+ How can I go about creating a risograph zine/print?
- Learn from past examples
- Get to know the risograph printing method
- Confirm your specifications/contact printer
- Create your zine/artwork, send to printing or print at a studio
- Cutting and binding
A good place to start would be getting your hands on other creators’ risograph zines/prints. You can check them out at your local indie comic or art book store, or going to an art book fair. My first hands-on encounters with risograph zines were at Odds and Ends in New Haven and Tokyo Art Book Fair. I can only speak for locations I have lived in, including Hong Kong (Odd One Out, Kubrick, and pop up events at Bedroom and Black Book Assembly), New York (Desert Island, Printed Matter, SVA Print Lab), Tokyo (Taco Che, commune) and Taipei/Taichung (Mangasick, Ponding, nos books, ArtQPie). These lists are not exhaustive!
While looking at and touching the zines, think about how risograph as a medium would work for you. It’s uneven, has small dot marks, and prints one color at a time. How might this enhance your ideas or imagery?
After becoming familiar with how risograph creations can look and feel, I would absorb some technical knowledge. It’s important to do this before contacting your local printer, or you can see if your local printer has info workshops. See the world riso map here to locate your nearest printer. The online guides that taught me a lot include one by Hato Press and one by TXT Books. I also liked this video tutorial by Pat Grant on preparing your files for risograph printing.
After thinking about your zine/ print’s format (binding, any wrap around or pull outs or pop ups or die cuts), size, colours and quantity, you can approach your local printer with a request for quotation. Their contact information is usually on their website, Facebook page or Instagram bio.
For zine creation, I either draw illustrations by hand and scan them into Photoshop (300dpi), or use Photoshop to manipulate images. I will layout the zine using inDesign.In terms of cost and affording risograph printing, I specifically turned to risograph as a cost effective method. I also love silkscreen printing, but silkscreen is a bit harder for me to access. The cost of your print will depend on your location, so I prefer not to share how much my prints cost, unless you’re also in Hong Kong or Taipei. If so, feel free to direct message me.
When contacting your printer, you should have an idea of whether you have the space or energy to take on the cutting and binding (if needed) of your project. Most printers also offer these services at reasonable additional costs. I always like to ask not only for a quantity comparison (30/50 copies), but also a labour comparison (printing only versus printing plus cut and bind), so I can make an informed decision.
In terms of printer selection, I work with printers based on past prints of theirs I have seen from other artists. Each printer has their own specialties and techniques, so look into this decision carefully.
As for distribution, I operate an online store and sell at zine fairs when I participate with my local collective, Zine Coop. Zine Coop and Display Distribute also distribute a couple of my titles. I have yet to delve into bookstores as my current print edition size is quite small (30-50 copies). For bookstores, it makes sense to either message on Instagram (if abroad) or meet in person with your zine ready to show. Don’t be shy, or discouraged if your zine isn’t picked up for circulation. Bookstores have space and money constraints that don’t always allow for easy consignment.
The key advice I would like to share is that the spirit of zines is anti-establishment and Do It Yourself. If your goal with zines is to earn money or become famous, you will likely be disappointed. Zines are vehicles to share your ideas with the world, especially if they are ideas considered radical in relation to the hetero-cis normative white supremacist patriarchy which impacts who gets their work published. Happy creating!
+ Where do you recommend in Hong Kong?
Many people joke that the place you live is the one you explore the least. It’s somewhat true, especially when you work 40-50 hours a week. That being said, there are many places that I love to go in Hong Kong.
I go to Southorn Stadium in Wan Chai to watch people play soccer or just think about life. It’s also a fun place to take dates and friends when you just want to sit down and have a quiet moment.
Bedroom is a great independent art space with unique programming you won’t get anywhere else. ACO Art and Culture Outreach is also a great space for programs (I once watched a series of independent Taiwan new wave films there that changed my life). Para Site has ambitious exhibitions and meaningful programming too. Tai Kwun Contemporary’s programs and exhibitions are varied and expansive, a great place to hear artists, curators, and writers in conversation. Tai Kwun also has an Artists’ Book Library which is perfect for any zine lovers. Zine lovers might also like Odd One Out in Wanchai, as well as Kubrick in Yau Ma Tei. The cinema attached to Kubrick, Broadway Cinematheque, is where I watch all movies (this year my favourites are Burning, Parasite and The Miseducation of Cameron Post). If you are in Yau Ma Tei, on Sundays you can check out Kai Fong Pai Dong, which promises to have something special (haircuts, movies, or planting) every week.
I love eating at MUJI Cafe & Meal, it always makes me feel better to have one of their deli sets because you get to try lots of different food. I have to admit I don’t eat out much in Hong Kong because I usually cook or eat with my Mom at home… but I do like Mak’s Noodles, Tim Ho Wan and King’s Dimsum for Hong Kong food, BEP Kitchen for Vietnamese food, Spice House for Thai, Sushi Sumi (a little on the expensive side so I usually eat here for special occasions, I recommend the lunch set), Via Tokyo, Cheung Chau Mochi (their mango mochis are my life) and Hui Lau Shan for desserts. Camper’s in North Point makes delicious Japanese curries, and it’s fun to head here after going to a Para Site show. The old adage about Hong Kong rings true for me: food in Hong Kong is so good that you could walk into literally any place and have a decent to mind-blowing meal.
+ Where do you recommend in Taipei, Taiwan?
I have only been in Taipei for three months, so everything is new to me. For zines and comics, I would check out Mangasick (for local and international alternative manga and comix), Ponding (for a thoughtful selection of art books, magazines and zines, they also host exhibitions) Tsutaya (a chain store which has a good selection of magazines and stationery), Mollie Used Books (so many books in wonderful condition), Wildflower Bookstore (great curation of zines and books, with no photos allowed, just be present), Moom (specialism in photobooks), and ArtQPie (a truly delightful craft and zine space with a large Tatami reading area) in Taichung.
For museums and galleries, I find out about most exhibitions through looking at posters on the subway and in bus stops. Sometimes looking for events online is overwhelming to me, and I am also easily charmed by the romance of seeing a poster and then going to a show. Anyways, here I have loved exhibitions at Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Shuxin Hall, Taiwan Contemporary Culture Lab, MonTUE, Suho Memorial Paper Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art Taipei, Museum of Fine Arts Taichung, TKG+ Gallery and Chi-Wen Gallery.
For other cultural interests, Taiwan happens to host many amazing film festivals. Check out the International Queer Film Festival, Women Make Waves Film Festival, Taoyuan Intl’ Film Festival, and the Taiwan Labor Film Festival, just to name a few. These screenings very often have dialogues with directors after, and the programming is lively and eye-opening. For example, at the 2019 Intl’ Queer Film Festival, I could see films from the Philippines, the U.S., Japan and Taiwan (a Trans women’s journey to graduate school, an interview series with gay men), all in one week. Lightbox Taipei is a beautiful photo book reading space that has helped me through many a sad day.
Finally, for restaurants, snacks and nightlife, I love Dong Yi Pork Chop, Lu Sang, Vegan Taipei, Liang Xi Hao, MAJI Food and Deli, Ching Cheng Hainan Chicken Rice, Kebuke Tea and Soypresso tofu ice cream. Salt Peanuts is delicious and cozy for brunch/work, and other favorite cafes include Halfway Cafe, LeChat, C-Loft Tea House and the coffee bar in Sun Sun Museum. Witch House hosts great live music on Thursday and Friday evenings.
+ Where do you recommend in Tokyo, Japan?
I lived in Tokyo as a student for six months in 2015, so this is not a full guide, just my own selections. For museums, I loved the Yokohama Museum of Art. It is by the sea and hosts an excellent contemporary triennial. Their art library is also a gem for browsing vintage periodicals and learning about Japanese art. The Nezu Art Museum is a historic site with a beautifully restored garden, tea house and bamboo growth. They exhibit many rare early modern treasures relating to Buddhism/Shintoism. The Mori Art Museum is situated in a skyscraper, so you can experience thoughtfully curated exhibitions with an unbeatable view of the city. The Watari Museum of Contemporary Art is a smaller space with rigorous programming, I especially love how they weave together disparate artists in surprising ways. It was there I learned about Akira the Hustler and other contemporary Japanese artists. Finally, the Mitaka Studio Ghibli Museum is a must-see for fans of the famed animation studio. You need to book in advance though.
A few other recommendations: I love browsing through Daikanyama’s T-Site book/everything store, their art book holdings are diverse and well selected. For eel rice, I recommend Fukinuki Unagi, with branches in Shinjuku and Asakusa. Kaikaya by the Sea is a fun and unique fusion restaurant. Takano makes the best ramen I have ever eaten. Finally, Brooklyn Parlor Shinjuku is lovely for drinks, and they have books you can browse! It was there I looked through a back catalogue of Yellow Magic Orchestra record designs…
+ How do I get a summer curatorial internship?
There is no straightforward answer to this. After working full time for two years and interning for four, I have learned that the “art” world (as it pertains to formal museums, galleries and publications), is often unfairly skewed to hiring people from upper and middle class backgrounds, as well as white people and non black and brown POC. This is linked to the intersections between class and race, and the fact that many art internships are unpaid.
For full disclosure, I am a non-disabled East Asian cisgender woman from a privileged financial background, who went to a private college. Thus, my experiences reflect this privilege, so my advice cannot be seen as realistic for all. I am sharing my experiences with the hope that the next generation of art workers can have more transparency in their own journeys for professional fulfillment.
In terms of general starting out advice, I strongly recommend that people think clearly about their aims and goals before applying and reaching out. Even if you don’t know what job title you want, you may know what things you like doing: research? Art education? Writing and copy editing? Object handling? Many art institutions have FAQ and Internship fact pages now. Please consult these to have a direction going forward. Because most institutions are trying to know: “how can this intern help us with what we are doing?” So if you can show initiative, that you’re not just applying to anything and everything, this tends to be more strategic and impressive.
My skill set entering my first internship was in research/writing, with some graphic design experience (my part time job at college was in graphic design). I was seeking an internship in an Asian Art department, as this was an area of art I found myself personally drawn towards (specifically, Japanese calligraphy and woodblock prints). I then began seeking paid internships (paid being more than minimum wage, as I was to be paying rent) in Asian Art curating.
Around December/ January, I applied online/via email to almost all (at least ten) the big museums in New York City, and heard back from (you guessed it) none of them. What ended up helping was working with my professor. I was enrolled in an Asian Art class which had field trips to Yale University, whose Art Gallery has an impressive range of Asian Art holdings. When meeting the then-curator of the department, I asked in person if they were seeking any summer interns. Note the ask: rather than asking “Can I be your summer intern?” I first asked “Does your department need assistance this summer?” This is a way of centering the institution, and making the ask not sound too self-ventured.
The curator replied that he had to ask his two colleagues, but that he would reply to me soon. I had my email written down ready to share with him that day.
Not long after, their department administrator contacted me about an interview. I cleared my schedule and confirmed the time via email. I arrived early and had looked into their “department news” before going (it always helps to research recent projects or news relating to the team or company you are trying to join). I also prepared a couple case studies of essays I had written on Asian Art and projects I helped my professor with.
Most importantly, in all application processes, I recommend being respectful and strategic above all. Art is a business of relationships, as my former boss used to say. Show up in person to events, talks and conferences you have a genuine interest in. Connections you make in person tend to be more memorable and helpful than cold calls and emails. Take your applications seriously. I notice many young applicants these days apply to countless things, losing track of their applications, and then being put on the spot when being called by a recruiter or company representative. Hiring is an involved process for both parties, so being thoughtful goes a long way.
+ What was your experience at Wesleyan University like?
I chose Wesleyan on the basis that its Studio Art program is particularly rigorous, with some emphasis on not just fine arts, but also graphic design. Because I knew I was going to be a studio art major as soon as I entered college, I was able to balance my studio art major with a second major, East Asian Studies, as well as electives in Philosophy, American Studies, Queer Studies and English. So I'd say the education you can get at Wesleyan can be broad if you plan ahead.
The studio art program is well funded in that there are a lot of resources for students. More specifically, the computer labs and art studios are large (small town college perks) and well stocked. Their print shop (for printmaking and letterpress) is especially amazing, I used their light tables to make comics and such. Also, its one of the only undergraduate programs in which your graduating thesis exhibition is in a professional quality art gallery, the Zilkha gallery.
I also get asked a lot about securing internships/connections with alumni. This is complex because it depends on how you go about things. I'd say that my first internship was secured through a professor who knew a curator there, my second internship I applied directly (a small art non-profit based in a university in NYC), and my third was for an art center at Wesleyan. I'd say that Wesleyan's alumni network in my experience is largely friendly and ready to help, though in the arts, I think you need a particular kind of tenacity. The arts have no strict path, and you have to be willing to steer yourself and take responsibility for your choices and studio work.
My general comments about the school are that it is a place where you are truly free to indulge all of the things you've ever secretly wanted to try. In addition to learning more than I ever thought was possible, I also cherish close friendships in my life that developed as a result of being at a small school in a small town. The people and professors I met at Wesleyan made me want to think, write, and make art with more intention and purpose, and joy, than I thought was possible.