Charleston Zine Fest // An Interview With Leigh Sabisch


Written by Kyle Burton

Those with a passion for print are an interesting breed, whether it be magazines, comic books, poetry, how-tos, or any other form of publication, its refreshing to know that there are individuals dedicated to preserving this craft. That's where Leigh Sabisch comes into the picture. Wouldn’t it be convenient if there was a place for zine creators and enthusiasts to collaborate and market their publications? Some sort of showcase that aims to immerse the community into contemporary zine culture? Well, look no further, as it's my privilege to announce the third annual Charleston Zine Fest.

So what exactly is a Zine? Very common question. Zines are typically non-commercial publications usually made in low volume that is often devoted to specialized or unconventional subject matter. Anyone with something to share can make a zine and every zine is different. Topics often revolve around things like feminism, politics, photography, creative writing, etc. The content and quality of a zine varies constantly and those involved with creating these sort of publications are continually testing the possibilities and limitations.

Zines encourage creators to experiment with concepts like bookmaking techniques, out of the box graphic design, and provocative writing styles. Zine events have been popping up across the country for some time now and they're only gaining more notoriety as time goes on. These fairs have been effective in creating an intimate subculture of art and print enthusiasts that often have a rather taboo approach to print media. While zines have been subject to certain skepticism in the world of fine art, we can thank the galleries and museums that feature festivals like this for the increasing notoriety of zines across the country.

Monstieur Comics

Monstieur Comics

When it comes to these sort of festivals Charleston is the ideal setting. As members of the community, the Zine Fest team intends to contribute to and expand Charleston's diverse cultural identity. Charleston is obviously a hub for all sorts of arts and culture but what makes events like these possible is pertinent to gain support from local art establishments. Before Zine Fest, the expansive collaboration between these sort of print media enthusiasts was not as available to the community. At least not in this way. There is an abundance of original, talented creators in this city hoping to interact with one other but they typically lack a space to do so.

Founder Leigh Sabisch agrees, saying the festival is “definitely a great networking opportunity for artists, there isn't really a space for artists who create this kind of work or are involved in this genre, there isn't really a time or place for them to convene and collaborate. I think the Zine Fest creates this sort of thing. I know a lot of the vendors from the first fest are still here and really excited to see each other and see what each other are working on I think it's very important.” As I mentioned before, this will be the third annual zine fest in Charleston. The festival open to individuals of all ages and is taking place on July 28th at the Halsey Contemporary Art Gallery from 11 am to 6 pm. And as always, it's free to the public. There will be over 40 vendors to buy, sell, trade, and talk shop, both local and national. Some participating vendors include Graveface Records, 9 To 5 Magazine, Infinitikiss, Run Riot Media, Tag Say What, Joe Chang Comics and many more.

Oral Zine from Detroit, MI.

Oral Zine from Detroit, MI.

In addition to checking out some of the most dazzling zines in the country, the zine fest here in Charleston also provides some informative and interactive workshops, panel discussions, and some demos that include home printing, bookbinding, and some cheap printing hacks straight from community members and artists who have strong DIY roots. The zine fest team will also be screen printing some original posters! A primary goal is that the festival will inspire more people to create their own zines. Leigh is adamant about this year's fest revolving around informing the zine community about these sort of techniques. Leigh says “I want this year to be more educational, especially towards the vendors. Most of these people aren't working with a huge budget and neither are we so were doing more things like printing methods or cheap printing hacks, because those are huge things you know?”


It was a privilege to sit down with Leigh herself and dissect how the zine fest in Charleston originated as well as how it's been maintained. The first zine fest came about while Leigh was just a Junior in college, her passion for art and printmaking combined to help her and the festival gain visibility in the city and the vendors have nearly tripled from the first year to the third and come from all over the east coast. She referenced her longtime desire to open up a gallery and how that played a role in the aesthetic of the zine fest in Charleston. Leigh emphasized the importance of print media in today's society, as well as her certainty of a continued expansion of this sort of media in Charleston. Her immense devotion to such a niche and independent form of media is remarkable, and she is pioneering the development of contemporary zine culture in Charleston. And the best part, it's free!

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Charleston Zine fest 3.0 is not something you want to miss. There's something special about buying a zine in this fashion, a sense of authenticity because just about every zine is independently designed, copied, bound and distributed by the producer. The extensive list of vendors this year will help to display the variety of zinesters. The zine fest team aims to immerse patrons into a celebration of DIY culture; explosive things can happen when you put this much artistic talent in one room. 

You can find a full list of vendors on the Facebook page

Charleston Zine Fest 3.0

The Halsey Institute

July 28 // 11-6pm







Taylor Czerwinski