The Corridor, 136a Fortess Road,
Tufnell Park, NW5 2HP
020 7267 1500
Harrington & Squires is the brain child of two graphic design graduates, Chrissie Charlton of Hornsey College of Art and Vicky Fullick of St Martin’s School of Art and later of the London College of Communication. They started their careers during the ‘hands on’ design sensibility of the 70’ and 80’s and during the more sterile world of desk top publishing in the 90’s, wanted to return to the tactile environment of traditional letterpress printing.
They started the business in the corner of Chrissie’s design practice studio in 2002 and in 2004 stumbled upon a recently closed art gallery which is without doubt one of the narrowest shop fronts in London. The three galley-like floors are probably too narrow for a conventional shop, but suit their requirements for a workshop and small retail space perfectly.
Part of Chrissie and Vicky’s time is spent teaching one day letterpress printing workshops for up to two students at a time with lunch thrown in. The classes show how to use the famous Adana letterpress printing machines – designing the text, filling what is called the ‘metal chase area’ with the selected type and blocks and then choosing the inks and setting up the press for the printing of cards, poems and in some cases small pamphlets. There is something unique about the look and feel of things printed on a letterpress. As Chrissie explained:
‘Letterpress produces a unique impression on the paper called a ‘bite’ and people really like that texture to the finished product.’
A good deal of the work of their students is carefully kept to illustrate the possibilities to other students beginning the workshop. They proudly show me a book of poems about wood that has been printed using wooden and metal type and then coptic bound in wooden covers, produced as one of their own personal projects. Another small book of wood of a different kind, is a commission for a hand bound collection of poems concerning the client’s amorous adventures, thankfully without illustration.
Vicky and Chrissie also dedicate a good deal of time designing and printing all kinds of cards, letterheads, business cards and invitations for clients. This might sound like the work of a standard printer, but Vicky makes clear:
‘We’re not jobbing printers as we usually don’t print other people’s designs and the work is very different from digital or litho printing. Our customers understand they are getting something unique’.
Vicky and Chrissie often do the initial design digitally, bearing in mind that it is then set in metal using the type they have in stock. Once the digital proofs are approved by the client, the painstaking work of hand setting, locking up in the metal chase and preparing the press is undertaken. The actual operation of these hand-driven, old machines, can be slow but very satisfying with each piece of paper placed in the press by hand for each impression taken.
The final part of the Harrington & Squires jigsaw is the production of their own unique cards, fridge magnets and calendars that are sold from their small shop as well as online and through quite a few retail outlets. This side of the business has really benefited from being on a busy shopping street with a regular contingent of locals popping in to commission cards and other work.
The original Bob Harrington and Horace Squires, who were renowned type compositors and teachers at Hornsey College of Art, would no doubt doff their caps in the direction of Vicky and Chrissie as they keep these valued skills alive. For those interested in their work or taking a class, their website is an excellent first point of call.
This is an extract from our forthcoming edition of Book Lovers’ London.