Zine Queens, Nasa Hadizadeh, Kati Yewell and Natalie Leonard
BY POND Staff
Featuring Nasa Hadizadeh of Alt Citizen, Kati Yewell of Noisy Kids Zine and Natalie Leonard of Pond Magazine.
With the release of the first issue of Noisy Kids Zine at the Alt Space pop-up, we thought we'd bring together three founding editors of the New York DIY zine community and talk origins, present zine culture, and future plans for the three publications.
POND: When was it that you first got interested in magazines / zines?
Nasa: At a very young age I remember reading through as many as I could whenever I encountered a bunch of them.
Kati: My junior year of high school! I was diagnosed with a form of cancer that could be terminal so I wanted to find a way that I could immortalize myself. Basically I wanted to leave a part of who I was behind for others. Creating a booklet or “zine” seemed like the best fit!
Nat: When I was really young my grandmother had signed me up for a subscription to a youth literary magazine called Cricket (does anyone know what i’m talking about?), I was probably 8 or 9 when I started reading them and she continued to have them sent to me until I was in my mid-teens, they were full of original poems and short stories by really amazing authors. I actually still have all of them!
POND: What was the first magazine that you subscribed to?
Nasa: I remember subscribing to The New Yorker because it made me feel sophisticated.
Kati: National Geographic! I hope that doesn’t sound too nerdy haha.
Nat: I think mine was Vogue.
POND: What inspired Alt Citizen / Noisy / POND?
Nasa: I worked on a documentary with my dad during Occupy Wall Street. We met with some radical political thinkers and everyone there shared their views via pamphlets and sheets of xerox paper. I found it really inspiring and when I decided to make a zine, it was important to me that it would be pocket size so it could be easily shared and passed around. I never imagined creating a glossy that would sit pretty on a coffee table. Alt Citizen intends to discover and reveal the humanity that connects us to artists and their work. I wanted to show the conversational side between artist and fan and create a publication that felt casual and matter of fact.
Kati: Well! I first came up with the name “A Noisy Kid,” during my junior year of high school when I was going through a terminal illness. I found out about zines and wanted to create one with my illustrations and thoughts in it! I made about 100 copies with my school’s crappy printer and handed them out to my peers! I thought I was so cool, it’s hilarious. After I recovered, I knew I wasn’t done with zines just yet, but I didn’t know where to go with them so I tucked away the idea for a later time! Then this year during my first year of college, I realized how many amazing, talented friends I have that would work so well together. I wanted to find a way to bring them together! So “A Noisy Kid,” became “Noisy Kids.” What really motivated me to create the zine though, was Keaton Henson’s spoken poem “Grow Up with Me.” I’m at an age where soon I will be an adult and those magical times as an adolescent will fade. I love being a teen! At the same time though, I see so many adults judge my generation as being narcissistic or ignorant which makes me sad. We’re so much more and I want to make the older generations see that. So taking the words of Henson’s poem, by creating this zine I hope the older generations can place themselves in our shoes and really understand where we are coming from! To not just watch us from the side lines, but grow up once again through us and along side us. Being a teen is hard, everything feels 1000x more painful or beautiful. We just have so much within us that needs to get out as a tangible work of art.
Nat: I grew up in a very conservative rural backwards kind of town but come from a very creative and supportive family. Growing up I felt a little isolated but was able to find a connection with like minded people through blogs and zines - my parents were also huge influences. There wasn’t an art or music scene at all where I lived so it wasn’t until the summer after my Freshman year of college when I was interning at a pretty large independent publication when I started to feel a sense of creative community. People were so into what each other were working on, I was so inspired I filled like three sketchbooks in one month with ideas. That same summer was when we launched POND and we kind of just started reaching out to artists and musicians who had made us feel something somewhere along the way. I wanted to help create a space for others to share what they were doing, start a conversation, build a community.
POND: There’s a different process that goes into curating a zine, than curating a platform like Alt Citizen or POND. Kati can you talk about Noisy Kids Zine? How did you curate the interviews, topics and work that is featured?
Kati: I spent a lot of time not only researching artists I knew others were interested in, but also artists I liked and wanted to hear more about! Except not so much about their success, but their stories; you know, what led them up to that point of accomplishment in their life. I chose Tavi Gevinson for the cover and as an interviewee because I grew up with her website “Rookie Magazine,” and the yearbooks during high school. It really was a source of comfort and personal exploration for me. Now I work for Rookie Magazine, and I just thought it’d be such a great fit to showcase someone like Tavi who is only 19 yet so accomplished. I want other kids to know, that just because you are young it doesn’t mean you can’t do something! Each and every one of them has such a powerful voice within them and I want them to know that!
I asked to interview Nasa and Phil, because they advocate for artists like myself and others who are inexperienced and are trying to get themselves out there! Alt Space is doing a great thing, and they should be honored for that. Me & You is this wonderful girl duo, that have and are continuing to do a splendid job of empowering young women. I know from personal experience, and I’m sure others too, how debilitating it can feel when you can’t find happiness in how you look. The imperfections which are small seem so big to each and every one of us! Me & You embraces all those imperfections though, and celebrates them as a sign of strength and durability! I really love that message. Instagram was a great resource for connecting with those artists.
POND: It’s interesting to discuss the differences between all three of the publications. POND is a digital publication that lives solely on the internet, Noisy Kids is strictly print, and Alt Citizen lives in both realms, thus showing that zines aren’t limited to one platform.
Nasa: Yeah! I have a lot of ideas and interests. I love good songs, movie suggestions, art shows, new ideas, and talking about the classics. The blog created a space for me to organize and share these things with my peers.. It also created an opportunity for others to express themselves and share their vibe to a growing audience. The internet is cool but can be limiting. I feel a tangible print creates a more intimate relationship with readers that brings everyone closer. Being online and in hand is our way of combining old school and new school methods of connecting with people and sharing information.
Kati: Totally! I’m filled with bliss over how much attention “Noisy Kids” has already gotten! I never realized it could come this far. I couldn’t have done it without the people I love who push me to embrace who I am! I’ve received a lot of questions recently as to whether or not Noisy Kids will become an online publication or not. I’m on the fence about it, but I think I’m leaning more towards keeping it strictly as a printed publication but who knows! I just love the idea though of there always being a physical copy. So then readers can rip pages out, and hang it on their walls if they find something inspirational! They could also write in the margins then, cut images out, do whatever the hell they want with it! I encourage them to. Whenever I’m having difficulty thinking of a way to create my thoughts tangible as a work of art, I rely on magazines and zines to save the day! I will definitely sell the zine online though and make it my personal mission that even individuals who live in far away places like Japan or Brazil will receive a copy! Let’s start a movement!
Nat: Oh yeah, definitely. Its so crazy to think about what POND was when we first started to what it has transformed into - even within the past six months. I have such a huge appreciation for both platforms, print and digital, and I know that nothing can ever replace a print copy to hold in your hands, but this experience with working digitally has a totally different kind of reward at the end of the day. It's immediate and it allows us as a publication to really feel like we are interacting with our readers. Both print and digital build a different kind of community around them.
POND: What has been your favorite part about being involved with these publications?
Nasa: Meeting my heroes and connecting with people simply based on shared interests. Sharing the things I discover and love and being introduced to art that inspires and resonates deeply with me. Building a community and showing love and support to people who believe in something and don’t hesitate to put themselves out there.
Kati: Meeting everyone! I can’t emphasize enough the amount of joy that fills my heart when I talk to another artist. My whole world lights up. I already can’t stop giggling over the thrill of connecting with these young artists. I can’t wait to meet more!
Nat: I agree, my favorite part is definitely the community and the relationships I’ve built over the last three years. My best friends are the people I've met through POND, not just my staff but everyone I meet through the features that we do. There’s always a show for me to go to or a new artist’s work to look at - I’ve been introduced to so much that I probably wouldn’t have ever seen or experienced otherwise.
POND: Nasa, you just got back from a pretty long road trip, what was that experience like?
Nasa: We hosted shows and pop ups with Alt Space, our gallery and shop, at DIY spaces across the country and collaborated with so many artists and musicians along the way! It was epic! Touring the country and putting ourselves out there the way we did was really special. People really connected to that and every city was so unique and interesting in its own way. It was refreshing to get out of NYC and meet the people who support what you do and like what you bring to the table wherever you go.
POND: There’s a long history with zine making, but within the past year or so, it feels like the DIY zine community has gone through a revival. What do you think sparked this?
Nasa: I feel like technology, social media, internet culture, etc. has opened communication and allows us to express so many different emotions. Wanting to create a zine comes from a very emotional place so I think people are exploring and using zines to communicate their new feelings in a more abstract way.
Kati: For me it was just the sentiment that came with zines. Somehow I feel closer to the artist, by having something entirely handmade in my hands! That’s the cool part about zines you know? That they aren’t perfect, that everything is done with love and care but it doesn’t have to be pristine. It’s also a work of art! Don’t get me wrong, published successful magazines are works of art too. There is so much time dedicated to them to make it something wonderful for you to look at and take in. At the same time though, I think artist’s just have more personal control when it comes to the zines. A magazine could have multiple people working on it, while zines for the most part are created either by one person or a small group of people! Zines are also a great way of getting to know someone. I like to make mini zines all the time about a memory, feeling, whatever it is! I also make zines for friends, with little messages inside! They’re a great way of showing someone that you care about them.
Nat: I have always had a very personal relationship with making a zine, I guess I see them as small journals or diary entries, they can be very intimate and honest portraits of a person or a feeling and I think there's something that will always be appealing about having something in your hands that might not ever resonate or translate the same on the internet. They're a special kind of experience that I don't think people will get bored of.