Like so much else during the pandemic, Portland’s active zine subculture has been a little unmoored these past 14 months, unable to gather in person at traditional anchors like the yearly Zine Symposium, at which self-published makers and fans kibbitz, swap and sell.
“For the last year and a half, I have not been able to get out and sell comics and meet people and do all that great stuff,” says Sarah Mirk, an occasional Portland Monthly contributor .
So Mirk— one of the patron saints of the local zine community and whose graphic novel “Guantanamo Voices” drew national praise last fall—got an endearing idea that’s straight out of a Portlandia-era Mad Lib: A communal, locally made, hand-built “zine trike” that different creators could sign up to use, free of charge, to pedal and peddle (or even give away) their wares at local markets, parks and wherever else people are gathering outside these days.
“I’ll set up a website where people can reserve it and use it to sell their own zines,” says Mirk, who will use the bike herself to sell her zines, comics, prints and stickers. “So if you make zines or comics, you can reserve it to do a little pop-up shop.”
Mirk applied for a $3,000 “Make/Build/Learn” grant from the Regional Arts and Culture Council, which got on board right away. Local cargo trike maker Icicle Tricycle, which makes custom builds for mobile scoop shops, popsicle and paletas purveyors, libraries urban and rural looking for a modern take on the bookmobile and coffee joints all over North America, will kite out the bike for her. Mirk hopes to have it road-ready by late June.
Book-trikes are a staple at Old Town based Icicle, says founder and owner Ryan Hashagen; the business has been making them for a dozen years, but recently debuted a new and improved model with a built-in chalkboard, deep bookshelves, a holster for pamphlets and a little tap for a laptop or check-out purposes.
Hashagen (who himself dabbles in “small-time zine publishing”) says for Mirk’s bike, he’ll help make sure it comes with a trike safety zine available for all interested users.
To get the word out, Mirk is working with some of the big names in Portland’s tight-knit zine community, including the Independent Publishing Resource Center, local risograph studio Outlet Press, and nonprofit community center Alder Commons in Northeast Portland. Zine distributors, as well as makers, are also welcome to sign up for shifts, she says.
“Now that it is for sure, I can finally start talking to people about who would want to borrow it,” she says.
Interested? Keep an eye out for a sign-up sheet at mirkwork.com.