Letterpress: Something to Say

Friday 9 November 2012
St Bride Foundation, London

A one-day conference exploring letterpress as a means for delivering real content, be that a set of sharply thought-through design intentions; a re-imagining of the possibilities of the inky process itself; an analogue springboard to new digital visuals and environments; or a reconnection with the power of a simple press to communicate ideas.

Conference co-ordinators Catherine Dixon & Rose Gridneff

Book your ticket online at EventBrite or telephone St Bride Foundation: 020 7353 3331


09.00 Registration

10.00 Welcome and introductions

10.15 Thomas Gravemaker There, away and back again

A journey in letterpress, how it all started, developed, slowed down, restarted and moves forward. Thomas was born and trained in Amsterdam. He has lived and worked in Amsterdam, London, Paris and Edinburgh working mainly in the field of book design and exhibition graphics, as well as letterpress! www.tomscot.org

10.45 Ian Gabb Margin notes

‘It is fair to say that I have always felt that I was on the edge of the letterpress community. In fact I don’t necessarily think of myself as a letterpress person at all, although it is an incontrovertable fact that I am the letterpress technician at the Royal College of Art. I tend to think of myself as more of a designer that uses letterpress as a means to an end. Letterpress is NOT the end in itself. I would defend letterpress to the hilt as part of a rich and pluralistic graphic culture, but I would urge the letterpress community to avoid looking in the rear view mirror too often.’

Ian is the Letterpress Technician at the Royal College of Art, London. He arrived there via Elephant & Castle, Cockfosters, Milan, Elephant & Castle again, Clerkenwell, and numerous places places in between and subsequently. www.letterpressmonster.com

11.15 Coffee

11.45 Prensa la libertad: a short film

An introduction to designer and printer Federico Cimatti and his letterpress printshop in Buenos Aires, Argentina. www.prensalalibertad.com.ar

12.00 Jono Lewarne & Charlotte Hetherington Desmond Jeffery: Type and Space

The recent Type and Space exhibition gave a brief introduction to the work of the late letterpress printer and typography teacher, Desmond Jeffery. This talk will discuss both the recent exhibition at Spike Island and Jeffery’s practice.

Charlotte Hetherington joined Spike Island in 2008 as assistant curator. She is responsible for the planning and coordination of the exhibitions and events programme. Jono Lewarne is a typographer from Bristol. In 2010 he set up City Edition Studio, a graphic design studio based at Spike Island. www.spikeisland.org.uk/events/exhibitions/type-and-space

12.30 L’automatica A letterpress printshop / sociocultural statement in Barcelona

The story of how a collective of graphic designers and artists rescued an old letterpress printshop in Barcelona and turned it into a self-managed cultural association – keeping the original owner on as machinist, tutor and mentor – and who together are converting a once endangered traditional business into an active space for dialogue, workshops, carrying out jobs, learning the trade and experimentation.

L’automatica are a group of nine freelance graphic designers, illustrators, independent studios and an experienced printer who mainly work with cultural institutions, local artists and local publishers. Besides their jobs, they are all involved in other cultural, social and collaborative projects in the city, for example: Dinou (irregular political publication), TDpapeles (fanzine publishers), La Fanzinoteca (archive library of international fanzines), Munt (sound publications), Pruna (record label). www.lautomatica.org

13.00 Lunch

14.30 Anthony Burrill Working hard with words & letters

Anthony will be talking about his work with words and typography, detailing recent projects in New Orleans, São Paulo, Los Angeles and Rye.

Anthony is a graphic designer trained at the Royal College of Art, London. He uses words, type and images to produce work that engages, amuses and explores the world. www.anthonyburrill.com

15.00 Dylan Kendle In between things

Work, play and typography in the overlap of analog and digital.

Dylan Kendle is a London based creative and a member of the design collective Tomato. Over the last 20 years he has worked extensively in moving image and print, his output bridging the disciplines of advertising, branding, music and film. www.tomato.co.uk

15.30 Gee Vaucher You can’t see the trees for the wood

Gee will be talking about a book project she is currently working on about the history of American wood type, taking in the idea of letterpress in its widest sense, not just printing. This slot in the schedule is intended to open up a space for a real exchange of ideas, with participation from everyone present especially encouraged.

Gee Vaucher is in her own words, ‘an artist that will use anything at hand to express an idea.’ Until 4 November, her work is on show at London’s Hayward Gallery as part of the exhibition Someday all the adults will die: Punk Graphics 1971–1984. www.exitstencilpress.com

16.00 Tea

16.30 Peter Nencini Gifts and occupations

Peter Nencini will account for a practice that can be defined by what he makes, rather than what he is. Citing influences – such as Friedrich Fröbel’s pre-Bauhaus pedagogical toys for kindergarten, John Cage’s notion of art as self-alteration, Marion Richardson’s handwriting exercises and Thomas Vander Wal’s folksonomies – Peter discusses the exponential growth by commission of his Make Do Type system, borne of a single line weight and out of his drawing hand. Then, its application from print through to embroidery for commissioned furniture.

Graduating in Illustration from the Royal College of Art, Peter worked in Brussels as a graphic designer for clients such as Théâtre National de Toulouse, Charleroi Danses and the European Commission. Returning to London, he created spatial graphic languages for television sets, including the BBC’s Glastonbury Festival and ITV’s ‘Hell’s Kitchen’. Most recently, his work has rooted in the adapted use of a limited language straddling word and image, for editioned and exhibited projects with, for example, the New York Times. Partners & Spade (New York), ROLU (Minneapolis), Direktorenhaus (Berlin), GraphicDesign& (London). www.peternencini.co.uk

17.00 Collaborative Letterpress Project 6x6

6x6 is a collaboration between staff and students from six colleges with active letterpress workshops, exploring their geographic and contextual relationship to the letterpress process. Participants involved from the University of Brighton, Camberwell College of Arts, London College of Communication, Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design, Lincoln School of Art & Design, and Glasgow School of Art will discuss their approach to the process, providing an overview of the relevance of letterpress within contemporary design education.

Organizers Andrew Haslam, Rose Gridneff and Alex Cooper will be presenting along with student representatives from the different institutions involved. www.6x6letterpress.co.uk

17.30 Catherine Dixon Connecting to a community

The story of printing at its most basic is one of connecting people with something to say to the multiple means of doing so. Simple as it might be, this connection is one we perhaps overlook in this multi-layered digital communication age, when the reality of a printing press is often abstracted to the experiential, and the opportunity to get our hands dirty becomes end enough in itself. Brazil has a history of community printing through the poetic traditions of Cordel literature. This talk follows that tradition on to contemporary São Paulo, setting out something of what it meant to a particular community in one of the poorest neighbourhoods to connect through print, not only to each other but to a sense of themselves.

Catherine Dixon is a designer, writer and teacher. She works with words, designing books and contributing to Eye, Imprint and Codex and co-authoring Signs: Lettering in the Environment with Phil Baines. She is a Senior Lecturer in Typography at Central Saint Martins.

www.acaia.org.br/atelie-acaia/grupo-acoes-programas/xiloceasa | www.flickr.com/photos/xiloceasa

18.00 Close

On display

Vista Sans Wood Type Project

The Vista Sans Wood Type Project was developed by US based designers Tricia Treacy and Ashley John Pigford, who initiated the creation of contemporary letterpress wood type and a set of prints by 21 international designers and artists. Treacy and Pigford used a purpose-built CNC router (constructed by Pigford based on a plan from website Instructables) to create wood characters of the digital font Vista Sans, designed by Xavier Dupré for Emigre. A set of five letters, spelling touch, was sent to the participants, along with a set of paper. Each was asked to create an edition of prints, reflecting the post-digital and multidisciplinary nature of contemporary letterpress practice. www.vswtp.org

Workshop Demonstrations


Richard Lawrence has been printing by letterpress for more than 30 years. For some 20 years he also undertook editorial and production work for publishers before completing an MA in the history of printing and design from Reading University. He has taught introductory letterpress courses to design students at Bath Spa University and regularly presents printing demonstrations and workshops at museums, art clubs, and, of course, St Bride Library.

Helen Ingham began collecting and restoring letterpress equipment in 2002, driven by a desire to really understand type, a love of tinkering with old machinery and a need to fully engage with technical aspects of this printing process. Initially self taught, she took herself to Nashville and became an intern at Hatch Showprint, later being mentored by Malcolm Parker, the comp. from Saint Martins School of Art. She has since held technical and teaching roles in several universities and has established letterpress workshops and course programmes outside of formal education, including St Bride Foundation. She believes that we are standing at a very exciting crossroads as letterpress evolves into latterpress because we can still draw on the expertise of the last generation of journeymen, but we also have an ever expanding array of digitally driven technologies at our disposal. Luton based Hi-Artz Press is Helen’s own practice and the work communicates bold, direct messages, big on rootsy rock’n’roll culture with large elements of humour and humanity. She is regularly commissioned as an illustrator and sells and exhibits her work worldwide. Occasionally there’s time for jobbing print work, but she won’t touch wedding invitations.

Wood engraving

Peter S Smith is a painter and printmaker in London. He studied Fine Art at Birmingham Polytechnic and Art Education at Manchester. In 1992 he gained an MA (Printmaking) at Wimbledon School of Art. Head of the School of Art and Design at Kingston College from 1983 until 2010, examples of his work are held by Tate Britain and the Ashmolean Museum Oxford. The way I see it, a book about his printmaking work, was published in 2006.


We would like to thank Alex Cooper, Christian Granados and Richard Lawrence; Eye magazine, GF Smith, Fenner Paper, London College of Communication, Monotype, The Wynkyn de Worde Society and all those who have designed and printed posters in support of the event.

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