Leaning Into Riso

A new, old-school printer helps student artists, and visiting professionals, revel in the retro.


Eastern’s Risograph copier, a “digital duplicator” named Ferdinand, isn’t old. But the art it produces — funky screen-prints created in layers of stenciled spot color — reproduce the retrograde vibe craved by today’s creatives.

A Riso print created by Eastern’s Department of Design

Built by Japan’s Riso Kagaku Corporation, EWU purchased its Risograph just over a year ago with the help of funding from Gemini, a company that specializes in made-to-order dimensional signage. Students have been testing Ferdinand’s creative potential ever since.

More recently, these Eagle artists have been joined by a rotating cohort of professionals who have been named to participate in month-long, Risograph-centered residencies each quarter through 2024.

“We had applicants from all across the country,” says Jamin Kuhn, the EWU Design Department lecturer who manages the 4D Lab in the Catalyst building. “It kind of speaks toward the allure of the printer, and how popular it is among the print communities.”

The four residents, selected by a jury for their skill sets and creative ideas, include two regional designers alongside one from Hawaii and another from Wisconsin. The first of these artists, Brianna Miller, completed her residency earlier this year. Miller, 31, grew up in Salem, Oregon, and studied at the Pacific Northwest College of Art in Portland. She moved to Spokane about five years ago, and it didn’t take long before she had established herself as one of the city’s most accomplished young artists. “I love how similar the print production is to screen printing, with the color layers and separations,” says Miller, a detail of whose work is shown alongside the previous column. “I also admire how the Risograph’s soy inks produce such vivid colors —  specifically neon — that you can’t achieve in most printing.”

A $10,000 Spokane Arts Grant Award covered the cost of purchasing Riso-related materials to be used by the residents and students. In addition, each resident receives a $250 stipend and $250 for supplies. Miller made the most of these modest resources. “Throughout the month,” she says, “I met EWU faculty and students through class visits, workshops and the [closing] show. I also presented a mini talk on my career, portfolio and education. It made me really appreciate the vibrancy of the local art community.”