Originally published on Washington City Paper’s Arts Desk blog, on Oct. 29, 2013
Alison Baitz Debuts Her “Delightfully Pointless” Zine, On Flora
By Sarah Kaplan
When Alison Baitz started working on her new zine, On Flora, she may have been a little out of her depth. She bought props on a whim, wasted $100 taking photos with disposable cameras (none of which came out), and set overly ambitious goals for how fast her product would sell. “I think I was a little naive,” she says. “Because I’m still just figuring it out as I go.”
But Baitz, like On Flora itself, is nothing if not earnest. She practically trips over her words in her enthusiasm to talk about her work, and she’s ecstatic each time she makes a sale. “It’s like, are you kidding?” she says of her feeling when someone in Germany bought a copy of On Flora online. “Who are these people? Can I give them a hug?”
That zeal carries through in Baitz’s photos. On Flora is 32 pages of flower arrangements and nature images in the almost-lurid palette of a 1980s wedding. The zine wholly embraces its kitsch—one spread shows flowers covered with googly eyes, and there’s quite a lot of black velvet. “It’s kind of facetious, kind of fun,” Baitz says. “It’s just the most delightfully pointless things.”
On Flora was inspired by Baitz’s stint in Brooklyn a few years ago (she now lives in Howard County, Md.) Her apartment sat above a flower shop, and she was was intrigued by what the florists were doing there. “It’s not just ’90s arrangements with roses and baby’s breath,” she says (though, there actually is a decent amount of baby’s breath in On Flora). “It gave me an idea of what flowers could be.”
As for what exactly that is, Baitz isn’t sure—though she had fun playing around with the idea. “I didn’t even really think about what the point of making [On Flora] was, which kind of suggests to me that maybe there isn’t one? I’ve just always wanted to make a zine and finally all my ideas, skills, etc. matched up and this is what came out,” she writes in an email.
Baitz has fantasized about making her own zine since she was a teenager, and though she’s a contributor to D.C.-based food zine The Runcible Spoon, she’d never published anything on her own until now.
“I think I had a weird idea of what a zine had to be, that it had to be this cut-and-paste, very confessional thing,” Baitz says. “But I think the aesthetics of zines are changing … and that fit with what I wanted to do.”