Our series of interviews with print professionals continues with London-based screen printer and graphic designer Dan Mather.
Q. How did your interest in screen printing begin?
A. I first discovered screen printing while at the Arts Institute Bournemouth ten years ago. I loved how you could use the process to print on anything from acrylic and cardboard to bubblewrap, glass and carpet underlay. I tried it all.
I went on to study at the London College of Printing where I practically lived in the print room. I spent three years playing with halftones, multiplying colours, blends, overprinting and registration. I even tried printing PVA and throwing gold dust down. I thought it was incredible how you could achieve such a high quality of print at a relatively low cost.
After graduating, I embarked on a career as a graphic designer, but it wasn’t really for me. So I returned to the squeegee and began printing by own work again before my friends at Birch recommended me to Mark Bloom at Mash Creative. I printed three editions for him and have gone on to print over 100 editions for over 75 clients with more enquiries coming in every day.
Above: A close-up of one of Dan’s screen printed posters
Q. What do you like most about the process?
A. I’d have to say the quality. I’ve become quite meticulous over the years, as screen printing can result in so many mistakes if you take a slapdash approach to it. So I thrive on being systematic and quite the perfectionist. I find nothing to be quite as satisfying as when you successfully register two or more colours. On the other hand, it’s also a medium you can really play around with. In my personal work, I like to sometimes just throw ink down and see what happens.
Above: Dan takes an experimental approach to printing one of his personal projects
Q. And what would you say is the most challenging thing about working this way?
A. The delicacy of the paper. It can easily kink if handled incorrectly. With other print processes, I don’t think it’s as much as an issue as mass volumes are ordered and, more often than not, folded down into booklets or magazines. But with poster printing the paper has to be pristine in the first place. At over £3 a sheet sometimes, it can be costly and time-consuming if the paper is damaged before the ink has even touched it.
Q. A lot of your personal work seems to be based around bicycles. What is it about cycling that you find inspiring?
A. I’ve been cycling since I was 13, and was always taking them apart to learn how they work. My passion grew when I moved to London and met more like-minded people. Riding became a social activity and we soon started building-up bikes from vintage spares. I also began to produce work inspired by this passion like my Spokes of London poster, which was screen printed onto a full-size Ordnance Survey map. I also made Hard Day’s Night, which commemorated my first Audax ride, the Dunwich Dynamo. The typography in that one reflected how I felt after 120 miles of night-riding.
Above: Dan’s ‘Spokes of London’ poster was screen printed onto an actual Ordnance Survey map
Q. You’ve also done some work for Rapha. How did that come about?
A. It started about three years ago with a musette! A guy I know who works at Rapha passed it my way, and I came up with the design for their contribution to Progress Packaging’s first Feed My Ride exhibition. One year later, I was screen printing some fluorescent pink hi vis promotional material for the Cycle Club in Soho. The guys at Rapha are great clients and friends.
Q. What’s the best piece of screen printing you’ve seen anywhere recently?
A. MuirMcNeil’s work caught my eye recently. They picked up an International Society of Typographic Designers award earlier this year for a series of posters marking the launch of four new typefaces. I love the richness of colour in these posters, and the fact they were brave enough to print them B1 – which happens to be my favourite paper size. And with fluorescent inks too! Spin’s series of Type Plus posters were very nice as well. You can’t beat a bit of blending!
Above: Just one of 11 posters Dan screen printed to celebrate the launch of Fontsmith’s FS Emeric typeface
Q. What would be a dream project for you?
A. I’ve never really thought about that, but I think the mailer I’m sending out next spring will be pretty close to a dream project for me. More will be revealed over time, there are a few teasers out there already under the hashtag #printedmather.
Q. What else have you got in the pipeline?
A. I’m pleased to be producing a couple of gloriously metallic editions for my very good friend Astronomika, and there are some other exciting ideas brewing with This Brutal House too. I’m also taking part in a festive pop-up shop organised by the studios I work at. It’s taking place in the first week of December, so I need to make some prints for that. Then I’m designing a cycling jersey to be released next year, as well as an identity for a London-based laser-cutting service. So it’s been quite the busy month!
ICON Printing is a t shirt screen printing company based in London. We like to share knowledge from other printing professionals so that you can understand more about the industry and the specific services you will be getting from us.