Hannah Browne and Sarah Vardy make up the Feels Zine team. Hannah, Art Director and Designer, and Sarah, Editor, launched the brand in June 2016, and in January 2017 they published their first issue.
A quick look at Feels, and you’ll see it’s a zine about sensitivities and insecurities. However, diving into the story behind the publication, you’ll find a collection of experiences and emotions, written and shared by creators from across the globe, delivered in a raw, unfiltered and honest way.
So often, we’re told to keep our feelings to ourselves (keep it together!) or that our feelings are not weighted the same as fact or research (your argument is not objective!). Feels verifies and validates the very human, very natural part of us that life can trick us into ignoring. In a time when our feelings and passions are more critical than ever, igniting change everywhere we turn, I invite you to read more about this must-buy zine (and where to get it!).
I feel this is something you will not regret.
- Before Feels, what were some of the projects/programs you were a part of?
We have very different backgrounds – Hannah is an art director with a specialization in graphic design and magazine production. She was a designer for Worn Fashion Journal and is currently the Associate Art Director of Professionally Speaking, the magazine for the Ontario College of Teachers, and is the creator of Brooch Boyfriends (little felt gentlemen to love and to wear). Sarah’s work is in social justice. She has been involved in creative writing and (very) part time freelance photography.
- What lead you to create Feels in the summer of 2016?
Hannah: We went to the first year of the Toronto Art Book Fair at Artscape Youngplace and were inundated with amazing artist works. I was so inspired that once we left, I couldn’t help but feel the pull to create my own printed zine. I asked Sarah if she wanted to make one with me and she happily accepted. We took a few days to brainstorm the concept, but once we got it – and the name – it all felt right.
- Have you always wanted to create something? If yes, why do you think that’s so? If no, why do you think the spark suddenly arose?
Hannah: I have been making things for as long as I can remember, so to not make something feels strange to me. I need to have a creative outlet outside of work (sometimes I find myself with more than one). There are so many things I want to make it’s hard to choose what I want to focus on next! Feels is a great project because it encompasses a variety of mediums, and I get to work on it with one of my best friends and collaborate with talented people.
Sarah: I’ve always had a lot of interest in creative pursuits, but was focusing on returning to school and finishing my degree for the last few years. The timing of this beginning was perfect.
- The Feels mission is all about creating a safe place for people to share their emotions, feelings and stories, with hopes of creating a continuous forum of communication for like-minded individuals. What personal experiences in your life do you think have contributed to the mission behind Feels?
Sarah: My background in social work has led me to be very interested in how spaces (literal or otherwise) operate to allow some while excluding others. Safety in spaces is a complex issue. In a social world where discussions around feelings are relegated to a very private sphere, we felt it was especially important to move this into the public realm. We walk into the world with an expectation that we’re supposed to keep our emotions inside ourselves regardless of how we actually feel. Part of Feels is asking the question,” Why do we have to be so private about our feelings, and what can we learn if we stopped doing this?”
Hannah: Through school and for a few years after, I was caught up in the idea of creating beautiful things for the sake of beauty alone. It’s easy to make something that is aesthetically pleasing but doesn’t perform any function beyond that. One day, something clicked that made me ask the question, “What is this all for, really?” and I told myself that my next project must be something more – something raw and true; something that connects people and helps people. I am a person who is very full of emotion but I felt stifled to discuss them openly with some of the people in my life who were less willing. Creating Feels is the perfect avenue for me to get my feelings out, help others get their feelings out, help contribute to a new perspective on openness and inclusivity – and I still get to make it look beautiful.
- There are currently two issues available for purchase: 01 Anxiety and 02 Lovesick. Why did you choose these two themes for the first two print editions of your zine?
We started with a long list of different subjects to focus our issues around. Anxiety materialized as an appropriate first issue for us based on the things we were hearing from those around us. It’s a loaded word that a lot of the artists we were talking to had a perspective on, right from the beginning. For issue 02, we were excited to choose something very different from issue 01, but also something relatable to everyone. One of us was also processing some heavy feelings of lovesickness at the time, so we sometimes take cues for our issue themes from what we are going through in our own lives. It’s a great way to help process our emotions and to connect to the artists we feature.
- When will 03. be available? And, what do you think its theme will be?
Issue 03 – Body Love – is coming out in September, and we can’t wait to share it.
- With producing Feels, you must work with so many inspiring people with remarkable, though sometimes heartbreaking, stories to share. What is one of the most compelling stories you’ve heard so far?
We’ve heard so many great stories from talented and thoughtful individuals. We prefer not to choose one person’s story over any other, as a big part of our mission is to express that everyone’s story is valuable and worth sharing. There are quite a few pieces we’ve received that have moved us to tears, to anger, to laughter and to deep questioning. It’s a beautiful thing, to get the privilege of hearing how emotions materialize for different individuals, and to have the contributors trust us with their most personal and private works.
- 01 Anxiety shares the stories and experiences of eight contributors and 02 Lovesick has 17 contributors, the latter nearly doubling the number from your first edition! Firstly, congratulations! Secondly, how did you find these contributors?
Finding contributors for Issue 01 consisted of us reaching out to talented folks we knew from our two different communities — the art and design world and the social work world. Starting a new project, which hinges on contributor support, is difficult when you have no prior work to show as an example and prove that you will actually make a product. We are incredibly thankful for the people who had faith in our project and allowed us to share their work. For issue 02, we did a contributor call on social media and received so many amazing works, we were blown away. Social media has been a big part of our outreach for artists.
- For other creators looking to start a brand like you’ve done with Feels, what advice do you have to share regarding building and retaining relationships with collaborators, contributors, clients and customers?
We’re new to the game as well! The first thing we would say in terms of advice is: to listen to anyone and everyone willing to give you their time and expertise. We’ve met some amazing people who have been invaluable in terms of their support, and some of those people have introduced us to others – it’s a domino effect! As well, we try to be as active as we can on social media to keep anyone interested in the loop in terms of what we’re up to and how they can get involved. We’re trying to build a community as much as we’re trying to make a magazine, so maintaining contact on social media has been important.
- Right now, Feels is available for purchase on Etsy, but also at select shops in Ontario, Calgary and Fredericton. Additionally, you recently shared on Instagram that Feels is at a library in New York City. Already, Feels has sparked international interest. What are your reactions to this? And, what do you hope the future of Feels entails?
The reception and reach has been really unexpected and exciting for us. We’re glad that people in different places are able to find us. In terms of the future, we’re looking at moving off the page and doing more gallery shows and events. We really want to get people involved in meaningful ways and include as many perspectives as we can. We have lots of ideas in the works, in addition to continuing to create new issues of Feels each January, May and September.
- For the last few weeks, the Feels Instagram account has been featuring different contributors – connecting the writers with their audiences, while also shining a light on the people who helped make Feels come to be! Why is this type of stewardship, story-sharing strategy so important for the growth of your brand?
The community element is a big part of our message. We love our contributors – we couldn’t do our work without them – and we want readers to be able to access more of their work beyond Feels. We also want our contributors to get to know each other, which can be tough to do in person, as we’re lucky enough to be receiving works from all over the world. This way, they have the ability to reach out to one another and keep fostering the community.
- Feels is active on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Which social media platform has been the most powerful and impactful to the brand?
Definitely Instagram. Instagram is the main social media vehicle for creatives around the world, and it is a very supportive community. We’ve found a few of our contributors through Instagram and it’s worked really well for us so far!
- Throughout this process, who, or what, has been your biggest source of inspiration and motivation?
It changes so much in terms of specific sources, but we know we feel excited and renewed all over again when we receive new submissions. It’s so wonderful to have different people share their stories with us. It’s also been the people we meet! Getting to meet and chat with talented people who are making similar contributions has us inspired, over and over again.
- Currently based in Toronto, what are some of the benefits of working and creating in one of Canada’s largest, and most-diverse, cities?
We’re lucky to live in a place where so many different perspectives exist so close to each other. The city has a thriving independent arts scene with access to amazing art spaces and events, and a lot of people interested in collaboration and supporting one another. There is a lot of opportunity in this city!
- With that said, what are some of the city’s setbacks, and how do you power through?
Maybe [that we are] a small fish in a big pond? But honestly, even that hasn’t been too much of a setback for us, because a bunch of small fish make a big school.
- Through every creative process, there are so many times when it can be hard to focus. As a creative person myself, sometimes I lose the spark, and it takes a little while to light it up again. What do you do when you need to feel inspired?
We’re lucky to be a two-person team, to say the very least. The most valuable thing is that we keep each other accountable and help the other person light the spark, if they are feeling less inspired. There is also someone there to pick up the slack if we’re just not feeling it in the moment. We have a really strong friendship, so we’re honest with each other if we’re going through something that’s clouding us. It’s a good balance. And it’s fantastic to have someone to share this with and to bounce ideas off when we’re most inspired to help bring those ideas to fruition.
“We’re always excited to hear from readers. We’ll soon be launching our blog on our site, to continue the conversation online between issues. We receive really great work that doesn’t always fit with the upcoming issue, so our blog will be a place for those contributors to be a part of Feels as well,” Hannah and Sarah say.
Thanks to the both of you for sharing your story with A Quarter Young. We can’t wait to read 03 Body Love!