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Raw Paw Zine: Breathing new life into Austin's indie print scene

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Kristopher Kotcher Courtesy of Raw Paw
Austin Photo Set: News_mary rose_raw paw_oct 2012_2
Kristopher Kotcher Courtesy of Raw Paw
Austin Photo Set: News_mary rose_raw paw_oct 2012_3
Kristopher Kotcher Courtesy of Raw Paw
Austin Photo Set: News_mary rose_raw paw_oct 2012_4
Kristopher Kotcher Courtesy of Raw Paw
Austin Photo Set: News_mary rose_raw paw_oct 2012_1
Austin Photo Set: News_mary rose_raw paw_oct 2012_2
Austin Photo Set: News_mary rose_raw paw_oct 2012_3
Austin Photo Set: News_mary rose_raw paw_oct 2012_4

The idea behind Raw Paw, an Austin-based print publication “providing paper trails for at risk artists” materialized in the exact way that the romantic side of you hopes that it did.

What started as friends gathering together for poetry readings and group drawings evolved into a beautifully curated collection of work, bound in a pint-sized booklet and fueled by folks with a passion for art and mostly clean fun. 

The editorial staff includes six 20-somethings, some of which are students at the University of Texas, finding time between work and school to produce a print publication in a time when print publications are increasingly hard to come by.

Within the pages of the latest issue, you can find illustrations, collages, poetry, photography, comic strips, interviews with local heroes (like the guys behind Independence Brewery!), and probably some other things between the lines.

I sat down with a few of the editors, Will Kauber, Jen Rachid and Baylor Estes at Cherrywood Coffeehouse to discuss the conception, growth and future of Raw Paw Zine.

After months of hard work, the first issue of Raw Paw was released in winter 2011 and resembled more of a traditional zine — a no-frills style designed to look purposefully DIY (most authentically in the form of black-and-white Xerox copies).

Will Kauber — part poet, part print director — explains that they want to move away from the old zine aesthetic, while continuing to keep it independent. With tools like InDesign, it’s possible to create this balance, allowing the team to keep the design aspect in-house, while still producing a beautifully polished publication.

Most of the content comes from local artists (with a few exceptions), and is garnered by Baylor Estes, who has taken on the role of artistic coordinator affixed with the not-so-easy task of rounding up the completed pieces. “We have to take a more active role,” Estes laughs.

Unlike places like New York and LA, characterized by cutthroat competition with artists fighting to get their voices heard, Austin’s thriving artistic community moves at a slightly slower pace. Here, it’s the publication getting the artist excited, not the other way around.

It is because of this laid-back atmosphere that Austin-based zines like Misprint, Rubberneck, or any other publication claiming a portion of Austin’s creative air space, aren’t seen as rivals. “At the end of the day there are no competitors; to even do print at all is just kind of amazing. Anyone who wants to do it, we want to be friends with,” Kauber explains.

Estes agrees. “It’s the kind of place that Austin is — everyone works together. That’s how I’ve experienced success... by working with other people. It’s something that Austin cultivates.”

The third (and most recent) issue, which was released in September, features collaborations between artists, centered around the theme “Idea Sex.”

Though not all Raw Paw’s issues will involve artist collaborations, this issue was particularly successful because it encouraged artists to create original pieces for the zine rather than submitting old works — something that the editors hope will continue in the future.

The real joy in creating a zine, Kauber says, is to have people create for it; to create something new rather than fit together disconnected pieces.

Between the six editors, the zine has positioned itself arms-length away from a genuinely impressive number of projects, from continuing to expand the zine itself to printing smaller side publications, like a collection of the hilarious NSFW comic, Liver Spots.

“We’re trying to break some waves into being a record label, too.” This fascinating twist in Raw Paw’s itinerary begs a question: What can’t these guys do?

The newest endeavor is facilitated by the fortunate access to a studio that the team hopes will give them the opportunity to record friends’ bands who have been essential in the success of Raw Paw. “Everything we do could not exist without the bands behind it — they bring people to our events. We’re very much in debt to the Austin music scene.” 

Their first album release will be for a Milezo & the Noize, a Halloween themed party/show at Wardenclyff in East Austin.

As for the future of Raw Paw, there isn’t a definitive answer. But for the zine itself, the crew is hoping to expand their reach to hubs like San Antonio, New Orleans and Denton in order to take hold on the Southern theater of America’s art community which has been slightly underrepresented thus far.

“For so long the east and west coasts have developed and nurtured independent publications and art scenes," Kauber says. "It’s The South’s turn.”

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You can purchase the latest issue of Raw Paw at Domy Books, MonkeyWrench Books, Laced with Romance, Friends of Sound, Charmed School Vintage and any Raw Paw event. The next issue of Raw Paw is set to release in the spring during South By Southwest.

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