Earlier this year, a plethora of printmakers and creative practitioners headed North for a week-long celebration of all things print. Our man Sean McGeady went along to discover more.
On January 26th, as part of the third annual Leeds Print Festival, practitioners of print gathered to share observations and insights into the world of print and design. This series of talks, curated by festival organiser and Leeds College of Art’s Programme Leader of Graphic Design Amber Smith, was part of a larger calendar of events celebrating contemporary and traditional print making processes – covering everything from screen printing to letterpress. While exhibitions and print fairs elsewhere showcased such items as screen printed t-shirts, tote bags and posters, the talks featured presentations delivered by designers, printmakers and editors from across the creative spectrum.
“Because it’s something that’s not for profit, and is a labour of love, people are more willing to give their time,” Amber told me. “It’s turned into something more than just about print, it’s about community and people working together.”
Amber also emphasised the importance of celebrating and encouraging the creative scene in Leeds. “This year we decided to source everything from within Yorkshire. For me, that’s really important. There’s no reason to get somebody that lives 500 miles away to design something when somebody’s on your doorstep. I like that sense of loyalty and community.”
The day began with “original Shoreditch beat busker” Mr. Bingo. Occupying the ambiguous territory between design and illustration, Mr. Bingo considers himself a “visual entertainer”. He opened by explicitly stating that he is not a printmaker, a point underlined by the appearance of an animated GIF of the words “TENUOUS PRINT LINK” each time the topic approached print, much to the amusement of the audience.
Bingo, called such because he won £141.27 at Gala Bingo in 1998 and the name just stuck, went on to address his childhood interest in illustration, his introduction to print, and his dismissal from his first London job as a mail sorter for HSBC, for drawing a portrait of then-chairman Sir John Bond on his mail.
“Anything can be art,” he expressed, before showing a series of creative discoveries including discarded receipts that resemble swans, and examples of buffing, the act of painting over graffiti with a flat colour, often the wrong colour.
After showcasing commercial works for Camden Town Brewery and Channel 4, Mr. Bingo discussed his Hate Mail project, which sees him sending abusive postcards to those who pay to receive them, a service that proved so popular he had to halt orders. Mr. Bingo estimated he’s produced 730 obscene bespoke postcards to date.
Above: Just two of over 700 illustrated postcards sent out by Mr. Bingo as part of his ongoing Hate Mail project
An hour of good-natured profanity was concluded as Mr. Bingo fielded questions on his influences, which include Martin Parr, and the customer interaction afforded by Hate Mail. “Interaction is much better than client work,” he said. “Illustration can be quite solitary.”
Following Mr. Bingo was printmaker Pat Randle, who began by sharing stories of a childhood spent in his family-run printing press the Whittington Press. Pat was trained at his father’s press, and continues to work there today, as well as running Nomad Letterpress.
Above: A close-up look at Nomad Letterpress’ traditional printing press
Pat described the longevity of hand printing techniques and technology. But also lamented the decline of many methods, including the monotype machine, which not many are trained to use. “It’s a nice way of working,” he said, referring to the hands-on nature of the printing press. “You can see everything in front of you and make your decisions, rather than seeing things on a computer, which tends to make decision for you.”
Pat went on to detail the stages of the printing process, stressing the importance of picking the perfect paper. “We try to research papers very thoroughly. It’s a vital ingredient that gets ignored.”
Addressing current trends in print and design, Pat spoke of the appealing irregularities of wood type. His interpretation being that the popular handprinted aesthetic is a reaction to the perfections of the computer. It was also noted that this aesthetic is being replicated via digital printing techniques, and that it can be difficult to tell the difference.
Pat closed by showing examples of his work with Nomad Letterpress and OPC, the Occasional Printing Club, a group of printers that meet up but a few times a year and complete a spontaneous print work.
If you’d like to find out more about the different printing techniques you’ve read about in this article, please visit our services page. Here you will find information on screen printing, DTG printing, transfer printing, embroidery and garment finishing. If you have any other questions about the different processes or our services, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.