Meet the teens empowering young artists, one zine at a time
Towards the end of middle school, NY tweens Olivia Wein & Lucy Johnston decided to create Loser Zine, a space for young artists to share their work. Twelve gorgeous issues later, Loser has earned a reputation as one of the coolest zines around. GL's own Bailey Bujnosek got in touch with Olivia & Lucy to learn about the zine's origins, the upcoming issue, and their advice for aspiring zine-makers. Read on for some major inspo…
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Girls’ Life: What’s the story behind the zine’s title, ‘Loser’?
Olivia & Lucy: In middle school we decided that we would shoot for and submit to our favorite zine's upcoming issue. We ended up having so much fun planning for, shooting, and putting together the project and were excited to have sent them in. But, of course, sitting in our inbox a couple of weeks later was a quick and simple message saying: “Sorry! This submission does not match our aesthetic, but thanks for your interest!”
Somehow, however, our disappointment did not last long. It was the obvious conclusion in our 13-year-old minds that if this platform wasn’t interested in our work, we would just start our own. There is this lack of fear when you’re young—whether that just be out of naivety or something else—and we knew it could, in some way, be our superpower. And, of course, we knew that we would name the zine after ourselves and our poor rejected submission.
GL: Can you walk us through the process of putting together an issue?
O&L: The creation of an issue always begins with a conversation between the two of us about what is on our mind, what we want to see, and what we feel inspired to create. After deciding on the theme we will create a mood board and announce our own visual inspiration, alongside a short and sweet explanation of the theme, on our social media platforms.
We both get super excited every time we get a submission and will usually talk about them as they roll in. It’s often pretty clear whether or not we can see someone’s pieces working in the issue, but, if not, we will see how it serves the issue alongside the other submissions and decide from there.
After finishing the layout, we release as soon as we can because we’re always ridiculously excited to share it.
GL: Do you have a favorite issue out of the ones you’ve published so far?
O&L: We both have a special affinity for Issue 11: AGE. We had a very clear vision for the issue, and, even more specifically, the cover. Because of that, we were able to focus less on what we were going to do and more on how we were going to make that ‘what’ special. We were able to shoot the cover in a way we hadn’t before and had a lot of fun focusing on how the issue would communicate differently in print versus online (which most of our previous issues were).
It’s also just a fun issue! There was a certain energy in the submissions we received that was different from other issues. It's angry, and optimistic, and naive, and mature all at the same time. We hope to continue this energy in our upcoming issues. We actually just uploaded it for the first time online and it can be read here!
GL: When you’re reviewing submissions—whether in photography, writing, or art—what are you looking for?
O&L: When looking at submissions we look for work that is unlike what we have seen before; We love when a submission is personal to the creator and yet feels very universal. Our favorite submissions are always ones that speak to the theme but not without expanding it into a territory we maybe weren’t expecting. (Ah! Just writing about it is exciting!) Overall, we enjoy seeing each artist's unique perspectives so much and love even more the feeling and perspective all of those different viewpoints create when they are all in one space.
GL: Has the pandemic changed how you’re putting the upcoming issue, "Changing", together?
O&L: The pandemic has greatly changed how we are putting together the issue but even more so has the recent Black Lives Matter movement. We knew when going into the issue that social change is essential to the growth of our society and world (and everything in between), and that not including work that speaks on these issues would be a missed opportunity. However, since the surge of activism and education, we feel even more inspired to and responsible for expanding the conversation through the issue.
Because of this, we reopened our submissions in order to allow for people to share and create work in response to our most recent and pressing current events. We hope to include resources, educational tools, and think-pieces related to and in service of the movement, and we can’t wait to share it.
GL: What advice would you give to GL readers who want to create their own zine?
O&L: DON’T BE SCARED TO START! Beginning is always the hardest part. If there is something you aren’t seeing, if there is something you want to be a part of that doesn’t exist or maybe just doesn’t for you—create it. There is much less to lose than you think, and you will be absolutely shocked to find out how many people will love, respect, and enjoy not only what you have created, but that you have done so despite whatever could hold you back.
Also to not take it too seriously! Creating should be fun and doesn’t have to be professional or even feel like a final product. And lastly, to share (time, experience, what you have made, and appreciation for the arts) with others!
Slider & Post Images Courtesy of Loser Zine.