It can be difficult to find an audience when you’re a content creator. The struggle to have your work be recognized and viewed by the masses is constant. As a result, many artists and writers resort to self-publication, which has its own risks. Your work may be more readily available, but that doesn’t guarantee traffic or revenue.
This is why events like the Pittsburgh Annual Zine Fair exist- a chance to give aspiring creative minds a platform and venue to showcase their talent for new customers. Held in the Union Project near Highland Park, the Zine Fair is a free, open-to-the-public marketplace of comics, anthologies, chapbooks, and (of course) zines. The event was started in 2011 by the Feminist Zine Symposium at the Carnegie Library, and moved from the Artist Image Resource to the Union Project in 2015. It was held this year on September 24th.
Groups such as the Copacetic Comics Company and Vagabond Comics had booths next to individuals like Nsai Temko and Sienna Cittadino. The zines on offer ranged from professionally printed and full-color booklets to handmade, smaller creations. Those less inclined to use the written word sold their art, such as Sophia Marie Pappas and Seth LeDonne.
Paper wasn’t the only medium showcased, either. Some vendors sold buttons, stickers, and t-shirts. One artisan, Annesley Williams, had a table full of hand-embroidered patches. She also had a couple small zines focusing on the craft of embroidery for sale. Williams explained that she started embroidery after a crafts class in college, and her friends asked to be taught as well- resulting in the zine. She was happy to be part of the event, and the other vendors I spoke to shared that opinion.
For those looking to make their own art, the ceramics studio in the basement was open for part of the event. While using the studio would usually cost a small fee, it was free during the fair. Guests could make a plaque featuring their initials, which could be painted before or after being placed in the kiln. While waiting for their creations to finish, guests could grab a snack from the outside food trucks (Leona’s Ice Cream, Ash & Kris Kitchen, and Edgar’s Best Tacos) or a drink from Black Forge Coffee’s stand.
What it is hard to capture in words is the raw energy of the event. Guests discovered both new artists and authors to admire while also finding out what old friends were up to. Everyone was eager to show off their wares and their purchases. Even though the crowd was eclectic, they were united by a passion to support local artists and find a different point of view.
Maybe there should be a zine about that.