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I (Heart) Zines

Could one-inch buttons squash the production of indie publications?

By Audrey Gagnon

“Where the fuck are the zines?!”

That’s all I could really think about walking home from this year’s Fruit Market (Toronto’s queer answer to Canzine). That and the fact that I was feeling old and confused; oh and buttons… let’s not forget buttons. It was hard not to think about buttons since that’s all I had really seen that day, and come to think of it, DIY kitsch such as t-shirts and buttons seemed to be taking over every zine show I had attended in the last year or so.

Are buttons the new zine?

“Anyone can make buttons” says artist Chris Bentzen. “I hosted button making workshops for a while where people would come in and create little collages or do little drawings and press them into buttons. They walked out of that workshop with something they’ve made–their own little piece of pop culture… or at least a private joke or something they find amusing. That’s part of the button’s cache: it’s fun.”

Chris Bentzen is one half of the partnership that created Hot One-Inch Action, a one night only show of button trading out of Vancouver that inspired Toronto’s own One-Inch Punch button show.

“The idea for Hot One-Inch Action came out of an art show I had of paintings, prints and one-inch buttons,” recalls Bentzen. “The title of the show was Protest/Media and looked at the relationship of media and protest. The use of buttons was meant to represent an aspect of the DIY culture of protesters as well as a juxtaposition of size with the large, six-foot paintings.”

Bentzen’s partner in creating Hot One-Inch Action, Jim Hoehnle, was in attendance the night of the Protest/Media art show. When he and Bentzen happen to run into each other a few weeks later, Hoehnle discussed the idea of doing a one-inch button group show. After having an impressive run with the one-inch aspect of his previous art show, Bentzen was interested.

“Jim and I met the following week to work out the details and the basic premise for Hot One-

Inch Action: a one-night only show of button trading. We thought that the button was a hot commodity and that by simply selling mixed bags of five buttons (rather than offering the sale of a specific button) we could get people to go around and trade the buttons they didn’t want for the buttons they did want.”

The concept proved successful, and by the end of the first Hot One-Inch Action show in 2004, not only were show attendees happily interacting with each other, but also every last button sold out.

Like zines, the button is celebrated in the DIY community because of its accessibility and low production costs.

While technological advancements and greater accessibility to various publishing software has made the production of zines easier and somewhat more affordable, the costs associated with printing still affect a zine’s price tag.

Buttons on the other hand are cheap, easy, and fast to produce.

“You can make some serious money if you make a ‘product’ and sell them at zine fairs.” says Fruit Market creator and co-founder of the now defunct TRADE Queer Things, Jon Pressick. “I’ve dabbled in button, t-shirt, and jewellery-making, and when those things sell at zine fairs, you make way more money than you do with a traditional zine.”

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