Interview: Stephanie Lane Gage
Stephanie Gage runs Martian Press, a risograph-printing service in Riverwest, Milwaukee. She is also 1/8 of the semi-nomadic artists collective After School Special whose most recent endeavours include projects like the Grilled Cheese Grant. She is a recent graduate of the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design.
Open View: What motivated you to start Martian Press?
Stephanie Gage: In my senior year at MIAD when I was starting thesis work, I had been interested in risograph prints, so I knew it was something I wanted to try and do. I remember getting frustrated trying to figure out somewhere I could get my thesis zines printed in Milwaukee because there weren’t any risograph printing options. I think that was the major motivator for me to start my own press. I also think it made sense with my practice. My work toes the line between printmaking, fine art, and graphic design, and I think risograph caters really well to both graphic design and fine art.
OV: What is the process of risograph printing? What makes it unique as a technique?
SG: It’s an older technology; it comes from Japan. My machine is about 20 years old. The process is a lot like screenprinting but digitized, made on this big xerox-like machine. Colors are switched out and you can print one color at a time in layers, so very similar to screen printing. The ink that’s used is liquid and it’s soy-based so there are these really bright colors that wouldn’t otherwise be achievable. You can get really precise images which is sometimes hard to do with screenprinting.
OV: Why is risograph a hot medium again––or maybe for the first time?
SG: Risograph’s heyday was in the 90s because it was a very cost-effective way to print color. But since the rise of laserjet printers, they’ve faded out of office spaces. Now they’re being rediscovered and translated through this art lens, which is really interesting. It just took seeing their value for something other than a utilitarian machine and seeing them used as an actual tool for art making.
OV: What’s the story behind the name?
SG: I see Mars and the “Mission to Mars” that we haven’t yet done as a new frontier, and so I thought the same thing about bringing risograph to Milwaukee. I also just really like space stuff.