Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: Print in Practice

Working as a print and book artist and operator of a community print shop, I’m conscious of the resulting waste and carbon and water footprint. According to Temporary Services in their publication “Book Waste Book”, it takes 3 gallons of water to make a single sheet of paper. This has made “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” an integral part of my practice.

By nature, letterpress and risograph are fairly eco-conscious in comparison to other printmaking like screen printing or offset which require more chemicals, water, and electricity. With letterpress, the cyclical nature of handset type means that the same letters are used over and over again in different arrangements. Much of the type I use is 75-100 years old, and I like to imagine all of the meanings and messages they’ve conveyed over their years.

I clean the ink off the presses with a step regimen of Crisco and Simple Green, rather than neurotoxins like mineral spirits or kerosene. In addition, Riso uses soy-ink which is more environmentally friendly than other toxic inks used for litho or offset, and requires very little clean-up.

Even still, with color-separated processes like letterpress and riso, there is a certain amount of waste generated from misprints or test prints required for setup and alignment between color layers.  To counteract this, I started to save and reuse them in both practical and creative ways.

I stack and save my waste sheets to reuse for test prints on future projects, encouraging other artists renting studio time at Print St. Pete to do the same. Sometimes this ends up creating some really beautiful monoprints, as the random layers of images and text build and blend on top of each other.

Pattern wall from test prints, DoCA opening. May 2023.


In May 2023 I created a pattern wall using proof prints that I overprinted on for the Duplicator show at the Department of Contemporary Art in Ybor. In my work for the upcoming Emerging Artist exhibition, I used test prints from the “We do not work for the machine” edition to make a playful mini concertina artist book.  “Stack”, an installation of 777 folios stacked and encased in a lucite pedestal, was made from waste sheets and proof prints.

This past Fall I created “ephemera packs” from misprint and test print scraps and sold them for $5 each for artists to use in their own collage and mixed media work. They were a hit, and I think it’s also because these ephemera packs also served as an excellent risograph sampler for those interested in seeing how different colors and art styles are translated with riso. I also use waste sheets for packing orders, as wrapping paper, and origami ornaments, or buttons.

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