Let's Swap

Back in May 2019, I had a conversation with my pal + colleague M that went something like this:

RV: Hey M! Do you know if [our company] does anything to celebrate International Zine Month?

M: What’s International Zine Month?

RV: IZM is in July! It’s an opportunity to celebrate all the cool things about zines. * sends M a bunch of resources *

M: Woah rad! I don’t think [our company] does anything, but we totally can! What do you have in mind?

Originally, I started dreaming up a classic zine fest. We would invite zinesters from around NYC to come table and sell their work. There would be free food and maybe music and creative workshops. And then I remembered a few things: (1) tabling is the worst; it’s exhausting and isolating to sit somewhere for hours, only talking to people who walk up; (2) there are already a bunch of zinefests where folks can sell their stuff; (3) we actually need space to talk to each other and finish our dang projects. So, a few weeks into planning, I texted M in a panic, saying something like: “I hate the original idea I pitched to you, can we do something else instead?”

M is a powerful witch and incredible mentor. Ze immediately responded reminding me that this event could be anything we wanted it to be, and so, yes, of course we could change it. Thus spawned the first iteration of Let’s Swap, hosted at Kickstarter on July 13th. We brought together witches, healers, creatives, and zinesters for an afternoon of zine workshops, skill sharing and creative play.

Let’s Swap created an environment that embodied the spirit of zines and broader DIY culture, where participants could step into their own expertise, creativity, and curiosity without the barrier of feeling like their work needed to be polished. We designed an event that was safe, accessible, and free, with a flexible and modular agenda that empowered everyone to feel a sense of collective ownership over the event.

The most common question we heard during and immediately following Let’s Swap was “(When) are you doing this again?” Some additional highlights from feedback on the event included:

  • “It felt good doing something creative without trying to make sure it was good enough to share/sell/profit off of, which was very very nice.”

  • “It was the perfect space for me to feel extra comfortable…”

  • “Everyone was so amazing and I loved the work people made at our workshop.”

  • “I haven’t felt that safe at an event maybe ever. It was cool to see the concern put into meeting people’s needs.”

Personally, Let’s Swap felt like an incredible moment of growth and praxis. Typically, I move through events feeling stressed and frantic; I focus so much on making sure other people are having a good time that I ignore my own energy and needs. With Let’s Swap, this was totally different. From the first conversation through the last follow up email, I felt entirely grounded and present. I was able to hold space for myself and others and make choices that felt generative. I am so grateful for everyone who showed up to help create such a healing and joyful space, and I can’t wait to find new opportunities for future iterations of Let’s Swap.

RV Dougherty