Public Space One’s new micropress workshop — small scale distribution, large scale impacts

Micropress is the distribution of self-produced printed work on a small scale. It is not a widely explored art form, but zine-maker Mackie Garrett is on the road to changing that within Iowa City with his new workshop at Public Space One.



Olivia Augustine, Arts Reporter

Mackie Garrett is on a micro-mission.

The zine-maker teaches micropress publishing at Public Space One. The local nonprofit held the first of three workshops on March 20, where Garrett seeks to expand the artistic, performative, and political opportunities the skill can provide.

A micropress is a publisher with small-scale distribution. Garrett’s workshop focuses on the publication of “zines,” which is the distribution and small circulation of self-published work.

The workshop’s next sessions will occur over the next two Sundays.

Executive Director John Engelbrecht said he knew immediately that a micropress workshop would be successful at Public Space One in part because of Garrett’s passion to teach it, but also because of how the art form aligns with the company’s artistic values.

“I hope it doesn’t just give them a formula for making things, but dispels the notion that there is an authority or gatekeeper standing in the artist’s way,” Engelbrecht wrote in an email to The Daily Iowan. “I hope this workshop gives people publishing power.”

Over the course of the workshop’s three-week run, eight participants will learn about the performative aspects of micropress publishing, like duplication and distribution, and work with printmaking materials like typewriting, photocopying, stamping, and hectograph — a printmaking technique that uses gelatin to make multiple prints using one master sheet.

RELATED: Painting and drawing UI alum opens exhibition at National Indo-American Museum 

Garrett has taught other types of printing, but this is his first micropress workshop. He said it is still experimental at this point.

“The aim of [the workshop] is to foster some community over the few weeks we’ll be together, and really make a safe place where people can take some idea they have – whether it be more literary-based, or often these are more image and art-based as well – and make a book addition during the time together,” he said.

Garrett is a member of the Iowa City Press Co-op, PS1’s community-access print and book arts studio, which is where he said he first became interested in small-scale publishing in 2016. Combined with his existing passion for poetry, the co-op set him on the path of micropress and zine-making.

One unique aspect of micropress is its “old-school touch,” Garrett said, noting an example of how micropress methods couldn’t be used to produce newspapers today. It would be chaotic to use in today’s fast-paced society, he said, which makes the use of the art more engaging and personal to the micropress community.

“It involves a lot of collaboration and a lot of community, and poets and artists and stuff,” Garrett said. “But it’s not a full-on small press either — it’s distribution work, but in a much smaller, kind of localized way.”

Garrett said that Rich Dana, another member of the Iowa City Co-op, was responsible for some of his initial exposure to micropress techniques through workshops that Dana taught.

Dana wrote a book on obsolete printing methods used in micropress titled Cheap Copies! The OBSOLETE! Press Guide to DIY Hectography, Mimeography & Spirit Duplication, which serves as both an instructional manual and history lesson on such technologies.

Dana said he thinks it is great to get the word out about micropress and other obsolete printing technologies as an art form through the workshop, and that Garrett’s perspective as a poet is beneficial, as micropress is a popular way to share poetry.

In addition to the artistry of micropress, Dana said it can also make a strong political statement. He referred to Lisa Ben, a zine-maker who used Micropress technologies in the late ‘40s to create the first lesbian publication in the United States, Vice Versa.

“It’s got a strong tradition of being used by marginalized communities to get the word out about their causes,” he said. “So, you know, I think that part’s equally as important as the artistic aspect of it.”