If you love typography and all things letterpress check out our Department Store Vendors Typoretum. In a response to the revival of letterpress printing, Typoretum was established in 2008. Founded by Justin Knopp and his wife Cecilia, this British creative letterpress printing and design studio, utilise traditional craft skills to create contemporary and experimental designs. Producing work from their own collection of lead and wooden types, antique and vintage printing presses plus other print paraphernalia. Typoretum offers short courses and internship opportunities to ensure that the craft is kept alive and continues to be taught to a new generation of letterpress printers, designers and enthusiasts. Custom commissions are undertaken.
I was able to catch up with Justin Knopp to find out a little more about the commendable, family run business, how it functions and what enticed them to become valued vendors on our online Department Store. It’s very hard to miss Justin’s passion and excitement for printed goodness!
Read the full interview below…
Can you tell us a little about your background and where your passion for print stemmed from?
My first experience of letterpress printing came whilst studying BA (hons) Graphic Design at Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design (1991-1994). While at Saint Martins I discovered the College’s Composing Room – a 1950s time capsule deep down in the bowels of the building – and quickly became fascinated by the creative potential of the process and by the ancient skills and ingenious machines employed to make it all happen.
Since graduating, my involvement with letterpress printing deepened and I gradually amassed a substantial collection of lead and antique wooden types, printing machines and other paraphernalia – much of which has rescued and restored to working order.
In 2008, after working for many years as a Graphic Designer, I left the industry to establish Typoretum and became a full-time letterpress designer printer, after 15 year’s spent printing in my spare time in evenings or weekends.
What are the main influences on your work?
The main influence on my work is the medium itself and the materials that I have within my collection of metal and wooden type, with which I work and create. I am inspired by the work of H.N Werkmann (1882-1945) and the work of contemporary letterpress designer printers including Dafi Kühne, Bunkertype, Popolo Press, The Print Project, Nomad Letterpress, Thomas Mayo, JMG Studio and, of course, Alan Kitching.
How do you approach new projects? What is your thought and production process?
Whenever devising a new project I always endeavour to try something new as experimentation is key to my continued interest and devotion to the craft of letterpress printing. I seek to challenge and overcome the technical and practical constraints of the medium and to experiment wherever possible. Depending on the type of project I may start with working on pencil on paper layouts prior to starting typesetting but often I will dive straight into the typesetting stage, particularly when working with wooden type.
What has been your favourite or most rewarding print based project you have worked on so far?
Probably our ‘Day of the Dead’ glow-in-the-dark skull print as this involved a challenging design idea (creating a skull solely from metal type ornaments) and formulating our own phosphorescent ink. The first impression was printed in the glow-in-the-dark ink, from wooden type letters and ornaments, with an overprint in a graduated fluorescent ink of the skull image typeset in metal type. While almost invisible in daylight, the second glow-in-the-dark skull image reveals itself! We don’t normally go to such extreme lengths but we couldn’t source an ink that was suitable for letterpress printing so resorted to making our own using the raw phosphorescent crystals in powder form.
What was it about the Department Store that made you want to be a part of it and sell your lovely prints/products?
We were attracted by the energy, creativity and eclecticism of the products selected by People of Print for the Department Store. We’re very proud to be a part of it and have some of our letterpress prints and cards for sale in the Department Store.
In your opinion what is it about print that engages the audience/consumer?
I feel that printed items continue to engage in this digital age as there seems to be an enduring desire to hold and experience the tactile nature of a physical printed piece, whether it be an item of stationery, a book, print or poster. It is a phenomenon that craft printing techniques have enjoyed a widespread resurgence in an increasingly digital world.
As you know the latest issue of Print Isn’t Dead (Element 003) is focused around 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?
Although letterpress is undoubtedly a generally very time consuming and technical printing process, it is also possible to work spontaneously with little regard to the usual technical limitations, particularly when working with wooden type on hand-operated presses. H N Werkmann, a hero of mine, developed and used a technique he called “hot printing” to create spontaneous one-off pieces of typographic art by printing directly from hand-inked wooden letters, placed directly on the bed of a press. Occasionally I will work in this way, particularly for one-off pieces or proofing, but more often I will be printing on powered presses so due regard has to be paid to safely locking the type into place!
How do you feel about customisation/personalisation of products from both a creative and consumers perspective?
I feel there will always be a demand for the handmade, the one-off, customised or personalised product and we are re-emerging from an era where the mass-produced product is deemed desirable.
What do you think is the most exciting thing/trend happening within the print based scene right now?
Lasercutting and 3D printing technologies are opening up a lot of exciting possibilities and new techniques, while bolstering interest in the traditional craft methods upon which they rely, which is very exciting.
If you could only pick one word to go on the front cover of our Element 003 magazine, what would it be and why?
Because this is how letterpress works – back to front and upside down!
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