On the way back from the Rose Test Gardens, I jumped off the MAX train at the stop in between 9th and 10th avenue (It's been so long since my trip now, I can't remember the exact name of the stop). I had been wanting to visit the main library as I had read somewhere that it has the largest collection of zines. According to Wikipedia, a zine is "most commonly a small circulation publication of original or appropriated texts and images. More broadly, the term encompasses any self-published work of minority interest usually reproduced via photocopier on a variety of colored paper stock. A popular definition includes that circulation must be 5,000 or less, although in practice the significant majority are produced in editions of less than 100, and profit is not the primary intent of publication. Zines are written in a variety of formats, from computer-printed text to comics to handwritten text. Topics covered are broad, including fanfiction, politics, art and design, ephemera, personal journals, social theory, single topic obsession, or sexual content far enough outside of the mainstream to be prohibitive of inclusion in more traditional media." I found the zines on the second floor of the library in the periodicals room.
Just like Wikipedia stated, the zines covered a broad spectrum of topics and varied in design and process (handwritten, typewriter, all words - all pics, etc.) The most interesting zine I found was by Melanie Coles and titled "with love, from me to you!: a zine about mail art (ZINE 709.04 COLES)." I attended an art magnet high school and each year we would enter a mail art contest. We would create art completely out of the constrains of what is considered mail (huge pieces in odd shapes, extremely small items...anything artistic and not in an envelope). You would hope USPS would accept your piece to be mailed and that it would arrive all in one piece so it could be judged. I did a google search to see if the contest is still around, but couldn't find anything so I guess it is not. Melanie Coles zine brought back memories of how fun this contest was. The zine documented letters she had sent and received and some of the funny stories that went with them. My favorite was this...
"I had just moved to the city and my friend wanted to make me look smart for my new landlords. She put a NASA sticker on an envelope, but got the street name entirely wrong! The letter arrived to me via my landlords with a note from the postal worker asking to please inform NASA of the correct address."
Another of my favorites...
"A close friend of mine, Naomi Marie, once sent me an envelope wrapped in crepe paper, a diagram, and plastic leaves. For some reason, Canada post thought it wasn't supposed to look like this and assumed they had damaged it. Everything was still in its place! It then got packaged up in a plastic seal with an apology letter - We sincerely regret this unfortunate incident and any inconvenience caused - Apology accepted."
She included scans of each letter/envelope along with each story.
If you'd like to make your own zine and participate in a swap, head over to I heart zines.
There are a few flickr groups that involve mail art if you are interested...
mail art, fluxus bucks, postal networking
ART in the mail