Our latest Department Store vendor interview is with innovative freelance Graphic Designer Tom Love. Between working on branding and marketing projects for both national and international multi platform brands Tom has also been keeping busy screen printing a unique series of posters which are available to purchase via the Department Store site. This range of blown-up found art, reminiscent of 1980s Blake and McConnell, speaks to those who appreciate the beauty of graphic art throughout the past century. Tom’s appreciation for design at scale and the beauty of everyday objects was the catalyst that led him to create this particular series of screen prints, which showcase a unique collection of original designs, bringing their extraordinary stories to life. Each project is launched via the crowd funder Kickstarter.
I recently caught up with Tom to pick his brains and gain an insight into the background of his work, his most rewarding project to date and discover how ‘print has opened up it’s doors.’ You can read the full interview below…
Can you tell us a little about your background and where your passion for print stemmed from?
I’ve been a graphic designer for 8 years working in a variety of studios in London so commercial print has been my passion and work since I started out after uni. I’ve always really enjoyed the tangible qualities of print and I’m the first to put my hand up to go and visit the printers or be on press.
What are the main influences on your work?
My main influence comes from the idea that I’m not just a designer of things, I’m also a consumer and from consuming you become a collector.
How do you approach new projects? What is your thought and production process?
My work looks at taking original designs out of their intended context and blowing them up to sizes they were never intended for and by doing that, magnifying their artistic quality. I tend to stumble across my projects by seeing an object and instantly thinking of it as something more than just ‘an empty box of cigarettes’ or ‘a used stamp’. It’s about looking closer at everyday things and appreciating that the smallest things can conjure a memory, emotion or experience.
If I can’t get something as mundane as an empty box out my head then I know there’s something to explore there.
What has been your favourite or most rewarding print based project you have worked on so far?
My first screen print edition. Coming from a commercial design background you don’t get too much time to create something purely for yourself. It was an A2 print of an original Lucky Strike packet from World War 2 and I’d got it off a guy in Texas on Ebay. I was just going to make the print for myself but thought “If I like it surely someone else would too”. So I started a Kickstarter project to get the funding for The Private Press to print it for me and a month later the whole edition was sold out.
It was the start of a journey that I’m still only just at the beginning of.
What was it about the Department Store that made you want to be a part of it and sell your lovely prints/products?
The Department Store gives me a platform to sit alongside other great artists and print makers and allows me to connect with The People of Prints community.
There’s a whole bunch of market places out there like Etsy and Not On The High Street, but they don’t have the same sense of having been curated about them.
In your opinion what is it about print that engages the audience/consumer?
In a world where so much of the visual information we consume is digital, print allows people to have a tangible connection to an object as well as a visual one. People really appreciate the craft and hand-made nature of screen printing and also the sense of exclusivity that limited editions gives you.
As you know the latest issue of Print Isn’t Dead (Element 003) is focused around the themes of customisation and instantaneous print processes, how do you think your work links to this? And if it doesn’t would you consider adding these elements to your work?
Giving people a sense that they are involved in the design and print process is something I think is really important.I call my Kickstarter campaigns ‘Art that you’re a part of’. I reach out to my community of backers and ask them their opinions on design changes, paper stocks, ink colours and also bring the printing process to life for them with constant photo and video updates everytime I’m in the print studio.
How do you feel about customisation/personalisation of print from both a creative and consumers perspective?
It’s great! It allows people to put their personality on to things. They get to be the designer as well as the consumer, and it gives whatever you’re customising an exclusive feel. Knowing that there’s only one, or a limited number anywhere in the world is a really appealing concept when so much of consumerism is about global markets and mass production.
What do you think adds a personal value to artwork/products/prints?
I think it’s just that – personality. If you can directly communicate with an artist, and be part of the process in some way it elevates the artwork into something much more than an image. It’s a moment in time, a conversation, a journey. With my work, I think the people who initially back the projects on Kickstarter really enjoy knowing that they made it happen. For the people who buy the prints via The Department Store it’s about telling them the story of the print and bringing those stories to life, and perhaps that’s what I need to do more of, connecting the story across all audiences.
What do you think is the most exciting thing/trend happening within the print based scene right now?
The ‘Print scene’ is so diverse that there’s so much that I DON’T KNOW that’s happening. For me that’s what’s exciting, the discovery. Print certainly isn’t dead and that can only be a good thing. I also think having greater accessibility to print is a great thing. From Print Studio Spaces popping up where you can go down and screen print to companies like MOO where you can get short stationary runs created. Print has opened up it’s doors and it’s no longer about The Designer and The Printer.
What are your general thoughts and feeling towards digital printing currently?
As a commercial designer, digital printing is often seen as a bit of a cheap and dirty quickie. But I don’t think that’s the case anymore and the exciting thing that digital printing is allowing is the accessibility and customization that i mentioned. It’s something that litho and screen printing can’t offer.
But when it comes to printmaking and art, the handmade qualities of screenprinting trump a digital giclee print every time.
If you could only pick one word to go on the front cover of our Element 003 magazine, what would it be and why?
The word I’d choose probably wouldn’t get printed, but it’d be funny knowing my nan would have a copy sitting on the coffee table! With that in mind I’d go with CANTONA – It would remind me of the black shirt he wore when he kicked the Crystal Palace fan.
Outside of the design based work what do you love doing?
What I love doing and definitely don’t get enough time to do is travel. I did a trip with my girlfriend the other summer starting in Budapest and taking a train via Vienna, Venice and Florence. Now I’m freelance I’m committed to spending much more time on the road.