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Maker’s Space: Brother, sister team spreading unique prints around Columbus

Laura Dachenbach

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From moveable type to Xerox to 3-D, printing has always been a game-changer.

Several years ago, Columbus graphic designer Nigel Ewan saw a zine with an “impossible” hot pink color that he knew he couldn’t replicate with an inkjet or laser printer. The printmaking game changed for him as well.

Photos: Brian Kaiser

“I was curious enough to investigate the print method— it turned out it was riso, and that pink color was possible because risograph printing uses specifically-chosen inks as opposed to mixing toner or CMYK inks together to produce a spectrum,” said Ewan.

Nigel teamed up with his sister Dempsey, and the two began the onomatopoetically- named Clatter Press, exploring the possibilities of risograph printing to create unique items in small numbers. Risograph printing is not completely unlike mimeograph or silk screen printing, in that the risograph uses a stencil and ink color that is applied one layer at a time, resulting in an often imperfect, but exciting and authentic image. Clatter Press now features the Fluorescent Pink (along with five other colors available for designers) that originally caught Nigel and Dempsey’s attention. (You may have seen a pink photo of Meryl Streep that has made its way around Columbus.)

(614) recently spoke with Nigel and Dempsey to learn more about this unusual printmaking technique and what it can be used to do.

(614): Can you explain the technology and the process behind the risograph?

NE: In risograph printing, a stencil is created in a thin paper which then is wrapped around a cylindrical ink drum. When the drum rotates, ink is pushed through the stencil onto paper to produce an image. This whole process happens inside a large machine made by a Japanese company named RISO, hence “risograph.” Riso printing is extremely environmentally friendly. Stencils are made from rice paper and ink is soy-based. No solvents or heat are used in the printmaking process and all consumables are recyclable.

Is this your primary gig, side gig, or hobby? How did it come to be?

NE: We are a brother-sister team and Clatter Press is a side gig for both us. I am a full-time graphic designer and Dempsey is finishing up her graphic design BFA at [Columbus College of Art and Design]. It’s also definitely a hobby for us; neither of us had ever done any riso printing before we purchased our machine. We wanted to use this technology ourselves to push the limits of our own creative practices. The entire shop is set up in my Clintonville basement—it took four of my friends several hours to get the machine down my narrow basement stairs—so it’s very much a cottage industry. But we love where we are and are excited to continue growing our business.

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What sort of projects are ideal for this medium?

NE: Although the RISO company markets its printers as office equipment, the technology is much better suited to creative applications. Artists and designers are drawn to riso because the ink is real ink—wet, oily, gooey—that gets applied to paper in a style more like fine art printmaking than office printing. Misprints such as smearing, roller marks, and mis-registration (different colors not perfectly lined up) are common. This is all part of the appeal. Another appeal is that riso is cost-effective: once a stencil is created, the per-print cost is very inexpensive.

The riso does really well at replicating all sort of mark-making. It can be used to produce sharp digital graphics, smooth gradients, organic marks such as charcoal and graphite, halftones, and even photography.

What ingredients come together to make Columbus fertile ground for makers, designers, and creatives?

DE: Columbus doesn’t always feel like it has the street-cred of older, cooler cities like New York or Chicago, but the upside of this is that everything here feels on the brink of something exciting and new. There is a lot of energy and opportunity in Columbus which seems to be emanating from all of the amazing people who have made Columbus their home and livelihood. We have so enjoyed the people Clatter has introduced and connected us to. Being able to watch so many people we call our friends pursuing fulfilling creative work is really encouraging—and makes us want to always be creating as well. Columbus seems to have boundless energy and this makes it the perfect fertile ground for creators.

What’s your six-word creative story?

DE: Inspiration. Curiosity. Family. Creation. Community. Clatter.

To learn more, order, or see samples of risograph printing, visit clatterpress.com.

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Arts & Culture

Summer Camp Soap Opera

J.R. McMillan

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Young screenwriters shocked by surprise casting at Thurber House

Summer camp is a rite of passage wrapped in revelry, rivalry, and romance — all the makings of a must-see soap opera. But when Thurber House (humorist James Thurber’s former home turned local literary center) rushed to push their summer camps online this year, they feared some of that creative connectivity might be lost among aspiring young writers.

Hoping for a hook, camp counselors Justin Martin and Frankie Diederich decided to challenge campers with a genre they’d never tackled before: writing an original soap opera. Entirely on a whim, Martin took to Twitter to see if anyone happened to have a connection to the industry.


“I genuinely didn’t expect it to go anywhere, I didn’t even tag anyone. But an hour later I had half the cast of Days of Our Lives,” recalled Martin, whose disbelief still lingers. It was a plot twist even campers didn’t see coming. “California’s stay-home order was so uncertain, we never knew when everyone might go back to work. Even when we told writers and their parents the night before the performances, some of them didn’t believe us.

Though daytime television isn’t an obvious obsession for middle school students, nearly every novel of young adult fiction is essentially a soap opera. And Days of Our Lives is set in the fictional Midwest city of Salem — folksy yet sophisticated, and never short on scandal, not unlike Columbus, Ohio. It’s a short stretch that only seems non sequitur.

“Everyone started with a blank page, but by the end of the week, Frankie and I had helped them create a complete screenplay. But the cast was still a shock,” Martin explained. “Kids admire anyone who has made a career out of doing something they love, and these actors and actresses were so enthusiastic, flexible, and generous. They were every bit as into it as the campers.”

It was actress Martha Madison who happened to see a retweet of Martin’s request and matter-of-factly replied, “Can I bring some friends?” She soon roped in more than a dozen of her costars, all equally eager to give a bunch of adolescent screenwriters the performance they deserved despite a pandemic.

“I’m a big believer in fate. It was an easy ask, everyone said yes,” revealed Madison, better known to many as Belle Black. Her character’s parents John and Marlena have been synonymous with Days of Our Lives for decades. “There was so much character development, and they all had love and murder in the plot. They were real soap operas.”


Like many nonprofits struggling to adapt, the shift to online programming has actually expanded the reach of Thurber House. Much like parents working remotely, kids from across Ohio, and from New York to California, also received insightful lessons in craft and collaboration from screenwriter Amanda Beall, whose credits include The Young and the Restless, All My Children, and General Hospital.

“If you’re a creative person, none of that goes away just because you’re stuck at home. You can still share your experience with anyone anywhere,” Madison noted. “I was very impressed with the writing. I’d love to work again with any one of these kids someday.”

***

For more on Thurber House and upcoming events and programs, visit thurberhouse.org

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Rare flower ready to stink up 2020 at the Franklin Park Conservatory

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Photo provided by Franklin Park Conservatory.

“Some people wait a lifetime to see this,” said Bruce Harkey, president and CEO of Franklin Park Conservatory. 

What someone will wait a lifetime to see (or smell) varies from person to person. If watching a massive flower bloom and let out a wretched odor is your thing, you better keep a close eye on the Conservatory.

According to a press release sent out Wednesday, the endangered Titan Arum (Amorphophallus titanum) will flower in the next week for the first time in the Conservatory’s history. The flower can grow to 10 feet tall and emits a strong odor, resembling rotting flesh. While the “corpse flower” only blooms for a few days, those who go to the FPC to visit it will not soon forget it.

And while it may seem that 2020 could not get any weirder with its masks and murder hornets,  this particular brand of weird is actually kind of cool—and it’s in our own backyard.

Check out the FPC social channels, where you can view the bloom live, or head to the Conservatory to smell it in person, though the required mask may prevent a full whiff of the dreadful stench. But if you dare, you can buy your timed tickets online here.

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Columbus Museum of Art opens June 23 for members; June 30 to the public

Julian Foglietti

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The Columbus Museum of Art (CMA)  has announced plans to reopen in the coming week after closing in mid-March due to COVID restrictions. Though museums were allowed to open on June 10, CMA chose to hold off reopening and will instead see it’s first visitors tomorrow,  June 23, as they reopen for museum members, and to the general public next week on June 30..

To coincide with the reopening, CMA has announced multiple measures to combat the spread of COVID-19, such as significantly reduced capacity, and the introduction of timed tickets, and special hours for at-risk populations.

Tickets for the following week will be made available for sale online each Friday, and an extremely limited number of tickets will be available for day-of admission. While there isn’t a time limit to how long visitors can stay in the museum, there is a one hour entrance window assigned to each ticket. 

Visitors will be asked to socially distance while in the space, and face coverings are strongly recommended. 

Learn more here.

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