Bremerton’s first zine fest celebrates DIY creativity

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A wealth of DIY creativity was on display Saturday at the first ever Bremerton Zine & Small Press Festival.

Dani Gray, founder and organizer of the Bremerton Zine & Small Press Festival, stands at her booth with a wealth of zines on display
Dani Gray, founder and organizer of the Bremerton Zine & Small Press Festival, stands at her booth with a wealth of zines on display (Photo by Kitsap Scene)

Dani Gray, the founder and organizer of the event held at Evergreen Rotary Park, is a lover of zines and alternative art. She noticed a lack of events in the area celebrating those things and wanted to bring one here, she said.

Gray started investigating what it would take to put on a zine-focused event in May and ended up teaming up with the city of Bremerton, Kitsap Regional Library, Ashley’s Pub, Pier Six Press, and various partners to bring her idea to fruition.

Zines are noncommercial, short-run magazines. They are typically handmade and self-distributed, and focus on alternative culture topics outside the mainstream. They’re often associated with the punk DIY scene, although they’ve been around long before that; for example, they played a role in the American civil rights movement, and have been used to distribute science fiction, Gray said.

In a world that’s increasingly online, the tactile sensation of holding a publication in one’s hand can be deeply satisfying.

“Because everything is so digitized and online, having a piece of art that you can take with you and that is physical … there’s something special about something that someone poured their heart into,” Gray said. “And the zine culture is very much welcoming and inclusive and it’s less about making money and more about passion.” The festival was a buy-sell-trade event, she added.

People visit booths at the Bremerton Zine & Small Press Festival
People visit booths at the Bremerton Zine & Small Zine Festival (Photo by Kitsap Scene)

One artist, who goes by the name Judith M., said she started getting into creating artwork after she graduated from college. She’s been creating art for around five years, she said.

Learning about zines inspired her to be more creative with her artwork, she said. She learned about the zine fest from Gray and said she was excited to participate.

West Sound Roller Derby, Kitsap’s only adult roller derby league, had a booth at the festival. The team created a zine from scratch to distribute at the event. Called “Roller Derby Is,” the publication features input from each of the team members offering their ideas about what roller derby is, said team member Micaela Petrini.

A row of West Sound Roller Derby's "Roller Derby Is" zine
A row of West Sound Roller Derby’s “Roller Derby Is” zine (Photo by Kitsap Scene)

“We got input from all the team members who contributed a word for a page,” she said, such as “empowering,” “strength,” “community,” “restorative,” and “for everyone.”

Team member Kirstie Williams found photos to accompany the text, and the back of the publication features the rules of roller derby gameplay. “So it’s … what is the game like outside of the game, and then what is it like in the game,” Petrini said.

Karen Sawyer is owner of Bremerton’s Pier Six Press, a letterpress print and design company that creates paper goods of all styles, she said.

“I went to school in Portland, and Portland has a pretty large zine community,” she said. “Letterpress is very associated with book arts, which is very associated with zines, and I just kind of fell in love with letterpress and through that fell in love with small press.”

A display of zines at a booth at the Bremerton Zine & Small Press Festival
A display of zines and small press books at a booth at the Bremerton Zine & Small Press Festival (Photo by Kitsap Scene)

She said it was cool to have an event like this in Bremerton. 

“This is something Bremerton totally needs,” she said. “Zines are accessible and they don’t have to be expensive or super complicated. Anyone can put one together and I think that Bremerton and zines go hand in hand really well.”

Gray said she was pleased with the event’s turnout.

“I love that people are chatting with the artists and getting to know each other,” she said. “Bremerton is full of really cool, quirky people and I’m thrilled to see everybody out and getting to know each other and building community.”

Bremerton Zine & Small Press Festival

Stay up to date on future Bremerton Zine & Small Press Festival events by following the festival on Facebook and Instagram.

Steven Wyble

Steven Wyble is an award-winning journalist who has written for both daily and weekly newspapers.

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