The Chapess is a zine that showcases writing and artwork by women of all ages from around the world. After being started by Zara Gardner in 2011, close friend and collaborator Cherry Styles took over as sole editor in 2013, and has been helming it ever since, aiming to use the zine to champion female writers, photographers, and artists, and to speak to young women about feminism in an accessible format. Each issue is printed in black and white, reminiscent of the beginnings of the DIY and zine-making movements, and features photography, poetry, illustration, essays, short stories, and other artwork. The zine has an open submission policy to underline the need for more opportunities for female creatives to show their work, especially those who have never been encouraged to do so. Last year, Cherry published ‘Gut Flora,’ a collection of work from the first nine issues of the zine.
Cherry has always been involved in creative projects, having made zines for over ten years. “I started making zines in my teens and it was absolutely about being a (music) fan, a way to find friends that were into the same bands and write dorky lists about the things you love,” she told us,“My motivation for making zines hasn’t changed much since then, and my involvement in online communities has pretty much run parallel.” Cherry strongly believes in self-publishing, which, she said, “have always been about taking back control, finding a way to sometimes do the (seemingly) impossible.” She continued, “Any kind of underground culture eventually trickles into the mainstream, that’s how things evolve, right? By carving out spaces for the voices that matter to us and reaching out to others through our work, we’re kind of throwing out life lines.”
Those life lines have never felt more essential in a society and political climate that often feels increasingly polarised. “We’re reminded time and time again that our governments, the mainstream media and those in power around the world do not care about the lives of the individuals,” Cherry said, “I think zine culture is kind of booming at the moment because DIY approaches have become necessary to so many of us. People are having to find new ways of doing things, of creating the media and communities we want to see around us. We’re left with the task of finding practical ways to support one another day-to-day and make the work we need to make.”
Today the internet makes DIY culture easier than ever before, presenting the opportunity to connect with likeminded individuals from all over the world, as well as more exposure than ever for your creative work. “I’m thirty; I grew up with a dial-up connection in the early days of the internet and pen-pals from Teletext,” Cherry said, “DIY communities work from the ground up, often with limited resources. For me, this is where the internet has become embedded in any kind of creative or community work,” she continued, adding, “It’s given us another way to connect.”