Low Tech Print

Flying Machines founder Caspar Williamson has written a book about contemporary design projects made using handmade printing techniques.

Flying Machines founder Caspar Williamson has written a book about contemporary design projects made using handmade printing techniques.

Low Tech Print profiles more than 100 studios and creatives using traditional print methods. The book is divided into four chapters: screen printing, letterpress, relief printing and other methods. Each chapter includes a step by step guide to the technique, a brief history of its development, and an in-depth look at a particular method within that craft.

Williamson, who also wrote Reinventing Screenprinting and The Little Book of Screenprinting, spent a year sourcing examples from the Americas, Asia, Europe and Africa for the book, as well as work from UK studios and publishers including The Church of London, Nobrow Press, Crispin Finn and Tom Rowe.

Work featured in the screen printing chapter includes Chicago studio Sonnenzimmer’s album artwork for Free Jazz Bitmaps Vol. 1 – a series of albums featuring jazz re-interpretations of electronic music, above. Each LP was packed in a die-cut screen printed chipboard sleeve accompanied by a screen printed art print which, when removed, revealed a typeset dust sleeve featuring text from each of the musicians involved.

There’s also a look at Rotterdam-based Stefan Hoffman’s work, using a process he describes as ‘vertical screenprinting’ – printing graphics onto windows and doors inspired by logos, signage and imagery in that location:

And a more in-depth look at Chicha posters made popular by the Urcuhuaranga family in Lima, Peru. The posters are made using solid blacks, flourescent colours and hand-drawn type which is hand cut and fixed directly on to the screen, meaning nothing remains of the original design once the print is made.

In the letterpress section, Williamson profiles Sao Paulo printing press Grafica Fidalga, which practices Lambe-Lambe letterpress – a technique commonly used to make fly posters in South America before the introduction of lithographic printing. The studio makes prints for artists across Brazil using letters hand cut from eucalyptus wood, and curates Lambe-Lambe poster shows in the city.

The book also features some beautifully crafted relief projects from the US and Europe, including Pittsburgh-based Tugboat Printshop’s woodcut print of the US, created as part of Manifest Hope: DC, an exhibition marking Obama’s inauguration:

And Daily Crafton’s – a New York based designer at live from bklyn – work capturing the architecture of homes in Williamsburg. Crafton photographed houses around the neighbourhood before making an illustration of each one and burnishing it onto a wooden block:

Other methods featured include risograph and rubber stamp printing, as well as these prints by Oregon-based Physical Fiction, made by printing digital designs using Lego tiles and baseplates.

Of course, the resurgence in handmade design is nothing new – as Williamson notes, it’s become increasingly popular over the past decade, particularly since the internet made it easy for makers to share their work with a global audience – but his book offers a fascinating look at the way studios, independent creatives and family businesses around the world are using these techniques to create modern, intricate and beautiful products.

“For me, it is the low-tech and textural nature of printmaking that has led me to fall in love with these disciplines. I get an unexplained buzz every time I see that someone has made that decision to use a form of printmaking in their design, marketing or promotional material – people standing up and asking for more, not simply settling for what has become ‘the norm’ of a purely digitally printed product,” says Williamson.

Low-Tech Print is published by Laurence King and priced at £19.95.

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