By Olivia Cahoon
Part 1 of 2
Schools, churches, and non-profit organizations that require high volumes of static output use digital duplicators as a cost-effective alternative to copy machines. These devices are designed for high-volume jobs of over 20 copies and handle heavier paper than average copy machines.
The School of Fine Arts
Founded in 2016, the RisoLAB is an interdisciplinary space for the printing, publishing, and production of Risograph projects at the School of Visual Arts (SVA) in New York City, NY. With 6,000 students, SVA offers several continuing education and undergraduate courses that range from animation and computer art to design and fashion photography. The RisoLAB serves as an all educational Risograph duplication facility for both print and small edition self-publishing.
“The RisoLAB is a truly innovative Risograph duplication and publishing facility for students, the public, and artists across all media to develop and print their creative ideas in a community and studio that fosters innovation and self-discovery,” says Nathan Fox, chair, RisoLAB, SVA MFA Visual Narrative.
The facility started with two duplicators, one technician, limited inks and hours, several continuing education courses, and roughly 20 students on average per semester. It operates in a 750 square foot workspace as New York City’s only dedicated hub for Risograph printing.
The lab now has two technicians covering full-time lab hours, open access for trained students and users, three two-color duplicators with ten colors, and over 75 students on average per semester. The facility also added weekend workshops, an artist-in-residence program, student teacher assistants, undergraduate credit courses, additional continuing education classes, light bindery equipment, and external partnerships with RISO Inc. and the Society of Illustrators.
As an institute for learning, Fox says the only industry RisoLAB serves is through educational services the school and lab provide. “From time to time, we facilitate or run special print projects for partners like the Society of Illustrators and others, including the promotional poster for this year’s MoCCA Festival with artist JooHee Yoon.”
Making of a Lab
With a background in printmaking, Fox was trained as a small format sheet-fed offset pressman running AB Dicks and Heidelberg plate printers. “All of our technicians and students have similar stories, backgrounds, and passions in printmaking or experience in print production,” he explains. “As art students, designers, illustrators, graphic artists, animators, photographers, and so on—digital print technology and the applications required to create digital context for printing is part of our training, education, and/or professional experience.”
Fox, who is also the creator of RisoLAB, selected RISO duplicators as the facility’s technology. RisoLAB partners with LDI Color Toolbox to lease two RISO ME9450 Duplicators and one RISO MZ1090 Duplicator. The MZ1090 two-color, single-pass digital duplicator prints up to 150 pages per minute (ppm) with 600 dpi. It features an Auto Color Conversion process to convert four-color design files to two-color digital output and RISO’s Easy2Color that provides editing capabilities to produce two-color prints from hardcopy originals.
“When I had the opportunity to propose a new facility that combined the best of analog and traditional printmaking with efficient, high-speed digital print technology, it was almost a no-brainer that the RISO duplicator was the technology of choice,” says Fox.
The RISO ME9450 is a single-pass, two-color digital duplicator that produces high-impact spot color documents. It’s designed to reduce prepress and makeready times by up to 50 percent and increase machine availability. The ME9450 scans and prints up to 600 dpi and prints up to 150 ppm.
With its duplicators, RisoLAB also uses RISO ink and licensed service technicians. “We lease our machines and service contracts along with all consumable orders through LDI Color Toolbox,” says Fox. The facility uses tabloid and letter sized 20-pound proofing paper.
SVA’s RisoLAB is fully equipped for all Risograph printing, publishing, and binding needs. Its equipment and materials include ten color drums, six Apple iMac workstations with Adobe Creative Suite, two Epson Expressions 11000 XL scanners, Bostich saddle stapler, Screbba large format saddle stapler, a swing arm paper cutter, a guillotine, and an electric paper jogger. In the future, RisoLAB hopes to invest in additional digital finishing equipment, specifically a paper folder and a large format electronic guillotine.
RisoLAB is open to all SVA students, faculty, and staff as well as the public through continued education, artist-in-residence, and workshops. The facility collaborates with SVA’s pre-college and international student programs and helps both undergraduate and graduate departments print internal materials as requested.
“This year also saw our first Graduate Thesis Publishing Grant with the hopes of expanding the limited-edition publishing and access grant to other SVA graduate departments in the future,” says Fox.
As a duplication facility for both print and small edition self-publishing, digital duplicators are core and central to RisoLAB. “We are in the unique situation of being able to experiment and utilize the duplicators in a truly unusual environment beyond what they were originally designed for and currently marketed as high-volume, inexpensive, spot-color duplicators,” says Fox. “The students and the lab utilize them in a creative, yet more fully functional sheet-fed print and book publishing approach.”
Once a student is trained through a continued education or credit-based class, they are eligible to register for Open Lab Access without any additional instruction each semester. Graduate students also have special access.
The RisoLAB offers courses focused on graphics, mini-comics, photography, small publishing, and zine. According to Fox, the last decade experienced a resurgence in the use of digital duplicators from zine, comics, and small format/edition artists’ books. “As a professional illustrator and comic book artist, I’m keenly aware of the robust growth and impassioned use of duplicators in the market for independent/underground and alternative comics, zine, and artist books,” says Fox. “There is a massive global community of printers, artists, and creators out there that utilize and adore the Risograph process and printers.”
Artist in Residence
In January 2017, RisoLAB artist-in-residence Natalie Andrewson led a workshop in layering techniques for Risograph printing. Andrewson is an illustrator and cartoonist from NC and works with clients from the illustration industry including American Greetings, Chronicle Books, Penguin, and The New York Times. She self-publishes comics and prints at the RisoLAB and displays her work across comic conventions.
Anderson’s class taught the basics of Risograph printing and choosing the best color combinations to best suite project needs. It explored print settings that can make images look like old newspaper or a mock screen print. Each drawing and color experiment was printed on a small section of an 11×17-inch print to provide students with an at home cheat-sheet of available colors and combinations.
RisoLAB takes advantage of digital duplicators for fast, low-cost printing in mass volumes with the added benefit of educating students on digital technology.
In the second installment of this two-part series, we feature another educational facility that uses digital duplicators to educate students. dps
Apr2018, DPS Magazine