Friday, 23 July 2010

Print Gocco

I'm falling seriously behind on my blog updates! So much to do, so little time. Our first July meeting experiments were with Print Gocco. Some of us had used the Gocco machines before but for most, it was a new experience. So most of our printing samples were just to show the process.

We had three machines between seven of us, so inevitably the process was slow. We all had a chance to print onto paper and fabric.

First, Nola did a brief demonstration of the process. Print Gocco is a simplified screen printing method. The screens are prepared by imprinting a carbon-based master onto the screens using flash bulbs. The same machine can be used for printing, replacing a squeegee in normal screen printing, or the inked screen can be mounted onto a hand stamper. The screens we printed were B6, so using the hand stamper is more useful for larger sheets of paper or fabric, and the machine is better for small products, like cards.

The whole process is incredibly easy to do. New flash bulbs are inserted in the flash unit.

Preparing to make the screen from the master
The carbon-based master is placed on the flatbed of the machine, and the blank screen is inserted into the unit, matching arrows, and ensuring the screen side is closest to the master.

Placing the screen in the machine
The flash unit is placed on the outside, again matching arrows, and the top is closed down firmly. The bulbs flash and the carbon-based master is imprinted onto the screen.

To print, ink is drizzled onto the screen, between the plastic backing and the screen, and the plastic is laid back over the screen.

Inked screen in the machine
The screen is inserted back into the machine, the item to be printed is laid where the master was, and the cover closed again, forcing the ink through the screen onto the print surface.

Printed image
Similarly, the screen can be placed into the hand stamper, and the screen printed by manual pressure onto yardage, larger sheets of paper or other materials. 

Helen's prints from the same screen

Here's Prue printing from the same screen. She printed a series of pages with the image.

Beverley made this screen and printed with a metallic ink.
Here are Maz and Nola setting up to print from Maz's screen. The mmaster was a pencil drawing, based on designs in her sketchbook. Maz has a sheer fabric, like an organza, which is laid on top of Nola's cream quilter's muslin.

Maz is inking the screen for printing. She laid down some blue and green inks next to one an other, and mixed the blue and green together on a palette to achieve some blending. Gocco inks generally don't blend, if just laid down side by side.

You may be able to see the different coloured inks on the screen. The screen is mounted in the stamping unit, which has four small springy feet, visible around the edges of the screen.

The printed image looks blurry because it is actually two layers of fabric.

The image was stamped fairly regularly over the surface of the fabrics.

This is Nola's fabric, which was layered underneath. There are slight changes in the design, where the fibres of the organza acted as a slight resist.

The print images are wonderfully clear and the process is simple. It’s a great way to print exact multiples of an image. There are some disadvantages to the process, however. There seems to be some doubt about whether the process will continue to be supported, especially these older B6 machines. However there seem to be new models of the machine available, including one at B5, which would be a more useful size. We managed to buy supplies from Eckersleys without any problems, and there are other Australia suppliers online, notably NEHOC in Sydney. It’s possible to buy the screening material by the yard, now, so theoretically, if the B screens are no longer supported, you could make your own. Nola bought some screening to try, but it wasn’t used in our session.

As printing goes, it’s an expensive method. The screens are expensive, the bulbs are expensive and single use, and the inks are expensive. Most of all, the machines are expensive. A new machine with a few screens and other materials was listed online at $289. Making a single screen and printing a single run of multiples from it came to about $10. A long run would be more expensive as it would use more inks.

The requirement that the master be carbon-based is trickier these days. The system was invented when photocopiers were carbon (toner) based. Nowadays, photocopiers don’t use toner, they are more like inkjet printers and the inks aren’t carbon-based. We had access to an older toner-based photocopier, which simplified matters, and members drew their own designs in 2B or heavier lead pencil or coloured over their inkjet designs with the special Riso Pens. One member had access to a laser printer as prints from that are carbon-based. Charcoal pencils also work. But some thought has to go into the medium used on the master.

It’s a fun and simple method of making multiple prints. We didn’t explore any of the many possibilities in our session. For example, theoretically, a coloured image could be separated into colour layers in a graphics program, the individual layers switched to greyscale and printed as masters on a laser printer. The three layers could be created as individual screens and three print runs in different colours onto a single work might yield a coloured print. It wouldn’t be a photographic print, but manipulating the colours could result in an interesting series of similar prints. The print structure of Gocco makes problems of register (getting the second and third prints in exactly the same position to avoid blurring) much simpler. Similarly, you can over-print a primary print with a second different screen. You could over-print the primary with the same screen in a different colour, deliberately offsetting the second image. As a tool, it has a lot of possibilities for the textile artist, and it’s just as easy for the Scout group to print t-shirts for their camp. Assuming the materials continue to be available!

While we were playing with Gocco, Carol was playing with another kind of printing. She wanted a simple printing method to use with her group of Joey scouts. She mounted a sheer curtain fabric between card to make a simple screen. Then she mounted a fine sticker of a butterfly onto the screen. She painted over the screen with PVA glue and allowed it to dry. Then she peeled off the sticker and, using a piece of card as a squeegee and Permaset printing ink, printed the image. 
The image looked a little ragged, so Carol tried with the Gocco inks, which are a finer medium, since the Gocco screens are finer than most silk screens. The result was  much clearer. 

Isn't that amazing? You can make prints like this with the most basic of materials!