Arts & Entertainment
3 min

DIY & zinester fair

Queer zine addicts bring pnk flavour to Ottawa

IN FULL SWING. Sean Zio and Faye Estrella are the queer zinesters behind Ravenswing, a do-it-yourself fair. This year's event features the Clothesline Project and Sound Mind, a local indie collective. Credit: (Pat Croteau)

“The way queerness is incorporated into Ravenswing is represented in the name of the event — interpreted as a raven’s wing — which has the strange property of looking completely dark or black, but when hit with the right light, has a prism-like effect of having different colors. I felt this was an appropriate symbol that represented the fair’s safe space, all-inclusive, regardless of race, sexual preference, or gender.”

The rainbow of colours reflected in a raven’s wing is something Faye Estrella holds close to her heart. She and Sean Zio, are both queer zine artists and the co-organizers of Ravenswing Fair.

The Ravenswing Fair, taking place on Sat, May 26 at Elgin Street’s Minto Park, will include many of the now-familiar Ravenswing features: performances by musicians and poets, workshops, and great buys at the tables of local crafters and zinesters.

Ravenswing Fair started as DIY and zine fair. No, DIY is not an extension of the GLBTQ alphabet soup but rather a crafty way of life. DIY means “do-it-yourself” — a method of creating art and crafts and selling them independently.

Zines are the pioneers of the now popular ‘blog.’ The word refers to handcrafted magazines. Written in a variety of formats, from computer-printed text to comics to handwritten text, zines cover fringe subcultures and topics including political, personal, social, or sexual content.

The upcoming Ravenswing Fair maintains a strong focus on DIY crafts and zines but also includes educational workshops and activism. The spring festival will include afternoon performances by Paula Belina, sexy spoken-work artist and Sound Mind, Ottawa indie band. The outdoor venue also lends itself to earthy activities including an urban gardening workshop and a session on block printing.

Take for example Catherine MacDonald-Zytveld, one of the artists at Ravenswing. With her business, Urban Grove, she promises to “clean up Ottawa, one dirty soap at a time.” Recycling old bodybuilding and porno mags, MacDonald-Zytveld picks out only the most amusing and sexy images and attaches them to new bars of soap. She laughs as she describes her favorites, “There’s woman body-builders dressed like Rambo, pictures of Arnold Schwarzenegger and close-up’s of toned men’s buttocks.” These soaps are guaranteed to bring a smile to one’s shower-time or perhaps a moment of inspiration for one’s new springtime look.

For the sophisticated but artistic type, Kathryn Hunt, will be selling her signature jewelry with Carolyn Weiss, as “Gandalf’s Granddaughter. “Hunt has taken reusing to a new level with her line of pendants, which are made from shards of glass — the remnants of a friend’s shattered car window.

And if dreads are your look, and you’re looking to unleash your inner Geisha, then Allison Keller is your girl. Geisha Deconstructed offers synthetic dreadlock extensions and hair pieces with beads, fake flowers, stars and wire. If you arrive with winter still lingering in those locks, Keller’s new beaded, starred dreads will have you feeling fab in no time.

Ravenswing Fair is all about the celebration — of life, of living and of all new beginnings as we enter spring. Organizers Estrella and Zio have found a balance in the festival by also including the deeply touching Clothesline Project. The project seeks to bring healing and a new beginning to women who have experienced abuse in their lives.

Fiona Byrne, project coordinator for WISE (Women’s Initiatives for Safer Environments) explains the project. “The purpose of the Clothesline Project is to break the silence about violence against women and children. I have previously worked in a shelter for women and children fleeing abuse and have seen first hand the challenges and barriers women face when trying to re-establish themselves, find safety and begin their healing journey. An event such as The Clothesline Project allows women and children to see that they are not alone in their experiences; it provides an opportunity to empower each other and break the isolation.”

The Ravenswing event will be one of over 250 Clothesline Projects happening across the world. Women will have the opportunity to express their thoughts by painting on t-shirts, which will be displayed on a large clothesline in Minto Park — literally and figuratively, airing their dirty laundry.

As she busies herself with last minute preparations, Estrella acknowledges the significance of bringing artists and activists together for the Ravenswing.

“What simply started as a way to get DIY and indie culture to Ottawa has really become something more — specifically community-building. We aim for diversity, community spirit, all-inclusive space, solidarity, and the celebration of artistic expression with the freedom to do so. In my opinion, Ottawa can only benefit from having more of that.”