A Zinester’s Guide to Creativity

By Megan Newton, posted on May 17, 2024

If creativity is the destination, how do we get there? What methods of transportation could we take? Might I interest you in a popular vehicle, the zine? The zine (pronounced zeen) is a sturdy and reliable vehicle with few limitations. It’s a versatile medium that allows the artist to explore the world through the pages of a book. The zine vehicle could be a one-seater when you want to take a solo drive, or it could hold many passengers, engaging a whole community of zinesters in a collaborative adventure.

Zines by Allison P. (grade eleven), Lilah D. (grade nine), Addison L. (grade twelve), and Ella B. (grade eleven).
Zines by Allison P. (grade eleven), Lilah D. (grade nine), Addison L. (grade twelve), and Ella B. (grade eleven).
Addison L., My Five Rules to Art, grade twelve.
Addison L., My Five Rules to Art, grade twelve.
Ella B., My Visual Interpretations of Phoebe Bridgers╩╝ Songs, grade ten.
Ella B., My Visual Interpretations of Phoebe Bridgers╩╝ Songs, grade ten.
Lilah D., Fish Eyes, grade nine.
Lilah D., Fish Eyes, grade nine.

A Brief Zinestory

The zine (short for magazine) is an independent publication that allows writers to explore ideas and concepts on their own terms. They are printed on copy machines and distributed and swapped. The zine’s appeal stems from its local nature, which can foster a sense of authentic community.

Zines have a rich history spanning hundreds of years, and they continue to grow in popularity. They are not edited through the lens of a traditional publisher, giving the author complete creative control. The zine itself is a form of resistance, challenging societal norms and ideas.

Many cities host Zine Fests and other events where artists and authors can swap and sell their publications. If you’re interested in zines, the Library of Congress is an excellent place to start, with its wealth of resources for zine distributors, publishers, and libraries.

Let’s Zine Into It

In my classroom, zines are a favorite across all levels (9–12). I like to start the semester with a perzine (personal zine) tailored to each student. We use mind mapping to brainstorm and generate unique and thoughtful ideas. Each page is a glimpse into a student’s inner world, and I love the conversations this project generates right from the start of the semester.

At other times, I leave it up to students to determine the zine theme, which encourages a wide range of choice and voice. I often end the semester with an exam zine in which students are challenged to creatively demonstrate their knowledge of the course throughout their book. To help students enhance their zines, I teach a mixed-media lesson that focuses on layering and adding playful visual interest to the pages. 

Zine-Making Considerations

  • Materials: Zines are low-budget and handmade, so found materials are a great option. I teach students how to fold paper of any size into a zine, but you could also use different materials and binding methods like stapling or sewing. 

  • Theme: Decide whether you want to choose the theme for students or have them pick their own. The choice of theme will determine how they will demonstrate creativity through the pages.

Some common zine themes include traveling, storytelling/narrative, elements of art and principles of design, recipes, artist inspirations, societal issues, and how-tos.

  • Collaboration: What role does collaboration play in the zine, and how can students work together? Will the zines be copied so students can swap them, or will this be an original piece of art that stays with the student? 
  • Display: How will you present the work? The zines could be open to show all the pages at once or flipped to the student’s favorite page on a display board. If the zines have been copied, you could hand them out at an art show. There could also be a reading nook at the show where visitors can sit and read.

The Zineclusion

One of the most important aspects of the zine is how it empowers students to explore their own creativity. There are no right or wrong ways to create a zine, so freedom and choice are at the heart of the book. Zinesters can use any materials available to them to unleash creativity while they think critically about page layout, narrative, and aesthetics.

Zines can be deeply rewarding for you and your students, and they’re accessible to all. They build upon connections between technical skill and artistic expression, encouraging students to ignite the spark of creativity and nurture their inner artist. 

So, what’s your creative destination and how will you get there? Use the zine as a vehicle for creativity and watch the magic unfold!

Megan Newton is an art teacher at Miamisburg High School in Miamisburg, Ohio.

National Standard

Creating: Conceiving and developing new artistic ideas and work.


How to Fold a Zine

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