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Harbouring an early passion for the DIY elements of zine making, Barbara Frankie Ryan and her Tatty Devine expo celebrates female talent in this intimate and creative form

The 19-year-old zine veteran Barbara Frankie Ryan is in the midst of putting the finishing touches to GIRLS + ZINES, her first solo exhibition opening at Tatty Devine this week. Handmade in her bedroom to hand out to kids at school before she even knew what a “zine” was, Barbara’s BFR Mag is a little matrix of wittily captioned illustrations that vacillate between sharply honest vulnerability and hard-edged cheeky humour, punctuated by playful discussions of fashion. And it is this highly entertaining style that has Tatty Devine proclaiming BFR Mag to be one of their favourite zines.

For 'GIRLS + ZINES', Barbara put together a special zine that centres on girls who make them, including an exploration of the history of zines along with useful and funny advice on how to make one. She has also amassed over sixty multifarious zines made by girls, ranging from ones about sci-fi and volcanoes to one on guilty pleasure television and a Spanish-language zine about music, which will all be on display for browsing and available from the zine-exchange booth. Dazed Digital sat down with Barbara amongst her collection of zines to consider the relevance and intimacy of the medium, the importance of celebrating female talent and photocopying bums on school photocopiers.

Dazed Digital: What is it about this medium for you?
Barbara: I love most things that are DIY and intimate. The ace thing about making zines is that, in my opinion, they don’t require high levels of training to produce, anyone can have a go at making one and that’s what really excites me. All you need is the golden triad: paper, pen, photocopier… then you’re good to go! And I just love the quality of photocopiers, I find it so charming.

DD: Why "girls" and zines?
Oddly most of the people I have met through zines have turned out to be girls, so it made sense to centre this project on celebrating “Girls+Zines”. Although there are so many great zines made by guys, especially those by Lovenskate. It's a celebration of girls making stuff and just getting on with what they do! But the most important thing, I think, is celebrating that zines are still being made today and relevant despite the growth of the internet. And I think they are relevant because the internet is so permanent and accessible, but zines are like a secret club; you can put them in the bin and next to no one will know it ever existed! 

DD: Have you found any common themes in girls’ zines?
Most of them were reassuringly honest and funny to read. A lot of them draw on personal experiences, similar to diaries which is great for nosy people like me to flick through. And a large number were illustrators and artists showcasing their latest work. My favourite is "Bumzine". It's published anonymously by this girl who photocopies her bottom on the college photocopier. "Volcano Club" is ace too – it's a really nerdy zine about everything volcano related.

DD: Where do your best ideas come from?
Barbara: Drawing every day, trying to get ideas out. I like drawing from life and I think if you’re good at drawing from life you can be better at drawing from your mind. And boys! It’s always boys I draw about! Yeah, really stupid things like: “I miss finding you in my bed.” Stuff like that. Just things that are true.

Text by Zita Abila

Barbara Frankie Ryan’s GIRLS + ZINES: August 3 – September 4, 2011, Tatty Devine, 236 Brick Lane, London