Gabriella Marcella – The power of printing

February 16, 2018

Illustrator, graphic designer and printer Gabriella Marcella creates incredibly bold, beautiful prints with an environmentally friendly technique called risograph printing – and has created a unique business along the way.

Gabriella was always enthusiastic about creativity from an early age, but until her studies at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn – and the discovery of the risograph printer – she had never found her focus.

“I found the speed and unpredictability of the printer fascinating,” she says. “It would never behave quite how I would expect, and these happy accidents accompanied by my developing colour experimentations are what really shaped my practice.”

Moving to Glasgow to study at Glasgow School of Art fuelled this creative exploration. Her business RISOTTO is still based in the city, which Gabriella feels “has a wealth of new talent moving here regularly, and the city grants you the space, time and money to make your own work”.

“Risograph printing is similar to screen-printing, using rich spot colours and stencils to create tactile and vibrant prints affordably, and with little impact to our environment,” she says. The actual printing is a “cold process” that requires very little energy, while the inks are soya-based and the stencils are made from plant fibres.

“It uses little electricity and eliminates the need for up to 100,000 litres of water and 10,000 litres of alcohol per year consumed by a typical mid-size printer,” Gabriella adds.

Her design approach has progressed significantly over seven years of working with risograph printing, from an early “DIY approach” with a focus on black and white patterns “with varying textures and gradients” quite unlike the bold colours RISOTTO is now known for.

“There wasn’t any purposeful outcome, just curiosity and play,” Gabriella says. “My work now encompasses a variety of applications including party posters, public art, apparel collections and publications, so it’s no longer limited to a process, but is always designed with a means to decorating a surface.”

But at its heart her work is about making people happy, all while “building an environmentally conscious and community-focused business along the way. Fundamentally I hope the work I make is accessible and brings a smile to your face.”

Recent projects Gabriella’s proud of include a mural for the flagship Los Angeles store of travel company Away. “Being able to spend a week outside, painting in the sunshine was a treat. I’d take on a project like that again in a heartbeat,” she says. Upcoming collaborations include working with Oiôba on a new swimsuit and Slow Down Studio on a blanket.

“Design for me is about improving, sharing and provoking thought. Globally, we’re exponentially generating more and more fast and cheap stuff that nobody needs,” Gabriella adds, arguing for “the power of small-scale artisan quality as an alternative to mass production”.

We are delighted to welcome Gabriella to V&A Dundee’s Design Champions, in recognition of her commitment to bright, bold and beautiful designs that value craft skills, and to designing a business that shows success doesn’t need to harm the environment.

To find out more, please visit the RISOTTO website.

The V&A Dundee Design Champions are inspirational designers creating high-quality work and helping to enhance people’s lives, or champions of the power of design to improve the world.

We will announce 50 Design Champions in the run-up to the museum opening on Saturday 15 September 2018.


V&A Dundee’s Design Champions project is working with Dezeen as its media partner.

Dezeen is the world’s most popular and influential architecture and design magazine, with an audience of 2.5 million unique visitors each month.

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