When Zines & Artists’ Books Converge

by Cody Gieselman

When I think very long about zines, I get bogged down in what that term means or what I think it’s supposed to mean. For several years I made cheap little books every month that I considered zines, or more specifically, mini-comics. My comics were a simple journal based on my observations and intended to share the experiences of my life, as it oscillated between simple and complicated. Occasionally, I would make other zines that were more instructional, always involving something going on within my immediate community. The appeal in making and sharing zines was consistently about the ability to proliferate information on a local scale. Instead of taking to the Internet, the fact of holding a book had a satisfaction that has always felt more congruous with my content. As in Awkwardly Put #14 the tactile nature of making walnut ink was echoed in the physical book, a tangibility lost in digital form.


The book form has been directly or indirectly the foundation of most of my work for the better part of the last decade. Even in my time-based, interactive installations I see an intertwining relationship to the codex: the engagement required of the viewer, the realization of moving through a space, the pacing of time, and how the viewer completes the work by being involved in it. The bicycle-powered Planetarium Ad Infinitum demanded a high level of dynamic involvement from the audience and provided haptic feedback reminiscent of a reader’s relationship with a book.

pai1 copy


pai2 copy

This undeniable attraction to book objects led me to the University of Iowa Center for the Book MFA program, where I am in my second of three years. I have cranked out more artwork in the past two years than I ever thought myself capable. I am in the process of developing new skills and refining my craft. My experience at the UICB has been nothing short of amazing, but like most makers of things I continually struggle with why I’m doing what I’m doing. As my abilities have grown and my conceptualization of the book expanded, I have also experienced a blur in seeing what I do now as related to the zines I used to make. Since toeing my way into the world of book arts, I tend to think more in terms of artists’ books.

The objects themselves don’t seem all that different. What has changed for me as a maker is the context in which I’m showing the work, the audience viewing it, and the more formal critical analysis I’ve received. The intent behind the work has been part of the continuous transformation. Up the River is an eight-fold, single-sheet book, laser printed on ersatz vellum, diagrammatically representing the prison system in terms of the water cycle. Similarly, Indefinite is a pamphlet bluntly telling the story of Adnan Latif, the ninth person to die in Guantánamo Bay prison. It is inkjet printed on tympan and Mohawk Superfine. Even while simple, cheap, and easily reproducible, both of these books were made in an artists’ books class and have been a part of the UICB Open House as well as a local gallery walk event.

When I was making books that I strictly regarded as zines, I was primarily sharing anecdotes with only some concern for craft. As my focus on content shifted to social and political issues, craft became a more important component, not because I strive to be a gallery artist or a fine press printer, but because making an object worthy of the often dire story within became requisite. This refreshed attention to craft involved an improvement in materials and development of production skills, which is probably most evident in my version of Art Bears’ The World as It Is Today. This slotted tape, letterpress printed work is probably as far from zines as my books have gotten in the past few years. Nonetheless, it could be argued this book still falls within a definition of zine, even if more suitably described as an artists’ book.

WAIIT copy

In some ways my experience with zines has translated smoothly into the artists’ books I currently make. In other ways I never shifted away from zines at all, my approach to making has simply deepened in form and content. This definitive non-definition speaks to what most artists contend with regularly: the struggle to be true to the work, to know where it fits, and to do all this without cheapening its meaning through the hollow severity of a commodity system.  There is a healthy, growing overlap between zines and artists’ books. The boundaries are ever shifting, and when I can remember to relax within uncertainty, it’s perfect.

Cody Gieselman can’t stop messing around with books and bicycles and obsessing about doom. She lives in Iowa City, IA.

What Did You Call Them?

by Turner Hilliker

Last year I had three subscribers to my zine, Holiday Pay. More people probably read the email you sent your coworkers this morning than have read any of my zines all year.

For those of you who are unfamiliar, I can describe what a zine is through a conversation with a girl I had recently dated:

“What kind of art do you make?” she asked. It was a basic date question. No sweat. I was used to answering stuff like this.
“I make these things, they’re called, like, zines.”  Of course you would think this was my first time answering said question.
“Hmm. Okay.” She seemed slightly intrigued.
“They’re books, but I make them myself. They mostly have jokes and drawings in them. Writings too.”
“What did you call them?”
“Oh, uh, zines. Sorry, I must of mumbled.” Maybe she was more interested than I first thought.
“That’s a stupid word,” she said.

That’s the moment when I flipped over the table we were at, flicked off everyone at the restaurant, and strutted my ass out the door.

I didn’t actually do that. But it’s these types of stories that make up my zines. That’s the point. Making a book that’s all you.  I mentioned earlier that I had three subscribers last year for Holiday Pay. Three subscribers is really just icing on the cake. The real audience is the zine itself. No matter what you have to say, it has to listen to you. AND it has to keep a record of what you said. When taking the route of mainstream publication, you have way too many hoops and hurdles to jump over. Yeah, you made a book (which is still pretty impressive), but there’s at least one other person’s say in its creation besides yours. The story I just told, it probably wasn’t even that great. But it doesn’t matter. If you produce a zine, it will get published.



Turner Hilliker is a Virginia based artist and designer. He received his MFA in Book Arts and Printmaking from the University of the Arts. In 2010 he created Holiday Pay, an ongoing zine series documenting his personal experiences and ruminations. He has a day job in retail.


Edible Book Festival – April 6, 2013

April 6, 2013
, 1-4pm
Alvar Library Garden, 913 Alvar Street, New Orleans

Thanks to everyone who came out to the Second Annual Edible Book Festival on April 6. We couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day to enjoy all the wonderful edible books that people brought to the Alvar Library, and listening to Luke Brechtelsbauer on harp just made the day that much finer.

This year’s festival again exceeded our expectations. New Orleans really knows how to bring it when it comes to culinary creations. The kids activity area was also booming with paper puppets and cookie decorating. Thank you to Whole Foods for donating all the cookies.

All attendees had the hard task of voting for their favorites in each category. This year the winners were awarded a crown fit for literary royalty.

The Bound for Greatness award, for best in show (youth 12 & under), went to Hunger Games by Kai.
The Novel Eats award, for most inspired use of literature or literary reference went to Steinbeck Library by Neal and Linzo.
The Cooked Book award, for best use or exploration of a book-like structure, was awarded to The Tape Player Ate My Book on Tape! by Libby, who wins in this category for the second year in a row!
Our Upper Crust Award, for best in show (adults), went to The Giving Tree by Aryanna

Special thanks again to the Alvar Branch of the New Orleans Public Library for hosting the event, Jess Pinkham for documenting the day, and all of our amazing volunteers whose efforts helped make the event such a success.

For more photos of the Second Annual Edible Book Fest, visit our Flickr page.

Admission is free with an entry of an Edible Book or a canned food item to donate to the Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans.

illustration by Christopher Deris

The Edible Book Festival is an annual event held in April at locations around the world. Participants create edible books that are exhibited, documented for the international edible book archive, judged for fabulous prizes, and then eaten by attendees. Get started planning your edible book creation today and join us at the Alvar branch of the New Orleans Public Library for an afternoon of literary, gustatory, and artistic fun.


1:00-2:00       Register edible book entries
1:00               Music by harpist Luke Brechtelsbauer
2:30-3:00       Community judging
3:00-4:00       Prizes announced and eating of entries

What is an edible book?  An edible book is something “bookish” made of 100% food materials. Your entry must be made entirely of edible elements, as all entries will be consumed during the festival. Entries could be bookish through the integration of text, literary inspiration, or just being in a book-like form. It could look like a book, be a pun on a book title, a reference to a character or scene from a book, or an artist’s book made entirely of edible materials. You can see photos from last year’s event on our Flickr page or visit www.books2eat.com for inspiration and photos of edible books from past festivals.

Who can participate? Everyone is welcome, kids and adults. You can participate by making an entry or by joining us in celebrating, judging, and devouring the tasty tomes.

Is there a fee to participate? The event is free if you bring an edible book entry. Otherwise there is a suggested donation of a canned food item to be donated to the Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans.

What are the prize categories? This year’s prize categories are:
Novel Eats—for most inspired use of literature or literary reference
Cooked Book—for best use or exploration of book-like structure
Upper Crust—best in show, adult
Bound for Greatness—best in show, ages 12 and under

Who is judging? Everyone who participates will help choose the winners in different categories, including a special category for entries cooked up by kids 12 and under.

Are there prizes? Absolutely. Each year SIFT produces handmade awards to present to the winners of each category.

How do I register? Bring your edible book entry between 1:00 – 2:00pm. The first twenty people to register an entry will receive a commemorative, handmade book

Does the entire book need to be edible? Yes. After community judging, we partake of all the tasty tomes.

Can I volunteer? Yes! We need volunteers to help register entries, oversee the kids activity table, tally votes, and set-up and breakdown the event space. E-mail info@www.siftart.org.