Dec. 2020

Dropped in a (sweet) trap!

#ZineMaking #Risograph #Experimental #Workshop

My life is such a joke. After refusing my dad’s plan of being a teacher in my hometown last year, however this year, I accidentally became a tutor in Melbourne.

It was not in the plan. That time, I was interning in an advertising and marketing studio and just started my DBGH project.

I got this intern opportunity because of the cold emails I sent to the owner, and that was my first time of success using that technic. I appreciated the chance a lot, but I was not happy - after several days of excitements, there is nothing for me to do most of the days. From one day to another, I felt sicker and sicker of everything - It was like drowning in the deep water. I need to make a change, I screamed in my mind.

And that came DBGH.

To promote the project, besides digital media platforms, I also shared print materials. Instead of the name cards with the website address, I made a series of zines. It was a natural choice since it used all the things I am good at - illustrations, emotions, and stories! Transferring emotions into something can be imagined, can be touched, and even feel connected, they are what I was chasing for.

With a low budget, to reach out as many people as possible, Risograph became the best option for me at that time.

The first time of me knowing this technic was at RMIT University - it was a briefing session. I, like most of the students, was super excited to see the whole process. However, I did not get the chance to give a real try since the machine broke in the middle. So in my mind, Risograph is something cheap and efficient for mass printing job, and the printing machine itself is with a bad temper.

Luckily, the studio just got a new machine. I heard the news from Rubin, and tho I already graduated, I still went to the lectures sometimes. There, I got to meet Noel and talked about my needs for using the machine. He is always a kind tutor that welcomes us to use the studio all the time. To help me know the machine better, he even sent me an email with all the instructions and some instructional videos on Youtube.

One of the videos was taken by a lovely person who looks a little bit like me. Inspired by that, Noel asked me if I want to make a zine about Risograph. The aim was to let more students experience this new (better-tempered) machine.

I was a little bit doubt about myself in the beginning. Different from other artists that into this technic, at that time, the efficiency and simplicity came the first to me. I respect all the experiments on colours, layouts, and texture details. However, to keep everything simple, I used only one colour and lines for my zines.

But why not take this chance to give it a try? I know the basic tricks, and it can be an opportunity for me to explore more, not to mention it can help me building up works (and it is a paid job).

That time I already left the studio that I got bored with. It was a sunny day, and I felt that it was the time - I have so many things to do, and I cannot waste my time and sunshine outside. So I went back home and sent the email to quit my job.

In the next several weeks, I worked on my zines (to have the all-time access to the studio, Noel even made me a staff card). After showing Noel the demo, he showed me another opportunity - organising a workshop for the new students.

I did not organise any workshops before, but I joined a lot. So with the general idea in mind, I planned a timeline and showed that to Noel. He replied to me in the email, you know what, let us add this workshop into the Experimental Typography class.

What? The Experimental Typro Class was one of the most important courses that I had at RMIT. I got the chance to meet one of my favourite tutors and got to know myself better in that course - that was much beyond the class itself. I’ve never thought that my story with that would continue in this way.

Besides dealing with all the excitements and stress, I need to fit my timeline with the course structure. To help me with better preparation, Noel helped me holding a meeting between me and Fayen, the new tutor. We made the plan smoothly and also did a quick shopping for the class.

I did not think a lot before everything actually happened, but that does not mean I was just waiting without doing anything - I practised my introduction and the use of the machine. It was not an easy job - it's still a master degree class. Some students have much more knowledge and experience than me (not to mention my English skills). But hey, I am still the person with past experience introducing the artworks in NGV and doing standup comedy. I can do it, and do it well (at least after several rounds of practising).

The day finally came. I went to the class earlier than we planned - better earlier than later (not because of my excitements). On the first class, I was a little bit nervous, but I found out a person I knew sitting there - it was my classmate, and she cheered me up there, so I felt more relaxed. The students in the class helped me a lot - they were the main audience and what they were doing matters. They gave me feedback and asked me questions, so I did not have to deal with the awkward silence.

After the first class, things got much smoother. I could even improve myself based on the insights I found. I noticed that Fayen helped me to repeat some key information, so on purposely, I explain more or add body language when it came to this part again. I also noticed that when a group of people gathered around the machine, it was hard for people who stand behind to get focused for a long time. So I had an idea - letting students teach themselves. After showing them the first-layer printing, I invited one person from the back to show others how to do the second layer. This time, not only the person who was chosen very focused but also others - they all have their own process in mind and just wait the right time to show the right way. I used that idea in the following two classes and got super good feedbacks.

After class, I shared my experience and thoughts with Noel. He laughed and told me that preparing as much as possible beforehand, everything would be fine. I totally agreed.

But to a person like me, no matter how good the preparation is, there are still things out of the plan. The good thing is that I enjoy them (at least I try to), and I always improve myself because of that.

Be brave and be adaptive, as one of my mentors said.

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