the chapess

The Chapess was a zine that ran from 2011- 2016. Gut Flora: a Chapess Zine Collection was released through Synchronise Witches Press in 2016.

The zine was started by Zara Gardner in the summer of 2011. At the time we were both working in the art department of a rural college and would often introduce zines to our students to help engage them in design, research methods and self-publishing. The first issue of the Chapess included contributions from students and staff. When Zara handed me the reins in 2013 I wanted to use the platform to champion some of the brilliant women writers I had been introduced to through running the zine distro as well as the work of photographers and artists I loved. I wanted to make something which spoke to young women, especially in a format that was accessible and trusted.

The vague guidelines I offered for submissions pretty much came down to the idea that you’d perhaps seen the zine, liked it and thought your work would fit. My only real stipulation was that men need not apply. As well as the IRL pals who came to make up such a big part of the project, many online friends from over the years, from Flickr and Tumblr and later Twitter all became part of its evolution. The zine offered a point of contact for lots of us out here looking for our contemporaries.

After several sold out print runs of Gut Flora I wanted to focus on other projects, but imagined at some point there may be future issues of the zine. Here we are in 2019 and things look quite different. The idea of a women only project feels naïve at best, with many publications causing an air of suspicion at the very least if they aren’t explicitly trans inclusive.

The Chapess came about in part through wanting to share the work of my friends and the people in my immediate social circle, queer people mostly. I was keen to give priority to POC as well as trans friends and the project had always felt inclusive in practice. It was all very DIY, I was making it up as I went along, it’s not like there was a press release. Just as feminism has become a near-meaningless buzz word in some contexts, unfortunately zines and DIY culture have been co-opted in similar ways in recent years. Sometimes I feel like I’ve had to add a disclaimer that the Chapess is an old skool zine, which will mean something to some people but is essentially just a daft way of saying it’s photocopied, that it’s not for profit, that it’s a work in progress, that you might not like it.

In the time that’s passed since I started making the Chapess my work has continued to reflect the communities I’ve been a part of. In the early days of the zine I was eager to hang out with more women after growing up in a small-town predominantly male punk scene, the zine gave me a way in – and it opened up a world so much richer than I was expecting.

Grub has run on a similar open submission basis, open to everyone, but its queer appeal is what’s made it shine. Zine making has always been about carving out a space that perhaps doesn’t quite exist yet, and Grub has made room for inventive collaborations, storytelling and sharing in the classic DIY tradition.

Gut Flora is now sold out, but several of the original zines are still in print and can be purchased here