Category : Printmaking

Gocco Manhoru

I recently crossed something off my Book Arts Bucket List – I completed my first Gocco edition! We’re just going to ignore the fact that I’ve had my Gocco since 2008.

So what motivated the project? The Book Arts Guild of Vermont is in the midst of hosting a challenge where participants create an edition of prints, exchange them, and then create a book incorporating the full set of prints. The book has to be completed by May – I’m so thankful that I have two months to get that done.

Since I still seem to be in my post-Japan bliss, I decided to use my trip as inspiration for my print. During my trip, I discovered so many things that added to its unending charm. Among them – manhole covers (a.k.a. manhoru). Yes, this is totally a thing.

Each municipality in Japan has its own manhole cover design, with different colors, patterns, and themes. According to an article on deMilked, the practice started in an effort to promote the importance of funding sewage projects. Estimates have the number of different manhoru at about 6,000. According to an article on Colossal, the most popular design is trees, followed by landscapes, flowers, and birds.

I really wish I had noticed them sooner, although if I had, I probably would have spent all of my time looking at the ground instead of what was in front of me.

So, now that I’ve given you a lengthy introduction, here’s the Tokyo manhole cover that inspired my edition:

Manhole cover in Tokyo, Japan

I monkeyed with the image in Photoshop until I was able to reduce it to a black and white image. It took a really.long.time. Swearing happened.

Here’s the final image:

Rendering of Japanese manhole cover

As you can see, I took some creative license and eliminated the holes and the writing on the left side. I wanted a uniform image.

Screen burning time! I printed out the image using my laser printer and burned a Gocco screen. Next, I surrounded my image with ink block to help keep the ink from spreading.

Gocco screen with ink block

Ink mixing time! I wanted a dirty bronze color, which required five different inks to achieve.

Mixing Gocco ink

Inking time! Next, I applied the ink to the burned screen…

Inked Gocco screen with ink block

…and slid the screen into my Gocco.

Gocco printing in progress

Printing time! Next thing I know, there were these:

Gocco prints on drying racks

Something weird happened during printing, which caused a very minor smudgy thing. You probably can’t even see it, but I can. Don’t ask me to tell you what I’m talking about because my lips are sealed.

I am thrilled with the results! Due to my total lack of creativity in naming, I settled on naming the edition Manhole.

Gocco print of Japanese manhole cover by Elissa Campbell

Next mission – the swapped book of prints. I’ll be writing about that project when it gets going.

In the meantime, if you want to learn more about Japanese manhole covers, you’ve got a few options:

  • Check out the book Drainspotting by Remo Camerota
  • View the more than 1,500 photos by S. Morita, THE go-to dude for images of manhoru
  • Visit the website for the Japan Manhole Cover Society (Note: The website is in Japanese and looks sketchy, but it’s totally legit. If you click on the links, you’ll be taken to images of manhole covers, along with information about their locations.)

And lastly, be sure to read book artist Louise Levergneux blog posts about her fascination with manhole covers (she calls them city shields). Her work isn’t just limited to Japan, but has a worldwide focus.

Book Arts Guide to Vermont Open Studio Weekend

Handmade leather journalsWelcome to the 2013 Book Arts Guide to Vermont Open Studio Weekend

It’s time for my annual nod to the many book artists participating in Open Studio Weekend. A few of these talented folks are also members of the Book Arts Guild of Vermont, an organization I hold near and dear to my heart.

I created the Google map below, which includes all of the studios to help you plan your travels. Unfortunately, the book arts studios aren’t very close to each other. By the way, I’m studio #124.

I’ll be referring to studios by both name and number – the number refers to a listing in the Vermont Studio Tour Guide. The colors of the studio numbers in this post match the colored markers in the Google map below.

There are several ways to get your hands on a map:

First stop on the book arts tour is #70, Lyna Lou Nordstrom. She is a wonderful printmaker, focusing her work on the painterly aspects of monoprinting. And if you stop by her studio, you’ll have the opportunity to make your own free jello print – they’re so much fun to make!

Next is #93 Meta Strick. Meta really is a Jackie of all trades. She does wonderful mixed media work, including dolls that have a book component. It’s quite wonderful to read the “history” of each doll. She has a great philosophy that you can make anything into a book. Meta has lots of fans, so don’t be surprised if you get to her studio and it’s mobbed. Perhaps pick up some coffee and a snack before you head on over?

Amy Cook #83 is the next stop. Not only does Amy make books, but she’s also a sculptor, painter, curator, and interior designer. And if that’s not interesting enough, she’s the first American woman to receive a PhD in Philosophy, Aesthetics, and Art Theory at the Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts. A visit with Amy is certainly going to offer you fascinating conversation about her work.

The last stop is #110 Ken Leslie. Ken primarily creates books in a circular format – a practice that developed out of his dissatisfaction with rectangular painting shapes. His themes often focus on natural cycles, such as day and night. The size of his work ranges from miniature to really ginormous – you can walk through some of his books when they’re open. Ken shared his work at a Book Arts Guild meeting and it was wonderful!

If you do go to any of the studios, share your experiences here and I will live vicariously through you. If you have any pictures, I’d love to see them…you can even do a guest post on my blog!

Make that Book Arts Tour map bigger!

Pres­sure Print­ing: A Painterly Approach to the Press with Sarah Bryant – Day 4

Today was my last class with Sarah. Sadness. I lovvveeddd her class.

We started off with a pochoir demonstration:

Sarah Bryant doing a pochoir demonstration

After that, she showed us a basic book structure that we could use to present our prints – she referred to it as a tipped folio book. She said that it’s a good structure for one-sided items.

Here’s the procedure (although most of you might already know this one):

    1. Fold the prints in half so that the content is on the inside of the folio.
    2. Line the folios up by the spine, then jog them to the head.
    3. On one folio, mask off an area of 1/8″ and apply straight PVA.


Gluing a folio for tipping in


  1. Attach the second folio, then put under weight.
  2. After the pairs of folios are done, pair together pairs of folios.
  3. Put x’s on the sides that need to be glued together.
  4. Repeat step #3 and attach to other pair of folios.
  5. Repeat the process until all of the folios are tipped together.

She recommended that you work on the folios in pairs so that it would be easier to keep things lined up.

For the cover, we used cover weight paper. Here’s the process:

  1. Make your first fold where the back edge of your text block will rest.
  2. Compress the text block, then add a bit. Mark a light pencil line on the cover stock.
  3. Score a line at the spot where you marked in pencil, using a ruler as a guide.
  4. Fold over at the score line.

Sarah used 3M 415 adhesive to attach the covers, but you could easily use PVA. The 415 takes a few hours to reach full attachment. To attach the covers to the text block:

  1. Start at the back.
  2. Bring the tape in slightly from the edge, then attach the text block to the cover.
  3. Push the text block against the spine with your fingers.
  4. Attach adhesive to the backside of the text block and adhere to the cover.
  5. Trim excess cover stock as needed.

Trimming the cover on a tipped folio book

The finished book structure:

Tipped folio book

Tipped folio book

After that, were left to work on our own books. I decided to wait until I get home to get working on my book. I think I might want to incorporate papers from my stash.

At the end of the day, we put out all of our work so we could see what everyone had done. It was amazing to see how much work had been generated in just 4 days – and 1/2 days at that! And with only ONE PRESS available to everyone!

Seriously amazing.

Examples of work by other students:

Student work from Sarah Bryant's Pressure Printing class at Paper and Book Intensive 2013

Student work from Sarah Bryant's Pressure Printing class at Paper and Book Intensive 2013

Student work from Sarah Bryant's Pressure Printing class at Paper and Book Intensive 2013

Student work from Sarah Bryant's Pressure Printing class at Paper and Book Intensive 2013

Student work from Sarah Bryant's Pressure Printing class at Paper and Book Intensive 2013

Student work from Sarah Bryant's Pressure Printing class at Paper and Book Intensive 2013

Student work from Sarah Bryant's Pressure Printing class at Paper and Book Intensive 2013

Student work from Sarah Bryant's Pressure Printing class at Paper and Book Intensive 2013

Student work from Sarah Bryant's Pressure Printing class at Paper and Book Intensive 2013

Student work from Sarah Bryant's Pressure Printing class at Paper and Book Intensive 2013

I highly recommend taking a class with Sarah if you have the chance. She has a wonderful teaching style and contagious positive energy.

And she makes amazing handouts.

Pres­sure Print­ing: A Painterly Approach to the Press with Sarah Bryant – Day 3

Sarah Bryant teaching pressure printing at the Paper and Book IntensiveToday was pretty low-key with Sarah. First she taught us about using textured materials in combination with pressure printing.

For example, you can take a piece of knitting and use it as a plate. Depending on the amount of pressure used, you can get a pretty crisp, photographic image.

Next she showed us how to use the linoleum blocks we learned about yesterday. The block has to be type high, so we added a piece of bookboard underneath the block to raise it.

It takes some trial and error to get the pressure plate to hit the block in the right place and get an interesting image. I reversed my plate a few times and moved the block around the press until I found an image I liked.

When you use a linoleum block with pressure plate, you do have to think about the orientation of your image because anything in the bed of the press will show up reversed when printed.

Here’s my completed linoleum block (no blood spilled!):

Carved linoleum block locked in a letterpress

And here’s the pressure plate I used in combination with the block:

Pressure printing plate

And here are the final prints – they were printed in a couple different shades of green:

Pressure prints

Pressure prints

I love them!

Here’s what the linoleum block looked like after it had been run through the press with the pressure plate:

Carved and inked linoleum block

Here are some of the other prints I completed. I didn’t like them as much (too much white space):

Pressure prints

Pressure prints

I believe that tomorrow we’ll be binding our prints into a book. Stay tuned!

Pres­sure Print­ing: A Painterly Approach to the Press with Sarah Bryant – Day 2

Today we had to come into Sarah’s class with two new pressure plates. We signed up for time slots so we’d all have a shot at the one press that was available.

As my slot was later in the day, I had the opportunity to create two additional plates.

I had the supreme luck to be paired with Jessica Spring, a very sweet woman and seasoned letterpress artist. She kept things humming along as we worked through our slot.

I have to admit that I’m having a hard time getting my brain wrapped around the fact that what essentially amounts to a collage can be considered a plate.

My brain says that a plate has to be something that, at the very least, you shouldn’t be able to tear. It should be made of metal or some other substantial material.

I’m sure that by day 4 of the class, my brain will come around. Stupid, slow brain.

Here are the four plates I worked with today and their resulting prints (lovely orange ink today!):

We were then given a demo of how to carve linoleum blocks. This I know how to do and I loooovvveee to carve. What I don’t know is how you use the carved block in combination with the pressure printing. We’ll get to that tomorrow.

Carving a linoleum block

Here are some linoleum carving tips:

  • You can put linoleum in the microwave for a few seconds to heat it up and make it easier to carve.
  • You can also put it in the sun to heat it up.
  • When you carve a block, rotate it while you work and carve away from yourself.
  • If you carve towards yourself you will probably stab yourself in the stomach and die.

Sarah also taught us how to clean the press. The way she did it isn’t how I learned it at Dartmouth’s orientation, so it was cool to get an alternative method. Here are her tips:

  • Start cleaning with baby oil, which helps to break up the ink.
  • Follow up with some kind of mineral spirits.
  • Don’t clean rollers with your rag all mushed up. Fold it into a square, then refold it as it gets dirty. It helps your rags last longer and makes it easier to find a clean spot.

Pres­sure Print­ing: A Painterly Approach to the Press with Sarah Bryant – Day 1

Ox-Bow Print Studio signIn this afternoon’s session with Sarah Bryant, we started with an introduction to pressure printing. Barbara Tetenbaum is considered an innovator in printing this method.

Creating  printing plates is easy – attach layers of thin and/or thick material to a sheet of paper. The point is to create variable points of pressure.

You can use a glue stick or spray mount to attach the material. If your plate is tacky when completed, you can sprinkle on baby powder to remove the stickiness.

A boxcar base is usually used for polymer plates to keep the work at type height. If you’ve got one, you can use one of these for pressure printing. If you don’t have a boxcar chase, then you can use plywood with a layer of packing tape as an alternative base. To verify that the makeshift plate is type high, check it against capital M type.

In a nutshell, here’s how the printing process works:

  1. Attach your material to a piece of paper to create a plate.
  2. Mount a Speedball flexible printing plate (1/16” thick, flexible vinyl printmaking mat) to your base.
  3. Lock the base in your press.
  4. Add layers of paper behind your plate (packing) so that pressure comes from two directions. With packing material, less is more when you start out.
  5. Lay your printing paper on top of your plate.
  6. Lock the paper in the press and print!

We experimented with differing amounts of packing as we printed and also printed a ghost image of our plates.

One of the great things about pressure printing is that you don’t have to deal with left/right reversal issues. The way you arrange your plate is how your print will come out of the press. This makes it a great method for printing words.

Sarah told us that you can cut up the flexible plates into shapes and stick them on to the boxcar chase as a way to add complexity to your image.

You ink the plate pieces using a brayer. To add ink to the brayer, spread some out on a piece of plexiglass and pick it up as your roll over it. Try to avoid getting stripes of ink on the brayer or they could transfer to your plates.

Here are the plates I made today with their resulting prints:

I’m really enjoying this class and I can totally see myself continuing work with the process after I return home. I’m hoping I can replicate it successfully on my tabletop press.

And Sarah is freaking hilarious. You absolutely have to go read her blog. Now.

As I’ve done in previous workshops, I’ll be letting you in on any juicy quotes that tickle my fancy during class. Fun quotes from Sarah:

“Oh, I’ll show you a ghost like you’ve never seen.”

“We’re doing this crazy kind of wackadoo printing thing.”

“Hot damn, this is awesome!”

“Only jerks do that.” (referring to printing on the press cylinder)

“I totally ran outta blobs.”

“Nobody can stop me!” (referring to adding more packing material)

Can’t wait for tomorrow!

Is Yudu the new Gocco?

As I mentioned in this post, I am newbie owner of a PG-5 Gocco machine.

Gocco is a self-contained screen printing unit. You can use it to both burn master screens and to make your prints. It’s damn nifty. I wanted one forever. I got one. Life was good.

Then Amanda at PaperLust rocked my world today. I read on her blog to find out that just this week, Provo Craft unveiled its new Yudu personal screen printer.

In fact, the Yudu just became available for sale today exclusively on the Home Shopping Network. They’re selling the machine today for $279.95 with free shipping and handling.

So just what is this Yudu thingie? Well, it does essentially the same thing that a Gocco does, with some interesting differences:

  1. Gocco screens measure 3.75″ x 5.75″ for the B6 and 6.5″ x 9″ for the B5, while the Yudu 110 mesh screens measure 11″ x 14″.
  2. When you burn a screen on a Gocco machine, the bulbs are not reusable. The Yudu has a built-in light box so you can reuse the same bulbs for additional screens.
  3. Gocco screens are pre-treated with emulsion, whereas the Yudu screens come without it. You have to manually apply an emulsion sheet each time you burn a screen.
  4. Gocco screens are not reusable for new images. Yudu screens are reusable – you can clean off the emulsion and reuse the screen for a completely new image.
  5. To burn an image into a Gocco screen you must use a carbon-based image. For the Yudu, you don’t. You can print your image on a transparency directly from your inkjet printer.
  6. Using the Gocco, you apply ink to your screen and then print directly from the machine by opening and closing the top. With the Yudu, you have to use a squeegee to print your image.

So what is my problem? Well, I just spent way too much stocking up on supplies for my Gocco (which I haven’t yet used). While I feel it was a worthwhile investment, I am oh-so-easily distracted by shiny new things. And goofy product names.

Other than that, this Yudu dealie looks interesting. It’s brand spanking new, so there’s no way I’d buy it hot off the press, so to speak. Plus I still need to use and kill off the supplies I already have for my Gocco. The Yudu seems like it has potential for the future.

However, I’d like to be sure of a few things:

  1. The kinks have been worked out.
  2. It has longevity as a product.
  3. It has good reviews from users.
  4. There’s a wide variety of ink colors and accessories readily available.
  5. It’s affordable.

Of course, none of this stopped me from getting a Gocco, even knowing that they weren’t making machines or supplies for them anymore.

I showed the Yudu video to my hubby when he came home from work today and he had an interesting comment. Yudu’s light box uses bulbs that are a standard size that can be bought in any hardware store. He pointed out that the federal Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 has effectively banned the production of  incandescent bulbs by 2014. There are some exceptions to the ban, but he suggested that it might be worthwhile to find out what kind of bulbs are used by the Yudu before getting sucked into another Gocco fiasco. Wise words.

If you’re interested in more information about the Yudu, there’s a really interesting conversation going on in the Etsy forums. A rep from Provo Craft is involved has been very open in answering everyone’s questions.

You can also watch demo videos on YouTube. I’m fond of the following video, where I learned that one should think long and hard about consuming champagne while demonstrating a new product.

Just say no.

More Gocco anxiety…

As I mentioned back in May, panic motivated me to finally buy a Gocco printer. I bought it for $150 from Japan, which included shipping. To buy a new machine now, you’d have to pay anywhere from $295 – $485.95, not including shipping. Gocco printers are not going for much cheaper on Ebay.

The belief was that Gocco would continue production of supplies for the foreseeable future, even though they were going to stop manufacturing the printers in June. I was thankful I had one. I figured I was all set.

I was wrong.

I stumbled across a post on the Flickr Gocco discussion group that described how Riso would not only stop manufacturing Gocco supplies, but would also stop shipping supplies to the U.S. after 12/1/08. So that freaked me out a little bit, but I couldn’t go off the deep end without a second opinion.

From the Letters & Print website:

U.S. Gocco dealers received a communication on July 1, 2008, from the President & Chief Operating Officer of Riso stating that “the manufacturer will be discontinuing ALL Print Gocco products, including supplies. The letter continues, “the Print Gocco production technology will thereafter be unavailable and there will be no manufacturer of Print Gocco products. Finally, no more supplies will be filled (for U.S. vendors) after December 31, 2008.”

Okay, so I got a third opinion too. From the Wet Paint website:

JULY 2008: RISO, the manufacturer of the Print Gocco, has announced that they have discontinued production of this product, and will discontinue production of supplies.


I went on a buying spree, buying from 4 different online vendors. This is what I think I bought (what can I say other than not to buy stuff when you’re upset): 11 10-packs of bulbs, 7 5-packs of screens, a Gocco guide, and 24 inks.

Have I mentioned that I haven’t even used the machine yet? Not once?

Gocco availability issues

Today someone responded to a previous post of mine where I discussed my (then recent) purchase of a Gocco PG-5 set. She asked where I got mine because she was having problems finding one. I bought mine on Etsy so I checked to see if my seller printaddictjapan had any units in stock. I was rather surprised to find that her price had jumped from $99.50 (when I bought it on 5/31) to $265.

Her shop notice stated the following:

The price increase of the Gocco reflects the availability and increased prices here in Japan. I have very limited stock and do not anticipate finding new stock. I regret the situation but it is out of my hands…..

As I mentioned in this post, the Riso Kagaku Corporation announced that it would stop making Gocco printers in June 2008. Well, it seems that in three short months, supplies have been running low.

There is a discussion about the availability issue in the Gocco Flickr group. I searched on Ebay and prices have gone up on there as well – and the number of auctions has decreased. Other online retailers that had stocked the machines are either out of stock or have significantly raised their prices.

Even though I have a Gocco, I’m still bummed. It seems as though enough people love these things that the company should keep making them. Forget profits – do it out of the goodness of your hearts! I’m still hoping that there’s a Gocco superhero who will swoop in and make this happen. Meh.

Time to start hoarding supplies.

Cool Gocco-related find #1: color charts

So now that I have a Gocco printer, I have been engaging in what must be a long-honored tradition of becoming obsessed with finding out every little detail about the little devil. I started making a list of all the cool web resources I found until my search came to a screeching halt after doing a search on Etsy.

What I found was shop blue22, a.k.a Jamie from New York City. So Jamie has gone and done a genius thing – he gathered all of the official Gocco inks he could find (59 to be exact) and printed them on different colors of paper so you can see how they print before you use them or even buy them.

Gocco ink color chart - black, white, grey

With each set of cards you receive a transparent overlay so you can identify each ink – Jamie calls it a “Color Matrix”. In my opinion, anything called a matrix can’t be bad. Unless it’s a sequel.

The first set of charts I saw was what you see in the image at right – inks printed on black, gray, and white cardstocks. But that was just the beginning.

Then I saw his super happiness set (my name, not his) – the 28 card set.

Gocco ink color charts

Hmmm… which one do you think I want? With a set of these charts, there’s nothing to stop me from buying every color ink in existence. I no longer have to worry about something not working out. I can proceed in all my Gocco rainbow bliss. I am so screwed.

** Many thanks go to Jamie who graciously allowed me to use images from his Etsy shop so you can directly witness the coolness of his Gocco charts.

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