Helen Ingham - Letterpress

Tell us about yourself…

I am the specialist Letterpress Technician at CSM. I also run short courses and evening classes at CSM and St Bride Foundation Print Workshop, which I helped set up.

I have my own workshop in Luton, which houses my collection of printing presses and type. I operate under the name Hi-Artz Press.  

Most of my design and illustration work is letterpress based, although I regularly produce a Mac based piece of design for print for Ace Cafe London's magazine.

What’s your background?

Graphic Design, printing and music have always been interlinked with me.  I have played music and printed stuff to promote it, since I was small.  I used to print tickets posters and handbills for gigs using linocuts and rubber stamps. I also started to develop an interest in letterforms and type through this.

Later on I developed an interest in vintage show posters.

When I left education the first time around I worked for a local offset litho printer, which I loved. This was pre-Mac and I used to do layouts and paste-up by hand, as well as making plates in the darkroom.

How did you come to work at CSM?

After years of doing whatever was legal to finance music and other projects, I returned to education and ended up doing the MACD course here in 2003.  I'd gone full circle having learnt how to use digital technology, then rejecting it, with a desire to return to working with older methods and get my hands dirty again (as in my first jb at the print company). I was lucky enough to do an internship at Hatch Showprint in Nashville, USA. This taught me a tremendous amount and drove my final MACD project when I returned.

One day I had a call from CSM telling me the letterpress technician was on long-term sick leave and could I cover until he returned. I ran the workshop at Southampton Row for a year, then did the same job at London Metropolitan University, then set up the St Bride Print Workshop. Eventually the CSM technician retired and I ended up doing his job permanently. 

What do you love most about your job? 

Everything that comes out of a letterpress workshop is hard won, you have to work at it to be any good and really plan thing well, but that makes the rewards far greater! I get such a huge rush when a print job goes right. When I return to working onscreen, I find the choices I make with type and composition are much more confident as a result.

This is an exciting Renaissance period in design of all kinds. The old guys who started as apprentices are still alive, so their knowledge can be directly accessed by the new generation of designers who have a high level of digital literacy - so all these processes are working together now and we are part of it. It's not digital v. analog any more!

What's your favourite thing about Central Saint Martins?

 

A colleague of mine once described it as a collection of waifs and strays (of whom Saint Martin was the patron saint). Certain people here (and I include myself in this) are eccentric and obsessive and don't always fit in with the norms of society. This is what it can be to be highly creative. This is our home.

Who or what is your biggest inspiration? 

Nichiren Daishonin a 12th Century Japanese Buddhist philosopher.  He taught that all people are equal, have unlimited potential and can access their highest life state through the chanting of the phrase, "Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo".

Who's your favorite artist/photographer/fashion designer/director?

Elvis Presley.

What advice would you give to new students?

Be on time. Work hard. Try and get on with people and listen to them. Take personal responsibility for your actions. It doesn't matter how talented or creative you are, if you can't do these things when you leave here, you'll starve!