Founded by Ben Freeman and Lynsey Atkin, the Dalston-based print-publisher is the largest Riso printers in the UK with a staff of seven. Alongside the founders, there are two printers, an artworker, a publisher, an office manager – and three hulking Risograph machines. The oldest one has done 4.5m hits.
“We had six months of really being the only people doing this,” says Freeman. “Marc the Printers in Manchester were making anarchist photocopier work and lots of political parties and prisons had the machines; but we were the first in this country to do ‘jazzy’ stuff.”
Freeman says that working on a project with Knust, the 20 year-old stencil-print studio in Nijmegen in The Netherlands, caused him to wonder why a stencil-printing press that worked with artists and designers hadn’t yet been set up in the UK.
Unlike many of the smaller presses around, Ditto also publishes work as well as printing it. And while many of its editions are sold in galleries and independent bookshops, the company is probably the only Riso print-publishers to have won a literary award, for author Duncan Fallowell’s memoir, How to Disappear. The book was also picked up by the mainstream media, garnering great exposure for the small press. “If it hadn’t have been such a thoughtful object, then it might not have been noticed so much,” notes Freeman with some pride.
Another unusual project was the limited edition book Ditto printed for jewellery designer Alice Waese: each copy featured four-colour separated ink and watercolour Riso prints, and a die-cut hidden compartment housing one of the designer’s cast gold teeth pieces. With forthcoming books on Kraftwerk (with The Vinyl Factory), and a monograph for photographer Gavin Watson, much of what Ditto produces is decidely ‘un-Riso’ when looked at more closely.
There are certainly fewer of the familiar Riso colours in the projects Ditto has made recently and, while requests to print fanzines still come in regularly (“blue photos, bold type, slightly off-register”), Ditto relish making books for people who work in ink, watercolours, and even pencil.