Interview: DIY Cultures at Rich Mix / DIY Riso

In the middle of BBQ’s and bank holiday hangovers, DIY Cultures 2016 took place at Shoreditch’s Rich Mix on Sunday 29th May. The day festival was packed out, celebrating self-starting publishers and artists with a zine fair, exhibitions, talks, films and workshops. Disruptive design and ideas were served up on stage across topics like radical mental health, the history of black arts magazines and decolonising libraries.

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Meanwhile, an exhibition upstairs showcased a collection of zines and posters made using a risograph printer. Highlights of DIY Riso included playful prints of animal figurines by illustrator Aleesha Nandhra and a colourful zine about the lies we are told by Dan Russel.

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Halima Olalemi’s sophisticated and vibrant Skeetmotis also shone out. The zine discusses the unique relationship between black men and the barbershop, printed skilfully in layers of blue and gold ink.

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I caught up with the exhibitions’ curators, creative producer Divya Osbon and graphic designer Rose Nordin, about how they put it all together and the craft of risograph.

What’s the background to today’s event?
Rose: I’m one of the founders of Oomk Zine. Our collective and another called Other Asias runs DIY Cultures, led by Sofia Niaszi, Hamja Ahsan and Helena Wee. This year we’ve got 88 exhibitors as well as an exhibition on risograph printing and another called Radical Libraries, which is on for two weeks. It all ties in with our new issue on collecting and archiving.

Over its four years, DIY Cultures has been about any practice that’s self-initiated and creative. This year the talks are about different forms of activism and how that bleeds into creative practice.

What is Oomk Zine about?
Rose: It’s about creative practice and activism of women specifically. We have about 30 contributors for each issue and we ensure than over half of them are women of colour and women of faith.

What’s the thinking behind the DIY Riso exhibition?
Divya: It links with radical libraries and the alternative press work that’s going on here today, because a lot of activists groups are using risograph printers. That’s because it’s cheap, accessible and while you can create really nice visual affects it’s quite straightforward to use. We looked at lots of different artists that are using risograph printing and did an open call out for people to submit their work. They’ve come from all over the UK and there are some from Berlin and Spain. I think that reach is due to Oomk’s wide reaching fanbase.

How did you select which work to display?
Rose: Some of it was about what would work best with riso printing. Soft pencil and really subtle tones don’t really work. It needs to be quite bold.

Divya: Photographs and pen drawings work really well. Also, it was nice when people thought about how they could layer up colours. Using a risograph is a bit like screen-printing, because you have different screens as layers. That’s how you can apply different colours.

What are the challenges of using a risograph printer?
Divya: There’s lots of limitations to risograph printing and that can be quite interesting. It’s just very DIY. For example, some of the colours we were intending to use didn’t work so we had to improvise quite a lot, changing our colour scheme from teal and orange to blue and green.

Risographs can break down sometimes for unexplainable reasons and take a few hours of fiddling to fix. We had to be ready for any eventuality and make several trips to where the printer was at Mayday Rooms to test things out. It always seems to take longer than planned, whether it’s figuring out the best settings to print with, or getting a particularly nasty paper jam. That’s why in the end we ran out of time to print the catalogue ourselves. Crumb Cabin – a small press based in Deptford – stepped in to print it for us and did a great job.

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Kate Hollowood

Kate Hollowood

Author at People of Print
Kate Hollowood

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