Micropress is the distribution of self-produced printed works on a small scale. It’s not a widely explored art form, but zine creator Mackie Garrett is set to change that in Iowa City with his new studio at Public Space One.
Mackie Garrett is on a micro-mission.
The zine creator teaches micropress publishing at Public Space One. The local nonprofit organized the first of three workshops on March 20, where Garrett seeks to expand the artistic, performative and political opportunities the skill can provide.
A micropress is a small-circulation publisher. Garrett’s studio focuses on the publication of “zines”, that is, the distribution and small circulation of self-published works.
The next sessions of the workshop will take place over the next two Sundays.
Executive director John Engelbrecht said he immediately knew a micropress workshop would be successful at Public Space One in part because of Garrett’s passion for teaching it, but also because of how the art form aligns with the company’s artistic values.
“I hope this not only gives them a formula for making things, but dispels the idea that there is some authority or gatekeeper that stands in the way of the artist,” Engelbrecht wrote in a email to The Iowan Daily. “I hope this workshop will empower people to publish.”
Over the course of the three-week workshop, eight participants will learn the performative aspects of micropress publishing, such as duplication and distribution, and work with printmaking materials such as typing, photocopying, stamping, and printing. hectograph – an etching technique that uses gelatin to make multiple impressions using a master sheet.
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Garrett has taught other types of printing, but this is his first micropress workshop. He said it was still experimental at this point.
“The goal of [the workshop] is to foster some community over the few weeks that we’ll be together, and to really create a safe place where people can take any idea they have – whether it’s more literary, or often more image-based and art too – and do a book add-on during our time together,” he said.
Garrett is a member of the Iowa City Press Co-op, PS1’s community-access print and book art studio, where he said he first became interested in publishing. on a small scale in 2016. Combined with his existing passion for poetry, the co-op set him on the path to micropress and zine-making.
A unique aspect of micropress is its “old-school touch,” Garrett said, noting an example of how micropress methods couldn’t be used to produce newspapers today. It would be chaotic to use in today’s fast-paced society, he said, which makes using art more engaging and personal for the micropress community.
“It involves a lot of collaboration and a lot of community, poets, artists and stuff,” Garrett said. “But it’s not a full-fledged small press either – it’s distribution work, but in a much smaller, localized way.”
Garrett said Rich Dana, another Iowa City Co-op member, was responsible for some of his initial exposure to micropress techniques through workshops Dana taught.
Dana has written a book about outdated printing methods used in micropress titled Cheap copies! THE OBSOLETE! Press Guide to Hectography, Mimeography and DIY Spirit Duplicatingwhich serves as both an instruction manual and a history lesson on these technologies.
Dana said he thinks it’s great to bring micropress and other obsolete printing technologies to life as an art form through the studio, and that Garrett’s perspective as a poet is beneficial, as the micropress is a popular way to share poetry.
In addition to micropress artistry, Dana said she can also make a strong political statement. He referred to Lisa Ben, a zine creator who used Micropress technologies in the late 1940s to create the first lesbian publication in the United States, Vice versa.
“It has a strong tradition of being used by marginalized communities to publicize their causes,” he said. “So, you know, I think that part is just as important as the artistry.”