Nick and Erin Potter will be at Alt. Press Fest on July 9 with their zine Paper Noise. Photo: John Carlisle
Paper Noise, a zine published by husband and wife duo Nick and Erin Potter, is the latest manifestation of the adventurous, collaborative spirit behind their Potter Press. Starting from the traditional DIY aesthetic of a zine, but adding more sophisticated design and printmaking techniques, Paper Noise is a showcase for writers and artists who submit works inspired by mixtapes Nick curates.
While the inside of the zines are printed in the typical Scotch-tape-and-photocopier method, the covers are screenprinted. “We thought it set them apart. Most zines just have xeroxed covers,” Erin says. Part of Nick’s motivation in creating Paper Noise was to showcase his friends’ talent. “We have some pretty talented friends, and I’m always interested in seeing their work on display,” he says. No collaborator is as important as his wife, Erin. “She sometimes says she’s my art slave. It started as my baby that I pulled Erin into grudgingly that she ended up kind of liking.” Erin corrects him, “No, I liked it, then I started hating it.” The two began designing posters for local music shows five years ago, a few months before getting married. At the same time, they kept a music blog, forestgospel.blogspot.com. At the nexus of these passions is Paper Noise. Creating a zine that combines art, writing and music seems like a natural evolution, but Nick doesn’t overanalyze its origins. “I’ve always really liked making mixtapes, so I decided that one way to force people to listen to mixtapes that I make is by telling them that they have to listen to them to make something for my zine,” he says. When Nick makes a mixtape for Paper Noise, he tries to make them cohere through a certain narrative rather than sticking to one genre. “I don’t generally go into it thinking anything in particular,” he explains. “I’ll just be interested in one song, and I’ll see how it moves into something else.”
Erin and Nick share printing duties, with Nick typically designing the cover. “We have really different strengths,” Erin says. “I print a little bit faster, but Nick comes up with slightly cooler designs.” They continue to do posters, recently commissioned by bands such as The Black Keys and Okkervil River, and Potter Press prints poetry chapbooks by their friends with custom-designed and printed covers in limited editions. Between raising their 2-year-old, Atlas, and Nick’s day job as a social media specialist at a vitamin company, not to mention Nick’s preparations for an MFA in creative writing at Brown University this fall, publishing happens in their precious free time. “We do it because it’s fun, but we do so much of it, it becomes unfun,” Erin says. In addition to time, running a printing press costs money, even if one’s method involves an improvised silkscreening setup in one’s kitchen and washing screens in the bathtub. Fortunately, Potter Press is able to cover their costs, something they attribute to their blog with its many readers and their connections in the underground printing world.
They’ve made quite a mark on the independent publishing community in Salt Lake City, with their zines available at the Salt Lake City Public Library and the Salt Lake Art Center, and their posters available at Signed and Numbered. They are friends with the folks at BirdBrain Press and plan on collaborating on a zine, but their influence isn’t strictly local. Their posters are featured on gigposters.com, and they’ve sold posters to several different continents. While they will be moving to Rhode Island this fall for Nick’s graduate program, they plan on continuing Potter Press and collaborating with new, talented people.
Though they run Potter Press just for the sheer fun of it, they also have dreams of some day opening a publishing company. “This is our baby that we’re experimenting on,” Erin says. They look forward to Alt Press Fest for the chance to interact with an audience already knowledgeable about alternative publishing and to connect with new fans.
The third annual Alt Press Fest takes place July 9 at the Salt Lake Main Library. It’s fitting that this festival for zine makers is held at the public library, which houses the larges zine collection in the country. In addition to zines, the festival includes local musicians, local artists, printmakers and spoken word performances. Local bands such as 6335, Birthquake!, The Lionelle, Lindsay Heath Orchestra and many others will perform this year. In addition to Nick and Erin, zine makers such as the aforementioned BirdBrain Press, Willie Nevins, Trent Call and Wes Sadler will all be present. Artists and printmakers such as Nic Annette Miller, Copper Palate Press, Dan Christopherson and Andy Chase will also be in attendance.
“Alt Press is awesome because there’s a great turnout,” Erin says. A couple of years ago at Alt Press Fest, a man approached their table and asked if they had anything with ninjas. Nick pulled out a comic about ninjas, and the man bought it. Later, the same man came back, looking for something with robots, and they sold him a couple of posters with robots.
Nick and Erin are actively seeking submissions for Paper Noise, so check them out at papernoisezine.blogspot.com, and be sure to swing by their table at Alt Press Fest to pick up a zine.