Gocco gone

Dec 21, 2005 at 12:00 am

About 28 years ago, some smart Japanese designers were searching for an efficient way to produce New Year’s greeting cards. Little did they know that their invention, a screen-printing gizmo called the Print Gocco, would also become popular with a devoted group of American fine artists, zine-makers and craftsy types.

Looking like a cross between a Polaroid camera and a letterpress, the decidedly retro Print Gocco is a shoebox-sized printing system that uses old-fashioned flashbulbs to burn screens from photocopies. Compared to traditional silk-screening equipment, the Gocco is extremely easy to use, and it also produces surprisingly beautiful results. Starter kits are about $150.

In early December, though, Gocco devotees got some bad news. Riso, the duplicating machine company that produces the product, will no longer be selling it in the United States. A letter distributed by Riso to art supply stores explains that support materials for the printer should remain available here for the next three years, but that’s an optimistic estimate because panicked printmakers have already starting hoarding supplies. Gocco flashbulbs, screens and inks are specifically designed for the device and can’t be substituted with other materials. They’re also used up in the process of producing a printing master. Once the current stock is gone, Gocco users will have a hard time getting replacements.

One fan has started a Web site — savegocco.com — in hopes of joining with others to brainstorm a solution, perhaps finding a domestic company to take over production of the printer in the United States.

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