“In spite of it all, life is beautiful.”
My creative choices for 2022’s annual mailing were a bit different this year.
For 2022’s Christmas project I decided, in a break from 20+ years of massive annual mailings, that I wouldn’t post anything — Autumn’s Royal Mail overwhelm, the cost of postage, workload and the strikes led me to that decision. Instead, I decided to make an animation instead, and make a very small print run for only those people I could physically hand a card to.
As you may know if you’ve already seen my posts in December, I chose to illustrate this excellent line by the band Idles; it comes toward the end of their track ‘The End’, from their album Crawler. The end of the year, with its political, social, economic and emotional landscape almost begging to be served a reminder of this line’s sentiment, was the opportunity to deploy the words we’ve loved since hearing them hurled out from singer Joe Talbot’s passionate jaws for the first time.
They were printed in a single colour using one of my tiny Japanese Gocco printers, which use a system that’s halfway between a screen print and a rubber stamp. The Gocco can be notoriously difficult to get a good outcome from, but this one came out right first time and was the perfect printing machine for this style of work.
I’ve been using Goccos for almost 20 years now, and have made myriad projects with them.
A relative of the Riso (it’s actually made by Riso) the Gocco is a 1980s toy made for children, also used by adults and now something of a cult item, and is a gnarly, unpredictable and joyful little beast which uses small screens that are exposed with old-fashioned flash bulbs, similar to the kind you’d get with a separate flash unit on a 35mm camera. Battery-operated, the flash bulbs are single-use, as are the screws, so this is robustly not a great environmental choice — but it is obsolete, with consumables hard to find (I collect them!) that would otherwise simply be landfilled — but I’ve already got an alternative screen solution lined up for when that day comes.
A to-size original is printed by laser printer into white paper, which has to have a nice and deep, even toner application — this can alternatively be created to-scale using the carbon-based Gocco pens you can still find from time to time. A new screen slid into the holder, then placed under the plastic window where pressure is applied to the lid — this houses the batteries — and the popping flash bulbs expose the screen.
The ink’s then applied to the screen one colour at a time and built up once each colour dries.
Those are the basics, anyway. There’s quite a bit more to it than that, but I’m going to save the detail for a video I’m making to accompany the still-sealed Gocco I have coming up for sale, if anyone is interested! I already have four…five is getting carried away…
I Gocco’d some envelopes too, and realised with horror that about 10 of our best chums were too far away to deliver by hand (I obviously didn’t think it through all the way!) so did post a handful using these brilliant google-eyed fruit and veg stamps I’d saved for a rainy day — they must be 15 years old at least! But not the 1000 or so I would have posted in previous (aka ‘pre-Covid’) years.
I loved how these turned out, and although I adore Christmas and every speck of glitter associated with it, I sent them to people with myriad religious views and attitudes to the season of Santa, so I made them gently non-Christmassy. For that reason I also printed a heap of extras, to put in the shop, as they carry a simple message of affirmation, without the tyranny of the toxic positivity trotted out from so many memes and home decorations. You can find them at shop.inkymole.com while stocks last.