Interview with Make Room Zine: Alex Francis, Nina Hamer and Katie O’Rourke

Make Room Zine Issue 1

The Cover and Envelope of Make Room Issue 1

Alexandra Francis, Nina Hamer and Katie O’Rourke met on the full-time course at Shillington Manchester in 2017. Forming a tight friendship group, they wanted to put their collective minds and creative skills together to create a zine. The topic? Something they know a lot about: women and their creativity.

Like that, Make Room Zine was born. Launching with a sell-out issue in the summer of 2019, the zine is celebration of female-identifying creatives and a chance for the Shillington graduates to explore their own creativity. We caught up with them to learn more about how Make Room started, what the future holds for it and about what these three amazing designers have been up to.

Make Room Zine: Alex, Nina and Katie

Alex, Nina and Katie

Tell us about Make Room Zine. How it started and what its aims are?

After Shillington we wanted to work on something together, and we’re all really passionate about celebrating women and their creativity so it seemed like a natural fit. The more we were exposed to the creative industry the more we realised that there was a real lack of women at the top—even though there are so many talented women out there doing amazing things. We wanted to celebrate these women, working at every level.

A zine seemed like an accessible and cheap way of approaching a personal project, and we’re all really big fans of printed media. We played with loads of different ideas for the name of the zine, but ‘Make Room’ just seemed to say it all—unapologetic, loud and direct in its message. Our aim is to celebrate female-identifying creatives, lift other women up and also have space to explore our own creativity. It’s still pretty new, so we’re sure it will evolve loads; moving forwards we really want to feature more women and their work.

There’s some incredible content in Issue 1. We were particularly struck by ‘Period Play’—your menstruation board game. Can you explain how this came about?

We wanted to do something to highlight Every Month Manchester, a brilliant charity in our home city which takes action to help alleviate period poverty. Also, the first issue has the theme of ‘beginnings’ and, as periods are a pretty integral part of our lives, we wanted to feature them in some way. Menstruation can still be a taboo topic, which is ridiculous as half of the population bleed, so we wanted to address it in a lighthearted way. We also thought it would be fun to make something a bit interactive!

Issue 1 was riso-printed on to some gorgeous paper stock and bound by elastic. Can you tell us your processes and how it was made?

How long have you got?! We were lucky enough to have the paper donated by the amazing Jane Crowther at GF Smith, so that was a great start. We looked around for a while and found a risograph printer to rent—which proved a little challenging! We had to teach ourselves how to use it—not the easiest, especially because the laptop we had to use was all in German (so we now know a bit of German printing terminology, useful). We developed a bit of a love-hate relationship with the risograph printer, which we nicknamed Rafael; he had some serious mood swings, with a tendency to get jammed and an outright refusal to print anything half of the time.

We eventually saw sense and a little over halfway through the printing (and the best part of a year later) we got in touch with Marc the Printer in Salford, who kindly finished the job off for us and bound and trimmed it all for us. We still had to put the finishing touches on ourselves—including attaching the green and pink cover pages, adding in some postcards we designed and stamping the outer red envelopes. And well over a year after we started, we were finally ready to sell it!

How has the first issue been received? We saw you got it in to some local shops!

We’ve been really pleased with how it’s done! We printed about 80 copies and they’ve all sold which is amazing. It’s been lovely being tagged on Instagram by people who’d bought a copy and found something in it to relate to.

Getting the zine into Magma was an especially surreal moment! We contacted them on the off-chance because it was always our aim to sell it there, but when they agreed to sell it we were pretty shocked! It also sold out in Rare Mags in Stockport and Steep & Filter in Skipton.

What can we expect for the future of Make Room Zine?

Well we’re getting started on Issue 2 as we speak! The main aim is to get more people involved and celebrate more amazing female-identifying creatives. We want to move into different expressions of creativity beyond our own skill sets—which is where the collaborations will come in. We’ll be on the lookout for writers, poets, photographers and more to work with. We’re planning on having the theme of ‘mistakes’—mostly a nod to the amount of things we did wrong/went wrong of their own accord during the first issue! But we think it’s a theme that everyone will be able to relate to, especially in the creative industry.

What’s it been like collaborating with fellow Shillington graduates on the zine? What makes a successful collaboration?

We came out of Shillington really good friends, so it seemed natural to work together. We’re close enough to be really honest with each other; it’s no holds barred, and no one’s afraid to voice an idea or have it shot down if it’s not quite right. It’s been such an enjoyable process, even when it hasn’t gone to plan. And that’s mostly down to the fact that we don’t take things too seriously and we’ve never let it become a stressful thing. Weeks, and sometimes months, have passed where we’ve all been really busy and haven’t been able to dedicate much time to the zine; but we’re all really understanding of this and support each other regardless.

Can you offer some advice to other graduates who want to start an awesome side project like this?

Just go for it and don’t overthink it too much. Collaborating on a project with other people makes a massive difference—you can split the workload and the ideas you come up with together are usually going to be way better than if you go it alone. It’s natural when you start a side project for it to go through highs and lows and to feel a bit defeated when things don’t go to plan, but if you have other people on your team it’s so much easier to persevere and pick yourself up.

Huge thanks to Alex, Nina and Katie for sharing their incredible project with us! We can’t wait to see how Make Room develops—follow them on Instagram for updates and future issues. 

Originally published in Shillington Post 08—The Creative Women Issue.

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