Art & Design


Sticky Institute

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Tucked between a clothing store and a barbershop, beneath Platform 1 and along the Degraves St subway stands the Sticky Institute. If you’ve caught a train to Flinders Street you’ve probably passed it and maybe never noticed. With a name like the Sticky Institute, you’ve probably thought it was a training college for crooked masseuses. That is until you wander a little closer and realise its window is hung with hundreds of handcrafted dedications to imagination – zines as far as the eye can see.

Ten years ago zine maker Luke Sinclair spied the small storefront and dared to see something more than a storage room for the Platform Artists Group to house their materials between exhibits. Sensing that our fair city needed a place for zinesters to meet, sell and swap their wares, Sinclair set up shop in 2001. Though zines had been popular in Melbourne previously, they were usually only available through mail order or in small quantities from record stores like Polyester and Au-Go-Go.

After years of sharing with Platform and working on alternative days, in 2007 the Sticky Institute commandeered the space completely as the world’s first and only dedicated zine shop. Now it serves as the headquarters of the thriving zine community, with an average of 120 people a day wandering in to check out the latest DIY digests.

While 120 people passing through a tiny store that relies on word-of-mouth is impressive, it’s nothing compared to the annual Zine Fair they run. Held every February, this year’s extravaganza saw between six and seven hundred zine aficionados pack the Degraves subway with over 90 stalls peddling titles along the lines of The Dewey Decimal System is Decadent and Depraved, Ladybeard and How to Write a Mills and Boon-esque Bodice Ripper.

No topic or subject is off-limits in the zine world, and quality varies between hand-drawn doodles and high-end comic style covers like Miss Blimpy, which has a professionally printed jacket but the typical photocopied pages inside. Some of these higher quality zines are imports from overseas, including the US, Japan and South America.

While the range of zines available at Sticky is the major drawcard, the other highlight is the friendly environment it offers (they gave me chocolate and a Julian Assange colouring book). Run by volunteers whose passion for zines is only rivalled by the variety on the shelves, there’s always a welcoming smile behind the desk and casual conversation between zine-makers and the staff. There’s space to work crafting your own zine with photocopiers, pens, pencils and staplers all available for use, which the volunteers will probably suggest you do. They take particular delight when customers return to produce their own publications.

With titles varying in price from fifty cents to around five-dollars it’s easy to find a little inspiration in-store. Some zines, like the decade long running weekly You, are completely free. So next time you’re passing by on your way to the train, instead of tossing your change at the busker down the arcade, head inside for affordable handmade gems to accompany you on the ride home.

Sticky Institute
10 Campbell Arcade, Degraves Subway
Open Wed-Fri 12-6pm
Sat 12pm-5pm

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