Tell your story and find your tribe

18 Jan 2023 Author: Helen Graham and Sammy Riegl

Learn about making zines – and friends – with the crew from Sticky Institute!

Quick links


What is a zine?


Person reading their zine on stage


Zines (pronounced Z‑E‑E‑N) are a type of independent, self-published media. They are typically booklets containing writings and art that have been printed, photocopied, and stapled together by people who want to tell a story (without having to score a book deal first)! They are a great way to read up on niche topics that you don’t see in traditional media, plus you can make them yourself. Victoria has an active zine community with regular events where you can buy, sell, and create handmade publications, as well as connect with people and make new friends. .

We chatted with Helen and Sammy from Melbourne’s Sticky Institute to find out more.


Helen Graham 
Naarm (Melbourne) based artist, illustrator and zinester creating fantastical worlds

Sammy Riegl
An artist, web surfer and pigeon fancier creating in Naarm (Melbourne)

No matter where you are in Australia, there's one thing you can be sure of: people like sport! Whether it's playing on a local sports team or spectating from the couch, sport brings people and communities together. But there are those who aren't that keen on kicking a footy around or don't understand the rules of cricket...

Oh hey, that's us: Helen and Sammy! We grew up in vastly different environments, but share the experience of being an arty kid in a sports-centric culture. Sport was the main social activity in our respective communities. At school, it was okay for P.E class to extend into lunchtime, but art had a strict time and place to occur. It wasn't considered a social activity for friends - just a class at school or something done on your own.

This mindset followed us into adulthood but over time it started to change. Our worlds began expanding beyond school and our social circles grew. We started connecting with people who shared similar interests (like each other!).


a person reading their zine on stage

Creativity and mental health

There’s a pretty special relationship between the arts and mental wellbeing. One that we’ve found provides a lot of positive results:

  • Art brings people together. To create it or experience it.
  • Art gives people new skills. Again to create, or to experience it and talk about it.
  • Art is a teacher. It helps people understand things in different ways.

Learn more about the link between art and mental health

The zine community wasn't the first creative community we were part of. We moved between various creative groups but often felt like we didn’t belong. When studying at university, we mingled with the 'fine art community', which we found to be cold and critical. It was disappointing to realise that although we were surrounded by creatives, this particular community did not provide the openness and support we were looking for.

Discovering zines and the surrounding community was a bit of a shock for us. Being the 'newbie' is scary in any situation, but we found that everyone involved with zines was so generous and open to sharing! It was the opposite experience that we had at university. Veteran zinesters were happy to share the techniques and tips they had learned over their years of creating.

We connected with a diverse group of people including writers, artists and folks who would not normally consider themselves to be creative! Everyone is welcome, even if they haven't made a zine before! There were no secrets, and as we learned over time: part of the joy of finding discounted paper is sharing it with your friends.


Tutorial: How to make a zine

Learn more about the art of self publishing, including tips on printing and distributing your creations, with this handy guide.

Download: Getting to know zines

Or, if you’d prefer a video tutorial, watch the how-to video below:

How to make an 8-page folding zine

More resources

Download: A4 Activity Zine

Download: A4 Blank Folding Zine Template


Aside from geeking out over paper (which is how we spend 90% of our time) we're constantly learning from and sharing so much with this diverse group of people. Thanks to a shared love of handmade publications, we've found a support network of lifelong friends who believe crafting in a group is better! We've finally found a group of people who are happy to spend the afternoon making something with their hands while drinking a cup of tea and having a chat. Crafternoons together have led to new ideas, art and collaborations.

The pandemic put the strength of our community to the test as many things moved online. The zine community rose to the challenge to bring a traditionally analogue medium into the online space. The creation of Quarantine Zine Club, a free online zine library, allowed zinesters to continue creating, sharing and reading zines. Sticky Institute encouraged international zinesters to get involved with, a digital version of their annual zine fair, the Festival of the Photocopier. Alex e Clark built an entire 8-bit world for zinesters to explore for the 7th Annual Hallozeen celebration.

Since being able to leave our houses, we're returned to somewhat regular programming: Sticky Institute’s shop in the Nicholas Building is open again, their Second Location is hosting creative workshops and the Festival of the Photocopier 2023 is coming up soon!

On a personal level, the support network provided by our fellow zinesters was invaluable. It was weird to move our crafternoons online, but we came to love showing each other what we were creating through bad-quality web cameras. It may not seem like much, but watching silly TV shows and working on creative projects together on video calls provided us with the support we needed. It was reassuring to keep up a regular habit of social creativity time, bolstered by our pets interrupting our sessions!

When stocking our first zines at Sticky Institute, we didn't know it would lead to finding a community that is now an integral part of our lives.  Through the zine community, we’ve made lifelong friends who value sharing and accessibility as much as we do. We’re proud that we can now welcome ‘newbies’ into it, just like we once were.

Some people are actively seeking out a community to join and others, like us, might just be lucky enough to accidentally find one. Regardless of what your process is, there’s a community out there for everyone, just waiting to be found.

How to get involved