Times are tough for â€œanalog,â€ or non-digital, media these days.Â Last year, Polaroid announced it was ending production of its namesake cameras and film.Â As supplies run thin, many enthusiasts are racing to find the last caches of film, and paying hefty prices for them.
As personal computers make a easier and cheaper tool for self-publishing, enthusiasts are saying goodbye to another lesser-known, but equally-cherished product: Gocco.Â The Gocco is a tiny printing machine brought to us by the Japanese Riso company and a favorite of DIY printmakers.Â To find out more about the device and its demise, I spoke with two master Gocco printers at Portlandâ€™s Independent Publishing Resource Center, Gretchin Lair and Shu-Ju Wang.
â€œItâ€™s a very easy to use silkscreen printing system that uses flash bulbs to expose pre-coated screens,â€ says Wang.Â â€œYou can go from artwork, through exposure and inking, to print, in 5 minutes or less. Itâ€™s also very portable and suitable for small workspaces.â€Â â€œI say the Gocco is magic!â€ adds Lair. â€œIts many geniuses include using non-toxic materials to print & clean up and the ability to print with multiple colors on the same screen (which avoids registrationsÂ hassles). â€
For a few years, Riso had been theatening the end of its product, and the Gocco community responded with a â€œSave Goccoâ€ campaign that seemed to keep hope alive.Â The Wurst Gallery, an online gallery based out of Portland, held a show at the time to raise awareness and exhibit the work of local Gocco artists.Â But last Summer the last machines rolled off the line, with inks soon to follow.
I asked Lair and Wang a few more questions to see how theyâ€™re dealing with the final nail in Goccoâ€™s coffin.
What is your favorite way to use Gocco?
Shu-Ju Wang: Iâ€™m not sure that I can list ONE favorite way to use the Gocco, theyâ€™re all my favorites. You can do very â€˜traditionalâ€™ Gocco printing â€” graphic images on card sized paper â€” this is very functional, very utilitarian. You can print a lot of greeting cards or business cards very quickly. But I also love the different ways you can expand beyond that â€” CMYK printing; printing over-sized prints (larger than the print bed will allow); printing with an open screen; printing on food using edible inks. Iâ€™ve used all of these techniques to create fine prints and artistâ€™s books (well, except for the printing on food part). Iâ€™ve produced and editioned about 40 prints and artistâ€™s books since 1999. Actually probably more. I love to teach the Gocco too. Itâ€™s always so priceless when you pull the first print and you hear everyone gasp.
Gretchin Lair: I love making cards, but Iâ€™ve probably printed on food more than Iâ€™ve printed on paper! For instance, Iâ€™ve printed a poem onto crepes for an â€œEdible Book Teaâ€ party, and one year I printed a big bowl of â€œunnecessaryâ€ quotes onto mini pancakes for the IPRC Text Ball.
With such a useful product and devoted fanbase, why would Riso cease production of Gocco?
Shu-Ju Wang: Well, now thatâ€™s just NOT explainable!Â My understanding is that the Japan domestic market, the main market for the Gocco, has declined so much that itâ€™s no longer worth Risoâ€™s while to continue production. Print Gocco is (was) designed and manufactured in Japan by Riso, and thatâ€™s their main focus. The international market and outcry over its demise have had little impact on Risoâ€™s decision-making process.Â To be fair, Riso is a huge company, and Print Gocco is such a small part of what they do that it must seem like a thorn on its side.
Gretchin Lair: I wish it could become like the typewriter or camera industries, where itâ€™s still possible to find ribbons and film for products that have long ceased to be sold. Iâ€™ll really miss Gocco.
What does this mean for printmakers?
Shu-Ju Wang: I donâ€™t knowâ€¦weâ€™ll all retreat into a corner somewhere and cry our little eyeballs out?Â Iâ€™m still thinking that itâ€™s a great opportunity for some entrepreneurial person to come up with a suitable alternative. It can also drive current Gocco users to come up with creative ways to continue printing with the Goccoâ€™s. I know that I can keep printing by using and reusing open screens, but Iâ€™ll run out of suitable inks to use in the Gocco eventually. So then the quest would be on for replacement inksâ€¦Â But Iâ€™m not sure that the larger printmaking industry has noticed the Gocco much though. So they might not feel so much pain, and in fact they might benefit from the Goccoâ€™s demise â€” all these people who have been introduced to printmaking through the Print Gocco now have to get their printmaking fix some other way.
Gretchin Lair: I think DIY craftspeople will miss out on easy ways to get creative by printing greeting cards, business cards, wedding invitations, gift tags, stationery, T-shirts, skirts, bibs & onesies, stuffed animals, dolls, toys, ornaments, tea cozies, bags, pins, book covers, wall stencils and more. The Gocco was also a wonderful tool for people with limited spaces or who didnâ€™t want caustic materials in their homes.
What will you do as the last supplies run dry?
Gretchin Lair: Iâ€™m stocking up on supplies and storing them in my basement for the coming Gocco apocalypse. But Iâ€™m also watching the gocco-printers Yahoo! group to see what materials other Gocco printers are experimenting & succeeding with. The inks are more flexible than the bulbs & screens, so at some point Iâ€™ll just be able to print the screens Iâ€™ve already burned, which means packing as much art onto a screen as possible.
Shu-Ju Wang: Iâ€™ve tried other products to use with the Gocco, and none have worked all that well using the traditional Gocco press printing technique. I plan to keep Goccoâ€™ing for as long as I can, but Iâ€™m also getting a small table top etching press. I plan to use the press either standalone or in creating combination etching-Gocco prints. Iâ€™ll also get more letterpress timeâ€¦I do have that letterpress sitting in my garage!
This article was originally posted on my Blog it Yourself blog.