Matt Davis is a printmaker and occasional cartoonist, illustrator, and designer. He rents one of the six private studio at Spudnik Press, where he runs a small but vibrant risograph print shop called Perfectly Acceptable. He graduated from Oberlin College with a BA in Russian Language.
How did you get started in risography?
I got started in risograph printing when I was in college. I ran a student group, the Oberlin Comics Collective, that published a semesterly anthology of student work. For our first few publications, we printed with the school’s print shop – and were often disappointed with the results. We were aware of risographs as they were starting to become popular with alternative cartoonists, who were using them to print their comic books and minis. To our luck, we noticed one sitting in the back corner of the local UPS store, and were able to buy it for a low, low price. I totally fell in love with it (I wasn’t an art student) and suddenly I had unfettered access to a cheap and immediately gratifying means of printing anything I wanted to.
What led you to establishing Perfectly Acceptable Press?
It’s hard to say exactly when or what led me to establish Perfectly Acceptable. When I moved to Chicago I bought a risograph pretty much immediately, as it was a staple of my art practice in college. Word soon got out and I started getting emails from people asking if I would be able to print their projects. Though I don’t think I intended to become a regular commission printer, at the time I definitely needed the money. Business became more and more regular, so I thought I’d put a name to my services–Perfectly Acceptable.
What does Perfectly Acceptable Press do?
I continued doing commission printing from then on. Later, to keep myself occupied and “have fun” I started publishing books as well. So, rather than printing a book for someone for cash, I would work with an artist to develop a book, acting as an editor and designer, and then we would print it, and both sell the finished edition. This remains the two main branches of Perfectly Acceptable to date. We (royal we) also co-host a reading series called Zine Not Dead with our friends (royal friends) at Bred Press, Brad Rohloff.
What is your favorite kind of work to make (art prints, comics, wedding invites, etc.) and why?
I’ve found that the clients for comic printing jobs are usually the most fun to work with, and that makes the whole experience better. I love comics, so I can really connect with the finished product.
Who are your current artistic influences?
My friends and people I know who also print with risograph always impress me. To name a few big influences: my friend George Weitor of Issue Press in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Colour Code Printing in Toronto, Canada. Knust Press in the Netherlands. A lot of the artistic use of Risograph printing started in the Netherlands.
What cartoon character do you most identify with, and why?
I don’t think I identify with any cartoon characters… I read a lot of Calvin and Hobbes growing up, and I guess I related to Calvin since I’m an only child.
What advice would you give to a new artist who is interested in learning more about risography?
You just have to find a risograph, get your hands on it, and play around with it! Risography is still pretty new as an art form, so the community is super unpretentious and approachable. It makes it easy to jump right in.
How often do you create work for yourself (not something for a client at Perfectly Acceptable)?
I don’t do a lot of personal projects any more, since I’m printing for clients so much. I have found that the design element of publishing projects is more enjoyable than it used to be.
The Meaning of Life by Anja Wicki
Do you have any warm-up activities or rituals?
Not really. I try to go in relaxed and with low expectations. The riso machine can sense fear, and it’ll mess up more if it knows you’re putting a lot of pressure on it.
What is your favorite neighborhood in Chicago?
It changes as I discover more, but I recently moved to Bridgeport and I love the quiet and self-contained vibe there. It feels like a summer camp!
What do you do in your free time or when you need a break from creating?
I don’t really ever take breaks, to be honest. But I really like hiking, so whatever hiking I can do in Chicago. I like to find paths through parks to walk around.