Tell us a bit about F*EMS – how did it start, and how has it evolved over time?
F*EMS (Females* for Equality Making Stuff) is a Melbourne based collective for female-aligned & non-binary people to creatively express themselves by contributing to our triannual zine. F*EMS began when we (Freya Alexander, Tegan Iversen & Cassandra Martin) were studying together at VCA. We felt the need for a space where our voices could be heard, & this experience inspired the beginnings of F*EMS. We launched our first issue in March of 2015.
In 2017 a new member, Anna MacNeill joined the F*EMS team, while Cassandra left to focus on her post-graduate studies. F*EMS has evolved in a range of ways, one of which is when we added an asterisk to our name, as a kind of disclaimer, stating that ‘female’ includes femmes, agender, non-binary, woman-aligned, female-presenting or -read, trans, gender non-conforming people & a range of genders in between.
We are now in the process of planning our 14th Issue, and it has been so rewarding to see artists and writers become regular contributors, and for our community to widen, to include international contributors, and involve more people with each issue!
Tell us a bit about yourselves – have you always been artists and writers?
Anna: I work full time in archaeology but have always loved art and kept up a practice outside of work which have more recently included learning how to weave and more recently pottery classes.
Tegan: I studied art at University (where I met Freya) & have since exhibited my work in many art exhibitions locally & overseas & I also now do freelance illustration work.
Freya: Like Anna, I’ve always loved art and writing, and valued them as a form of self-expression. I studied art throughout high school, and, as Tegan mentioned, went on to study Fine Arts at VCA. Following this I decided to become an art teacher, so I could help young people realise their own creative projects.
How do you think art, graphic narrative, and feminism relate to each other?
The main relation for us is that we use art to express our experiences of feminism. Through F*EMS, we also aim to give others a chance to do the same, whether it’s through visual art, writing or another form of expression.
What’s the importance of the workshops you run to the zine and/or to your own practice?
Anna: Within my own practice, finding time both literally and mentally has always been one of my struggles in making art, so as well as running the workshops, they give me time to think about and create myself. Having that space with no distractions and being surrounded by other people creating is so inspiring.
For the zine, the workshops have been a great way for people to hear about us. We often get people who have participated in a workshop later submit to an issue. Just recently at our latest launch, a contributor introduced themselves who had participated in a weaving workshop we ran at ACCA.
Tegan: The workshops are really important as we often teach simple “how to make a zine from one sheet of paper” which enable the participant to create something out of almost nothing. We give the participants the materials & time to create & really encourage them to make something personal to them. I also enjoy the workshops as I’m always inspired by how differently everyone approaches the same task & how different everyone’s outcomes are. I also do enjoy having the time to make a little something myself too!
Freya: I agree with everything Anna and Tegan have said – I also value the workshops and the zine itself as a push to create work, which can be so hard when working full time.
What (if any) barriers exist in the zine-making industry for women and women’s participation?
One of the beautiful things about zine-making as a medium, and the community around zines, is that we don’t have those traditional barriers or gatekeeping that can exist in other publication and arts industries.
Because zines are by nature self-published there is an exciting element of freedom that comes with zine-making and allows for full expression. Conscious of this, F*EMS edit, rather than curate, our zine. For us, it’s important to include something from all contributors, as we want the zine to be an inclusive, rather than exclusive, space. F*EMS does not want to dictate or shape the narrative of feminism or how contributors experience or explore feminism.
What has been a highlight of your time as part of F*EMS?
Anna: One of my highlights was the weaving workshop we ran with ACCA alongside their Unfinished Business: Perspectives on art and feminism exhibition. The launches are also always so much fun, and it’s great to be able to meet contributors and see this community we’re a part of. To be able to work on F*EMS with such great friends is also something I’m so thankful for.
Tegan: I think the launches are always a highlight for me! Being able to share the new issue with everyone & celebrate all the legends who have contributed! Also that some of the contributors thank us & let us know that F*EMS was the first time they’ve been published or their first exhibition (when we have exhibition style launches). We really aim to be as welcoming as possible & I am so proud to hear that someone was comfortable & brave enough to have F*EMS share their work!
Freya: I always love reading the messages we receive from contributors thanking us for running the zine – these reinforce for me how valuable what we’re doing really is. I’ve also loved the chance to discover new artists whose work I love – and to be able to offer these talented people the chance to share or exhibit their work for the first time is so special!
Where can people see your stuff/get involved/find out more?
We have a website femszine.com as well as a Facebook (Females for Equality Making Stuff) and Instagram (@femszine), you can also sign up to our mailing list via our website. We welcome people to get in touch if they are interested in contributing (we are currently taking submissions for issue 14, our ‘Photography’ issue), or if you have any ideas for workshops or other collaborations.