Monday, June 22, 2009

ごっこ遊び - Gocco

(Please click on this image to see a nicer hi-res version)

My first gocco -- hand pulled from a home-burned screen, from an original drawing.

Make sense?

Loosely translated from the Japanese, "gocco" (pronounced GO-ko, rhyming with loco) means Make Believe Play, and is the name given to a compact, self-contained screen-printing unit that allows you to both burn a screen and also make multiple prints. These units were sold on the home/consumer market throughout Japan in the late 70s and wewre wildly popular. You can read more about this uniquely Japanese device here.

Sadly, they are no longer being made.

I was able to snag a gently used Print Gocco unit a few weeks ago on Ebay and finally gave it a trial run this week.

Here is the main body of the unit, plus the bulb housing on top. The base of the main body of this particular model measures about 8"x10"x4":

This unit, like most of the models, will produce a print approx. 4"x6" from an original piece of artwork of the same size. More precisely, you must make a photocopy of the image you want to reproduce as a print and you will be using that to burn a screen for making prints.

So, first I took this original drawing, reduced it to about 4"x6" and made a photocopy:

Back over at the Gocco unit -- I removed the bulb housing and inserted two special one-time-use flash bulbs into the housing. These are highly toxic to handle, FYI.

Snap the bulb housing back on top of the base unit.

With the entire unit open, place the photocopy of the artwork upon the small mounting table inside -- this is what the inside of the base unit looks like when opened:

Next, select a fresh blank therma-print screen, designed to fit your gocco:

Next, insert the screen in the upper half of the open base. You can see the inside of the bulb housing through a plexiglass window in the base top.

With your artwork(photocopy) in place, close the lid.

Thanks to two double A batteries in the housing, when you close the unit and press firmly, the bulbs will FLASH and burn your image onto the screen you inserted between the artwork and the bulb housing:

Altho I don't have photos for the next few steps, it is rather simple. After flashing, lift the lid and you will see an image has been burned into your screen. Remove the bulb housing, discarding the bulbs. Remove the original art work.

Then carefully remove the screen. Apply a layer of ink on the backside of the screen, spreading the appropriate color or colors where the image is present on the screen. Then insert the screen back into the same place in the top half of the unit.

Now, place a fresh piece of paper, ready to be printed, in the same place where the original artwork once sat:

Now when you quickly stamp down the housing lid again, this time holding the screen with a layer of ink, it will print your image on the blank paper:

I made at least 30 prints before I ran out of pre-cut paper. In this case, I was using a small block of watercolor sheets, figuring I'd like the option to go back into some of these and hand color them.

But I still had plenty of ink on the screen to continue printing. I was able to remove the screen, with some residual ink still smeared on the screen, wrap it in saran wrap and put in the freezer until I'm ready to print more. I can also add more ink to the screen when necessary.

The prints have a much more rough, hand-hewn look than the original drawing, but the nature of the printing process makes them unique, and an entirely different form of reproduction than a photocopy or a giclee print.

Look for these to be added to my Etsy shop this week. I'm anxious to try a more simplified drawing and experiment with more colors.

Here are some gocco videos, using a slightly different model, that shows the step by step process more clearly. In the first, you'll notice that when the woman applies ink to her screen, she masks off certain areas to keep different colors from mixing. She then knocks of dozens of wedding invitations and even decorates a stack of napkins to match:

Here's another pretty funny clip, put together by some Etsy experts. And whether you're using kiddy art or your own fine art drawing, the process is the same. You just need a black and white photocopy image to start -- think woodcut or linocut -- and you're off!


Kathy xxx said...

What jolly good fun and how great to be able to reproduce your work in such an interesting way!!!Did you have an audience at the first try?

Melanie said...

This is really interesting--about the bulbs--do you have to change them frequently???

VH McKenzie said...

The bulbs can only be used ONCE. Just like the old flashbulbs on a film camera (remember those!?). Since the Gocco has been discontinued, it's supplies are becoming scarce as well. Gotta stock up if I want to keep using it.