Friday, April 7, 2017

The Gossip Column with Taheerah Atchia | No.7 - Alan Kitching


BLOGLAND, Apr 7 (w&w HQ) - Setting and locking down on a renowned artist, critically acclaimed trend-reporting feature, The Gossip Column, minds its Ps and Qs in its exposé of a much-lauded, re-emerging trend, and its suffusing influence in the papercrafting industry.


Hi there everyone, and welcome back to another issue of The Gossip Column!! I know many of you have been awaiting the next instalment with baited breath, so I'm delighted to bring you your latest gossip fix, hot off the press! This month's issue is destined to dazzle, with a focus on one of the hottest trends, not only of the moment, but also of enduring appeal!!

If you're either new to The Gossip Column, or would like a refresher about it, please feel free to digest the most recent article, or keep reading for a quick recap of what The Gossip Column is all about:

The Gossip Column is an exciting regular feature, with trend reporting and challenge and giveaway all rolled into one! Heading up this feature is our columnist Taheerah Atchia!

With each issue, Taheerah brings you an article, hot off the press, featuring a trend of some sort. Her write-up could feature trends reported from anywhere, not just papercrafting! As a part of the article Taheerah will also bring you some projects which interpret the chosen trend into papercrafting in some way - before throwing down the gauntlet for you to do the same! This exciting take on a challenge will still bring you the chance to create projects featuring your favourite w&w goodies, and the chance to win prizes too! But, more on that later!

Without further ado, let's dive straight into the seventh issue of The Gossip Column! We'll now hand you over to our Gossip Columnist, Taheerah!

We are living in the Digital Golden Age of Man. Never in our history as a species have we seen such a period of technological accomplishment, with connectivity on such a global scale. We can speak to someone on the other side of the world at an instant, and can even see their faces as we do so. We are able to be connected to people in ways we had probably never imagined coming into contact with. Technology weaves us all together. And yet, it's not uncommon to feel disconnected from others.

Whilst our wonderful golden age has brought us closer together in a digital sense, we have been slowly losing something of the essence that connects us on a visceral level. Communications can lack that sense of authenticity that comes with committing ink to paper, that deliberateness of movement, of function, of purpose.

It's therefore perhaps of no surprise that one perceived 'dead' form of printing is enjoying something of a renaissance: letterpress. Going far beyond the tactile nature of being able to feel the impression of the words; the very considered, deliberate action of committing those words, one character at a time, to be immortalised in print, is one of thought, of purpose, of connection. A compositor (one who physically composes movable type) moves with deliberate precision, carefully arranging each piece of type (or 'sort') in its rightful place, tamping down the arrangement in a process known as imposing, proofing the design on paper, before finally printing the work; the entire process an act of finesse not unknown to artists.[1]

Letterpress is a form of relief printing, whereby metal or wood type is used to impress ink into a surface with the aid of a press. The raised surface of the type is inked by hand or mechanically by the press. Gutenberg is often credited with having invented his own press in the mid-15th Century. It was the first method of printing multiple copies of text, and as such quickly found commercial use in journalism and publishing. It continued to be the dominant form of printing until around the 80s, when computer printing took its place. Today, very few printing houses utilise letterpress for commercial printing - though that is changing thanks to renewed interest in this process.

There are of course many artists in this arena now that letterpress is enjoying its second life as an artform rather than necessary printing process - but in this writer's humble opinion, there is one legend whose work stands head and shoulders above the rest - Alan Kitching.[2]

Alan Kitching, Typographic Artist

British-born Kitching (1940-) grew up in Darlington, County Durham - an industry-dominated railway town. He developed an interest in printing, drawing, and painting while at school (his early forays into typsetting were setting and printing carol sheets under the tutelage of his art teacher). His ambitions of working as a poster artist at odds with his local surroundings[3],[4], he learned of an apprenticeship at a local jobbing printer - and his six year stint as a compositor set his career on a trajectory that would see him change the face of typographic design in later years.

Poster designed for Central School of Art And Design, 1969

Kitching's apprenticeship concluded in 1961, having already been influenced by the works of Jan Tschichold from his exposure to publications such as the Printing Review and British Printer. However, it wasn't until his work as a technician at the Watford College of Technology, where he worked with graphic designer Anthony Froshaug, that his love affair with typography really began.

Work by Jan Tschichold - an early influence

Post 1950's Graphic Design History Poster by Anthony Froshaug
 - a heavy influence on Kitching's style

Froshaug quickly realised Alan's aptitude and the two established a productive working relationship. When the opportunity arose for an experimental Type Workshop to be established at the College, Forshaug and Kitching became the perfect partnership, with Kitching's work gaining accolades and being exhibited at the Institute of Contemporary Art. Kitching finally had a taste of the recognition his work demanded, and his career went from strength to strength. By the early 70s he was ready to fly solo and opened his own design studio.

Commissioned work for AOL, showcasing Kitching's signature brushed roller texture

An illustrious string of freelance jobs saw Alan create for a slew of clients, including The Guardian, AOL, The British Library, Penguin Books, The National Theatre, Royal Mail, and many more.[5],[6]

Amis on Porn - first job for The Guardian

Fast forward to today, and Alan Kitching's name is synonymous with letterpress and typography. He works and lives in his studio in Kennington, London - a former alehouse made into eclectic home[7], where he combines teaching a small but focused workshop on letterpress printing, his own work, and simple living. He is owner of what may be the largest collection of wood type in the world - all of which still find purpose in his designs. His work has been exhibited worldwide, and his bold style has left an iconic mark on the letterpress landscape. In short, his work has an indelible appeal that is perhaps surpassed only by the medium itself with which he works.

So what did Alan Kitching do that seals his place in history? His expressive use of wood and metal letterforms perfectly marries art with typography - one of the earliest artists to do so, and a trend we see continue today in graphic design and art. His bold strokes of ink convey the mood of the words they imprint, suffusing emotion with colour. His work is instantly recognisable, from the large scale poster works for theatres, to the humble postage stamp. Like all great artists, his work holds a mirror up to the time in which it was created. His influence on the next generation of artists and designers is certain.

Here are just some of my favourites... 

I strongly encourage you to view yet more samples of Alan Kitching's work via a Google image or Pinterest search - you won't be disappointed!

From cutting his own large scale type from board, to composing energetic, exuberant masterpieces. Political statements of resistance, to emotive representation of poetry. Iconic advertising, to commemorative pieces. Textural. Raw. Bold. Alan Kitching's work could never be accused of being out of sorts. In fact, it's perfectly pixel-imperfect.

So, with my head absolutely buzzing with that heady cocktail of inspiration, I couldn't wait to apply the look of Kitching's work to my own creations!

My first card went for a full look based on one of Alan Kitching's prints:

I used the letters from the Typecast: Cary set to fill my card. I started with the main sentiment, stamping it in Versafine, and then used Distress Inks for all my red stamping - it was so fun having to not worry about getting a solid impression, as that's actually the look I was seeking to emulate!

I used some of the smaller sentiments from The Big, the Bold, and Party to fill in some of the smaller spaces, and compliment the birthday theme!

My second project embraced white space and inking for a different look:

I used the In A Word: Hi Cutaway die to die cut the word from some fun foam, sprayed the top with repositionable spray adhesive then mounted it on an acrylic block to use it as a stamp! I love that I was able to create a stamp from this die!

Once again I turned to Distress Inks to create that perfectly imperfect inked finish - inking the colours on top of each other to create overlapping hues! Such a fun look!

And for my final card, I went with a little bit of everything:

Once again I die cut the In A Word: Hi Cutaway from some fun foam, but this time I separated the 'h' and 'i' using my scissors so that I only had the 'i'!

Some mixed pinks, a few letters from Typecast - Cary, and a supporting sentiment from The Big, the Bold and the Happy finished everything nicely!

So, now that you've had a brief history of letterpress and Alan Kitching and his style, a host of inspiration images*, and some of my own creations to further inspire you, I am delighted to bring you this month's Gossip Column challenge!

Your challenge is to create a project which uses the look of letterpress/typography in a creative way! Use dies, stamps, a clever technique, whatever - the choice is yours! As always I like to stretch your creativity, so I'm asking you to think outside the box with your designs and push your use of the theme outside your comfort zone! Pick a style that's new to you, or use your supplies in a different way, try a new technique, combine with one or more other trends - wherever your creativity takes you! I will be looking closely for originality as well as execution when it comes to picking winners, so dare to be different and show me what you can do!

*Need more inspiration? Check out our Pinterest board for a plethora of pins to further spark your creativity!

The Rules
  • Create a brand new project which uses the look of letterpress/typography as a part of your design
  • Post on your blog or to an online photo album. Ensure you link up to this challenge post in your blog post
  • Extra credit will be considered for projects which use Alan Kitching's work as inspiration for your design, embracing a new-to-you technique, and/or for a creative and original use of typography in your design
  • You may still use images in your designs, but the focal point of your design should be the typography
  • You must use at least one Winnie & Walter product for your creation. This can include our free digital products too!
  • Link up your creations to this post using the Inlinkz below. Please use the link to your actual post rather than the link to your blog
  • You can enter as many times as you like!
  • The deadline for linking submissions is Wednesday 31st May at 11:55pm CST. 
  • I will select one overall winner ('Gossip Queen/King'!) and two honourable mentions ('Hot Gossips'!). The Gossip Queen/King will win $30 credit to the w&w shop, and the Hot Gossips winning a $15 credit a piece!
  • Winners will be announced on Wednesday 7th June.

Are you ready to put your gossiping skills to the test?! I can't wait to see your creations!!

Just one more thing before you go! We would love your feedback on The Gossip Column and the challenge, so please do leave us a comment on this post! Each and every issue of The Gossip Column will focus on something different and we can't wait to bring you the future issues if you love this feature!

'Til next time, Gossipers... !


Further Reading:


  1. Oh, my goodness.......this gentleman's work is AMAZING!!! I love that there is such a connection between what he does with his art and what we as stampers do in a small way with our crafty supplies, too! Ink it...Press it. I really see a kinship. So genius of you, Taheerah, to choose him and his work for your Gossip Column. I just LOVE your features!!!

    Your cards are fabulous, too! How clever that you made stamps from fun foam with your dies....and then arranging and inking them in such creative ways. Just wonderful!!! Thank you for the inspiration. Can't wait to try some of the ideas.
    <3 J

    jwoolbright at gmail dot com

  2. Wowie!! This is so interesting :) i loved all the examples. Super cool techniques. Will have to give it a go!

  3. This was great. I wasn't sure how to apply this to my cards but you did a great job of showing us how.

  4. Wow! Amazing post! Thanks for sharing!!!

  5. Ooh this looks such a fun and interesting challenge!

  6. Wow, you do know how to throw a challenge at us, daring us to explore new techniques and venturing out of our comfort zones. Love all of the inspiration, both by Alan Kitching and yourself, and am looking forward to play along.

  7. Such a fascinating post, with superb artwork too. I'll have to get my thinking cap on for the challenge.

  8. I enjoy the creative challenges you give in The Gossip Column, Taheerah--makes me think & try something new. I've already made my W&W Hello die into a stamp, so just might use it for the challenge. Thanks for the inspiration!

  9. Always love your gossip column Taheerah and this is no exception. So thoughtful and so different, I really enjoy taking my time to peruse and soak up the info and photos. Your cards are awesome. I'm glad to see you putting the Letterpress course into practice :)

  10. Thank you for another great column, Taheerah! Loved to learn a bit about Alan Kitching, I'm sure I'll explore his work more, when I'm not limited by supplies.
    Your samples are amazing, as I always know they will be even before you post them!

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