Artist Spotlight

An Interview with Riot Grrrl Artist, Jolie Ruin

By Bela Madrid

Bela Madrid: How were you first drawn to the punk scene?

Jolie Ruin: I grew up in the 80s, there was a lot of punk bands that I was exposed to on MTV back then. I liked all kinds of music and I wasn’t really drawn to punk until I was probably about 12 years old. My older brother used to skateboard with cool punk boys that listened to the Misfits, Black Flag, the Descendents and he used to make mix tapes for me. So that’s pretty much how I got into punk rock!

B: What ultimately drew you to riot grrrl?

JR: The message– It empowered me.  I discovered riot grrrl (& zines) as a teen, at a time in my life when I feel like I needed it the most. It gave me a voice and a way to express myself. I was excited to find grrrls that were like me and felt the same way that I felt. It totally inspired me and made me a stronger person.

B: How do you respond to criticisms of the riot grrrl movement’s flaws, such as its noticeable lack of women of color and its often transphobic attitudes?


JR: As a POC (with a Trans sibling) I think it’s something that we need to work on. I want to include everybody with the stuff that I do. And I haven’t experienced any racism or transphobia personally so I’m not sure how to respond to that question. I guess I’ve been lucky enough to surround myself with positive people that support everyone.

B: Are you yourself a musician? If so, what work have you done? Who influences your musical style?

JR: I’m not a musician. I sing and I’ve recorded some music with my husband Jamie because he is very musically inclined! We mostly did covers–Nirvana, Screeching Weasel, Weezer. Just for fun. We also recorded a few Bikini kill, Bratmobile and Heavens To Betsy songs for a compilation that I wanted to do but never finished! I used to do spoken word when I was younger. I had a label called “Ego Records” from 1996-2003 and I released quite a few spoken word cassettes. And one cd on another label called “Teen Anthem Records”.

B: Do you find it difficult to keep zine culture alive in a largely digital world?

JR: YES.  I have people that ask me if I have an online version of my zine all the time.  And I even did a blog version of one of my zines a few years ago. It’s just so much easier to get digital stuff out there because it’s right at your finger tips. And it’s instant–you don’t have to wait for it to come in the mail like you did back in the day! I prefer to have something that i can hold though, the same thing with books. But I like to collect things.

B: Why do you do what you do?

JR: I do it because it makes me happy and It makes me happy to make other people happy! When I was younger I LOVED being able to wear Riot Grrrl inspired clothing or to just have a cool sticker on my school notebook that had a message on it that I loved or that inspired me.  

And when it comes to zines, I write about my life. And it’s awesome when people that read my zines tell me that they can relate to something that I have written. Zines, music, and art got me through some tough times in my life and it’s good to know that maybe what I’m doing is helping someone that needs it. Sometimes you can just find comfort in something that someone says in a zine or music and it makes a big difference in your life. Someone can say or write something that is exactly the way that you are feeling at the time and it really strikes a chord with you and sticks with you. That has happened to me so many times when reading other zinester’s zines.

I’ve also been doing it for so long (20 + years) it’s a huge part of my life! I don’t know any other way to live or any other way to be!

B: What influences your art? What drew you to your style?

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JR: My art and influences change all the time.  Right now, I like cute and sparkly things. And I also like to combine cute and sparkly things with dark and scary things sometimes… I was always drawn to kinderwhore and any art that includes dolls or stuffed animals. The same thing with 1940s & 1950s aesthetic. I’m obsessed with vintage magazines or anything from that era and use it in almost all of my art and zines.

B: How have your personal experiences influenced your art?

JR: I like the Kurt Cobain quote “thanks for the tragedy i need it for my art”. When I did spoken word it was mostly about people or things that hurt me or made me angry.  And it was an outlet for all of that stuff. And now I guess I do the same thing with my art. Even though most of my art includes lyrics from songs, sometimes it reflects my mood. Not always, but if I’m sad I tend to make more emo type stuff! My Art = Art Therapy.

B: How long have you been running Riot Grrrl Press?

JR: I’ve been running it for 2 years.  The original RGP was started in the 90s, as a zine distro. Initially, that’s what I wanted to do. I even got permission from Billie Rain to use the name! (one of the original founders of Riot Grrrl Press! they also said I could distribute their old zines from the 1990s!) I wanted to make old zines from the 90s available again but not many people responded to that. I do have some old zines available in my Etsy Store.

But my husband Jamie and I started screen-printing a lot and just kept making more and more designs. So t-shirts, patches, and tote bags ended up being the biggest part of it. I have also done a few compilation/collaboration zines.  Riot Grrrl Press is pretty much a T-shirt Company & Zine Label now.

B: What to you plan to do with Riot Grrrl Press and your art in the future?

JR: LOTS!  I have a lot of projects that I am working on. We are always working on new designs. I am putting together a few zines. I do a zine called “SlutCake” that is all contributions from other people. Anyone can submit something to it AND they get a few copies when it comes out! I did a a zine called “My Pussy My Choice My Body My Voice” about the #MeToo movement.  I’m currently putting together a second issue. It’s a place where people can share their Me Too stories and experiences. (They can share them anonymously if they’d like to).

B: Do you have a favorite piece of artwork? Why is it your favorite?


JR: My favorite usually seems to be my latest piece! I try to work on art every day. Some days I do a bunch of collages in one day and I always have at least one favorite out of the group.  I really love the “Not Your Rival” t-shirt design though. The image I used is just perfect–because it shows one girl with her hand on the other girl’s back to show “Girl Love” & the other girl has her hand up in a fist and it says “Girl Power”. It just ended up turning out very cool!

B: Is there a piece of your work you’re most proud of?

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JR: I don’t think I really have one… But one of the first collages that I did was “My Pussy My Choice My Body My Voice” in 2012.  It got very popular on Tumblr and I started to see other people doing their own versions of it — so I guess that made me kind of proud!

B: What messages do you aim to put forward with your work?

JR: I just want people to feel empowered and be inspired by simple things like clothes and art, like I did when i was younger and discovered riot grrrl and zines and art. And I’m just trying to keep Riot Grrrl alive!


Jolie Ruin is a zine artist and archivist, and currently runs both Riot Grrrl Press and The Escapist Artist shop on Etsy. You can find and support her work, as well as get involved in Riot Grrrl Press at the following sites:

@riotgrrrlpress and @jolieruin on Instagram

The Escapist Artist on Etsy

@jolieruin-art on Tumblr

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