individuality, Carpe Diem boldness and praised extroversion at the expense of Eastern inspired introspection, reflection and introversion.

I found sanctuary in the peaceful, traveling silence of books; which contrasted with the cursing, explosive parental battles that happened daily and almost always lead to slaps, kicks, bruises and the terrified screams of my mother. Literature kept me sane like a portable escape hatch, like a magical wardrobe closet, like a shuttle to a parallel inner space; books saved my imagination from the ongoing trauma of violence.

I started writing in a journal when I was eight years old. I wrote about the weather, what I watched on tv and whether I fought with my older sister or not. She bullied me mercilessly, so the diary entries helped me to vent my frustrations and sadness to an invisible audience, my self. In Julia Cameron’s book, “The Artist’s Way” (which I highly recommend to all creatives), there’s an exercise where your present adult self writes a letter to your child self in the past, encouraging and validating who you were then and affirming who you became. It’s a moving and loving way to acknowledge yourself with time lapsed perspective.

Blogging replaced my hand written journals but the lure of the feel and texture of actual paper, with words, illustrations or images copied or collaged and encased in handmade mini book format; is art nerd heaven to me. I can’t resist it’s magnetically appealing messy, D.I.Y. punky, imperfect perfection. Zines are miniature art books created with minimal materials, pen on paper intricately folded, sewn, stapled or mechanically bound into a book. They have an anonymous quality and are the ultimate way to self-publish, especially for marginalized artists. They can be left at bus stops, laundromats, libraries, lobbies; for anyone to find, a tiny treasure of words, images and the miracle of connection from one stranger to another in silent friendship.

My first zine attempt on orange scrap paper.

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