By Stephen E. Adams
Call her Jaina. Call her Miss Bee. Call her fancy.
Just don’t call her ordinary.
For purposes of this interview, call Jaina Bee Davis Lopez Island’s own zine queen.
Along with other local zine writers and publishers such as Brenna Nies and Eleanor Burke, Davis is a devotee of and participating artist in a publication form that can trace its roots as far back as the broadsides of the 16th century.
For people on who Lopez who might not know Davis, she says of herself: “I am a migratory creature.”
She shares her time between her home on Davis Bay and her home on Potrero Hill in San Francisco, a home dedicated to celebrating the work of various artists. To enjoy a mind-boggling tour —including a visit to the most unusual bathroom most have ever seen, go to jainabee.com.
“I want it all, from the natural surroundings of our beautiful island here to the excitement of a crowded city street.”
So, what exactly is a zine?
“Zines are self-published magazines” — hence the name — “which are usually alternative in nature. Zines are our little message in a bottle; they tend to be unique to their creator.”
“There’s nobody telling zine makers how to do it, what the content should be, what their editorial policy has to be, even what shape the zine should take. One of the reasons zines sort of exploded in the 90’s had to do with the technology, from places like Kinko’s to affordable home printers for computers.”
Having made her first magazine when she was around eleven years old, a time which coincided with her discovery of the power and potential of the photocopy machine, Davis has, over the years, done it all.
“I’ve had my own publishing company, Around and Around Productions, which published comic books as well as other people’s zines. I have been the editor, the writer, the art director, the distributor and the promoter.”
Her first major zine was “Flatter!” which gave her the opportunity to work with artists Christine Shields and Jason Squamata, and the mosaic portrait artist, Jason Mercier. Her latest publication, “Splatter;” has included work by Lopezians Gary South and photographer Chrystal Vang.
“At one point we were printing and distributing over 2,000 copies of ‘Flatter!’ worldwide.”
“‘Flatter!’ is subtitled ‘The Journal of Oblate Puffery’ in part because, despite the hard work that goes into making a good zine, the idea is not to take the business element too seriously.”
Davis credits the author, cartoonist, and graphic novelist Lynda Barry as one of the driving influences in her life. Barry’s work and her workshops, Davis notes, “have changed the way I express my vision of everything around me.”
She also calls Gary South her “greatest teacher” and mentions her performance art instructor, Tony Labat, as well as multimedia artist, Jason Squamata. Of the latter she says that Squamata has “had a very direct influence on kicking my butt into action with novel writing and reverence for the messy SPEW of creativity.”
In addition to being a fan of Lopezian zine creators Nies and Burke, Davis “loves whoever is behind the zine available on Orcas in those funky news stands where they just seem to appear at random.”
Davis’s latest zine, “Splatter; No. 2,” will be available July 29 at Maud’s Used Books & Groovy Gifts in Lopez Village and at The Business in Anacortes. Copies can also be purchased directly from Davis.
Just look for the beautiful young woman with the dazzling and genuine smile who is adorned with tattoos of bees.
When asked for a final thought about zines, Davis pauses. “Zines may be closer than you think,” she intones mysteriously.
She then takes a deep breath: “Follow what compels you. Take a chance. There is this human compulsion to say something, to share. Don’t ignore this. Zines can give you a way for your voice — your own unique and individual voice — to be heard.”
Listen to Jaina Bee Davis. Her voice is like no other.