Sometimes, you just need to do something different.


Sometimes within your working life, you just need to get out and do something different. 

As a graphic designer, I’ve been sitting in front of a Mac for as many years as they’ve been available to design professionals. I do pick up a pencil, brush or camera whenever possible, but Apple’s F-sharp major startup chime starts the vast majority of my working day. Then, completing work that’s cased behind the super slim, shiny glass on design pieces that (at N9 Design) we send all over the UK. This connectivity is fantastic, and allows us to live by the seaside, but we can get a bit detached from our work. We produce posters on our screens that mostly we never see on paper. So when we decided to do a bit of self-promotion, producing a real ink on paper poster, by hand, made perfect sense.

So, last week I took my usual bike and boat to work, but on arriving in Plymouth turned right instead to arrive at the Ocean Studios screen printing studio located within the momentous Royal William Yard. There I met Sue Lewry, a graphic designer and print maker who had agreed to mentor me for the day.

Sue’s infectious energy and enthusiasm soon had us to work. Firstly to unpack the beautiful paper generously donated by G.F Smith for the project. Then to check the film produced from my brushed lettering of the well used phrase at N9 HQ ‘Just do it nice’. This has become a short-hand for doing things the N9 way. Some studio banter that we’ve decided to embrace and use within some self-promotion - something historically we’ve done far too little of.

Once the emulsion had been exposed, the screens checked and the ink stirred it was time for the real work to begin. Sue taking me through every step patiently and letting me loose on all the toys in the fantastically equipped Ocean Studios print room. 

Like many jobs, time on preparation is very well spent. So when we were ready and had our system in place, a 50 piece edition of gloss black ink on Colorplan Pristine White 350gsm paper was soon on the drying rack. The individual nature of every print and the pressures of drying ink and clogging screens means you don't realise how much you’ve produced until you’ve stopped. But when I did, what a treat, the result was better than I could have hoped for as a first time screen printer (not counting any experience back in the mists of time at Art College).

Once we had the main run done and after a round of cleaning and resetting the screens, it was time to play properly. Pulling the ink by hand, two special editions of 9 (of course) on some beautiful Strathmore Grandee and Accent Antique Alabaster paper were soon complete. Then, some experimenting with colour to make a couple of one-offs on some pre-dotted Takeo Tamashiki Arare and we were done. The unknown of how paper and ink will react together makes every pull a surprise. This keeps the process exciting and opens up a world of potential. My mind began to drift to what the next print project may be…

As Sue’s tutoring was so thorough I didn't get away without cleaning duties, but I ended the day tired and very pleased with the day’s work. This week, every print will be numbered and embossed with a special N9 stamp and sent out to people we either hope to work with or sent as gifts to those we enjoy working with already. Drop us a line if you’d like one… In the future we hope to be back in the print studio again as a team and build a portfolio of printed pieces where we can work away from a client brief. This will keep us fresh, give a different aspect to our work and even bring alternative processes into our day. By spending a day doing what we do well but in a totally different way has definitely made a difference.

Thanks go out to Sue Lewry, Mark Jesset (G.F Smith), Leigh Mason (Ocean Studios), and finally Mr James Edgar for sending me in the right direction.

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