Big Fag Press

Archived entries for Friends in Print

Would you like to volunteer with us?

John Demos, Tim Barbarino, Lucas Ihlein, Kris Tito, Louise Anderson and Diego Bonetto at the end of John Demos' Accessible Arts Residency at the Big Fag Press, The Cross Art Projects, Kings Cross

John Demos, Tim Barbarino, Lucas Ihlein, Kris Tito, Louise Anderson and Diego Bonetto at the end of John Demos’ Accessible Arts Residency at the Big Fag Press, The Cross Art Projects, Kings Cross

The Big Fag Press is an artist –run –initiative and much of the time, it is a labour of love rather than money. We’re always on the lookout for volunteers or people looking for long term work- placement situations about one or two days per week for several months.

It may seem like a strange organisation to come and work with, but because it is a very small operation, you will get hands-on experience in many areas.

We welcome interest from people who would like to develop skills in:

  • Administration and project management for the arts

  • Media strategy and marketing, including social media

  • Day to day website and online store maintenance

  • Graphic design, branding and promotion

  • Photography and short video making

  • Pre-press and offset lithographic print-making

  • Learning the operations of an Artist–Run–Initiative

You need to be:

  • Friendly, open-minded and willing to work as part of a team

  • Independent and not afraid to take on new tasks

  • Able to work in a collaborative environment

  • Driven and enthusiastic

  • Organised and punctual

  • Willing to accept our anti-bullying and anti-discrimination policy

You will get:

  • Hands on experience in any area of the operation you wish to

  • A friendly, happy team to work with

  • The opportunity to network within the arts community

  • General mentorship from people in the art world

  • A reference

You may like to read this blog post on her internship at the Big Fag by our now Associate Partner, Louise Kate Anderson. Her work at the Big Fag has aided her arts administration and project management skills, and led to many other opportunities such as being on the board of Runway Australian Experimental Art, working as Exhibition Assistant for Sculpture by the Sea, Bondi 2013 and being a panellist in an Accessible Arts’ forum at the MCA about Supported Studio Networks.

If interested please send us an email at or just come to our Big FAG O Day on June 7>9

Printing botanical illustrations ON botanical specimens>> how post-modern :)


Yes indeed, I thought this to be quite a nice spin off adding yet another successful experiment to our portfolio.

The artwork in question is being printed as one of the reward for a crowd funding campaign by the team at Wild Stories.

A stock of hand made paper was produced by PaperGoRound, containing seeds of common edible weeds. The peculiarity of this paper is that effectively, if you would plant it, would GROW!

This paper was then printed with a set of 4 illustrations by Mirra Whale, depicting the plant whose seeds are imbedded in the paper.

The results are stunning, and if you think they are as worthy of appreciation as much as the campaign is worthy of support, please do head to the link here to get either a single one or the full set>>

News from the centre of the Universe

dafi kuhne with his fag press

Dafi Kuhne is an artist and printmaker in Switzerland – at the heart of Mordor, so to speak, in terms of the FAG corporation.

We’ve been corresponding with Dafi for a few years now. Users of FAG machines tend to look out for each other and enjoy hearing that other FAGs are still trucking along, all around the world.

Dafi uses letterpress rather than offset, and he has created a website to celebrate the letterpress side of the FAG empire.

In his blog entry, which I’ve cut and pasted below, he kindly makes a concession to us, including our FAG OP-104 offset proofing press in his canon of classic heavy metal machines.

Dafi found and used the video below – which shows Dr Greg Turner, a big fan of the Big Fag, helping to print DJ Spooky‘s print Nauru Elegies.

(More info on the print with DJ Spooky here).

Cheers to you and your letterpress children, Dafi, from your lithographic brothers in Sydney.
– – –

Brothers in mind in Sydney, Australia
by Dafi Kuhne.

FAG did not only make letterpress cylinder proof presses but also flatbed offset proof presses. Already in 1972 (the same year they developed the Swiss Proof Presses!) they released their first offset proof press: The ‹FAG Offsetpress 7654›. In 1977 they released the bigger ‹FAG OP-104›, a 4.5 meters long, 3.5 tons heavy flatbed offset proof press in that could fit 70x100cm sheets. The press came with two interchangeable complete inking units including its motors and wash-up units. This inking system made 4 color proofs much easier and faster to handle, since the time consuming washing of there rollers is carried out outside the press. This massive press was a big success and sold to all five continents until the late 80ies.

New quality control tools and the first inkjet proof systems made the use of more expensive offset proofs obsolete and so FAG moved its efforts towards quality control in the aspect of all kinds of densitometers for offset production presses.

The point where this chapter about FAG offset proof presses ends is the point where the story of ‹Big FAG Press› in Sydney begins… In 2004 four artists from Sidney could buy an old FAG OP-104 for the nominal value of $50 at an auction.

They say on their webpage: «In 2004, one unfortunate printer in Sydenham (an inner-Sydney suburb) didn’t see this change coming, and went bust. The liquidation auction was very sad. Nobody wanted his equipment despite the large number of print professionals in the room. Instead, they just picked over the carcasses of his office furniture. Having received a tip off from our local Master Printer, Jens Hausch, Big Fag Press attended the auction and placed the winning (and only) bid on the big beautiful FAG 104 Offset Proof Press. Our bid was fifty dollars.»

You can see in the video that the offset plate is on the right side – laying flat. Then the cylinder (including the watering system and some ink rollers) rolls over the plate to the right side. With this process the rubber blanket on the cylinder picks up the ink. On its way back the rubber blanket applies the ink to the sheet laying flat on the left side. You can also see that the offset plate is not mirrored – of course, it’s offset! And even the guy in the video says: «Its magic!»

Until now, the Webpage is limited to registrations of letterpress proof presses – but maybe soon be opened to studios/artists working with FAG flatbed offset proof presses…

Big Fag visits Calverts

big fag visits calverts co-op
[Sion from Calverts shows us one of their early hand-painted trade signs – apparently it was called “north star” because that was the name of the pub where they had their first meeting!]

– – –

In July, Lucas from Big Fag visited Calverts Printing Co-operative in London.

We’re always keen to link up with other printing groups – especially those who are:

(a). socially responsible and politically progressive;
(b). better at printing than we are.

Calvert’s has been in business for more than 30 years, amazingly running as a co-operative the entire time. The Co-op has about a dozen employees, all of whom receive exactly the same salary regardless of whether they are in marketing, accounts, prepress or at the coalface of their big multi-colour Heidelberg.

Everyone in the co-op has an equal say in how things run, and everyone shares responsibility for the success or failure of the co-op.

It’s a pretty inspiring thing to see a co-operative being able to operate so professionally (go have a look at their website and see the really beautiful things they make).

But more than that, to see that organisational structure at the heart of the operation is a reminder of the fact that to be economically successful, you don’t have to have a top-down corporate structure.

Thanks to Cath at Footprint Workers Co-op in Leeds for taking me along on the field trip to Calverts – and to Sion for showing me around!

Stop the Press: the Allure of Ink – by Caren Florance

The following is an article written by our Canberra colleague Caren Florance, aka Ampersand Duck. It was commissioned by Big Fag Press co-director Lucas Ihlein for his UNDERGROUND edition of Artlink Magazine, launched in June 2010. Since it relates directly to the seizing of obselete printing technology by ratbags, we thought it germane to reprint here on the Big Fag website.
– – –

Stop the Press: the Allure of Ink
Caren Florence, June 2010

Images for Caren Florance Article
[An early printing office (!), 1499 (from S.H. Steinberg, Five Hundred Years of Printing (UK: Pelican, 1955), plate A.]

There is something magical that happens to text when it is printed. In print, a scramble of handwritten words becomes solid, legible and above all, authoritative. Some of the most outrageous propaganda and religious doctrine throughout world history have been believed because they have been printed. Printing brings ideas to the surface and imbues them with power in a way that cannot ever be underestimated. Even these days, with so many ideas shared over the internet, there is still glamour and prestige in having your words transformed into printed matter: witness all the blogs that turn into books.

Printing, however, takes money, and distribution needs connections. When people want or need to share their ideas without the necessary money and connections, you get underground publishing, and ingenious methods of print production and distribution.
Continue reading…


4 colour process

Here at Big Fag, we often fantasise about printing with loads of colours… But as our machine only prints one colour at a time, printing multicolour-style often involves lots of trickery and cunning-smarts in the preparation and execution thereof.

But as clever as we are, we’ve never been as cunning as this fellow, Xavier Antin, who completed a 4-colour CMYK print, using four separate printers in an incredible daisy chain of office-level technological heritage!

MAGENTA=Stencil duplicator
CYAN=Spirit duplicator
BLACK=Laser printer
YELLOW=Inkjet printer

The results are quite stunning:

4 colour result

Check it out over here… If you have time, follow the links, his other projects, hacking inkjet printers are pretty whacky too…

(…thanks to Marcus for the link…)

Our Melbourne Friends in the news

There’s a great little feature entitled “Keeping craftsmanship alive”, by Peter Kohn, all about Melbourne Museum of Printing and Australian Print Workshop on the Proprint Magazine website, June 2010.

Melbourne Museum of Printing

mmop sign
[photo thanks to Lauren from She Sees Red. More photos here.]

A month or so ago I visited the Melbourne Museum of Printing. This terrific letterpress emporium is a “working museum” – a really interesting concept – a kind of techno-heritage project, where it is essential to keep the machines rolling in order to understand them properly. A non-functioning printing press is much less educational than one where you can make up your own poster!

Warren from the Narrows took me down there. He helped me make a great die-cast letter block (not sure of correct terminology) of the Big Fag Press (see the photo below).

big fag metal block

Now, the museum is in danger of going belly up. Due to its generous practice of saving old machines, the 5 warehouses of great stuff now cost more money in rent than can be afforded. So a gang of young print enthusiasts, including Warren, got together to try and save the museum itself. They had a fundraising day last Sunday, where 22 artists (including me) were invited to make a print on the letterpress machines. These were limited-editioned and sold to make some rent-cash.

You can see some of the prints over here. Contact the MMOP via that website if you’d like to buy one. Hopefully some detailed photos will go up soon so you know what you’re splashing out on!

Lucas from BFP

ps – check out the MMOP’s old website – I think it is a stunning analogous “site” – not dissimilar to the warehouses full of old machines. Treasures to be found, if you are willing to rummage!

The FAGETTE Livezine Printacular!!

fagette duplicator livezine event

The BIG FAG PRESS now has a little sister, the Fagette Duplicator. Where the BIG FAG is optimised for slowness, and bigness, the Fagette is super for quick and small. What’s more, it’s easy to use, and prints in a glorious array of multi-colour. Ya gotta see this baby in operation! Which brings us to…

The Fagette LiveZINE Spectacular!

Fagette LiveZINE – making the stage a page! The LiveZINE is an infotainment printacular – with audience and presenters alike contributing to an instantaneously published magazine. Expect to be entertained, challenged, inspired, and take home your own copy of the LiveZINE at the end of the night!

The LiveZINE brings together performers, pop music samplers, cartoonists, zinesters, big minds and the terminally curious for a huge night of entertainment. Come one, come all!

Come and join us on the PACT Theatre bleachers. Make history!

Print where no printer has ever dared to print before!

17th June PACT Theatre.
107 Railway Pde Erskineville
Tues 17 June 2008, 8pm
$7 and cheap drinks!

Backgammon games night at SYDNEY to raise funds for the Fagette Duplicator

colourful backgammon night

Backgammon Saloon
8pm TUES 3rd June ‘08
Sydney, 302 Cleveland Street, Sth West Surry Hills

The backgammon Saloon is a super fun night with lots of backgammon, consuming a whole bunch of alcohol (or turkish tee if you dont want to drink) and an outlandish performance. We’ve made a whole lot of screenprinted backgammon boards, a rules of play instruction sheet and also made backgammon pieces by spray painting beer caps for the evening.

There will be backgammon sets and tshirts for sale on the evening to raise money for the Fagette Duplicator!

For more information see below for a description of the Fagette Duplicator. Also be sure to check out the SYDNEY website and the Fagette Duplicator site

The Fagette Duplicator: Little sister of The Big Fag, and the bastard child of social media!

The Fagette is a ’stencil press’ that prints a unique and beautiful quality. Stencil presses are best known to most of us through the old Gestetner machines that once sat in the offices of our schools before the photocopier came along. These machines are still used in many schools and churches however the technology has dramatically improved. Stencil presses are now digital, multi-colour, high definition, and incredibly fast, making them ideal for just-in-time, fast, and easy printed matter. From book-making to printing zines, posters and flyers, The Fagette Duplicator will deliver again and again and again – and again.
The Fagette IS social media involving arts-anti-heroes, metropolitan activists, underground writers, urban researchers, garage rockers and self-publishers of all walks.

The home of The Fagette is Little Fish Gallery at 22 Enmore Rd. Come by and have a look!

Big Fag Press, 2006–2010. RSS Feed. Blog runs on Wordpress & eShop. Layout based on Modern Clix.