2022 All Together Green News Sustainability Sustainable Innovation

Sustainable Print Studio

Cartoon Art Credit: Sylvia Rossi
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The School of Art’s Print and Book Arts studio is repositioning its practices and curriculum towards an environmentally friendly and sustainable future!

Christopher Kardambikis, assistant professor and director of printmaking and book arts, was determined to pivot and focus his operations and curriculum on printmaking processes that are non-toxic, energy efficient, and supportive of the repurposing of paper scraps into new, usable sheets.

In Fall 2022, Kardambikis was awarded $20,000 of support from the Office of Sustainability’s Patriot Green Fund – a grant from Mason Facilities that allows the campus community to contribute to solutions that reduce Mason’s environmental impact – for the purchase of a new Risograph printer to help fulfill his sustainable vision. This machine uses a stencil based and single-color printing process, which prepares students for commercial printing applications. It is ENERGY STAR certified and uses 95% less energy than photocopiers. It also does not produce greenhouse gases or any air pollutants.

"The Sustainable Print Studio has been working to bring student publications to the center of our work and our curriculum,” said Kardambikis.   “It's exciting to provide the Risograph machine as a tool for our students to print and distribute their own comics, zines, books, and prints. It's even better to know that they are using a process that is environmentally clean and responsible!”

In addition, the Patriot Green Fund also purchased new moulds and deckles for the studio, which are used for papermaking. This allows students to learn about the processes of creating new sheets of paper from a blended pulp of leftover paper scraps in a hands-on environment. The Print Studio holds weekly papermaking sessions to recycle old prints and previously used paper into fresh, new sheets to be used during class.

“Our studio is building a full life cycle of materials - with students participating in every step of production to transform refuse materials into finely crafted books and comics,” explained Kardambikis.

This performs several functions:

  1. The studio can recycle all paper used in the class to keep a constant supply of new, hand-formed paper available for fine art printing.
  2. The class-made paper reduces the cost of printmaking for our students, normally a large expense in screen printing and wood block printing.
  3. The program allows students to be directly involved in the production of materials that can be used by the entire class, building a shared sense of community.

These tools have been promptly used during a new spring 2022 course, “Dynamic Publishing: Comics Production” (AVT 496). This class provides unique opportunities for students to learn from a local D.C. based cartoonist, Adam Griffiths. The Risograph will support the production of his new graphic novel and will be printed, designed, and distributed by the students in the course. In addition to this, students have the chance to gain feedback and mentorship from Griffiths as they produce their own comics during the class.

This project created a curriculum-wide effort to develop a circular flow of materials, while reducing Mason’s energy usage, to support a “Healthy Planet!”