‘Tangible sharing can go a long way’: The 5Zines club and the power of zine making

Pages of art spiral down. The foremost page reads "Zine!"
(Sasha Matthews • The Student Life)

Shared through word of mouth and containing artistic and political messaging, zines have been a part of a subcultural artistic revolution since the 90s. A wordplay on “magazine,” zines are handmade, self-published booklets that can display poetry, art, prose or just pieces of information for people to ponder. A new club on campus is breathing life into this contemporary mode of communication and creative messaging.

Alex Pedroza HM ’25 is one of the leaders of the new 5Zines club, which came into existence this year. Inspired by the zine collection at the Honnold-Mudd Library, Pedroza wanted a space exclusively dedicated to creating these booklets. 

For many, the appeal of zines lies in their separation from a publishing corporation and lack of intent to advertise products — just the desire to circulate something. 5Zines uses a fairly open-ended definition of zines to experiment within the medium.

“We wanted to create a space where students can take a step back from their schoolwork, and just create a space where that was available in providing art materials.”

Ruby Peterman HM '25

“We define it as anything that you want to materialize and put in booklet form,” Pedroza said. “It’s rooted in an idea that you want to communicate; I think we would classify that as a zine. And obviously definitions vary across locations and generational groups, and things like that.” 

Ruby Peterman HM ’25 is the co-founder of 5Zines and enjoys how the club allows for artistic experimentation as a way to cool down and blow off steam.  

“We wanted to create a space where students can take a step back from their schoolwork, and just create a space where that was available in providing art materials,” Peterman said. 

Pedroza views zines as a unique mode of communication, art and community building. She was determined to start 5Zines with the goal of collaborating with other groups on campus that create zines, such as KSPC and the Claremont Student Workers Alliance (CSWA). 

Zine-making can be used for personal enjoyment and artistic expression but also has the ability to complement grassroots political organizing. Zines can present information about important organizing happening around campus, and CSWA distributed many zines that gave information about Pomona workers’ fight for fair wages

Student organizers distributed zines as a way of starting a conversation about the importance of an increase in pay for Pomona dining hall staff. Pedroza emphasized that the important part of zine distribution in this context is that it relies on interpersonal interaction to obtain a zine. 

“For example, in the labor fight, getting information out about the strikes and workers’ demands at Pomona College was essential,” she said, “Distributing zines was super effective and a quick way to reach a wide base of students, especially a lot of people that are not involved in CSWA.”

In the 5Zines club, all the zines are handmade to maintain the element of creativity and to encourage a more bespoke approach. They have looked to third-wave feminist and punk Riot Grrl subculture zines as inspiration but still encourage attendees of club meetings to come with an inventive mindset. 

“I made a zine about my upcoming midterm where I wrote my notes in it,” Peterman said. “I made one about my late grandmother. I made a collage out of a bunch of faces I ripped out of an industrial workwear catalog. I just intuitively experiment with this type of art.” 

The 5Zines hope to distribute more zines in the future, or to digitize them and add them to the library archives. They hope to be able to contribute to this collection of zines for future generations of students to discover and be inspired by. However, not all zines are for distribution purposes; sometimes people come to the club meeting to make a zine that allows them to reflect on their personal identity.

“I think the power of zines can be kind of underestimated when there are all of these other tools that pervade nowadays, like online marketing tactics, or just social media outreach. I think that the person-to-person level of a zine makes a difference, that tangible sharing can go a long way in reaching people,” Pedroza said. 

Right now, the club aims to provide a space for vulnerable and artistic collaboration. Their parameters aren’t strict, and the mission of this club is to breathe life into this multifaceted  tradition. The meetings are structured so that attendees are able to meet new people and express on paper what matters to them. 

You can keep up with the club meeting times on their Instagram, @the5zines. 

Facebook Comments