Interview with a Zinester: Devon Spencer!

For the upcoming fest, we are reviving our “zinester profiles” in a slightly different way: zinester interviews! This first interview is with a self-identified first time zinester, Devon Spencer. She is a current Gender Studies and Anthropology student at Purchase college using zines as part of her senior (zine-ior?) thesis project! Here’s what she has to say:


Jordan Alam (JA): Give us a short description of yourself and the work you do (including any zine samples if you have them!).

Devon Spencer (DS): I’m native to Washington, D.C. but love New York! The idea of leaving post-graduation makes me sad because I’d like to experience the city without the madness of being a student and campus employee. I also want to be a part of the camaraderie at nonprofits and zinesters collectives more fully by being the city.

I’m a senior Anthropology and Gender Studies student at Purchase College with particular attention to Art History and Media Studies. I’m currently working on my senior thesis, which has been interdisciplinary means of integrating these four fields. I am researching, through social science text and my own ethnographic research, the various contexts that exist within intellectual, liberal, and radical spaces. I am particularly interested in how spaces are adopted as “queer” even though they may not be explicitly labeled as such. Within this framework, I am researching these spaces to see how materials, community, and the physical space become valuable and comfortable to certain identities. Because radical spaces favor the DIY aesthetic of zines, I have embarked on making one for the creative and collaborative component of my project. It’s in the works and I’m very excited about it!

JA: How did you get introduced to zines? Were you influenced by anyone? And what was your seminal zine moment?

DS: Although I can’t pinpoint one precise moment in which I was introduced to zines, I recall reading them at Bluestockings in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. I was also encouraged to read them by one of my best friends, Rani, an avid zinesters, feminist, dog lover, and generally wonderful person. I would have to say that my “seminal” moment was when I was discussing zines with you (Jordan)! I’ve always thought that it would be cool to make a zine, but never seriously pursued it. When I realized that zines could be a canvas that blends my anthropological studies and crafty ambitions, I was so thrilled. The idea of sharing this intellectual and artistic mixture with friends, family, and academia at my school is also very exciting. The only restraints are the paper or digital dimensions–I love that zines are quite aesthetically limitless.

JA: What does it mean to do “feminist zine-making”? Does feminism appear in your work (explicitly or implicitly)?

DS: I think that feminist zine making is about creative collaboration and progressive conversation. These two things (collaboration and conversation) exist in a new way because feminist-identified people are not only talking about desired improvement within the movement, but are they are writing about it, drawing, and photographing their visions of it for others to see. By compiling these ideas, people are comparing and contrasting their perspectives. I think this is a healthy and productive way of maintaining relationships and promoting discussions of intersectionality and diversity in this artistic and radical medium.

I haven’t figured out how to incorporate feminism into my zine project yet, but it is definitely a prominent part of my thesis writing. I would like to write a personalized zine manifesto, which could serve as a way of connecting these dots because this zine will be a compilation of artistic submissions (including my own). If anything, I think that feminism will inherently, therefore implicitly, be a part of the zine because of my values.

JA: What is your favorite zine or piece of mail art? Do you like any specific style/part of a zine?

DS: So far, my favorite zine is Hoax! It’s unusual for me to say this because Hoax is text heavy, but I’ve gained so much from the poetry, short stories, and essays that they’ve included. I’ve loved reading it, but it has also been very been helpful with my research on queer and feminist zine making. I also really love themed photo/drawing zines with recipes, natural remedies, and tea treatments. It’s hard to choose one medium though… I’ve also seen fantastic screen printed and comic strip zines as well.

JA: If you could sum up your zinester life in a kitchen appliance, what appliance would it be?

DS: I classify my zinester experience as the nice food processor that you’ve been waiting to use. I say this because I have been doing creative projects, such as collaging, poetry, socially-conscious writing, drawing up tea remedy lists, etc. for as long as I can remember but have now found a fun means of stockpiling them. If I continue to make zines past my senior project zine, I have a feeling they will always be a chopped up mixture of one particular theme.


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