Sticky Institute (est 2001)

Address: 10 Campbell Arcade, Degraves Subway, Melbourne VIC 3000

Phone: (03) 9654 8559

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From an interview with Beck that has been edited

Sticky Institute started in 2001.

Platform Artists Group used to run independent art shows in the white boxes near us, and where we are used to be their office.

A couple of people got together and asked if they could use the office space – when they weren’t doing office things – to sell zines.

They had 3-4 zines at the time but eventually Sticky got a lot bigger, Platform became a lot smaller – it’s gone now – we took over the lease and kept the space.

Now it’s exploding, and the space is as tight as we can get it.

Photo of Beck by Tatiana C C Scott

Zines have always been popular with punk fandom.

In certain circles they’ve always held cultural significance and impact. It evolved from anarchist pamphlets but there has been a bit of a shift from heavily political and punk zines to more general stuff. You now get a lot of art books, poetry and independent comics.

Zines are certainly becoming more popular. Every year, 20 or so teenagers wander in and they never leave. They love the fact that they can buy a $2 comic which changes their life, or they can tear out pages of their diary and print it as a form of self expression.

We take everything on consignment, and we receive a 20 per cent commission which is the smallest amount that allows us to keep the store – which is independently run by volunteers – going.

Anyone can use the space and we’ll help people use the typewriters, badge machines and we can show them how to make a zine. It’s DIY and grass roots. The whole point is to show people that they have the ability to make things themselves.

We don’t want to have creative control over their process.

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At the start this was a place for zines to be sold.

There used to be a little table in the middle of the store – with one machine – where you could make badges, but now there’s something like a dining table with 12 chairs, four badge machines, five typewrites, stationary and everything you need. The space evolves as it needs to.

We get a lot of visits from surprised business people who are like, “wow this is new, isn’t it,” despite the fact that we’ve been here almost 16 years. RMIT has built us into one of their arts programs, and we run a fair every year inside the Melbourne Town Hall which is a huge community event.

We archive one of every Australian zine at the State Library so they also have a huge zine collection.

Our demographic ranges from kids to older people who make zines. If I had to narrow it down, our core demographic is mainly university age but it goes either way. Sticky is a singular kind of shop in the world in that there’s no other place that just sells and caters to zines as a working and a retail space.

We’ve become an institution, and the fact that we are located underground is part of what makes us, us.

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I used to come in as a teenager and thought it was so cool to hang out in a shop that was literally underground.

My friends and I were artistically inclined teenagers and, when we got into it in 2002, I didn’t really leave. I started volunteering in 2008 and became a coordinator around 2011. It also looked pretty similar back then. There are now more posters on the wall, and the origami on the ceiling came in bit by bit.

Zines have become more mainstream as digital art gained popularity. There’s a throwback to doing something traditional, with people loving the tactility of zines and being surrounded by physical objects. The more digital we get, the more people want something they can hold and look at.

It’s nice to have a comic rather than right-clicking and saving it on a computer.

Photo by Tatiana C C Scott
Photo by Tatiana C C Scott

The scrappier a zine is, the more we tend to love it.

And, with some zines, there are only 20 or so that exist. You’ll keep coming back in the hope that they’ve put out something new and, while you are dong that, you might find something else that you like. No one wants just one thing so making and buying zines becomes quite a personal experience.

It’s all culturally significant, worth having and zines are worth something. You don’t have to go through an editor or a publisher. It’s you and your idea, you make it as well as you can and that’s all there is.

And every once in a while you’ll find a zine and go, “holy shit.”

It’s a small piece of art that you can have in your home.

Art outside Sticky Institute that changes every month. Photo by Tatiana C C Scott

There’s a plan at the moment for the Metro Tunnel to be built through our shop.

It’s still early stages so we’re trying hard for that to not happen.

And, with the arcade itself, the architecture is brilliant so we don’t want to see it damaged.

Part of the floor is gilded, it has brass lettering, mainly original tiles, marble pillage, the weird lights that buzz all the time and they don’t make curved windows like the ones here anymore. And with the seats, shops and the gallery space, it is one of the few places where you can hang out and do nothing.

But the new loop and the old loop are meant to connect by a walkway. To make that walkway behind the ticket barrier, the eastern wall would be knocked down and the ticket barrier would need to be moved forward. I think at that point everything behind the barrier would become Metro’s problem. So you might not be able to access these shops without touching on.

And if they knock down the wall; us, A Touch of Paris and The Cats Meow (the first three shops on the left hand side) would be evicted. All of these businesses could be at the mercy of Metro, and architecturally the arcade would be ruined. You would lose the symmetry, the shape and maybe these existing shops would be replaced by shiny new shops.

We think of them as a set, so to destroy one shop is to ruin the whole arcade.

And if you look at the arcade from here, it’s beautiful.

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No one is really happy that the subway might be closed and we might be evicted.

This is their livelihood, and the people behind the shops rely on these businesses.

They designed their plans to cause the least amount of damage upstairs and I understand that but – when you come down and realise that there are people with well-established businesses here – it changes things.

I’m not against the new loop on principle, I think it’ll be great once it’s done, but I’d like for it to not go directly through our shop.

Works won’t start until 2019, so we have about a year to work it out.

Photo by Tatiana C C Scott
Photo by Tatiana C C Scott
Photo by Tatiana C C Scott

Written by Aron Lewin and all photos by Tatiana C C Scott

Articles (and a petition) on the Campbell Arcade

Save Campbell Arcade (Petition – Ellen Sandell MLA) 

Melbourne Heritage Centre

The Age (Timna Jacks)

Articles on the Sticky Institute

Junkee (Matilda Dixon Smith)

ABC (Simon Leo Brown)

City of Melbourne

Emerging Writers Festival

Time Out (Tsari Paxton

The Urban List

Smith Journal

Melbourne Places

Inner Circle Magazine (

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