Perfection is a Tired Story - 10 Questions with Writer Hurley Winkler and Visual Artist Aysha Miskin, Creators of Nickname Zine
A zine is most commonly a small-circulation, self-published work that is made using an analog process of cutting out original or appropriated texts and images and then arranging them on a page using tape and paste. Issues are then typically produced using a photocopier, which often results in a grainy, raw publication. Because zines traditionally have low production costs, writers and illustrators are free to take risks and create whatever it is they wish to see in the world.
Zines are the product of either a single person or a collective group. There are a number of zine makers in Jacksonville, including writer Hurley Winkler and visual artist Aysha Miskin who collaboratively create Nickname. Through the zine, Winkler's words are accompanied by Miskin's illustrations to create an independent publication that combats life's woes with humor. Within its pages, readers will find poems, illustrations, letters, journal entries, and collages.
Issue One of Nickname was released in the fall of 2017. Once inside the 5"x7" booklet, Winkler and Miskin take you on a journey through their thoughts, confessions, and contemplations surrounding their individual identities. In many ways, Nickname is an extension of the creators' journals and sketchpads, with quirky regional references such as "A Jacksonville Break-up Story: I borrowed all your books and sold them all to Chamblin's for store credit."
Winkler and Miskin will release Issue Two of Nickname on Friday, January 19. Once released, it will be available for sale through Nickname's webstore. Additionally, Nickname is included in the Jacksonville Public Library's zine collection. It's a little-known fact that JPL's collection, which continues to grow, is the first of its kind to exist in the Southeastern United States. Nickname will also be set up alongside the Cultural Council and several other arts organizations inside the Police and Fire Pension Building (1 W Adams St # 100) during February's Downtown Art Walk.
10 Questions with Hurley Winkler and Aysha Miskin
Do you have any patterns, routines, or habits when starting a new project?
Hurley Winkler: Any project I’m working on—whether it’s writing a zine, short story, or article—starts with writing in my journal. Ever since I was a kid, my journal has been a safe space to play, experiment, and explore. In my head, ideas are mushy; on the page, they’re crystal clear. It’s my superpower. I try not to edit while jotting down my initial unfinished ideas. I want to keep that impetus for the idea alive as much as I can.
Aysha Miskin: Whenever I start a new zine, I try to find a link between all of Hurley’s writing we selected. I also ask myself, “How can I convey color to someone while only using black and white?” and, “How can I create the feeling in this writing to someone in visual form?” I also have Something Corporate playing in the background—the teenage nostalgia allows me to think outside myself. It’s like being 16 again, thinking I have the world on a string.
What have you learned about yourself through your artistic and cultural endeavors?
AM: One of my biggest takeaways from making a zine has been the importance of collaboration. Working with Hurley has helped me step back and really look at myself and what I'm doing (or not doing). It’s pushed me to work harder, longer, and better to reach my goals. Our partnership has also reminded me to stay grounded and avoid setting goals that are unrealistic at the moment.
HW: Making art, I’ve learned that I love deadlines. The creative juices really start to flow when I have a timeline. Simply put, I don’t do the work when I don’t have a deadline. Also, I’ve known since I was a kid that I’m a control freak (being an only child might have something to do with this), so working with Aysha has been powerful for me. I trust her to use her skillset to make things I don’t have the skills to make. This has given my controlling urges a luxurious vacation.
How do you define success in what you do?
HW: Success is all about balance. Over the course of a day, if I’ve worked hard to produce something complex and thought-provoking, but also took time to eat a salad, hit the yoga mat, rub my dog’s belly, and spend time with family and friends—that’s success. I also feel successful when I look forward to working creatively again when I wake up the next morning.
AM: Defining success is difficult because it changes day to day for me. Yesterday, I felt successful when I saw my ex-boyfriend at Home Depot and didn’t yell something rude at him and his new girlfriend. Today, I defined it as updating my resume and website. Overall, though, I think success is being able to call myself an artist and not feel like I’m lying to strangers or myself. It also goes back to being able to push my work into the world and see how people react to it. Seeing an audience’s enjoyment based on what we’ve created—whether it’s the zine, writing, or art—is like no other feeling.
How did Nickname Zine start?
AM: The origin of Nickname kind of got lost. Back in 2014, Hurley and I wanted to make a zine. I think we saw each other as missing parts to our puzzle. Hurley is an amazing writer, and she happened to enjoy my illustration style. When we wanted to start the project, we talked about switching roles—Hurley would illustrate it, and I would do the writing.
HW: We were both interested in learning to do what the other person was good at—Aysha was interested in writing, and I was trying to learn how to draw. But learning a new skill (and showing it to other people) gave me crippling anxiety.
AM: Then life happened, and the project got left behind. Last year, Hurley asked me if I wanted to take another stab at making the zine. Being able to work with someone like her is an honor, so clearly, I jumped at the chance.
HW: And I saw so much drive in Aysha. She can pump out amazing work really quickly, and when she’s making art, she doesn’t let her doubts get in the way. She just makes and makes. I wanted a piece of that.
AM: Ultimately, we realized that we should both stick to what we’re already good at and resist the initial idea to flip the script. But we’re going to be making a zine this year were I do the writing and she creates the art. It’s going to be really uncomfortable for both of us, so I'm looking forward to a lot of ugly crying and hugging afterwards.
What does zine making, publishing, and reading mean to you?
AM: Zines represent freedom. As an artist, rejection is part of the job. It’s also something everyone should learn to embrace. The ability to create something without guidelines or the word “no” is really therapeutic. It also presents endless possibility. Being able to make and publish a zine with Hurley has given me a physical form to show people what I’ve been working on, as opposed to saying something like, “Oh, I built this nine-by- six foot loom and I'm trying to figure out how I can recreate my work in weaving.” Zines allow artists the ability to put their work in the world without having to pay a trillion dollars, follow guidelines, or have some large social media following. It’s freedom of self-expression, and that’s what most artists and writers want, right? Freedom to be themselves without someone rejecting them.
HW: In addition to living life as a control freak, I’m also a chronic perfectionist—everyone who knows me is rolling their eyes and nodding right now. It wasn’t until I listened to a Brené Brown interview on Oprah’s Super Soul Conversations podcast (#OprahForPresident) that I realized my so-called “perfectionism” is just another form of fear. For me, zine culture also means freedom. Making Nickname has given me freedom from my fear of not making something perfect. While we can control what we put on these pages, so many creative choices are left up to the Xerox machine.
What are some of the benefits and challenges of creating with physical materials versus creating digitally?
HW: The zine is just a collage. We use scissors and tape and glue to make it. It’s way more fun than learning InDesign.
AM: The real challenge lies in not using electronics to craft something “perfect.” The benefits are endless to me. We make the whole project by hand, and some people might view this as a time suck, but honestly, anyone—and I mean anyone—can get on Photoshop to edit an image and make it look perfect. Perfection is a tired story. I challenge myself all the time when I’m creating the zine. I’ve started using new techniques I wouldn’t normally have the need for. I don’t allow myself the luxury of using the computer to craft the “perfect” piece. This means I have to think about how the colors and texture from the original art will look after it’s been out on the copy bed.
What does Do It Yourself (DIY) mean to you and what do you see as the relationship between DIY and zine culture?
AM: DIY is the power to build, fix, and learn ANYTHING. DIY and zine culture share the same principles of not having to jump through hoops to get something done. For instance, later this year, Hurley and I are going to make a whole zine in 24 hours. We could never do that if we were using a publisher. The ability to push our work into the world on our own gives the same feeling as being able to retile a bathroom without having to hire someone.
HW: DIY culture makes people feel capable. And capability is a powerful feeling. It’s incredible to see a project through from conception to print.
What are some of your favorite regional, national, and international zines?
HW: I love what Jacksonville poet Johnny Masiulewicz is doing with his autobiographical zine, Happy Tapir. He’s sharing moments from his life with a genuinely poetic voice and tons of humor. Aysha and I recently set up a table at the Orlando Zine Fest, where we met illustrator Enzo Garza. His zine, Gutt Ghost, is a new favorite—it’s about a ghost who attacks someone with his intestines. And my favorite zine series of all time is Cindy Crabb’s Doris. I first stumbled on it when I was 14. Her work is honest and personable, but also focused. She has a specific message she strives to convey in each issue.
AM: River City Raunch, a local zine about sex and dating, is so raw and funny. I also love the motocross zine Document Mag—even if you don’t know anything about motocross, this zine will make you feel like you do. One of the first zine makers I came across was Amy Burek of Awkward Ladies Club. Her zine Never Date Dudes from the Internet is smart and hilarious. I’m also a big fan of Australian zinester Hiffy Ulrich, an illustrator with a strange, colorful style.
What do you think you're able to accomplish by approaching Nickname as a collaborative project opposed to a solo effort?
AM: Having someone to lean on during moments of weakness is huge for me. Hurley has been a great support system and has kept me honest with realistic goals and deadlines. Having a partner for a journey normally viewed as one an artist takes alone has been life-changing. Her success feels like my success. We help each other reach our goals, make this project, and we remain friends through it all—what more can a girl ask for in life?
HW: Every artist has her doubts about what she’s making. Having a partner to pull you out of your doubts really changes the game. Aysha makes me see the value in my ideas and boosts my confidence on dark days. Also, this project needs more than just my words. We strive to pair my words with her images in a conversational way. If it was just my work, the zine be a soliloquy.
What would you like to see as an effort to support and grow Jacksonville’s arts and cultural sector?
AM: I want to see more effort in supporting emerging artist. Jacksonville is an amazing place and has the potential to keep growing. But some of our arts publications write the same articles over and over again about the same ten people. The list of unnoticed Jacksonville-based projects and people is a long one. It’s discouraging that those people don't get the coverage they deserve. I think this is the reason why I so often hear people say how much they want to leave Jacksonville because “nothing is ever going on.” But you shouldn't expect a golden invitation to everything—you have to do your homework and get your friends out of the house and go support the community. Also, as an artist here, more than a few people have played the “do this for exposure” card. It left a bad taste in my mouth. I’d also love to see more mentorships in the arts and cultural sector. In fact, if anyone is looking for a mentee, I’d love to be one.
HW: We need more criticism. How are we supposed to grow as a city if we’re not pointing out what could be better? It bothers me to watch folks pat an artist on the back just for making something. It’s an extension of the “everyone gets a trophy” phenomenon that’s contributing to so much entitlement. This attitude keeps many artists in the area from growing and trying new things. Criticism from publications, organizations, and other arts participants will make the