At the back of the LA print shop is a large, clunky machine with a beige and cream exterior speckled with colored ink stains. If it looks like a relic from a 20th century office, that’s because it is. Nowadays, the machine – known as the risograph – is a tool for making art.
“If you look at it, it really is a screen printing machine because it forms a stencil inside and each color is printed individually. So you have to pull through the sheets for each color and put a real drum of soy ink in the machine, ”he explains to Michelle Miller, one of the four artists who runs the print studio in Chinatown. “It’s a really fun retro-style process.”
“They were originally used as a cheap alternative to color copies in schools,” adds artist and co-founder Jayes Caitlin.
In recent years the outdated technology has gained a second life among artists who have been able to use it in a manner similar to screen printing. The LA print shop is one of the few places the machine is present, and it has become a popular feature in the studio. When Risograph workshops are held in the store, the meetings fill up quickly.
“I think a lot of people who have heard of Risograph and have never had the opportunity to use one want to use it,” says Caitlin.
The studio is currently preparing to auction its Risograph GR2750 at an event on February 9th, coinciding with the Chinese New Year Parade and Chinese New Year Festival. The store is making room for an upgraded Risograph machine that will be donated – good news for the entire LA art scene.
In June last year Miller, Caitlin (Heavy Gel) and the artists Sean Hernandez (Press Friends) and Dave Kloc jointly opened the LA print shop on Chung King Court. The four artists are stylistically different, but they all agree to create a space where artists can have access to printing tools and where the general public can learn how to do that too.
Caitlin founded a studio in Chicago in 2012 and moved to Los Angeles not long after. Over time, the crew grew and decided to expand and move to the Chinatown area after hearing of other artists who wanted to work with them.
The studio is behind the AG Geiger Fine Art Books, which are in the front part of the same shop front. The ground floor of the room is filled with extensive equipment – from a vacuum table to a guillotine paper cutter to drying racks – and examples of their work. In an upper loft there is a device for relief and etching work. Downstairs in the basement is a dark room and other pressure equipment.
Their services range from screen printing to etching. You have no minimum for spending. Her workshops include, among other things, how to prepare your digital files for screen printing and how to screen print your own monochrome T-shirt.
Sometimes bands come over to learn how to make your own merch. “Usually they have a great idea with a lot of colors,” Miller says, “and I explain if you can make those two colors and you can make the shirt lighter and the ink darker, it will be the easiest print for beginners and the cheapest for her. “In other cases, parents and children make t-shirts for family events. At one point, Caitlin was working with a teenage boy who wanted to make a range of T-shirts for a business class at school.
LA printer has a service, but the artists who run it want to create a community for people interested in printing too. “We’re really happy we got this room for the price we do so we can have all of these classes and services inexpensively, but it’s a lot harder in LA than other cities,” says Miller. And having the opportunity to develop these skills can be important for artists today. “I think printing is such a tool [a lot of] Tools in your belt as an artist are the only way to make it happen in today’s climate. “
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