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Dolled Up Punk in Columbus, Ohio
By The Editors
After our founding editor Christine Sloan Stoddard had photos accepted into the ultra-colorful and beautifully playful feminist magazine, The Dollhouse, our curiosity was piqued. What was this shiny, new publication and how did it come to be? Honestly, Christine didn't even really know; she just saw the Submittable call, checked out the website, and loved it. Clearly we had no choice but to email the Dollhouse editors an interview! Luckily, CJ Fink answered all of our nosy questions. Read on, Fledglings!
Who is on The Dollhouse's team? Could you talk about how you met in Columbus, Ohio?
The magazine consists of six women: CJ Fink, Abby Wagner, Kelsey Yappel, Laurel Hilliard, Sara Liptow, and Dena Pierog. We are all best friends, and we met going to house shows around Columbus. I live with Sara and Laurel in The Dollhouse, [a space] that also hosts shows!
How would you describe the creative and activist scenes in Columbus?
Columbus is great because it is large and sprawling. You can find just about anything you are looking for here. The scene we operate in mostly is the feminist punk scene, and for the few years we have all been involved, it has treated us well and given us an incredible platform to work with. The communities in Columbus are all very supportive, but tends to be fleeting because of the constant overturn of [art and music] houses, which is due to the Columbus Police Department shutting them down and students from Ohio State graduating and moving out.
How long has the magazine been in the works? What inspired the idea in the first place?
The magazine is pretty new. We just released our first issue in January and will be releasing our second in early June. The Dollhouse began as my solo project, a feminist zine that operated in a very similar fashion to the magazine. We accepted art submissions, highlighted music and shows, and printed them every month for a year. The Dollhouse [the space] then began hosting shows, as well as the other women involved in the magazine currently (Abby, Kelsey, and Dena). We felt as though the city needed more women-ran spaces.
What was the initial vision for the magazine? Has it changed at all since its inception?
Our main goal has always been to showcase people who have been marginalized by society: women, gender non-binary, queer, trans, and POC artists and writers. We knew we wanted our magazine to promote amateur artists alongside artists who have already had decent amounts of exposure. The Dollhouse is meant to be a publication that gives people their first opportunity to get their work into the world. We wanted it to be fun, punk, and unapologetic for the viewpoints shared within the pages. I think we have done a pretty good job sticking to the goals we set for ourselves, and I hope that we can continue to be a radical voice in the publishing and art world that will open up doors for discussion and progression that may not have been possible before.
How long did it take to produce the first issue?
We began working on the first issue in September of 2018 and released it in January 2019, so overall the process went pretty quickly. We are hoping to spend more time on future issues to grow and learn from everything we did on our first. None of us had really done anything like this before, so it was truly a trial and error process, but we are very happy and proud of the outcome.
What do you want the readership experience of the first issue to be?
We want readers to learn from our magazine but also have fun reading it. It’s definitely an art and literature publication, which can tend towards heavier subject matter, but we’ve always been interested in the Riot Grrrl movement, so we wanted our magazine to reflect those types of publications as well. The use of quizzes and horoscope pages are inspired by those that you would find in an old J-14 or Tiger Beat magazine just to give it a more interactive side, as well as a more accessible tone. We just wanted readers to have as much fun flipping through our magazine as we had coming up with everything to put in it.
Tell me about the issue launch. How did the event go?
The issue one release party [in Columbus last month] was so fun. We had our event at Wild Goose Creative, which is a local art gallery in Columbus. The turnout was amazing despite there being a snowstorm that day. We had poetry readings by women we admire in the community and art for sale, so we were really able to take the event and make it beneficial to a lot of artists. It was one of the first times we hosted an event outside of our apartments, so we were thrilled by how well everything went.
What did you learn from producing the first issue of The Dollhouse?
We have all learned so much. We knew this process would be a lot of work, but this experience has really taken us into territory we never imagined. Now we know the elements and skills it takes to create a publication. We’ve learned so much about layout design, communicating with artists, and curating artwork. The experience also taught us time management, which is one of the most difficult aspects considering we're either students or have full-time jobs, as well as other obligations. We all have really only had experience with zines and booking shows, so operating something like this was new for all of us. One day we just decided that we really wanted to go for it, and since that day, we’ve never stopped working on it!
What was your process for soliciting and curating submissions?
We mainly use Submittable to receive submissions, but we also get a lot through Instagram and email. It’s a mix of artists we know personally and love and some we do not know and can’t believe reached out to us. We have editors for writing, art, and photography who go through their respective submissions, and then we all decide together what will make the magazine cohesive and beautiful and suited to what we are trying to accomplish.
How do you think the current political climate in the U.S. influenced the submissions you received?
I think it has influenced every part of this magazine. The submissions, our selections, our intentions—truly everything. Being queer women operating a publication under this administration means we have a responsibility to put art into the world that will directly push back against it. The submissions we have received are so beautiful and radical; we are so grateful that the artists submitting see our visions and want to work with us to change the toxic environment we live in.
What are your plans for the second issue?
Our second issue will be bigger, better, and even more colorful! We hope to include more art and literature, as well as more articles about fashion, music, and ways to engage with feminism around the world. We want this issue to still be very punk, but we want it to look more polished and put together since we have learned so much and have came such a long way since the beginning of our first issue. We have high hopes for this issue.
Anything you'd like to add?
The Dollhouse takes submissions of visual art, photography, and writing year-round! We prioritize work from women, queer and trans people, and people of color. If anyone wants to submit, you can find us on Submittable or you can email files to email@example.com.