Keep in Touch
Keep in Touch Riso Collab Project
"Keep in Touch" Riso collab project is curated by sounds about riso and abC art book fair. From March to July 2021, 12 Riso studios have participated in this project. They have located on both sides of the Pacific Ocean: Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Ningbo, Taichung, New York, Grand Rapids, Los Angeles. Two studios formed a creative team, one from China and the other from the United States. They communicated with each other through email and Zoom chat, providing a local proverb/idiom for each other as a basis of creation, and started Risograph printing.
Friends who share common interests and appreciate each other make distant similarities more and more clear, and the idea of collaboration is full of hope. In any case, we are reluctant to end this Project, just like the phrase signed in the email: Keep in Touch! Looking forward to seeing everyone some day in the future, and continued the unfinished conversation.
Thank you: Alex，Amanda，Chris，Chuck，George，Gonzalo，Max，Olga，Ritu，Rose，Tara，Thomas，Winnie，Zack，安东，大安，起立，芊伶，山狗。
Lucky Risograph | New York
Out.o studio | Beijing
“Squeeze water from a stone”
sender: Out.o studio
Recipient: Lucky Risograph
idiom: Squeeze water from a stone
Hi, Lucky Risograph
The first time hearing “Squeeze water from a stone” we actually did not quite understand the circumstances of using this sentence, hence did not quite understand the meaning of this sentence. Later within different contexts, we learned that this sentence could be perceived as “impossible tasks” and “creating miracles”. We tried to run both meanings throughout our work at the same time. This theme is quite matching our current status. In previous period of time of work/life, the conflicts and unstableness of personal relationships triggered the feeling of “squeeze water from a stone” under the first definition in me. These conflicts, collision, and imbalance gave me huge pressure that I couldn’t release for a long while. After making conversations with others later I found out this is a universal and consensus problem, that everyone would encounter.
Also same as the three of the five dimensions of culture defined by Geert Hofstede—Uncertainty Avoidance, Indulgence vs. Restraint, and Masculinity vs. Feminity. Could be seen as the differentiation of people and could be seen as the inconsistencies of people. If the inconsistencies are seen as stones, still hoping to squeeze water from it while knowing it is indestructible. Even though it is crystal clear that the difficulty level is maximum, still wanting to try to solve anyways, which is probably the second interpretation “creating miracles.” Besides static riso images, we’ve added the extra AR augmented reality. Between “virtual reality” realized the squeeze water from a stone. Hopefully it could bring a little solace. Welcome to experience during the exhibition:)
We used both raster image layering and channel layering two types of layering in Riso file preparation process. With the part of the stone the complicated authentic texture under the double color overlay was kept through channel layering. At the same time, with the Grain-touch printing, the over-regular lattice point distribution was avoided. The text part was raster image layered, avoiding the fuzziness brought by color mixing that affects reading.
As for our idiom “take your pants off to fart,” hahahahahaha…wondering we might be too rude. But we think it is pretty funny. Lastly we just wish everyone stays happy!!
Keep in Touch
sender: Lucky Risograph
Recipient: Out.o studio
idiom: 脱裤子放屁 （taking off your pants to fart）
The idiom that we’ve selected for out.o studio is “squeeze water from a stone”, a phrase that you might use when dealing with a stubborn or uncooperative person. We thought that it was a very poetic way of describing a difficult situation, and that this poeticism in the face of unpleasant or irritating circumstances is quite graceful and aspirational. Not to mention, the image that it conjured up was very vivid as well! Initially the phrase came to us in the form of “squeez[ing] blood from a stone” instead, but ultimately we decided to go for a more PG option.
The idiom we received was “taking off your pants to fart” and we just thought it was so funny! However, initially I think we actually struggled quite a bit because we were getting boxed in by the strong imagery that the phrase gave off. We started off by thinking about ways to represent the concept through typography, since both Winnie and I (chuck) were more typographically oriented. However, the more we talked the more we seemed to (only naturally 😅) focus on the image of visualizing a fart! It was this direction that led us to collaborate with our good friend, Taehee Whang, artist, educator, and founding member of Hyperlink Press. A motif that they immediately crystalized was using the peach (🍑) emoji to represent a butt. All the pieces then fell into place, giving birth to our peach blowing a fart-shaped horn, when I came across imagery of people blowing trumpets with their butts that were littered throughout illuminated manuscripts :
Working with Winnie and Taehee, our process was all done through remote collaboration, with us constantly sending images back and forth through messaging apps. Based on our initial notes, Taehee created a couple different sketches, all with the motif of a peach blowing on a (fart)trumpet in mind. here is one of them:
Because we had this metallic trumpet aspect locked down, I proposed that we use a black paper as the base, to really make the gold pop. for the material of the peach itself, we looked towards jade sculptures for that translucent and bouncy vibe.
Originally, riffing on these references and sketches, we had an idea that the print would probably be in metallic gold and light gray. However, in their sculpting process, Taehee incorporated pale purple and light green into the figure,which added a lot of verve to the image and really brought it alive.
To try to replicate this effect, I chose to work with mint and violet as the two other colors for this print. The final product is created using metallic gold, light gray, mint, and violet. Although mint and violet (to a lesser degree) both have a bit of a white base to the inks, the metallic gold still tended to overpower them when used alone. To remedy that, we used light gray both as a base color as well as a highlight to really make the peach pop.
🙅🏻 Don’t always trust the process!! if it starts to look bad as you start printing out the layers, jump back to the drawing board and start making those changes. This here, is an image of just one of our failed coloring attempts. I can’t even begin to count not just how many different versions of our print files that I’ve created, but also how many versions that Winnie and Amanda have had to make while test printing 😅.
We love your work, and can't wait for the chance to geek out over risograph and design in person someday!
Keep in Touch
Secret Riso Club | New York
Little Mountain Press | Shenzhen
“Two Peas In a Pod”
sender: Little Mountain Press
Recipient: Secret Riso Club
idiom: Two Peas In a Pod
Hey, Secret Riso Club
The instant reaction we had hearing your idiom was like: what does this mean? Then I got the answer after Baiduing (Chinese version of Google), and thought “wow this is really similar to the early stages of me and Chan.” The inspiration was from a period of time when I and Chan had the exact same hair style hahahahahaha. The ok pose above is the origin of our logo, and the cat is our cat. As for the colors, we wanted to use some color schemes that we’ve never tried before. Since we both have serious procrastinations, the idiom we provide is “the fire is burning the ass but it’s no big deal.” Hopefully the pandemic could end so we can meet up in New York in 2022!
Keep in touch
Little Mountain Press
sender: Secret Riso Club
Recipient：Little Mountain Press
Hi, Little Mountain Press
We chose this idiom "Two Peas In a Pod" because it describes friendship. Our work together in the studio is based in our deep friendship and shared interests, values and passions. We have also been fortunate enough to find this in others in the zine/print community! We first thought that it described the past year perfectly! We also connected to it because we often find ourselves in situations that feel like that - and definitely get to the point where we just say "fuck it!" and do whatever - that's when the best happens! We found it very interesting in talking with Little Mountain Press to learn that most risograph studios in China have so many colors! We wanted to work within the limitation of 4 colors to produce a very colorful print. We also wanted the artwork to evoke the feeling of chaotic energy - and literally burning your ass :) Learn about your machine - don't be afraid to carefully take it apart and learn the mechanics (but take a video of what you're doing so you can put it back together!). Don't do 100% opacity on large blocks of color - that's the fastest way to get really frustrated.
It was so much fun talking to y'all! Super interesting to get to hear first hand how y'all got started. And we love your work!! Thank you :)
Keep in Touch
Secret Riso Club
Tiny Splendor | Berkeley/ Los Angeles
PNPRSS | Shanghai
“You Are What You Eat”
idiom: You are what you eat
I got the idea outside of the intensive care unit in a hospital. After it was chosen, we did some research on the word. Besides it was a traditional blessing word that almost won’t be heard in contemporary daily communication, it doesn’t have a deeper meaning in itself. It’s indeed extremely intense both inside and out of the ICU, at that specific moment, I was truly sincerely hoping EVERYONE to have a happy, healthy, and peaceful life. Nothing else matters more than them. Initial reaction to Max’s phrase from Tiny Splendor was a grocery, but in the end, I drew something else…
It’s been a few years, I started to use monochromatic lines and shapes to depict things and moments in an abstract way. I was worried when first received the idiom because all the initial thoughts pop up were quite concrete. Until one night, I saw the taxi driver was eating an apple while I was sitting in the back right of the car. The scene shows the side profile of this middle-age man with his bitting and chewing mouth. That’s where it came.
It was a four-color image. In the beginning, I told myself maybe we should demonstrate some of our technical capability since all the participants of this collaboration came from professional print studios both in China and States… However, I was not quite convinced by the multi-color of the image as a creator. Riso as a medium should serve the content, technical demonstration was not our intention. So we stopped the colored version at 100 copies and reprinted with only blue and black.
We have been on and off learning and researching about the way to make an ICC profile for riso since last year. It is not something groundbreaking for most of the professional printing studios… For creators especially photographers who choose RISO as their medium to print, it might be good to know. To put it simply, the ICC profile is a plug-in that could help you to do the color separation automatically with the preset color combination. Check it out on colorlibrary.ch if you are interested :)
Hope you 福寿康宁 :)
Keep in Touch
sender: Tiny Splendor
I chose this idiom because I thought it would be interesting to see how it would be interpreted outside the context of America. I think the concept of becoming what you eat can be both cute and grotesque at the same time, and I think representing this visually could really highlight cultural differences in charming ways. Also this idiom feels very Californian so I wanted to choose something with a little more local flavour. It brings to mind the kind of hippy health craze of the 60's and 70's and artists like Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys for me, which I think is a pretty strange and interesting aspect of California history.
I was not very familiar with my idiom - but after hearing a little more about it I kind of recognized some of the imagery surrounding it from times that I have traveled to China. I really liked the peach association aesthetically. And as kewpies are our mascot I thought they would be a perfect fit. In a way I think kewpies can represent longevity - because they are like babies that never grow old. Immediately I imagined a giant peach glistening with kewpies admiring it. Kewpies can be kind of deities of the young and cute and the combination with the symbol of the peach just worked in my mind.
A main driving factor for me was color choices. I really like using pink as a key color (for the linework) and red as the background. It is an uncommon pairing but I wanted to try it out. For us Risograph represents accessibility to print in so many ways - so I would say use it to benefit those around you and bring content into the world that is meaningful.
I hope that we can meet in person one day sooner than later! You are always welcome to visit us when the world has reopened. I also hope that my idiom was not too strange for you and appreciate however you can interpret it. It is great to connect with you and I hope that we can keep in touch. Also I am sorry I wasn't able to attend the zoom meetings. Thanks again it has been a super fun project!
Keep in touch
Zine Hug | New York
O.Q Comics | Ningbo
“Speak of the devil (and he shall appear)”
sender: O.Q Comics
idiom: speak of the devil (and he shall apear）
Hi, Zine Hug
The first reaction seeing “speak of the devil” of course is: our earth fellows are one sweet family! Don't know if the aliens would have the similar sayings. Wanting to make something happy, our work is pretty straightforward—two stupid bears going to hang out cheerfully, chirping together while encounter the sudden rain.
Some tips we wish to share with everyone: sometimes printing one piece after another is more efficient than printing multiples but got paper stuck once in a while; don't let the cat into the studio, or else there would be endless cat hairs on the drum; sometimes try the uncommon colors, might get surprising results (for example the brown, grey and gold that nobody speaks to).
The phrase we picked is “空花阳焰（the flower of illusory, the dust in daylight）” which is a sentimental but oriental romantic phrase. Void flower and dusts dancing in the sunlight are like a wonderland. Is this too difficult for our western friends to represent? (coming up some hard questions intentionally)
Finally we want to say: it must be laborious operating this machine! Have a cup of coffee with cream when you feel irritating. And let’s play comic Solitaire together next time!
keep in touch
sender: Zine Hug
We chose "Speak of the devil" because the devil or demons can be visually translated literally, and we were interested to see if O.Q. comics would use devils or "evil" imagery in their work. It was surprising to see O.Q. comics' piece that turned out super cute, because there is a really similar chinese idiom, 说曹操，曹操就到 that is used often in relationship to the weather. The piece is still is a little ominous, which fits the tone of the idiom.
While the meaning of the idiom 空花阳焰 is describing a hopeless task, the 4 characters can be translate to "empty, flower, sun, flame" which is really visually evocative so we started thinking about our image as a literal translation. We sketched out images using flowers and fire/heat using outer space as a setting for this idea.
But we wanted to depict the meaning of the idiom as well, so we used "empty flower sun flame" as an inspiration for the setting of a planet covered in radioactive flowers, releasing a poisonous haze into the atmosphere. We tried to embody the meaning of "hopeless task" into our character, who is trying to stop or reverse the damage of these toxic flowers, without much hope in achieving her goal..
The haziness of the atmosphere that we wanted to depict was also inspired by the texture of the risograph printer and the ability to mix colors to create these beautiful gradients. We used mint, yellow, fluorescent pink, and black to create a radioactive atmosphere.
Some idioms that can be applied to risograph printing are "patience is a virtue," "happy accident," "yolo."
Thank you to O.Q. comics for giving us this idiom. We loved discussing its meaning and creating our risograph print. We were also pleasantly surprised to learn the idiom we gave to O.Q. comics (speak of the devil) has a translation that is commonly used in Chinese!
We think our prints look great together and somehow became connected by the symbol of a water droplet :)
keep in touch
TXTbooks | New York
怪兽工坊Monster Workshop | Beijing
“go on wild goose chase”
sender: Monster Workshop
idiom: go on wild goose chase
The first reaction hearing your idiom was: labor goose, labor soul, labor makes you a stand-out goose! How to make the labor goose cooler? e.g. Jack Sparrow’s eye patch. The phrase we select is “dancing joyfully with hands and feet,” because Dan at the studio loves kitties and has so many kitties’ stickers. “Dancing kitty” is one of our favorites, so the first thing came to mind was “dancing joyfully with hands and feet.”
The inspiration of this poster comes from daily life, working and living blindly and pointlessly are both meaningless. On the selection of colors, we didn’t choose grey wild goose but big white goose instead, in order to make the main idea more stands out—the dark color background align with the theme that the big goose’s job doesn’t lead to a bright future. Because Riso has infinity bugs, stay in a good mood, the freshness generates from constant trial and errors is the source of Riso’s joyfulness.
Lastly, some mutual encouragements with TXTBooks: there’s not hard works, only brave laborers!
Keep in Touch
We thought an unattainable pursuit is very relatable to Risograph printing and book making. And at TXTbooks we love gooses ;) The idiom that Monster Workshop sent us was 手舞足蹈, which translates to 'Hand Dance Feet Dance.' Along with that, they sent us a meme of a dancing cat and we were very inspired to draw something with dancers in it. Along the process since it was a collaboration between Thomas and me (Rose), we decided that Thomas would do the drawings and I would work on the type.
When we first started, we didn't have a clear plan but we wanted to work in an intuitive way without overplanning. We first decided on 3 risograph colors; blue, scarlet and sunflower. Thomas illustrated a bunch of small dancers in his sketchbook while I selected my favorites and designed the poster. This is unusual for us since Thomas is the designer of the pair, so working with type and basically designing was new to me but so nice! The tips about riso Risograph is "Don't make it too complicated for yourself. "
Monster Workshop is amazing! When we can, we'd love to go to China and visit your studio :)
Keep in Touch
Issue Press | Grand Rapids
Riso Museum | Taichung
“Break a leg / no use crying over spilled milk”
For my idiom I gave the option of two: “Break a leg” and “no use crying over spilled milk.” “Break a leg” is old theater slang for “good luck!” It is used in situations where it would be bad luck to say “good luck.” “No use crying over spilled milk” means that there is no use getting upset about something that cannot be changed. I chose both of these because I thought they were both really illustrative expressions that would lend themselves to a fun and weird poster. I couldn’t decide on either, so I let Riso Museum decide!
Originally I wanted to send something really, really local to the region where I live, the West side of the State of Michigan. My area has historically had one of the largest populations of Dutch immigrants in the United States. There is an expression here called “Dutch Bingo,” a sort of way of explaining how one is related to another through the connections of Dutch people we know. It is an expression that everyone here understands, but I see now that it is very hard to properly explain and everyone told me it would be too tough to make a poster of. I can’t get the image of a Dutch bingo card out of my head, though, so I might try to take on the challenge myself one day.
Riso Museum gave me the expression「鸡飞狗跳」(flying chicken, jumping dog), something that I had never heard before. I was told that it portrays “a situation that is messy and chaotic, just like chicken flying and dogs jumping around in a crowded place.” They chose it for me because they felt it perfectly reflected the past year they have had as they have struggled to get their studio and business off the ground during a pandemic. I related to this expression, because that is the way I work as well. Everything is VERY chaotic, messy, and last minute—but usually something comes together in the end. That is exactly how the process of making my poster went.
As much as I related to the sentiment of the idiom I was given, I have to admit that I had a really difficult time approaching this poster. I could only imagine something really literal, like some kind of crazy farm scene with the animals jumping and flying around like the expression says. My work tends to be very research oriented, so I spent the next several nights digging around online archives - looking at US government farming manuals from the 1960s, old texts about chicken breeding, ancient lithographs, and early 20th century commercial illustration for some inspiration. I really struggled for days to come up with something from this material. I learned a lot (I kind of want to raise some chickens now), but in the end, nothing really worked.
Because this was a project with other RISO studios, I started to look at the machine for inspiration. I have always loved the checkered test pattern that they produce, so I tried cutting some of the vintage commercial art out of test patterns and overlaying them to create chaotic scenes. They really did not work and I am embarrassed to share one here, but you asked for some process images, so… here you go.
Frustrated that none of my ideas were working, I gave up on all my research and machine thoughts and just started drawing on my iPad Mini. In the end, this final version of the poster came together pretty quickly and I am much happier with the results. The finger puppets came from just goofing around in ProCreate. I really liked the idea of using puppets to give a sense of taking control and making peace in the midst of the chaos.
Like the idiom, this project was messy and chaotic but the final results just kind of came together right at the last minute.
One thing I love to play with on two color machines is the print order of the colors. When printing with two colors at the same time, the first color will always dominate the second because of what is known in printing as “wet trapping.” The wet ink of the first drum transfers (via the paper) to the second drum, and clogs the master of the second color a little. This prevents the second color from inking all the way in the areas where the first color has been printed. This can make the print look really weird if you print the colors in the “wrong” order. To avoid this, one would typically want to print with darker color ink in the first position. But, sometimes it is fun to print the lighter color first to make it look weird on purpose. I did that here to heighten the chaos of the overprint and to make the Sunflower Yellow pop out a bit more against the Red ink.
I want to thank Riso Museum for this fun and difficult challenge! I learned a lot while working on this project, not just about chickens, and I think it will help inform my future work. I hope I am able to visit Taiwan again and visit your studio in Taichung. Let’s hope it is soon!
Keep in touch