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Colouring Outside The Lines:
"Everyone Can Be Creative"

An interview with

from: Leeds, UK

by Haydeé Jiménez & Elke Zobl

February 2008


"Colouring Outside The Lines is such a wonderful source for those linked to art and activism; to those who love and perceive art not as an elite high class form to express oneself. I'm still reading the zine and its actually inspiring me a lot to finish an art installation"

from a Colouring Outside The Lines reader


Can you tell me a little bit about your personal (age, place of birth and residence etc.) and educational background?
I'm Melanie Maddison, 26 years old, living in Leeds, UK.
In terms of education, I studied for my MA in Women's Studies at York University in 2002/3, writing my thesis on female DIY collectives and their challenges and contributions to feminist activisms and the aethetics of activism.
DIY activity and feminist activism are two of the key principles behind the majority of my past zine writing, 'I'm Not Waiting', 'Reassess Your Weapons', 'UK Ladyfest Artwork zine', 'With Arms Outstretched', and my current baby, 'Colouring Outside The Lines'.

What are you currently doing, or involved in, besides your zines?
Besides zines, I currently work as an assistant to a blind lecturer at the University of Leeds, working in the Law department in the areas of human rights law, and disability discrimination/equality.

I am a member of the 'Manifesta' feminist/queer collective here in Leeds, and lend a hand towards gig organising, our clubnight 'Suck My Left One', and editing our collaborative zine, 'Reassess Your Weapons'.

I have recently been involved in raising funds and awareness for a UK based anti-sex trafficking organisation. My most recent activity was an art exhibition and auction, featuring the work of a vast array of female artists.

Aside all of this, I have constantly got my finger in lots of different pies, and constantly have a 'to do' list that would make some people weep!

Can you tell our readers about colouring outside the lines?
What topics do you discuss in your zines most often? What language are they written in?
Colouring Outside The Lines is an English language zine, printed in A4 colour format, with a rather enormous page count!

The zine is a collection of interviews and artworks from contemporary female artists.

COTL interviews, promotes, encourages, and (hopefully) inspires contemporary female artists from across the world.

I started writing the zine as there wasn't any media writing about, or crediting the women creating art that meant something to me. The majority of arty literature (if it focussed on women at all) mainly touched on the 'greats' (often deceased), or if it addresses more contemporary artists, it was those working in 'high' art - 'capital A' Art circles and galleries. What about the comic book artists, the poster artists, the CD coverwork artists, the video makers, the knitters, the feminist artists, the queer artists, the x,y,z artists, etc.? I decided that rather than get angry about their ommission I should really make a zine to try and counter what people could get their hands on.
I started interviewing artists by emailing a few whose work played a big part in my life, and whom I adored, and the zine kinda snowballed from there!

As well as acting as a zine to address the balance, I also wanted to make a zine to show women that we can ALL be artistic and cretive within our everyday lives - a collection of interviews to inspire and encourage and let women know that their contributions are important, worthwhile, and wholly valid. I wanted the zine to make an active comment about the cultural myth that art is reserved for the elite and privileged.

Artists interviewed in the zine over the years include: Lisa Petrucci, Guerrilla Girls, Ariel Schrag, Juliet Martin, Gina Garan, Jeremy Dennis, Elizabeth McGrath, Nikki McClure, Lady Lucy, Jacinta Bunnell, Allison Cole, Dame Darcy, Kathleen Lolley, Isy, Tara McPherson, Cat Mazza, Jill Emery, Missy Kulik, Debbie Dreschler, Shelley Sacks, Wynne Greenwood, Vanessa Davis, Yoko Kikuchi, Cristy Road, Jean Smith, Colleen Coover, Marion Peck, Nicole Steen, Sarah Dyer, Simone Lia, Alison Bechdel, Penny Van Horn, Renee French, Sarah Utter, Leia Bell, Nicole J Georges, Genevieve Castree, Juliana Luecking, Ozge Samanci, Ellen Forney, Karen Constance, Elena Stoehr, Liz Adams, Erika Moen, Karolina Bang, k8 Hardy, Jen Corace, Phoebe Gloeckner, and Gina Birch.

More information about the zine can be found at:
How long has this zine been running?
I started writing interviews for the zine back in 2004, interviews that finally became the first issue which came out in 2005. A zine-a-year has been released ever since, with issue 4 due sometime this summer (2008).

Where/how are your zines distributed?
COTL is stocked, carried, and read on a more community level — it's stocked in social centres, community independent art &/or comic book stores, local arts events, diy craft and arts shops, local zine distros that are taken to music events, that sort of thing. And I'm happy for the zine to be in these places, it's where I feel most at home.
The zine has also been sold at feminist, queer, and zine festivals worldwide.

Also, to make international orders a bit easier for those outside of the UK, I also sell the zines via and accept paypal payments direct from my myspace site.

Who are your readers?
Due to the zine having a strict focus, art, the readership of the zine is quite mixed. It (obviously?) appeals to folks who read zines, are in to underground culture, are part of feminist networks, DIY culture, cultural activism, etc. But also, I have quite a big readership of people who are interested in art, and have maybe never even read a zine before, but are more interested in the content than the medium.

What kind of responses do you get from your zines’ audience?
Because I'm hopelessly skeptical about everything I do, and such a nonbeliever in myself, on my Myspace blog I set up a 'feedback' section to find out if what I was doing meant anything to anybody other than myself and my friends. There's a tendancy with zine making to not really know if your zine is of any interest or importance to anybody other than those you know, unless connections are formed with readers. As such, Myspace has been a blessing as it has allowed me to forge connections with people.

Via the blogs I received a dizzying amount of positivsm, which has led me to believe that what I'm doing is going OK!!...

Such examples include:

"It made me want to paint and draw and read and write. Some of the best things I think are things that are so inspiring that you're torn between that thing and the things that its driving you to go and do!"

"when you see all that vibrant creativity in one space like that, you can't help but feel energised to get up and make that work you've been talking about doing all year but endlessly procrastinating :) "

"Seeing that you are running after your ideas is extremely motivating for me and probably many other people too."

"It is impressive and important. Inspiring, too, of course"

"I can't describe how important I think your work is. It's so inspiring to read all of the interviews."

"I hope you continue with this project, because I truly believe it's filling an unbelievable void in the feminist/art/women's community – providing a venue to showcase our creative voices."

"Colouring Outside The Lines is such a wonderful source for those linked to art and activism; to those who love and perceive art not as an elite high class form to express oneself. I'm still reading the zine and it actually inspiring me a lot to finish an art installation"

"I think the best outcome a fanzine can have is inspiring the reader and Colouring Outside The Lines has done that for me, it's made me want to stop procrastinating and get on with my own projects, and start focussing my creative energies, and also want to know much more about the artists I hadn't come across."

"Its great to see a zine out there supporting women's art. Cuz deep down I think the art revolution is gonna start with us. Riot grrl is gonna have nothing on what women today are going to usher in."

"Oh Wow! Just got my copy of issue 2. I LOVE IT. Such an inspiration, do you know what I was umm-ing and ah-ing about decisiony things today and leafing through your zine I decided to do my art history MA (and be just generally super-creative!)"

How did you become introduced to the culture of zines?
I read my first zine in the early '90s; it was a music zine featuring an interview with one of my favourite bands at the time, Helen Love. I had found the zine via an advert in the back of the music paper NME (at the time it was really common for people to post ads for their zines in there - this was pre-internet, pre-blogs, etc. and zines were still the main way for people to get their ideas 'out there' to like minds). I'll always remember Helen Love in that interview responding to the question 'If your band was a smell, what would it be', with the response 'Pritt Stick'. I remember thinking what a great analogy that was for DIY music, like theirs, and DIY media like these zines I was just discovering.
From there I started reading more music zines, and getting my hands on any alternative literature and zines I could find, as it said far more to me, and was far more interesting than anything I could find elsewhere. What started as an interest quickly developed into something I became involved with producing and contributing to myself.

What do you hope to accomplish by making and distributing colouring outside the lines?
Aside from all I have mentioned above, I hoped that with the zine I could be part of a culture whereby women are given a voice over their own artistry and creativity - by being given the space to say what they want about it, unedited. So much of art literature grants critics, reviewers, or 'experts' the voice over artwork, and I think it's really important that female creators are allowed to have their own voice.

Plus also, the zine (hopefully) acts as celebration, encouragement, inspiration, promotion, exploration, and awareness to a whole range of female artists and readers alike, who otherwise may not have had the exposure and/or introduction to such a wide range of 'alt'/'underground'/'radical' female creatives and artists.

Which role does the Internet play for you?
For me, COTL wouldn't be as powerful without having created links to both contributers, and an audience via the internet (especially myspace). Such online communities have enabled me to reach a large demographic of female artists whom I would maybe never have gained contact with were it not for the net.
The internet has enabled me to easily reach artists for interviews, plus has enabled me to showcase the artwork of many women in the printed 'gallery' at the front of the zine, as I have been able to easily garner interest in this section by posting call-outs via the internet, and have been able to easily accept jpegs of work via email.

I conduct the majority of the interviews for the zine via email, as I believe it allows people more of an opportunity to take their time, reflect, and respond in a way that they are comfortable with, rather than being put on the spot.

Plus, I'd never have had the chance to be involved in projects like yours had we not first made contact via email contact and online word-of-mouth! I think the internet is crucial to such forms of networking, especially internationally.

Name some of your favorite zines and the reasons why you like them.
Clit Rocket (Italy) is one of my favourite zines, as it was one of the first zines I read where I felt that every article in it could have been written just for me and what I'm passionate about! -- queerness, feminism, art, music, literature, politics etc - and specific focus on individuals who have personally inspired me. I think it's really importnat that zines like Clit Rocket exist to give queer voices a large international readership.

I'm also particularly in love with Race Revolt (UK) zine at the moment, as I think it's really important that we give space to starting, and continuing, discussion about race within DIY communities -- something that very often is not addressed loudly and visably enough.

Reading Joanna Fateman's zine The Opposite (USA) for the first time, years ago, blew my mind. The intro to it says it all to me, and explains why I love it, and I guess too why I create zines myself. She says: 'watch me write this (it is a fanzine about art) in which I assume that neither of us is stupid and both of us know that if we wait for the experts to create a discourse around our work we will have only ourselves to blame when they bore us outta our fucking skulls.'

Other perennial favourite zines include: LTTR, Punk Planet, Greenzine, Morgenmuffel, Jigsaw, Girl Germs, You Don't Get There Form Here, plus hundreds more!

What advice would you give to someone who wanted to start a zine?
I guess the only reason not to create a zine is if you don't want to.

I think zines hold a really unique capability for individuals to express, teach, create, impart, learn, discuss, share, reflect, act, document, challenge, and connect. And as such, *everybody* has something they could contribute by starting a zine. All of our lives and creativities are important.

I once read artist Keri Smith say that to start a new project it should be as easy as: 'Just scribble, start with a line, every mark is valid, think less, just be honest in your intentions' -- and I guess what I mean by quoting her words is that there shouldn't be a 'spector of perfection' to hold any of us back from creating, and creating zines in particular.

Do you feel part of a (grrrl or general) zine community or network and what does it mean to you?
Absolutely. I am very fortunate to have great links with zine makers, zine distros, zine activists, and zine academics all over the world. Many of these people I would regard as my friends, and am able to collaborate, share ideas, help with projects, distribute my zines, etc etc with them. It's extremely important to me - especially since the majority of my work is community based.

Being a part of such netwroks and communities I have been allowed the opportunity to do things I would never have imagined, such as participate and speak at Zinefest! at the Women's Library, (London), have my zines distributed at events such as Freak Out Festival (Rome, Italy), Kaffe Kunst festival (Germany), be interviewed for many zines and projects, and be in contact with so many incredibly encouraging, supportive, and inspiring women worldwide.

Being part of such a community makes me feel so much more validated as a cultural producer and activist, and I am so grateful to know the kick-ass people I know.

What is the zine scene like where you live?
In the UK, and especially in the North (Leeds, Sheffield, Manchester) I'm really lucky to be surrounded by women who run kick-ass distros, hold events that promote zine culture, and be part of a community that values the importance of zines. As such I'm excitingly surrounded by women regularly putting their own work out, and distributing, sharing, and talking about others'.

I am so pleased, and proud of the amount of publications, zine events, readings, distros, projects, call-outs for submissions, etc etc. that occur in the UK. Long may they continue!

Do you consider yourself a feminist?
100% yes!
My zine writing is part and parcel of my commitment to feminism.

What would a “grrrl”-friendly society look like in your view?
One where each and every woman's life, voice, and creativity has the opportunity to be *heard* and, crucially, *listened to*; one where our lives, voices and creativities are granted the validity and importance that they are due. All women are the experts in their lives, and as such should be able to voice themselves within society by whichever means they are most comfortable with.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Thank you for inviting me to be a part of the Grrrl Zine Network, and featuring such a wide range of voices, zines, and individuals on here for me to fall in love with. You're doing such a great job! Thank you.


Colouring Outside the Lines on Myspace

m_k_maddison [AT]




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