sweet-thang turns 4
Happy birthday to us!
Founder Zoe here! This is a zine I made in celebration of all of the incredible things that sweet-thang has achieved in its four years of existence. I hope you enjoy it! Here are a few reflections from me about how I feel about sweet-thang and its growth, as well as its future. I could say a lot more but wanted to keep it informal and short and sweet. Much love to all of our supporters, whether you've been here since issue 1, or along the way. Thank you.
Four years ago today, I set up a Bigcartel and uploaded images of issue one for sale, and people actually bought copies! It was summertime, I had just completed my A-levels - life felt magical. A lot was happening in the art / DIY spheres at the time: groundbreaking magazines were launching, as were music collectives and pop-up exhibitions. From 2015 (ish) onwards, I saw a beautiful community of young POC-led collectives start to surface, and I knew I wanted to be a part of it.
I entered the zine world from a place of innocence and bliss: I had been writing a diary-like blog and was connecting with other determined, excited and creative teens, around the time when being a "teenage blogger" was still cool. I say this because barely any of us had Instagram yet, as it was still a relatively new social media tool. So what I felt in blogging, looking back, was a fun "Style Rookie" type energy, (because we all know Tavi Gevinson's legacy was a cultural reset - correct me if I'm wrong haha). Everything felt free-spirited and non-judgemental in this corner of the Internet. Everyone seriously wanted to support each other and make their own stuff!
Once Instagram became the popular thing to be on, blogging kinda died down, and so did the manner in which we all communicated with each other. After just needing to upload a picture and write a short caption, blogging started to feel like effort. Nevertheless, I'm grateful, because by then my love for connecting with like-minded individuals through art and self-publishing was already deep-set, and thus the idea for sweet-thang was born.
Zines: collages, hand-written elements, folded edges, angry and expressive voices, poetry, illustrations, photography. Zines felt like home. They're such an easy format to explore your own creativity. Using your own hands, you can create a little world and inspire others to do the same. sweet-thang is exactly that. Publishing new and exciting voices, celebrating Black art.
Over the years of running this platform, it's become more than just a space for publishing work. It's a space for discovering the artists themselves. I remember when a dear friend and long-time contributor to sweet-thang said that she was approached by a company because they had seen her poetry in one of our issues. That was such an exciting feeling!
From collaborations with other zinesters and venues, the world of self-publishing could not be more vibrant and electric. People have found their communities, people are creating, producing, organising. It's incredible. Part of me does wish that things didn't always feel so competitive - now that Instagram has become a business tool, it is sometimes difficult to not imagine using every post to drive engagement and gain more followers, something that stunts organic creativity in my opinion. Whether we like it or not, Instagram has turned us into these "content creator" machines, and it's weird. People who are on the algorithm's "good side" will laugh this off because they're doing fine. But seriously, sometimes I think that Instagram and the culture of toxic productivity and "CEO-boss-babe-founder-life" is killing creative joy. We commodify absolutely everything. Long live capitalism I guess, *rolls eyes*
Anyways, let me not rant. Perhaps that blissful, free-flowing energy of creation will make a comeback. At least with zines, I know that essence is kind of always there.
So, happy four years to this space. Thank you to absolutely EVERY.SINGLE. contributor, to the folks who buy our issues and share their kind words of support. Love, love and nothing but love. Let's see where the next four years take us, eh?
We did actually just make a Twitter. Follow us here! 🖤