Randy Guthmiller started a zine to make friends. When he moved back to Dallas after college, he would attend gallery openings and leave without talking to anyone. He needed a conversation starter, an entry point to access the sometimes-insular art scene. So he created, SHAPES, a simple publication filled with colorful, unusual figures printed on plain white copy paper, held together by staples. With it, came the question that decorates nearly every new encounter, "Wanna see some shapes?"
"I started making a zine to have something to start talking to people about," says Guthmiller. "And then they knew what I was all about. Because, well, I like shapes."
SHAPES helped him build a community, because in his description it encourages people to live in the moment. The print product demands physical presence, and the shapes themselves lead to more questions than answers. To flip through an issue is not to see triangles followed by squares; instead, each page contains unidentifiable forms. And more than a dozen issues later, he's interested in spreading the community he's found in zine making by launching a zine publishing business.
"It's a very democratic way of producing art and sharing it," says Guthmiller. "I know people want to make zines but maybe don't know how. So if someone pulls together something they want to share, I'll deal with the printing and the copying."
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Guthmiller, whose background is in painting and printmaking, has been encouraging artists he knows to make zines for months, but he found the inspiration to start a tiny publishing house while at Zine Fest Houston. There, he met dozens of fellow zine makers, alongside self-published comic books. And he wants to bring something similar, so he's planning the first Dallas Zine Party for next year and looking to build a community with both the zines that already exist and the ones that he helps bring into existence.
"Not a lot of people know about zines, there's not much zine culture here," says Guthmiller. "You hear about some zines that exist here, but not enough people know about it, or don't know where to find them. It could be fun to bring that energy here."
One of the immediate relationships he built was with the Dallas Public Library with which he's partnering to bolster the zine collection. He will give them a copy of every zine he makes with his publishing company. The first artist he's working with is Patrick Romeo, who will embed QR codes into the pages that will read poetry to you through your iPhone.
Interested in making a zine? Contact Guthmiller.