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Aspiration Avenue

Historic Print

Historic print technologies may have been superseded by the digital world, but, looking hard enough, Joseph Harvey finds a secret garden were practitioners of these ancient arts still flourish

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Original, authentic, and sensory print

How we engage and identify with the print medium has an inextricable link with the powerfully collative innovations in digital new media. Print and, in particular, the antiquated process of screen-printing, receives consistently less exposure within a digital era. 

I use ‘collative’ here in respect of the Amazon Kindle. Influenced by the smart phone, the pace of our lives and our e-reading habits on other devices the Kindle came to be. Indeed the Kindle absolutely and irrevocably flat-lined book sales in the western world and therefore represented a decline in print worldwide.

We could think about this as being one collective shift within the media sphere, influenced by the digitisation of our leisure and lives within our post millennial and on-demand characteristics

We could think about this as being one collective shift within the media sphere, influenced by the digitisation of our leisure and lives within our post millennial and on-demand characteristics.

The Kindle typified a transformation from physical to digital. But publishers remained resilient and now stock smaller stocks of the same range—for example.

My point here is printers must demonstrate a similar perception in adapting to the market place.

The world of industrial print technology is perpetually introducing its newest advancements in high end laser printers, binders, wide-format machines, cutters, integrated systems and so on. Similarly the processes professional printers employ are timeless, yet what we hear much less of is the advancements and sensory pleasures associated with the oldest printing process, screen-printing.

Screen-printing has become an art form now very much in vogue among the London art scene and hipster set. Pictured: Andy Macgregor

Screen-printing presents some extreme and creative advantages over all of its successors, especially for people who really engage and relate to the medium.

A superior offering

Screen printers can print on almost any substrate; they have the greatest creative range in applying the broadest range of ink coatings, at the utmost concentration of ink deposit, and with the greatest colour vibrancy. And with various online galleries like East London Printmakers’ features show, the results are unbeatably vivid.

With the evolution of innovative special-effects inks, a design can produce an even broader sensory experience with results that can be heard, felt, tasted, and smelled

Indeed, in an observation made on industrial-print.net, Ron Hayden views screen-printing as a powerfully creative sensory medium: “With the evolution of innovative special-effects inks, a design can produce an even broader sensory experience with results that can be heard, felt, tasted, and smelled. No other printing method can produce those types of superior results.”

Advancements in value-adding finish applications in screen-printing have also driven growth in the graphics and speciality UV ink sectors.

Silver Sunset by Chris Keegan, a beautiful example of the heights which screen- printing can be taken too. The artwork is printed on Southbank smooth 250gsm

The internet as a resource has an abundance of information on speciality application solutions available, and tailored, for screen printers to explore. These processes present formulated UV inks that have the power and scope to render 3D like textures, UV foil effects, bubble-effects, micro-embossing, as well as high gloss and matt finishes amongst a range of other contemporary looks.

A resurgence in screen-printing has been felt in the capital, with new businesses opening which specialises in this original technique. Their work, authentic; their finishes, designs, and approaches, aesthetic; the resulting artefacts are colourful, tangible, and bursting with modern-day originality.

Dave Buonaguidi’s retro artworks can be found at printclublondon.com and are printed onto vintage linen

The features in Aspiration Avenue have thus far covered such varied subjects as print finishing, material selection, minimalism in printing, and design and trends in youth print culture. Lending from other areas of media and the industry the feature has begun to situate print in a contextual, revealing light. Trends in youth print culture sought to show how young people are embracing the medium, and maybe commercial printers can learn something from this too.

Commercial entity

So a welcomed addition to this array is the consideration of how adding value to the screen-printing process has helped businesses to improve their profit margins. Businesses need not focus on the decline in prints use commercially; but focus on ways in which they can engage with new, creative and ‘cool’ trends in print like the oldest of them all—screen-printing.

Kid Spirit Maui 2: Created by Johnathan Reiner, who described himself as a doctor by profession, a Neuroscience graduate, a past film editor and an illustrator/doodler by heart

Ultimately there are new ideas, methods and finishing techniques that are there to be tapped into and that can keep you and your business one step ahead of the print and digital industry; only limited by ones approach.

The capital has seen a rebirth in the art of screen-printing as artists and studios respond to a cultural shift that is seeing demand for artwork that is tangible, beautiful, and authentically produced blossom

Screen printers in London have not only seen a resurgence in the popularity of their works—with pieces selling for between £350 to £750—but a renaissance in people’s desire to learn how to produce the prints themselves. Now admittedly this is the upper end of the price spectrum, and endorsed by successful designers and artists.

They truly culminate, powerfully, into something very contemporary and stylish

Yet these pieces appear to constitute something that borrows from new wave, pop art, and surrealist work; with the addition of successful graphic designers, intelligent artists and creative, originally produced designs. They truly culminate, powerfully, into something very contemporary and stylish. These pieces, in others words, justify the price tag as something with timeless style and originality.

(Above & below) Founded in 2006, Luma Studio screen prints limited editions and one-off work for artists, illustrators and designers. It prints special finishes using fluorescent, metallic, iridescent, gloss and conductive inks

In fact these popularly attended courses act as a creative pursuit for some and a genuine way to add value to your personal recreation or business. A recent addition to the evening courses provided by the creative club is the tutoring of the Cyanotype method. This is a photographic printing process that historically was used as an inexpensive and simple way of copying drawings and illustrations, a combination of various elements would leave the print a vivid cyan blue.


The range of courses and variety of options is clearly testament to a pique in interest and demand for this type of creative tutoring. What is more, it is fascinating to implicitly connect this resurgence to changes in the digital realm of media that we are so well-rehearsed in relating to. What was once the inexpensive medium of choice adopted by artists and illustrators is now niche being tutored and financed by the post-gentrified inner city bohemia of inquisitive, intellectual, and creative Londoners.

The imperfections of paint splatter, finger marks, and slight folds are integral to the finished product and entirely part of the artistic process. Rather than devaluing the product, it overtly does the contrary; and renders the finished product authenticated with something far removed from the mass produced object.


The prevailing picture is that we all seek authenticity in the products we choose to purchase and value. And observing the rate of change has led to a closer examination of areas in creative print that are still alive, bourgeoning even. And whether that be specialised litho printed covers for magazines, or screen printers over-laying new designs on a tote bag,printers have to use clever graphic design, be ingenious or inventive with their applications, or exude traditionally quality in their inks and paper selection in order to pioneer and enhance the value of their products. 


This innovation is essential to instil value and allure into printers’ products for the future by retaining a cutting- edge in screen-printing. In fact adopting these techniques has been a success in adding value to certain London-based printers with popular screen prints being sold for a price that reflects these innovative applications and finishes. 

These businesses, classes, and work-shops are becoming more plentiful and wide-spread from the recesses of new studios in Hackney Wick to Tottenham. Far from being in jeopardy—in the capital at least—from new, quicker more cost-effective electronic solutions, the screen-printing industry continues to grow as new interest emerges.

Commercial future?

Screen-printing has always been a hybrid between printing and manufacturing, with a huge sense of flow and collective strife in an environment of that nature. Its applicability to industrial, mass-produced works remains hard to engage as there is a distinct lack of the organisation of production and data. Being a production-orientated business some have suggested that the lack of an electronic system leaves it unsuitable for industrial application.


From a clear increase in interest, to the comprehensive tutoring classes; the attention the new and young generation of enthusiasts afford to screen-printing will depend on its survival.


What is certain is screen-printing is continuing to drive innovations in speciality inks and graphic sectors. Just as Hayden pointed out in his 2012 reflection, the process and its applications are only limited to one’s imagination; other commentators that have remarked on the screen-printing trends like Dobie, of Sefar Inc has said:  “In my opinion, the biggest impact for the future of screen-printing will be in industrial applications.”


Despite its antiquity, the screen-printing process has modernised into something cutting-edge and something supportive of innovation in sectors like speciality inks and graphics. Screen-printing is a sensory medium; it is creative, playful, and creatively autonomous.

Joseph Harvey writes on behalf of Instant Print W1. For more information visit www.ipw1.co.uk

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