“Jess uses found words and erasure to create hybrid texts that reflect on mental health, relationships, and the body. Her background is in the history of medicine and the brain in antiquity, and she’s currently writing a book about ancient and modern psychiatry. When she’s not tinkering with history or making zines, she studies tarot. What she loves most of all is thinking about how we tell stories and devise metaphors to make sense of the movement of our lives.”
Who are you? Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m Capricorn sun, Cancer moon, which means I present to the world as hard-edged and practical, but secretly I spend much of my time crying on the couch and lost in daydreams. I work a lot with erasure poetry and zines, but I also trained as a historian, so I also write non-fiction prose. Right now, I’m working on a book about the history of psychiatry and a series of lyric essays that blend my research into this history with personal and family experience.
What do zines mean to you?
Zines are a tool that I use to ground myself when I’m in distress. They’re a means of connecting with others and showing love. They also offer opportunities to practise and share word-craft in ways that push back at the structures of late capitalism.
How did you first get started with zines?
I discovered them by accident at a paper-crafts market near my flat. I was immediately hooked.
How would you build the perfect snowman?
With an ice cream scoop.
Tell us about your zines.
I make 8-page zines out of single sheets of A4 paper. Their basic medium is word collage. Some are more interactive and invite personalisation. Others are more like short poems—many of them, recently, focusing on themes of finding space for rest and recuperation amid the massive social changes and stresses we’re living through. My most recent series are about the major arcana. So far, I have Death, Tower, and Fool. I’m taking suggestions for the next!
What resources do you use to create your zines? Tell us about your zine-making process.
I hoard words from newspapers and magazines: sometimes I’ll spend a whole Saturday listening to podcasts and just cutting out new words. The words live in a couple of sandwich bags on my craft shelf. When I sit down to make a zine, I begin by taking a handful of words and just sorting them into categories: nouns, verbs, nouns that might be verbs, phrases, prepositions, that kind of thing. Usually I find that some words or combinations will strike me, and I put these into a tiny, cracked china bowl that I found once on the side of the street. Once I have a lot of words in my bowl, I lay them out on my desk and begin to build sentences. When the sentences are ready, I transfer them to the pages of my zine.
Do you have any advice for newbie zine makers?
If you want to photocopy A4 zines on a regular printer, make sure to leave a border around the edge of your paper. This has tripped me up SO MANY TIMES. Also, have fun and don’t let anyone else tell you what to do with your art.
Can you tell us your favourite cracker joke?
What do you call a penguin in the Sahara desert? Lost.
What is your favourite thing about zine culture?
How varied and welcoming it is. How it by-passes the achievement ladder of mainstream publishing to focus attention on making art and building connections.
Do you have a favourite zine or zinester?
Hands-down Nicky Rodriguez (IG: @artofnick,yrodriguez)
Why do you make zines?
It keeps me connected and alive. And sometimes it feels a bit like reading tarot—diving into the sea of words and paying attention to what my mind lights upon. It can tell me a lot about myself and what’s going on in my subconscious.
How are you celebrating the holiday season?
The turning of the year is one of my favourite periods, especially because it coincides with my birthday. I’ll be making a zine for the year ahead, probably of the interactive kind. Last year, my birthday zine was all about making my intentions and values explicit to myself. This year, I think it will focus on growth: what needs to be weeded out, where the compost pile is at, what seeds I am ready to plant.
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