One of the things I most like about working at PrintHouse Corporation is the fact that a fairly sizeable proportion of the jobs we do are different in some ways to anything we have done before. This means that each job can pose us different questions – usually, but not always, in the technical sense of ‘how are we going to do that?’
This is particularly true for a job we produce twice a year for a London based publishing company called Starkmann. The company produces a twice yearly catalogue of their major reference works (MRW) detailing their current titles and prices for their customers, who are primarily academic libraries.
However, Starkmann, led by their managing director Bernard A. Starkmann, endeavour to use contemporary fine art, both in their working environment and in the production of their printed materials, to provide thought provoking and inspirational elements that can engage the viewer/reader in unexpected ways.
In practice this means that Starkmann will commission an artist to work on a piece which will be displayed in their offices, and which will in some way be incorporated into the production of their literature. Sometimes (speaking as a printer) this is relatively straightforward – if the artist generally works with photography, there is usually no problem in incorporating a number of their works in the MRW, for example.
But some artists, who may of course be very concerned with matters of the production and reproduction of images, become very engaged with the processes that we are involved in. (Some, indeed, are already very engaged with printing/bookmaking issues before we even meet them.)
This can lead to various print/finishing techniques being deployed to reflect elements of their work… UV varnishing can act as an echo of light coming from a light box; embossing can hint at the sculptural. Or an unused corner of the pages can be used to create a ‘thumbnail cinema’ effect showing Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman endlessly kissing and separating. One artist in particular, Tom Benson, was very concerned with notions of the representation of colour – which led to us printing a 9 spot colour cover and text section for the book – and with the question of what happens – what are you really seeing? – when colours are represented in black and white. (Now that is not a question that I am asked every day.)
I think what Starkmann do with these books is great. They’ve found a way of turning something that could be merely functional into something rich and fascinating. I really look forward to seeing the next one.