Type Central: Alan Kitching Studio Visit

Visits, Visual Research

Today I had the opportunity to visit letterpress royalty, Alan Kitching, along with some pupils from my primary school who were getting involved in a collaborative workshop with him. The opportunity was presented to me by my mum who works at my primary school and was taking a few children every other week to visit his studio and take part in using the letterpress. She suggested I come along, and having researched him last year during my letterpress induction, I was excited.

When we got there, we were invited in by Alan who talked a little bit about what the pupils would be doing; setting type to spell words in the letterpress room, inking up and printing them. The children getting involved prepared themselves by putting aprons on and then walked into the room with the letterpress and all it’s glory.

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Varied collection of type

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Alan’s workspace

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Ink pot lids placed away from printing space

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Newspaper cippings and small test pieces on the wall

The mighty letterpress placed in the centre of the room

The mighty letterpress placed in the centre of the room

The small group of children then took it in turns inking different words that had been set and chosen by Alan’s assistant and printing simple copies of each word. Alan then took control of the printing by “Brushing on” another coloured ink over the base colour of each word. I found it intriguing that everyone had a chance to ink up the letters but when it came to rolling on the new colour, it was something only Alan did, especially in the way that he has his own terminology for the technique. Almost as if claiming ownership of his style and the way he uses the letterpress to create beautifully abstract typography.

Even though the process was somewhat simplified for the sake of the primary school children involved in the workshop, I felt as though I got some insight into the way Alan Kitching works and the qualities that stand out of importance to him when using the letterpress. Not just the type chosen and the way it is set but the way he uses colours to compliment or contrast each other but also the characteristics and texture picked up from printing the age old letter forms.

Alan talking about the large letters dating back to 1890, thus are cracked and worn and show texture when printed

Alan talking about the large letters dating back to 1890, thus are cracked and worn and show texture when printed

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