Clerkenwell Design Week: Tuesday

In saying that I was going to indulge myself, today really was a strange sort of last-hurrah for my student status.

The highlight of today was undoubtably attending a display of work and  brief interview with Alan Kitching at the Milliken showroom in Clerkenwell, London. I would be a poor student indeed, if I had managed to avoid any contact with Kitching’s work during the course of my collected 4 years of art and design study, so (not without some trepidation) I was very excited at the prospect of getting up close and personal with some originals.

Along with a showcase of some of his more well known prints, the  centrepiece was the specially commissioned piece to mark Milliken Clerkenwell’s 10th birthday. Previously unknown to me, the closeness of the artist’s past workshop was the start of their relationship, where Kitching was commissioned to design
and print the opening/location notices for the showroom. In the spirit of celebration, this request was granted once again to produce the above piece which was inspired by the Milliken advertising tag line: Inspired. Inspiring. For each beautifully colourful and delicate interpretation of the phrase, the artist later revealed (somewhat nonchalantly!) that at least 10 runs were needed to create a single print. Being a comparative stranger to the multitude of printing processes, it was very insightful to hear about the letterpress technique from arguably, one of its living masters. Perhaps most amusingly, he mentioned that one of the most difficult tasks in such a large print size and quantity, was simply keeping the paper free of ink smudges! And he made it all sound so easy!

However, I was able to glean a thought provoking gem during his brief interview. When asked how he fixed upon letterpress as the subject of his passion, his reply recalled the journey taken from young aspirations through to the end of his 6 year apprenticeship. When faced with the same wide choice of direction that I do now, Kitching decided that the only way forward was backwards- to his roots. For him, this meant returning to something that he had already found. I’m not sure what it might mean for me, but its definitely something to mull over when thinking about my plans for the near distant future.

After the talk had finished and a little encouragement from one of the very friendly members of staff, I managed to introduce myself to Alan without coming over all student-gushy. (In my defence, this was the creator of the work that I had researched not 3 years ago, sitting wide eyed in the library wondering how I could do something similar myself.) I was particularly keen to mention my admiration of his Baseline jacket cover for issue 29 (a while back now!) given my recent stay in the studio, before I rather sheepishly asked if I could buy one of the beautiful new books of collected works that were for sale. I am forever grateful he humoured me enough to agree signing for me.

As I have already written on my brief Facebook update for this, ‘Celia Sings’, is a book as beautiful as it is inspirational. With contrasting endpapers that match the cover title, the contents beautifully capture the unexpected places that the spirit of creativity and  collaboration can lead. With an understanding of the multi-channeled and complimentary ways in which creativity can be expressed, I cannot help but be awed and charmed by this fond remembrance of an extraordinary lady. On a bonus end note, all monies go to the Stothard Kitching Trust, ‘to benefit students of all ages and disciplines, particularly those from a non-acedemic background who wish to study and experiment with the power of the printed word to communicate ideas and messages of global concern’.

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