Profiles of local people
Andy Johnston (self portrait)
By Phill Huxley
Meet the Moseley artist who self-publishes a magazine from his flat that is then distributed around the world...
Andy Johnston produces a zine [self-published magazine] from his South Birmingham flat which is distributed around the world.
With the slogan 'dedicated to the small press', Zine Arcade is available throughout the UK and as far a field as the USA and Japan. It brings together writing, poetry, drawings, artwork and more into one magazine and features many of Andy's contemporaries as well as his own work. And it's all created from his Moseley flat.
The first issue of Zine Arcade featured material by twenty self-publishers from Europe, North America and Australia. After calling for submissions for the next issue, Andy is now in the process of putting it together from his Oxford Road flat.
Andy also produces another zine, Kayak, which is full of his own creations.
I had a chat with Andy and he told me about Zine Arcade and the work of what he calls 'the small press'.
Hi Andy, can you explain what Zine Arcade is?
"Zine Arcade is a publication that features artwork and writing from zines. Zines usually operate on a tiny budget and are printed using home computing, photocopiers or even using a professional printer. Zine Arcade collects examples of some of the different work that is being self-published and puts them all together in its own publication."
What was the motivation to start Zine Arcade?
"I'd never really met anyone who self-publishes so it seemed like a good way to get involved in the zine community. I also like the idea of exhibiting an art-form that is hard to come by and help spread the word on some brilliant artists and writers."
How do you find contributors, how do you decide what goes in it?
"Most contributors are found through MySpace and things get passed along through various blogs and websites. I try to collect a range of different material but I also exercise a certain amount of personal taste. It's always hard not putting in someone's work I like but there's never enough space.
"I'm trying to be very strict with myself to limit the amount of contributors in each issue, in order to allow each one more space in the zine. If I see someone's work I like, I'll invite them to submit something. Most of the work that ends up in the publication tends to be from people I've invited."
Zine Arcade is stocked in Canada, the USA and Japan, that's pretty good going for something you self-produced in your flat.
"Yeah, it's really cool to get my little handmade book out there into the big wide world. Jackie Batey, who creates artists’ books and self-publishes the zine Future Fantasteek!, has her publications held in dozens of library and gallery collections, all over the world. What I'm aiming to do with Zine Arcade Issue Two is to have more copies held in permanent collections. To me, that's just as exciting as what can be achieved through a website."
On the cover it says dedicated to the small press - what do you class as the small press?
"To me, the small-press is anyone who self-publishes. I've never been able to clearly define what that is. All the work that features in Zine Arcade is from creators who publish maybe a hundred odd copies. It's done for enjoyment rather with any aim of making a profit. But, there's a wide spectrum of from those who photocopy a handful of copies and leave them on the bus for people to find, to those who border on the commercial side of things.
"As self-publication gets easier and cheaper, it becomes harder to define where one ends and the other begins. What's important to me is that the work is done for enjoyment rather than for any sort of commercial reason, that it has a certain sense of being hand-made and that it gives me something I couldn't ordinarily go out and find in the local newsagent or bookshop."
The deadline for submissions to your second issue has now passed, what's going to be in it and when do you plan to release it?
"Zine Arcade Issue Two will feature the work of 13 unique and exciting self-publishers. There's several single page comics by Robert Sergel, a pull-out-and-keep Future Fantasteek! featurette by Jackie Batey and postcards by Bill Donovan and Kevin Hooyman.
"I'm still in the process of organising the publication and I’m really excited about it. I'm planning to print a limited edition of 100 copies in August. Many of those copies will be given away free to zine libraries and gallery collections. Bill Donovan, who features in both Zine Arcade One and Two, will be distributing copies around New York. They'll be about 20 copies for sale on my website and the rest will go to the contributors, reviewers and small-press festivals. For those that can’t get hold of a copy, they'll also be an online version to flick through."
You are based in Moseley - but with social networking sites and the web, does it matter where you are based any more - or is something like the comic and zine community completely international?
"With MySpace it's incredibly easy and cheap to promote your creation. There seems to be a community of self-publishers on the internet that are all interconnected in some way. It’s really inspiring to see how much stuff is out there but it’s important to remember that a lot of zines don’t go anywhere near the internet."
You also have Kayak - which is your own work - tell us about that?
"My own zine will be a collection of self-published sketchbook pages. I usually prefer looking through artists' sketchbooks than looking at polished pieces of artwork. I like reading all the little notes and ideas that haven’t quite made it. I like the idea that it's a bit more personal, like reading someone's diary or shopping list. I’m hoping to publish it towards the end of this year."
The new issue of Zine Arcade is scheduled to be available in late summer 2008. Visit the Zine Arcade website to get the latest on the new issue and to read previous issues.
Extracts used above are work by Jackie Batey and Robert Sergel
last updated: 06/08/2008 at 18:50