here’s one I made earlier :: caslon&co
Katie | March 6, 2013
Every so often something comes along that is so deliciously geeky, it stops me in my tracks. Now, I’m not normally a cushions and curtains kinda gal, but these Caslon&Co cushions really appeal to me. They are made using antique wooden printing blocks called ‘ornaments’ and ‘fleurons’.
Printers used to use these beautiful little blocks to add decorative flourishes to books and posters – you might recognise them from vintage circus posters or the title pages of fine books.
Andrew Rouse, being a design geek after my own heart, has quite a sizeable collection. As the printing trade has developed, they’ve fallen out of favour, and are rarely seen nowadays. Andrew decided to put his collection to good use, creating patterns for home accessories, and in turn giving an old art a new lease of life.
Andrew says: “I’m not really sure where my love of type began, I’ve always been interested; when I was at school I used to buy design books that focused on type. I then studied graphic art at college and spend months (usually on my own) setting type in the studio. I liked the constraints of working with physical type as apposed to working on a computer; they force you to think more creatively. I discovered ornaments and fleurons in some old type specimen books and I started collecting them as a result. I have now got hundreds! I’m forever hunting them down, it’s become a real obsession.”
“After acquiring a retired printer’s press at the beginning of 2012, I began to print and experiment with my collection in the print studio. I quickly found myself with a series of repeating patterns and the idea for Caslon&Co was born. The company is named after the founders of British type, mainly William Caslon, but it’s intended in honour of all the early founders. I’m also a big fan of John Baskerville, who worked in the much underrated Birmingham, where our studio is based.”
“The patterns are developed in the print studio, so I never really know what the outcome will be until I start printing, but by the end of the day I will have a collection of black and white patterns. I never work with colour in the studio; I focus purely on pattern.”
“Some of the blocks are very rare and I’ve only been able to find one, which means I can’t develop the patterns until I’ve printed the block about a dozen times. It’s then a matter of arranging the prints into patterns, I like to do this in the studio so that I can try things out and reprint as many times as I like.”
“Alternatively with some of the patterns, I have enough blocks to develop a pattern on the press, which was the case for Victorian Flourish which uses a beautiful collection of blocks which can be arranged into a number of patterns on the press, so before you begin to print you have an idea of what the outcome could be.”
“When I leave the print studio I have a collection of patterns, which I’ll document and scan so that I can pass them onto our printer who applies them to a screen for printing. I’ll sometimes produce a digital print onto fabric so that I can be sure I’m happy with the scale and positioning of the pattern before committing to a screen, but not always. I like the patterns to remain as true as possible to the original block.”
“Patterns are always the starting point, I buy some of the printing blocks with certain products in mind, but we’ve launched with a collection of three patterns which can be applied across a range of products and we’ll be releasing a range of kitchen linen in April.”
“As a result of the design process, our products have a vintage quality and I like to select the materials and colours with this in mind. Both are developed away from the print studio, so it’s a completely separate process. I like materials that have a little character of their own. Our cushions use a 100% natural cotton; it’s a lovely textured fabric with visible flecks of fibre.”
“When it comes to colour, I have a mantra: ‘Colourful but soft.” I don’t want the products to be brash, but I do want them to be characterful. I tend to collect a series of swatches that fit with my ideas and whittle them down before producing test prints and finalising the selection in collaboration with our printer, who prints the fabrics by hand using traditional screen-printing techniques.”
“We work with a printer and sewing company to produce our products. They are both based in the UK and have been in business for many years, which is important to us. Their experience and expertise allow us to create our product to the highest standards and their skills and advice along the way have been invaluable. We’re not removed from the process; we work closely with our supplier to ensure we’re achieving our goals.”
Further reading for the especially geeky:
- here’s one I made earlier :: degross
- here’s one I made earlier :: extl lights
- here’s one I made earlier :: paul case furniture
- here’s one I made earlier :: x3 at superbrands london
With thanks for Jack Spicer Adams for the fabulous photography.