"In search of… Luke Sinclair" from "Going Postal!" #2
I always see advertisements for zine distros in review zines, but I´ve never contacted any of them to see if they would be interested in carrying one of my zines. I prefer to know my readers one-on-one. That is, if somebody sees a review of my little publication they have to grab a pen & a sheet of paper, then sit down & write to me personally. I like that. I´m not all that interested in putting massive quantities of zines out there. I prefer to have a small group of people on my contact list, preferably self-publishers themselves, and trade my zines for their zines or a mail art creation of some sort or even an interesting letter. I like to keep it small, manageable, personal.
Then, a couple years ago, I got a letter from Luke at Sticky Zine Distro in Australia. He saw a review of one of my zines & wanted 10 copies for their shop in Melbourne. I stuffed some zines in a big envelope with a friendly note & promptly forgot about it, not expecting much to happen. Imagine my surprise when less than a month later an enormous package arrived from OZ. I tore it open & couldn´t believe my eyes. There was a friendly, appreciative, hand-written note, a wad of cash, & a dozen extremely beautiful, well-written zines I had never heard of before which all hailed from “the land down under”.
I don´t know about other distros, but from my own personal experiences dealing with Sticky I think it´s safe to say that these folks are really providing quite a valuable service to the world´s zine publishers. So, without further ado, here´s Luke in his own words.
What is Sticky and how long has Sticky existed?
Sticky is a little shop which can be found at Shop 10, Campbell Arcade, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. The shop can be found in the subway under Flinders Street Station, the biggest train station in the city.
Sticky is devoted to stocking and promoting zines, independent publications and artist-books. We opened our door in April 2001. We have been getting the zines to The Kids for seven years.
What is your role at Sticky?
I am one of the coordinators at Sticky. The other coordinator is Eloise Peace. As coordinators we take responsibility for the day to day running of the shop, coordinating volunteers, making sure there is someone to work in the shop every day (we are now open 6 days a week), chasing up zine makers to get their work into the shop, paying zine makers for their zines which we have sold, writing grant applications to keep Sticky open, kicking volunteers asses for drinking alcohol in store, doing zine stalls at gigs and zine fairs, taking out the rubbish to the rubbish bin, taking the paper recycling home in suitcases every week as it costs $700 to get a council recycling bin in the city, spending some time reading all the awesome zines that pass through our door, training the new volunteers on how to operate our strange paper based book-keeping systems.
Do you folks actually sell enough zines to pay the rent?
No. Sticky has been open for seven years and two months and we have been unable to pay our rent for seven years. For the first seven years of our existence the organisation was run completely by volunteers and our rent and bills were paid for us by another organisation. In other words we are unable to pay anyone who works at Sticky, we are unable to pay our rent through profits from selling zines and we are unable to pay any bills through profits from selling zines.
Sticky is set up to support the people who make zines and artist-books. 80% of any shelf price goes straight back to the person who made the publication. The 20% we take goes mainly on postage. For example, if we take 10 zines from a zine maker from outside of Australia we offer 10 Australian zines as trade rather than paying cash. To mail these zines is expensive for us but allows us to promote Australian zines across the world.
Sticky operates to a most unusual but beautiful business model. The way it came about was that one of the founders of Sticky, the Melbourne artist Simone Ewenson, visited Amsterdam where she came across a tiny shop devoted to artist-books. When she returned to Melbourne she decided to set up a similar project here. She asked me to become involved as she knew I had a background making zines and artist-books. The idea was to set up our shop space in another organisation´s office space, with the other organisation footing the bill for rent and bills. The organisation that came on board was Platform Artists Group who coordinate public art exhibitions in old advertising cabinets under Flinders Street Station. Platform have been around since 1990 so have a proven history and a reputation around town and in the art world. So we ran our shop in their office space for seven years. They allowed us to do this as they liked our project and our shop acted as a contact point for people visiting their gallery.
In the beginning we had 30 publications on our shelves and after seven years we had supported over 3,500 publications and had completely taken over Platform’s office space, to the point where Platform could no longer work in their own office. So on April 1st 2008 Sticky officially separated from Platform and went out on our own. We took over the lease on the shop and Platform found a new office. Our rent and bills are being paid in 2008 by arts grants from The Australia Council For The Arts (Federal Government) and The City Of Melbourne (local council). Everyone who works at Sticky is an unpaid volunteer.
How did you get into zines/discover zines?
I discovered zines through going to indie rock and punk rock shows in Melbourne in the early to mid 1990’s. There was quite a paper music zine scene in Melbourne at the time. There would often be zine stalls at shows at venues like The Punters Club and The Arthouse, as well as record shops like Au-go-go, Missing Link and Polyester Records having loads of zines on their shelves, as well as book shops like Polyester Books.
By the late 90’s Au-go-go had moved all their zines to a cardboard box and it felt like zines were becoming less and less visible. Through Sticky we wanted to put these amazing things up the front where we thought they deserved to be. Zines such as Woozy were a big inspiration to me. Also Nicholas Ogburn’s Very Ilky zine in the 90’s, as well as everything by Sydney zinester Vanessa Berry.
What zine projects are you working on at the moment?
All the zines I make I work on anonymously. I have been making zines anonymously since 1994. Because in this interview I am representing Sticky I am choosing to not discuss my zines as it compromises the anonymous nature of my zine projects. I sometimes do interviews about my zines but in those interviews I never talk about the shop. Basically I am a tortured and difficult pain in the ass artist.
What can you tell us about the history of zines in Australia?
My involvement with zines in Melbourne goes back to the early 1990’s. The State Library of Victoria here in Melbourne has a great zine collection and the Octopod in Newcastle in New South Wales has a large collection which anyone can have a rummage through.
In February 2008 Sticky coordinated a zine festival called The Festival Of The Photocopier and as part of it we invited the Melbourne poet TT O to deliver a speech on how the invention of the photocopier affected the Melbourne art scene. It was an incredible talk. TT O is in his 50’s and remembers the first photocopier machines arriving in offices in Melbourne and how they were housed in blank, empty rooms and how only one person in the whole office was allowed to operate the machines. He brought into Sticky the most amazing examples of zines from the early 1970’s when photocopying was just becoming widely available. These zines were printed inside on roneo machines but then had photocopied covers as photocopying was new and considered desireable. These days just the opposite is true where the inside pages of zines are photocopied and nice covers are put on the outside. I know Melbourne’s Breakdown Press are putting out an anthology of the zine How To Make Trouble And Influence People which outlines a lot of protest/activist/zine activity in Australia through the years and the 3CR calendar is always a good source of historical information.
What are some of your favourite Australian zines?
It feels like there are so many at the moment. I’m a big fan of Adelaide zine maker Ianto Ware’s zines including Westside Angst, Das Papierkrieg and The Little Nerd Band That Could and also his What Would TinTin Do zine. Everything by Sydney zine maker Vanessa Berry is of awesome quality. There is a zine made in Melbourne called Erinsborough Exploits which is really, really clever and uses still photographs taken off the tv of the Australian soap opera Neighbours and re-writes the dialogue under the photos. Texta Queen is making some really interesting work. Web, Lumpen #3 is a great comic that captures what is going on in Australia these days. Everything by Mandy Ord is unbelievably good. Simon Gray makes some damn nice zines. Jutchy Ya Ya, Foffle is a unique and truly Australian experience. Keg from Sydney does some beautiful stuff including a rather amazing glow in the dark zine which is made to be read under the covers. The Silent Army guys continue to make the best comics in the world. Anwyn and the PO Box 4 Enmore people make some really exciting zines which are mind-blowing in scale like their ‘Post No Bills’ project. The ‘Is Not’ people make a zine which is about two metres by two metres in size and is pasted on walls across Melbourne and Sydney. Breakdown Press are making some great street posters and put out a zine anthology of the first five years of the YOU zine last year. Whoever said print is dead deserves to be publishing their suicide note in blog form right now.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Yes. Come and visit Melbourne. Get in touch and I might be able to help you out with somewhere to stay if you are nice and remotely interesting. It’s a great city. And send your zines to Sticky!! We are always on the look out for new zines so get in touch. Sticky Zine Shop, PO Box 310 Flinders Lane, Victoria, Australia 8009 or firstname.lastname@example.org.