The Daily Heller: Hot Off the Web With Alan Kitching

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There are letterpress printers all over the world, but for my money Alan Kitching is a brand name. One of the world’s exemplary practitioners of manual typographic design and printmaking, known for a modern, expressive use of wood and metal, he has made a venerable medium as fresh as it can be.

His latest venture is a new website, which Kitching discusses here.

Are you surprised and/or elated by the apparent increase in popularity among designers and printers for what I consider a major revival in letterpress printing?
No, I am not surprised that more people are getting involved with the handcraft traditions. People need a break from the screen.

At the Royal College of Art, where I once taught typography, one of the first things I used to say to my students was, “I am not interested in letterpress printing. I am only interested in what one can make new with this old technology.” This philosophy continues to inform my work today, notably the importance of innovating within the constraints of established technologies.

While some may view letterpress as a relic of the past, I see it as a rich ground for experimentation and creativity. My approach diverges from traditional methods, using woodblock poster type, and occasionally forgoing the printing press altogether, opting instead to exert hand pressure to transfer inked surfaces onto paper. This tactile, hands-on process allows for a level of control and spontaneity that is unmatched by digital methods.

With the Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum’s Wayzgoose event, a large number of wannabe printers are emerging. You are one of the pioneers. How would you distinguish your work from the rest?
While I greatly value the Hamilton Wood Type museum and its Wayzgoose event for fostering interest in printing, I distinguish myself as an artist operating within a working print studio. Unlike a museum, my focus is on actively creating printed images using wood-block type. This distinction emphasizes my role as a practitioner, blending traditional craftsmanship with artistic expression to produce unique and original works.

How does your new website suit your needs better than before?
The previous website was outdated, serving as little more than a static profile page. With the new site, I’ve created a dynamic online platform that showcases my recent work and includes a functional shop. This allows me to share my extensive archive of prints with the public. Overall, the new website better reflects my current work, engages visitors more effectively, and improves accessibility to my art.

When you began printing, I’m certain you had no conception that your handcraft would be displayed to so many people on the web. How do you feel about this “revolution”?
The connection of traditional craftsmanship with modern technology has revolutionized how I share my work. Platforms like Instagram enable me to showcase the intricacies of letterpress printing, sparking interest from new audiences. This intersection is fascinating, making the ancient craft more accessible and engaging to a wider community.

You continue to produce new work at a prodigious pace. Is there more to do? Do you ever rest?
There is always more to do. I will never retire from printing. Working on new prints and thinking up new ideas keeps me engaged and active.

Are there any new inventions in this vintage art and craft?
There may be new inventions yet to be discovered!

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