Their Week at Zine Camp: Oil and Cotton and the Art of Making an Interesting Youth

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Completely original artwork by Michaela Meyer.
Michaela Meyer didn't trace those pictures of famous cartoon cats that you see at right. She drew them "free hand."

"Free hand:" That's a phrase that takes me back to her age. The summer before sixth grade, to be precise. Certain kids just hit an artistic growth spurt, the same way others shot eight inches taller. Talent bulged out all around me in the form of comic sketches and voluntarily written short stories and images drawn without the aid of someone else's lines. These were warning signs, foreshadowing that some in our class would go on to live wildly interesting lives -- as long as they don't surrender their talents by dismissing them simply as "hobbies."

The room where Michaela drew this, a large studio in the back of the Oak Cliff art space Oil and Cotton, has become a youth think tank. It's Friday and the week was spent writing and editing. Drawing and silk screening. Creating poetry and collages and learning abstraction methods of story creation. Now they're putting on the final touch by hand-binding their publications. Their zines.

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Michaela Meyer loves cats and art.
Oil and Cotton's owners, Shannon Driscoll and Kayli House Cusick, have been looking forward to this camp since winter. Summer of 2012 is the shop's first attempt at introducing local youth to zine culture through educative programming.

Cultivating the itinerary required a half-year of planning; they got added support by reaching out to The Writer's Garret, the local literary booster. The organization sent them some help, a youth educator named Lisa Huffaker. She's sliding from child to child, encouraging them on everything from their use of shading gradients to their mastery of thematic repetition.

Local artists also pitched in, including Brandi Strickland who donated visually inspirational paper scraps. (Which the students have viewed as treasure and have appropriately ransacked.) In the back of the room, a volunteer is keeping the potentially messy task of silk screening each cover from becoming an actual messy one.

Needless to say, everyone here is into it.

It's a wonderfully personal point in growing up, this age bracket. Most are between 8 and 12, though a few older kids sit across the room. It's a time when kids think about upcoming milestones regularly and have an almost obsessive need to document their lives through notes, diaries and other collectable acts of expression. But before this week, the thought of scrapbooking personal experiences with zines hadn't occurred to these students. That's probably because nobody here had ever heard of them before.

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For some, zines are staples of the D.I.Y. punk rock and riot grrrl scenes. A way of telling the world about bands or philosophies that aren't being written about by major publications. For others, they're a way to convey the most meaningful contents of a city, a movement, or moment in time by producing a tangible artifact. In any sense, they are homemade pamphlets, soft-bodied short books or tiny magazines that -- at the time of their origin -- express an original idea. Years later, reading them is like opening a time capsule.

It's a job that blogs have stripped away. Sure, it's easy to say that electronic expression is more modern. That zines have become antiquated methods of launching ideas into the world.

I disagree. Especially here, in this room.


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Oil and Cotton

837 W. 7th St., Dallas, TX

Category: General

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