Ritu Ghiya is an artist, designer, and web developer. She helps design Sounds About Riso, a risograph fair founded by lucky risograph and Zinehug founded in 2019. In 2020, when the lockdown began in New York, Ghiya designed and built a new site to sell zines and prints online. Their selection is always thoughtfully curated, visually interesting, and narratively compelling so we asked Ritu to recommend some of her favorite books and zines. Here they are, in her own words.
“I had never heard of Riso until my friend helped open up a Risograph press, lucky risograph’s Studio, in 2018. It used to be in the basement of a gallery/boba shop on Delancey and Allen in New York and I would sit there hanging out with him, listening to his studio mates bother each other about print jobs and workshops and new ideas they wanted to start. I had been a part of organizing zine fairs and had grown to really miss this kind of kinship and belonging that comes with art making.
“Printing in a Risograph studio was so physically fun—running around looking for the perfect paper stock, lifting oversized ink cartridges to get to the perfect color at the bottom, and then obviously, getting congee after we printed. I made zines growing up but I didn’t grow up around artists or go to art school, so I had grown out of touch with making things for no reason other than just wanting to. In other parts of my life, I was trying to make a living, figure out a new career, etc etc (stressful + hated it!) printing felt like a really special part away from taking myself too seriously.
“DIY has been so powerful for me. I’m a self taught designer and coder. In these spaces, I start to think, what do I see that others more traditionally trained maybe don’t see? I often really need to work myself up to think I’m worthy to make work, so finding people I can be vulnerable with has been really incredible. Book fairs in general have been a big part of finding that for me; riso to me is a small kind corner within that.
“Sounds About Riso was an in-person fair that Lucky Risograph + Zinehug started in 2019. When the lockdown started in 2020, they asked me to help them make a website for the fair, which Chuck Kuan and I eventually designed and then I built. Looking back, it was a really formative project for me. We asked all the people we knew who did Riso to participate.
“We were early on the virtual fair thing—it went live in May 2020—and since we approached it in such a goofy and welcoming way, people really responded to it. Early on, we decided we wanted to be literal about the web experience. You’d be in a fair, but just online. We decided to have all the zines on the “tables”, all the prints on the “walls”, which we started calling “rooms.” The back-end was just a Google Sheet and I was hand coding the front-end, so it all felt like extensions of building together in a DIY way. There was this urgency of getting money directly to artists too, so getting something up quickly was a big priority.
“After Sounds about Riso, I went on to design and build more digital fairs during the pandemic, including Printed Matter’s Virtual Art Book Fair.
A favorite book you’ve gotten at a book fair
My favorite pages of this book are the overviews of sign painters’ lettering styles and survey questions. I spent a lot of my childhood in India mesmerized by vernacular styles there, so I really value seeing how respectful and thorough this is (and really admire Hardworking Goodlooking / Kristian Henson for it) .
Not a “book”
This movie’s DVD is on my bookshelf so I’m going with it! An artist making herself visible thru honest work—this movie continues to live in my head almost 8 years after seeing it. It’s a framework for the work i’d like to strive to make
A zine that inspires my work
I love Susan’s overall artistry and style. This zine is printed and saddle stitched so delicately. It’s like a gift but still messy – feels from the heart.
A Riso-printed book or zine that is interesting technically
TXTBOOKS’s new release from 2021! It’s mind blowing to me that this is riso. The color in it is so painterly and beautiful. I’m really inspired to try out similar techniques.
A book that’s been influential for you personally
This book (SO big and heavy!) captures this energy that’s a part of being in New York. Genzken’s collage work is so beautiful. I love that this book reveals so much about her perspective of moving through this place without being obvious or straightforward.