I was more than a little surprised to see the New York Times devote its Consumed column today to the Japanese screenprinting system, Print Gocco. The table sized screenprinter is a brilliant toy-like system that makes amazing multiple prints, but even in the small world of book arts, I know very few people that use it.
The story of Print Gocco is a charming one. According to the web site SaveGocco, the printing system was created in Japan and introduced in 1977 as an easy way to make multiple prints of image and text in your own home without the mess and hassle of screen printing. (I had actually heard that it was created for children to make prints of their drawings.) Just as computer design and printing began to take over the terrain of Print Gocco in Japan, artists in the United States discovered its charm and portability and began to introduce it to each other. My favorite art store, Wet Paint, has held in-store workshops on Gocco for over 10 years. I bought mine from them in 1997, but as is often the case with me, I didn't use it until the following year. I remember that it was getting very close to Christmas and I had a design and message I wanted to send to my friends. Late one evening (way too late, really, to be starting a brand new project) I unpacked the Gocco for the very first time, read the directions, ran to a Kinko's to make the needed black and white copy (to burn into the screen) and came back to make over a 100 cards by the time I went to bed. I couldn't believe it was that easy, that the print was so beautiful, and it was so much fun! It was almost like baking a real cake in an Easy Bake oven.
The following year I attended a one-week Book Arts workshop in upstate New York and there was another Gocco demonstration. A group of us were inspired by our work together and organized a Gocco print exchange the following month when we were back home. I took a beloved black and white photo of my first dog and ran it through the copy machine pushing up the contrast button to "high." I used that high contrast copy to make my Print Gocco screen and did my first edition of a photo. That's the remarkable thing about Print Gocco....you can make a screen from your handwriting, a photo, type or an image...anything that can be turned into a black and white photo copy. And you can use multiple ink colors on the same screen. All from your kitchen counter or dining room table.
When Riso (the Print Gocco manufacturer) announced two years ago that it was discontinuing the manufacture of the system, Gocco fan Jill Bliss created SaveGocco.com Clearly, from the fact that it's reached the attention of the New York Times, her work has built a new audience for the little printer that could. The Times quotes a Riso VP as saying that the future of the product is "not dead and it's not alive. It's in something of a contemplation stage." As new ones are still hard to find, if you can find one, you should definitely grab it. You should always have some fun in your studio!
Update: I checked with Wet Paint and they have over 40 Print Goccos in stock.