HFZF Zinester Interviews – Sheila from Shameless

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sheila sampathTell us a little about yourself and your zine/project/distro.

My name is Sheila; I’m an activist and a person-who-makes-stuff. I am the creative director of an activist design studio called The Public where I make art for the revolution and the editorial and art director of Shameless where we make a magazine for the revolution. I make other things, too, like music and clothes and friends.

Shameless is a fiercely independent, volunteer-run, feminist magazine for teen girls and trans youth. It was founded in 2004 by Melinda Mattos and Nicole Cohen, and I’ve been working on it in different capacities since 2006. Shameless started off as an alternative magazine for “girls who get it” and has grown into an intersectional, activist magazine for teen girls and trans youth. We publish a print magazine three times a year and we have a website with a very active blog. 

How did you start making zines? Who/what influenced you?

I started making zines as a teenager, mostly as a way of connecting to other people who liked the same music as I did. It was early-internet days back then, so I made zines as a way of annotating mix-tapes and exploring longing and suburban boredom. They were personal zines and fanzines.

When I was a little older, I joined the editorial collective of a political zine called Big Boots, which was for and by women of colour. Working with other people to co-create a submission-based zine was an amazing experience; for me, it re-framed the act-of-making to something that was more collaborative and to something that built community.

What does it mean to make feminist zines/do feminist diy publishing?

More than a specific politic, feminism, for me, is a commitment to anti-oppression and a process of unlearning, re-learning and figuring things out as you go along. In other words, my feminism is DIY, full of mistakes and hacks and small joys and lots of fails. The process of zine-making (or magazine-making, or crafting!) is a fairly similar one, and it’s great to find ways of incorporating those politics and learning, not into into the content of what I’m producing, but also the processes by which I produce new work.

Tell us about a feminist who inspires you to keep working on your zines/projects.
I am constantly inspired by the entire Shameless staff. They are smart, hilarious, tireless, and hasn’t been a single time I’ve interacted with them where I haven’t left feeling so much gratitude for just even knowing them. I owe so much of my political learning to them, and feeling accountable to such wonderful people, such wonderful community, definitely helps stay  motivated during all those late nights, early morning and last-minute print-deadlines.

What excites you about Hamilton Feminist Zine Fair or the idea of feminist zine fairs in general?
For me, zines and zine-making is a way of working out ideas; the thought of a single space where we can have a chorus of voices, working things out is incredibly exciting for me. Feminism is a life hack, at a world that isn’t built for us. And zine-making is an art-hack, in a media landscape that it increasingly inaccessible. Having a space for these two hacks to come together is so exciting, and I’m looking forward to seeing how different people interpret and imagine this experience and what comes of it.

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