Riso Hell is a for hire risograph printing and publishing operation run by Bridget Carey and Brandon Bandy, based in St. Louis, MO.
STL SPEX (Rachel): Why is Riso “hell”? What are some of the benefits and challenges of this type of printing?
Brandon: In the early 2010’s artists began repurposing risograph printers, they were never intended to print multi-color artwork, and were intended to make single color high quantity copies primarily in schools and offices. The act of using the equipment for something it was not intended to do is inherently problematic and can be extremely frustrating. The alignment of the layers is never perfect, the ink coverage is slightly uneven, the ink never fully dries, however the low cost of entry, vibrant spot colors, and unique look are appealing to many.
Bridget: I come from a graphic design background that relies heavily on precision, so when we first started printing with the risograph I found it to be unbelievably frustrating – the registration can be tricky and the ink sometimes smudges where you don’t want it to. It is a process that I had to learn to work with instead of trying to work against and it has definitely been rewarding. It is still exciting to see a new print come through the machine and the vibrant colors never disappoint!
STL SPEX: Beyond the very informative specs section of your website, what do
you recommend to artists and printers interested in embarking on the
risograph journey? Who should consider Riso and why?
Brandon: I find that a basic knowledge of printmaking outside of digital printing, especially silkscreen, helps artists understand the process. I would also recommend looking at what others are doing with Riso on Instagram. Originally I would have said Riso makes the most sense for designers and illustrators, however our community has been really pushing the boundaries of what is possible with these machines. There’s incredible potential for photographic work. I think nearly any visual artist could consider Riso for artist books or prints, it makes producing large editions extremely affordable, and I think the wide distribution that printed material allows for is extremely important. Many of us spend nearly our entire day behind a screen, so spending time with a physical object an artist has created is much more enjoyable than looking at their work digitally.
Bridget: We wanted to run the studio as a for-hire press because it was important that we spread the word about Riso in St. Louis. It is so popular in Chicago and New York, but many artists in St. Louis had never heard of it. It seemed like our duty to bring it here.
STL SPEX: What are your favorite tools and how do you use them in your art/business?
Brandon: Well the Riso is our favorite, obviously, we just upgraded to a newer model (from 2005) that allows us to print two colors at once which saves so much time and allows us to pull off even more complex prints. My background is not in printmaking, I studied photography so most of the work I make with the Riso is photo-based and my non-Riso work is photo-installation based. My favorite tools aside from the Riso are Photoshop, my camera, large format inkjet printing, and PhotoTex, an adhesive back inkjet fabric.
Bridget: Illustrator is definitely the program/tool I use the most. I work full time as a footwear designer with freelance and personal projects on the side but I use illustrator for everything. Outside of making Riso prints, I work on pattern designs for wallpaper and illustrations for the fun of it – which right now mostly consists of armadillos wearing cowboy hats.
STL SPEX: What are your artistic influences?
We both spend a lot of time on Instagram and could probably list 50+ accounts we both love, but here are a few. @workpress (Tate Foley of Work Press was our professor in undergrad that introduced us to Riso) @clayhickson @lianajegers @dusendusen @bijoukarman @bigbudpress @jonasbrwood @tuesdaybassen @amaliaulman @sarahmlyons @badbloodclub @sassybluepanda
STL SPEX: Anything else you’d like to tell us about your press?
Come print with us or send us a message! We try to host workshops at least once a month to give people an opportunity to learn hands on how the process works and do studio visits with anyone who is interested in printing with us. Our studio is located in Tower Grove East.