Photo by Ross Fraser McLean, Studio Roro
Gabriella Marcella is a graphic artist who adorns objects and surfaces with colour and playful patterns. She layers varying shapes, typography, colour, and textures to create movement within a flat surface, and using pattern as a tool to transform shape. She is also director of RISOTTO, a studio specializing in design and Risograph printing based in Glasgow, Scotland.
A recent graduate of the Glasgow School of Art with a degree in graphic design, Gabriella founded RISOTTO in 2012 while still a student. She has exhibited internationally and has most notably designed for Urban Outfitters, Dr Martens, Bloomberg and the BBC. She recently participated in Pick Me Up 2015 at Somerset House in London, showcasing a new line of stationery and collaborations in home furnishings and apparel.
Gabriella designs for installation, print, web, moving image and fashion, but it is the Risograph printing process that founded her practice and influences her designs the most.
Here’s what she had to say about her work.
1. How did you initially find out about Risograph printing? Did you know of anyone else at the time who was using the Risograph in their practice or in a studio setting?
I had my first shot on a Risograph (Riso) whilst on exchange at Pratt Institute in New York. I had taken an independent publishing class (run by designer and publisher, Duncan Hamilton) and fell in love with the process instantly. From here I started obsessing over zines, and publishers like Nieves books – who I later went to intern for.
2. What attracted you to start using this machine in your graphic art and design practice?
I found the speed and unpredictability fascinating. The Riso would never behave quite how I would expect, and these happy accidents accompanied by my developing colour experimentations are what really grounded my practice.
3. You describe your current work as “bold, playful, and with a means to decorating a surface.” As you’ve become more familiar with the Risograph, how have you seen your style, aesthetic or process change from your first few projects, if at all?
Initially, my work was pretty DIY (cut and paste) as I was only thinking of outputting through Riso. All compositions were in black and white with varying textures and gradients. There wasn’t any direct outcome, just curiosity and play.
Today, my work encompasses a variety of applications, including party posters, public artworks, apparel collections and publications, but I always design with a means to decorating a surface; using pattern, colour and type as tools to transform a shape.
4. What comes first, the Risograph machine or the design? To what extent does the Risograph machine influence how you design, and vice versa?
The Riso process is what founded my practice and inspired me to see colour the way I do.
Over half of my current projects are outputting to alternative methods now, but I’m still aware of the Riso’s influence over my artwork – I think in spot colour, contrasting blocks and often play with overlays.
5. Risotto was founded in 2012, while you were in university. What was the path leading up to you starting your own design studio which specializes in Risograph printing?
With the prospect of graduating, it pushed me to look seriously at my options of staying in Glasgow.The city doesn’t have a wealth of edgy design studios, but what it does have is a very active and supportive creative community with the added benefit of affordable studios/spaces. It made my transition of starting-up, exciting and prosperous, rather than daunting and competitive.
6. How difficult/easy was it for you to set Risotto up at that time? For example, how did you find your first machine and information about how to fix it? Was there a Risograph community in Glasgow that could provide support, or did you look elsewhere?
Ebay! And it’s still where we regularly source a lot of our equipment.
The trouble with the Riso is that they don’t make the [same] machines anymore, so collecting parts and spares can become a serious hunt. There are 15 colour drums in the studio now, but that’s taken a while to build.
I meet people often who’ve never heard of the Riso process, and it reminds me how much of a bubble RISOTTO operates within. The Riso community is extremely niche, but the network it’s opened up is one of the best things about it. From trading prints across the Atlantic to troubleshooting problems online, it’s enabled me to meet amazing artists and designers, and instigate new projects.
7. What kinds of projects and clients does Risotto choose to work on? What’s a recent memorable project that you’ve published at Risotto?
The studio regularly prints bespoke promo pieces for the creative communities in Scotland, but also produces artists prints and publications internationally. RISOTTO started out this way, and I hope it will continue to provide a local and economical resource for the community.
Alongside this, my own creative practice has developed considerably. I’ve been very open to work in areas that are new to me, and really enjoy the diverse outcomes that collaborations bring. I’ve recently completed a commission for Stussy, which I’m super excited to see featured in their collection later this year.
8. In general, how have you seen the use of the Risograph impact the graphic arts world? Why do you think some artists, illustrators or designers are attracted to the Risograph instead of other print forms?
Risograph printing provides an affordable, tactile and immediate print output, which is what I think is most appealing to artists and designers. It’s a medium you don’t have to be precious about, and is often used as an experimental tool as much as a desired output.
9. Where do you see Risotto in two years? Five years? How do you see your own Risograph work developing?
I’m really not sure…but I hope RISOTTO still has a place in Glasgow and the projects continue to be as exciting.
10. Where do you see the Risograph heading in the next 30 years? What do you think is the future of the Risograph and the work created by this machine?
Many creatives are concerned that Riso printing is just a fad, and that the resurgence will be short lived, but actually, when you strip the ‘trend’ aspect out of it, the key resource it offers fills a very sustainable role.
11. Bonus question: Top 3 publishers/designers/printers/artists you admire or are inspired by, locally and globally?
The Memphis group probably cover all of my top spots (Ettore Sottsass and Nathalie Du Pasquier’s work in particular), but I also love Craig & Karl, Andy Rementer, Bertjan Pot and Jordy van den Nieuwendijk’s work. I could easily ramble on…