Interview with Broken Pencil's Jonathan Valelly

This weekend, Canzine Vancouver will unfold at the Goldcorp Centre for the Arts. There'll be hundreds of zines, books, and comic vendors sharing their wares. Even better—at 3PM there's a panel discussion on feminism and witchcraft, so. That's pretty much all we need to tell you.

Ahead of the event, SAD Mag's Sarah Thompson chatted with the Editor of Broken Pencil, Jonathan Valelly, about building cultures that arts and people can thrive in, the best advice he's received as a writer, and how zines can change the world. 

canzine2017van_final_bleed.jpg

Sarah Thompson: What does it mean for you to hold a supportive, creative space for artists?

Jonathan Valelly: It’s important to me to break down the divide between artists and “non-artists” or audiences. What I love about zine fairs is that so many of the people attending, walking around, buying or trading zines are themselves creators. And if they aren’t, they might soon be, since zines are so accessible and easy to try! So that kind of collective creative energy and exchange is really important to me to cultivate and nourish. 

That also means taking into account all of the different power dynamics, identities, personalities and approaches that will be at the table and trying to make space for them to be their best. It can mean a lot of communication with participants ahead of time, and a lot of listening ahead of an event so that we can get it just right. That’s not to say we always do, but we try!

ST: What causes or global issues are meaningful to your work?

JV: As a zine fair organizer and community artist, I think it’s crucial to make sure that we are making space for many different lived experiences to share their work, which can mean doing lots of outreach, and getting to know people and their projects throughout the year. Relationships that form at and through zine fairs also go beyond them.

In terms of causes, I think many folks are asking how the DIY arts community can do better to centre Indigenous creators, how Black and other POC artists in our communities can access crucial resources and autonomy, and how to make sure we can do our best to take down the barriers people may face. I’m always learning how to do this better, and I have to thank many of my peers and colleagues for always being patient and committed to that process and sharing knowledge around it. 

ST: What supports are helpful to you as you create space for others? Relationships, creature comforts, institutional support, etc?

JV: One of the most important things for a zine fair is space. Working with the libraries, galleries, and universities who host our Canzine events across the country is essential! The fact that they are open to the world of zines, understand that there’s a particular DIY culture that we value, want to collaborate on accessibility, and are willing to open the space to us is of huge importance. 

Also, there are lots of folks who help out in organizing Canzine in various capacities, from Broken Pencil staff to volunteers to our advisory groups and partners in each city. We are all invested in creating a creative and positive space for zinesters, writers, artists and everyone else who is part of our event. It can’t be done alone!

What keeps me personally grounded working behind the scenes, above all, is eating well! Anyone who know me knows that I love a good meal—even when I’m stressed or busy, I make time to sit down and eat a proper meal. 

ST: If you could offer any advice to young makers regarding managing themselves and their work, what would that be?

JV: The advice that’s gotten me this far is to show up as much as you can for the things and the people you love. There will be things that get in the way, times you need to step back and care for yourself, but never stop completely. Never lose your commitment to your projects and your communities on some level, no matter how deep down or invisible it may seem. 


Whatever you get up to this weekend (and we hope it's rad), make sure you don't miss out on this amazing event, all you zine lovers!