Wasted Ink Zine Distro: Community Building through Creative Expression
What does it take to turn your passion for DIY publications and community-building into a business?
I sat down with Charissa Lucille and Marna Kay, Co-Owners of Wasted Ink Zine Distro in Phoenix, Arizona to find out.
In 2015, Charissa and Marna opened up the first and only Zine shop in the Valley to create a space for people to learn about, look at, create, and buy self-published zines. Between full-time jobs, personal projects, and life, they’ve managed to create a special place for people to come together and express themselves and share individual perspectives.
Beyond the shop, they regularly organize poetry readings, open mic nights, pop-up zine shops, and workshops for zinesters of all ages.
So if you’re looking for a place filled with openness, acceptance, and creativity, look no further than Wasted Ink Zine Distro. To learn more about their journey, from when they first fell in love with zines to the struggles and rewards of running a business, be sure to check out the video!
Photo courtesy of Josh Loeser
In this interview, you’ll learn:
- What a zine is, and why self-published books/magazines are an important art form
- How WIZD got started, and why Charissa and Marna decided to make their zine shop a collaborative effort
- The rewards and sacrifices of running a community oriented business
- Where to look if you want to learn more about creating your own zine
- and a TON more!
Amanda: Hell, and thank you for watching another aftrART artist interview.
Today I am here with Charissa Lucille and Marna Kay. they are both artists, zinesters, and co-owners of Wasted Ink Zine Distro in Phoenix, Arizona. WIZD acts as a home to self-publish zines from all across the country. The shop also serves as a place for events like poetry readings musical performances and workshops.
Amanda: Can each of you share a little bit more about your background? Marna do you want to start?
Marna Kay: I’ve been in the zine scene since I was 17. I wanted to write some really hard-hitting articles but my journalism teacher was kind of against it. Me and a few friends of mine decided to actually start doing a zine to write about things that we thought mattered.
We did it for seven years and in that seven years, I just fell in love with the zine scene and everything that it was about.
Charissa Lucille: I was in my last year of college and I really just needed an outlet. I was studying journalism and I just felt like I didn’t have a place to publish what I wanted to write. And so I was sitting with a friend explaining my frustration and she said, “Well why don’t you make a zine?”
And I was like, “I need to go make a zine right now.” So I went home in a month later I had started my first zine without really even knowing what I was diving into.
Amanda: Why was it important to make a physical space rather than a website shop or an Etsy shop or something like that?
Marna: So we decided to have a physical space because zines are a physical medium. Having it online, you don’t get to see it. You don’t get to feel it. You don’t get to let it influence you. It’s just not the same as coming into a store and picking up a zine and looking through it.
Charissa: In Phoenix, you sometimes would find zines in coffee shops or sort of tucked away in various bookstores, and things like that. There wasn’t a place just dedicated to zines, and we really wanted to make sure people understood that this is a valid art form and not just something you find with a bunch of flyers and stuff. We decided to open WIZD to give zines a good home.
Amanda: So why did you decide to take on WIZD together and what are some of the challenges that you’ve experienced just because it’s not just your own thing you have to work together to do it?
Charissa: I think that it was kind of a no-brainer to us to do this together because we were both so already involved in the zine community, whether it was local and in different states.
And I think that we both bring different skills to the table and we balance each other out pretty well.
It was kind of like, “you want to do this thing?” And we were like, “yeah let’s do the thing.”
It had always been a dream of Marna’s to open the shop and I heard that and really just felt like it was really important it was like the next step for us as friends and us as business collaborators.
Marna: Yeah, when I moved here I didn’t know any zinesters at all. And then I met Charissa she I just had so much passion when I was talking to her.
So the first time we met was at Coffee Cartel and we were talking about the LA Zine Fest and stuff like that and she just lit up. She was just so passionate about it and I was like, this is the person I want to work with, you know. It seems to me like she loves zines more than I do! You know?
So we got together and she told me about this place opening up and she was like, “Do you want to do this? Do you want to do zine shop?” And I just like was like, what?!
It was crazy. It all happens so quickly.
We honestly didn’t know like how things were going to turn out, obviously. But as time went on, we realized that us as partners actually worked really well because she has different interests in the scene. Her introduction into the zine scene and how it’s like transgressed, what it is now, is very different than when it was when I was getting into it 10 years ago. She’s more into the literary part of it, and I’m into the more musical, underground part of it that.
It just works out and we’ve noticed that working together, we’re able to encompass an entire demographic of people. So she gets this one side, and I get this one side. And then we just bring people together!
It’s hard sometimes because our work ethic is a little different. But the reason why it’s just gone crazy haywire, like everybody just knows and we’re just blowing up, is because we’re able to reach out to different people.
Amanda: What is it like running a community-oriented business while working full time, while working on your own creative projects? How do you find the time to do all this?
Charissa: It’s exhausting. But the reward is so worth all the effort.
Even thinking about my own projects, it’s harder to make my own work just because of the shop and all the different events were doing and things like that. I really have to push to find time, to make time for my own projects, and just make sure that I’m more lenient with myself on deadlines. Because life happens and this shop comes first.
Marna: Yeah, it’s definitely very exhausting but also very fun. This is just my lifestyle.
Having WIZD is incorporated in all of my creative projects. I use it as a tool to help me meet people and to go places where I wouldn’t normally go, just to promote the shop, and also my creative endeavors, and also meet others that, in turn, help the shop out because now we’re making connections in different places.
Actually getting my zine out and stuff, that’s the hard thing.
Charissa: Because we both work full time and we’re also doing the shop, it just requires expert communication between the two of us. Like very good planning.
Marna: we also have two very amazing volunteers this time around since we’ve opened the shop here in Phoenix, that have helped us exponentially. When we were in the Tempe shop we were opening the shop every weekend. If we didn’t open the shop there was a potential that we would lose money or visibility.
So having these volunteers come and help us out has just been so great. And I think that really helped us mentally, and our spirits too, you know.
Because it is a big responsibility having a community-based type business. Very big. And it’s hard to try to be always physically and mentally available for people needs, while also trying to fulfill your own.
Amanda: how can others use these as a form of self-expression and why are zines important?
Charissa: Zines are important because there are no rules about them. You can make whatever you want, whatever size you want, whatever color. You really have complete artistic freedom within zines. And they can be platforms for different types of topics – whether you’re publishing your poetry, or you’re publishing your artwork, or you have something to say that’s more politically focused. Zines are just a really good platform for all different types of language and words.
And if you’re excited, or you want to learn more about zines, a great place to come is our shop. So that you can sort of integrate yourself with a community and learn where to start, how to print, what format you like. There’s a lot of resources here that can get you started.
I think that’s one of the most important parts about our shop. Is it lifts people up and give them the tools they need to make a zine and sell it.
Marna: I just think is really important because everybody has a story to tell, and everybody’s story is very important.
When I was doing things when I was younger, as a teenager, I wanted to be heard and I wanted to feel important and empowered. And I felt like, because zines were so easy to do and cheap, I was able to do that. Because having video, being a videographer, you have to have all the equipment. Photography — same thing, you know.
But with zines, all you need is an interest, or a belief, or a passion that you want people to know about, or to share information with. And zines are just the easiest way to do that.
Amanda: How did you prepare to open your own business and start WIZD? What kind of skills are experienced do you think helps make that happen?
Charissa: I think that we had laid the foundation by sparking interest about zines ahead of time by doing monthly zine nights, tabling our zines in various places. We had enough interest that when we decided to open up it was a kind of a no-brainer to people. People already sort of knew what it was.
And then we just began using our own social media platforms to do calls for different zine vendors, as well as donations to our library. That first wave of zines that came in was so inspiring and exciting because we had just started. I think that we really were successful because of the groundwork that we laid beforehand, and then just continuing that the whole time we’re open.
We’re always trying to do more outreach, and meet new people, and get new people in the shop.
Amanda: what do you wish you would have known before you started?
Marna: I still think like to this day I’m learning about how to run a business and how to just keep up with things that are backing stuff. I don’t know any of that, you know. I know a little bit but I’m not a pro. I didn’t go to school for business.
I mean, Zine mentality, hello, it’s not like that at all. We try to be not corporate at all, you know. We’re very, just, loose.
So it was just hard for me to get into a routine and try to be on time for things. It’s still hard for me. But I’m learning.
And I think what’s the most challenging part of having a community-based business is being aware of you, and your actions, and your words. That was very hard for me to be aware, of and really think about how I’m representing myself and how people perceive me. So it’s always it’s just a continuous learning process.
Charissa: I wish I had known how to handle extreme and rapid growth. Because that’s really what we encountered.
You know, we started off with maybe 35 vendors. We thought, “Oh this is exciting.” And then really diving into the zine fest, and everything just kind of exploded. And now moving into this new location has really helped with that. It’s just a matter of making sure that the momentum continues and how to keep up with it. And keep zines in the shop because we are selling out like crazy!
Photo Courtesy of Jose Romero
Marna: Yeah, I think the Phoenix Zine Fest definitely made us more visible, because I feel like ever since then has just been insane.
Charissa: There were always smaller events that were zine focused that existed. But after being to the LA fest, the Long Beach zine fest, the Oakland Zine Fest, like we’ve been to so many. We really wanted to show people what that felt like and what that looks like. And our first zine fest was extremely successful. We had 65 vendors. We only planned it with three people, so that was kind of intense. this year we have a much bigger and better team and we can’t wait to do the second zine fest, and get more people interested and traveling from different states.
Marna: Just zine fests, in general, are widely known. And it’s national! There’s almost a zine fest happening in every state. Now we’ve become just way more visible so we’re just way into it.
Charissa: There was someone the other week who said, “Oh my god. Did you go to the Phoenix Zine Fest?” and we were like,”yeah… we did it!”
Amanda: Where do you see WIZD going in the next couple years? Do you feel like you’re going to be sticking it out for the long term?
Charissa: My vision is to just continue growing it and to have a good variety of zines in here. To have more workshops and different events that happen, and just continue to build the same community and provide support for artists.
Marna: Yeah, 100%.
Amanda: Is there anything that you want somebody watching this video to understand about making art or creating zine?
Charissa: I would say don’t take no for an answer.
And always find a way to make your art happen, and put your art first as priority.
Photo Courtesy of Jose Romero
Marna: You shouldn’t let anybody tell you that you can’t do something, or you can’t say something, or you can’t feel something, or you can’t BE something.
If you want to do something, and you want to do it now, then do it now! Yu have the capability to do that on your own. You don’t need anybody to make you wait to do something.
Charissa: like you’ve made it in the art world because you make art. Because you’ve made it. You are your own stamp of approval.
Amanda: Thank you for watching. If you’re in the Phoenix area, be sure to check out WIZD, located at The Hive on 16th Street between McDowell and Thomas and you can also find them online at WIZD-AZ.com and across social media. if you want to see more videos like this and get practical tips and resources for artists be sure to subscribe!
Connect With WIZD
Visit the Shop:
Wasted Ink Zine Distro
2222 N 16th St
Phoenix, AZ 85006
Buy Zines at WIZD’s NEW Online Store!
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