While the university photocopier and Officeworks help you print some stuff in bulk, and cheaply, there's a whole world of other offerings that Sydney's artists can get close to if they have something special to land on the printed page.
Concrete Playground recently chatted with four local Sydney printers. Some use very new technology, others work with much older techniques. And, while none are as cheap as the photocopier, all four of these local printing houses are relatively accessible for the lone artist.
Want to learn how to print an object? A zine? A book? A poster? Read on. We'll tell you how it's done.
Zines: The Rizzeria
"I felt absolutely gutted. It was horrifying."
This is how Leigh Ragozzi describes the feeling of watching the (accidentally administered) death throes of the Rizzeria collective's original Riso printer. This photocopier-shaped machine was the raison d'être of the collective. He found himself dropping the machine back at their St Peters studio alone, after a successful residency at the Performance Space. The ramp that the collective usually used to wheel it up the step was missing. Not able to get ahold of any help, he tried to heft the heavy machine up a step where the studio's ramp normally went. He missed. And that wasn't the end of it. After Ragozzi returned the rented truck they used to transport the Rizo, he was mugged.
"I emailed everyone and told them everything that had happened that day. I had to deal with that unpleasantness of not feeling safe in the city, and also having busted up one of the best print cooperatives around."
You can understand why he was upset. The Riso was cool. With a Riso you can essentially spit out high speed colour screen prints, like a photocopier can spit out copies. It's the same basic some people might remember from the fragrant, purple school handouts made with a ditto machine or mimeograph.
Sydney printer, Kernow Craig (now of Blood and Thunder), saw a Riso in action at Knust in the city of Nijmegen, Holland. Craig was floored by the machine — and the workshop around it — and convinced all sorts of people to chip in for one when he returned to Sydney.
For the original machine, the cash was raised as a form of gentle loan (later repaid). For its replacement, the Rizzeria collective ran a successful Pozible campaign. Now they have a new machine happily up and running, most of an old machine for parts and no debt.
And using the new machine is a pretty simple process to get your head around.
You start by making a Saturday appointment via the Rizzeria's web form. Once you arrive, a member of the collective will be on hand to guide you through your first go. Your design (or zine page, or A4 poster) gets scanned up top like a photocopier. But, instead of copying it onto A4, the printer etches the design onto a roll of wax paper that pops out up the top.
This wax paper gets wrapped around a cylinder that pops out of the centre of the bed popping out of a CT scanner. The ink for the printing is inside the cylinder.
And, as the pages of paper go through, it spits out ink around the patterns. It really is just like screen printing, but the ink is being pushed through the cylinder against the passing pages, instead of a flat screen. Pages pop out as fast and reliably as a photocopier.
For a second colour, you just etch out another stencil of a matching design, stick another colour ink in the cylinder and run the paper through again. The paper will get both versions of the image, but lining up the two colours on the one sheet ("registration") is pretty hard. So, for more than one colour, the Riso machine works best with a second colour that looks ok even if it slips a little out of place.
At the time of compiling this article, the Rizzeria were still working out their new charges. But they expected them to be pretty similar to the old ones, which worked out at roughly $5 for a single, fully printed zine.