Matt Whitwell is a bit of an anomaly in the Felt community and is often singled out as one of the few male crafters at events such as Craft 2.0, a regular haunt of his. An artist, zinester and maker living in Wellington, Matt has a Bachelor of Fine Arts and is the creative mind behind Skulluxus.
What do you make?
I make all sorts of stuff: art, jewellery, musical devices, brooches, electronics, clothes, my one constant passion being making zines. Often I’m asked what a zine is after saying this, so for the sake of clarity here goes… Zine is the shortened form of fanzine, which in turn comes from the term magazine. Zines are self published books and magazines, a totally DIY approach to publishing your own work and most often a labour of love. Zines have neither of the commercial ambitions or restrictions of conventional publishing, often working with small print runs to cater to a specific subject/social niche. Though zines in one form or another have been around for a very long time only recently has the phenomenon taken a strong root in New Zealand.
On Felt I offer up some jewellery, and it’s usually come and go, my Test Tube Terrarium being a new item. I’m currently developing a new idea involving a sort of mediated reality approach to brooch/accessory wearing using simple electronics, but the main items I stock on Felt are zines, in fact I am led to believe it was I who acted as the catalyst for the zine category to be created. Hopefully others are inspired by this and get in to self-publishing, too. It’s great that Felt offers this resource and the opportunity to share zines with a wider audience.
How did you get into your craft?
I got into making zines before I even knew that there was such a thing as zine culture. I started making them with mates when I was eight years old. Class was boring so we’d make individual booklets by hand and swap for entertainment, this is actually aligned closer to the resistance of the Soviet Bloc who practiced Samizdat: illegal reproduction by hand of censored texts. Over the years things have just evolved to what they are now. I’ve been involved with a student run satire-themed newspaper, had zines in exhibitions here and overseas, I have a large international trading network and the Wellington City Library has a lot of my work available to loan. Zines are a significant and highly influencing aspect of my lifestyle and I don’t see them leaving any time soon.
I’m also one of the organisers in a small revolving committee dedicated to bringing out the Wellington Zinefest every year for all to enjoy. This year’s fest is set for the 20th of November, not very far away. There’s more than just zines though: we’re trying to place emphasis on those who publish their own music, too. Many a genre will be covered on the day with our largest ever number of stallholders from all over the country; even an Australian zinester is coming over this year!
I’m an artist, and having just finished a Bachelor of Fine Arts it’s no surprise I consider the academic conceptual aspect of everything I make, and not just with art and zines, but my crafty pursuits, too. Every zine I produce is an artwork in itself. Classically zine culture brings up the ideologies of punk, activism and feminism, but the shift of this information distribution to the Internet has seen zines lose popularity. I believe zines as art is an idea just starting to take the niche left behind by the punks and activists of the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, just like they took the reigns from the sci-fi geeks and beat poets of the 1930s and later decades.
Describe your workspace:
My studio’s view goes out over trees, fields, hills and mountains. The blazing sunrise lights upon somewhat of a time warp! I collect vintage bits and pieces. Old maps of NZ are pinned up, and the Grand Canyon. Dotted about are obsolete scientific diagrams, old school educational photographs of construction sites and farmland, and I even have an ex-classroom chalkboard. A few old filing and catalogue cabinets hold most of my tools and materials and obsolete tech like a broadcast monitor, cassette players and a bright red typewriter feature not just as decoration, but are also used and appreciated.
I like to collect these out of date resources as inspiration for my own work. The aesthetic of my zines, and my art, is borrowed heavily from the disappearing beauty of our once analogue world. Remember the date stamped cards in the backs of old library books? How about telegrams, colour photo slides and computer punch cards? My collection abounds with these and related ephemera as a constant reference to the past for future inspiration.
What are you currently listening to?
Burnkit 2600 and Vivica Genaux, both completely different, but completely beautiful just the same.
Recommend an album: Electric Warrior by T. Rex
Five words that describe your mind: Off-beat, non-stop, obsessive, introverted, wry
Your favourite materials, tools and processes?
To create my zines I like to use stamps, typewriters, stickers, glue, tape, ink, Letraset & duotone, craft knives, found media, rulers, sewing, collage, illustration, photography, staplers, book presses, photocopying, textiles. Anything that can be used in a classic stationary-esque style I have either used, or want to use. Computers are deceitful and an unnatural way to create, so when forced into using one I like to keep it pretty simple, otherwise I actively avoid them.
A favourite quote: People are crazy and times are strange – Bob Dylan
Matt will be selling his zines and providing a workshop at Wellington Zinefest at the Mighty Mighty on Cuba Street from 12 till 5pm on Saturday 20 November. If you’re in the neighbourhood, swing by and say hello, take a look at some of his current work and unreleased publications – head over the Zinefest blog for more details. And of course, you can see more of Matt’s work in his Felt shop, Skulluxus and find out more about what he’s up to on his blog, The Bottomless Paddling Pool.