Why are we opening Micro-RISO studios?
First of all, thank you for inviting me as a speaker of this meaningful event. It is my honor to stand in front of those who engage in Risography all over Asia. I never thought I would have a chance to say something about our work done by RISO.
My name is Soojin Kim, and I work as a visual artist, but mostly I spend my time running a small bookstore called “Off to Alone” in Seoul. Our bookstore is very small and placed in a small alley. We take care of zines and independent publishings mostly without ISBN codes, and we focus on visual arts; especially illustration.
I recently interviewed two Risograph studios called WMRM books and Magnetic5 and asked them to define what makes them Micro-RISO studios. I use the word ‘micro,’ because I want to focus on studios that have independently owned RISO printer and produce a very limited amount of printings.
Most of time, I print for zines based on places where I’ve been and experiment with single images. Sometimes I print for artists and publishers in our shop or for neighbors who want to try Risograph printing. But not too often because there are some limits to Risograph printing in our shop: color choices are very limited and I have to ask them to bring their own paper.
WMRM Books focus on making zines and art printings. He started making his zine series called ‘WMRM’ in 2015. He prefers to make everything in his studio himself. He wants to follow the spirit of DIY and does not print outside material.
Magnetic5 is a duo-studio. They printed a Braille book for the blind, and make zines that mostly relate to their family or hometown. Not all of their work is printed by RISO but rather they use a variety of printing techniques. While they do not print material for the others, they have free Risograph workshops for guests visiting their studio.
I also questioned these two studios about when and how they discovered RISO. I had only just discovered it for myself four years ago, but both studios found out about it while traveling through Europe quite a long time ago.
As you can see here, WMRM Books showed me these flyers from when he travelled to London. It was printed by Hato press in 2010. He said he didn’t know it was RISO, but now he recognizes some of his collections from Europe are printed by RISO.
I am fond of books, not necessarily the subject of books, but I am fond of its form: it is the best form of containing and explaining one’s portfolio. I’ve experimented with different techniques because I went to art school for many years. But during that time, I never knew anything about digital printing methods including RISO.
I was looking for a method to produce these books of my travels, and when I found out about RISO, I took to it like a duck to water. I bought a machine about 2 years ago, because there was something so attractive about its analogue and digital capabilities, the old and new together.
My space, and those studios’ spaces are not large enough to invite even that many guests. This makes for one of the strong points of RISO: you don’t need much space to set up. With minimum space, you can create maximum outputs.
I am currently using a used RZ977; I bought it, because it was cheaper than expected.
The other studios have a RP3700, and a MZ970. Both used.
They purchased them not because it was necessary for their work nor out of any desperate need, but because they have always wanted to use a RISO by themselves one day. So did I.
As you know, the price of a drum is not cheap at all. For those people who use their RISO for their personal use only, it is nearly impossible to collect all the colors they want. Because this printer is not a method for earning money, it’s for spending it.
We talked about what kinds of color we have and why we choose those colors.
When I picked the colors, the colors that I am going to use the most. I have 5 colors; metallic gold, black, fluorescent pink, yellow, and blue. My first color I got was metallic gold. It’s my favorite and it’s the one of frosted inks that makes everything very attractive, also very fancy. Afterwards, I bought the rest of the colors, mostly to make CMYK colors which, as we know, will let me print out any colored image, layer by layer.
Most of the time I use RISO for single color images, but by overlapping a contrasting color layer I’m able to produce very attractive results. It reminds me a lot of silkscreening. It takes much trial and error and different techniques, but the outcome is always very fascinating. I always think I have to collect more colors, but I’m having so much fun overlapping and mixing my limited five colors and finding many different varieties of colors within these limits.
WMRM Books also has 5 colors; black, medium blue, Orange, Green and Yellow.
Magnetic5 has 8 colors; Medium Blue, Green, Bright Red, Yellow, Orange, Black, Fluorescent Pink, and flat gold. They said they just collected their favorite colors one by one.
I asked them about their thoughts about the limitations of RISO printing, and they replied, they feel limited when they have to express their work with only the colors that they have. But when they’re able produce satisfactory results in that limit, they feel excited.
I am not an expert nor professional, but based on my personal thoughts and experience, the defining features of being a ‘MICRO’ studio is not the size of the studio, but the quantity of colors you have and your attitude about how you use them.
Why did we open these Micro RISO studios? No reason. It just happened.
When people ask me to print their work and I tell them my color palette, most of them are disappointed and never contact again.
I strongly think of it is as just my own; I don’t have think about costs per attempt, I can try different size and types of papers, and experiment on and on and on with those five colors, I think these colors are enough. Even if it’s not something related to art or making books, I can print as much as I want.
While I talked with other Micro RISO studios to prepare for this topic, I had so much fun. Because we are not using this printer as a means of earning money, we freely share our techniques or problems or other vender information without worrying about business competition.
I am sure there are more Micro RISO studios in Seoul where I just don’t know. But we all agreed that we want to see more of those studios and want to share our work together. Opening a successful studio shouldn’t be your sole motivation. It might simply be self-contentment. Whatever it is, you will know, you can make beautiful printed pieces with limited colors, as WMRM books said, it will be your style of RISO studio.
RISO is not so obscure anymore. Within the last 2-3 years, many universities and academies have set up their own Risograph studio for their students including my alma mater schools; which means many art student now have more chances to encounter this print method and they will be able to develop and expand the possibilities of Risography in new and exciting ways.
Someday I will be left behind. I mean, we will left behind by those young talented artists who discover this printing method while they are young. According to history, we—as a torchbearer—have the responsibility to lead the younger generations developing their work to the next step and pass down our experiences, including our failures, for them to learn. At this point, studios like us are a good teaching example compared to the expertise of Risograph printershops.
I hope this will help those people who are hesitating and start their own RISO, we will be a good example of your start.
Asia Risograph Conference 2018, Shanghai
Speical thanks to WMRM BOOKS & MAGNETIC 5 & BANANAFISH BOOKS & Sheila Lee