November 2024

Indelible Ink

Words: Gabriel Knowles Images: Tristan Ceddia

As time marches on the gap between small and large scale endeavours gets bigger and bigger. While we can now knock a zine up from our bedrooms or head down to the printers and get thousands of posters hot off the press at the drop of a hat you can’t get a short run of books printed without breaking bank. But now with stencil printing gathering pace in Australia again after a few decades under the radar the possibilities of print are opening up once more. Gabriel Knowles finds out how Sydney based group Blood & Thunder are pushing the limits.

Kernow Craig, Mickie Quick and Leigh Rigozzi have been at the forefront of stencil printing in Sydney and indeed Australia for some time having each played a large part in setting up the
Rizzeria, a co-operative based around a stencil printer also affectionately known as the ‘RZA’. While the Rizzeria still does a fine job printing CD inserts, posters, flyers and even small books the chance to buy a new machine at a knockdown price of $14,000 and the chance to expand the medium saw the birth of Blood & Thunder. Rather aptly the three gave the new press a name reminiscent of a pulp fiction novel.

“Primarily we’re coming from the experience of setting up the Rizzeria, and running an open print studio. We also wanted to create books which takes up a lot of time which was difficult to do whilst running an open print studio. When you’re doing a book you really need a dedicated space so we’ve invested in a two colour machine.” Kernow explains. “What we’re interested in doing is creating a catalogue of publications that we’re making ourselves and little artifacts so we’re trying to establish relationships with specific people who can get to know the medium because there are specific constraints and possibilities. We’re trying to avoid that service based idea of a poster here and a poster there. The reason is that the medium is so specific it really needs a process led design.”

“Rather than just seeing what’s on your computer and then hoping that it works, you actually work from the other way know what’s it’s special abilities are.” Mickie adds. “We haven’t had a chance to do that yet but it’s a chance for us to see what kinds of stuff we want to push. The registration on our new machine is a lot better so we can print to a greater scale.”

The unique nature of the medium has proven to be quiet therapeutic as Leigh has discovered through his work with the Rizzeria where he is still involved. “Because that one (Rizzeria) is a portable operation I can pack it down into my car and take it out to different locations like Blacktown Arts Centre and work with different groups. It’s great engaging with a wide variety of people like mental patients and disaffected youth. The results are amazing”

“The Rizzeria is like the most ideal idea of a huge R&D project because there are so many new people coming in there everyday with completely different aesthetics and hopes of what they want to achieve and then putting the machine to work.” Kernow continues. “All of a sudden stencil printing is this aesthetic that’s being taken up in a couple of different places and it feels like it’s building momentum.”

With plans for an online shop to be rolled out in mid-November with the aid of strengthening Australian dollar and a concept store in the works for early next year Blood & Thunder are have got more than enough i the pipeline. “I’m also working on a comic anthology with a bunch of Australian and New Zealand comic artists.” Leigh adds to the list.

“We’ve also got this book coming up from Neil Harrack who’s an artist based in Sydney and he does a lot of stuff in Vanuatu. He’s doing a one on cargo cults, which are where they treat a visitor as a god. It’s usually someone who was involved in trade so it’s more common in colonial countries. So they’ve got this amazing one in Vanuatu where they believe this American GI is coming back one day, so it’s pretty loosely based on Christianity.” Mickie offers casually. “And we’ve got a vending machine that we’d like to leave in a pub somewhere stocked with books.”

Blood & Thunder

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