Over the Weekend: SF Zine Fest 09 at the County Fair Building

Categories: Last Night
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San Francisco Zine Fest 2009
County Fair Building

August 22-23, 2009
Review by Joshua "Creep" G.


I'm a sucker for underground comics, art and that do-it-yourself attitude that the SF Zine Fest was surely built on. Given it was the second year that the event was being held at the County Fair Building, I imagined that it would be fairly packed. The event originally had to step up to a bigger location to handle the amount of patrons. Maybe it was the weather, but it looked to me like the turnout was a little low. Free admission and the prospect of picking up some great art and reading material was worth making the trip, for me at least. It's not like it was raining like it did during the A.P.E. last year.

As I stepped into the building, the temperature rose and the smell of ink and people filled the air. I was told by a few of the exhibitors that "zine makers don't like getting all showered up for stuff like this." I personally think it's a good idea to make sure you don't stink if you're going to not only be talking to people, but trying to sell them things as well. The cats at "Everybody Get Up Zine" must have felt the same since I was able to kick it there for a bit, check out some art and get my portrait drawn for .25 cents. The portrait was done on the back of a flyer for an upcoming art show they are putting on, "The Frame Show." The back of the flyer had the outline of a frame, so your mini portrait was all "framed up" and ready to go.

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There were a good mixture of self printed zines, t-shirts, professionally-printed material and the original artwork and prints that I am always down for. The venue is really not that big, so you can walk around a few times. I did that to get an idea of everything that was there and then went back to the table that really struck me. I do realize that a lot of the art is going to kind of have the same feel to to it, since they are all mostly xeroxed zines, but it really seemed like the art was similar in style as well. The work that was exceptional stood out, and unfortunately, I noticed a few pieces that were a little too similar to popular artists.

A good majority of the tables had two artists occupying them. I heard the tables were free last year (not entirely certain), but this year they were $45 for a half table and $90 for a full. So if you have an artist buddy it's a good idea to share. One of these shared tables had some zines from Geoff Vasile and prints from Sarah Oleksyk. I snagged a zine from Geoff which turned out to be a great read, I'm really looking forward to getting the rest from his site. I also managed to pick up one of Sarah's prints, a little 5" x 7" screenprint titled "Nerdy Skull". How can you pass that up?

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On the opposite side of the building I bumped into local artist Matt Delight. The last time I had seen him is when he DJed the "Attack of the B Movie Show" a year or two ago. I was happy to see that he had a full table with a variety of zines, prints and even a movie that he was a part of. As you can see, Matt's enjoying a tall can of Steel Reserve. I like the idea that you can bring your own drinks in instead of paying insane prices for them in the venue.

There were a few tables that I noticed didn't get too much action. I kind of felt bad seeing the artist - or the friend that was suckered into watching the table - just sitting there. I think the best thing to do is create some interactivity, like the .25 cent portraits. One table, which I happened to grab issue 8 of Papercutter at, had a sketchbook that asked viewers to draw a clown in it. It was going to be turned into a zine later, and also drew people over to the table.

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There were a few tables that had some of the higher quality "perfectly bound" books for sale. While I love collecting books like this, I liked the idea of just being able to drop a few bucks and get a zine to read. I can to help someone earn a little cash, and I hopefully be entertained for a bit. I was looking forward to seeing some really kooky zines, granted there was some weird going on, but I think since they were mostly self-made I was expecting something a little more controversial.
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During the last hour they had a raffle, those that had tickets could score some donated zines and a Kidrobot bag filled with $100 in swag. When it came time to announce the winner of the bag, you could see the lust for vinyl collectibles creeping onto people's faces. I didn't see any customized vinyl toys at any of the tables. There were paintings and prints, but no toys save for hand sewn monsters.

On the way out I stopped by John Isaacson's table. He had a couple of zines that taught you how to start your own screen printing business. The whole idea of zines and underground prints is something that seems to be passed on. There are websites now that go over what you need to do to get started, but I think this is best route for it. Learning right there from someone who is doing it all.

I was only there for one day, I enjoyed the trip but I don't think I could have made two days of it. There were some workshops and panels, which I happened to miss, but other than that it turned out to be a rather short day for me. Maybe next year I'll make it for the panels and learn how to make my own zines.

Critic's Notebook

Personal Bias:
I knew there would be a few zines I recognized, ones that I could get at the event.

Random Detail: They had flyers you could pick up that had a list of Zine Libraries. Here is the website of that list: Zine World

By the Way: Artists Josh Ellingson and Steve Rhodes have more pics up on Flickr.


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