The Kit Kemp Design Studio recently took a trip to Ivo Prints as we are working on a very exciting project with Christopher Farr for Thomas Lavin in Los Angeles.
We were blown away by the skill, craftsmanship and the intricacies of the printing process. It is the place where the majority of established designers get their wallpapers and fabrics printed… and it is spectacular. The factory is huge and filled with large scale machinery, but has also kept the traditional method of screen printing by hand. For a behind the scenes look and to hear about the different types of printing processes they use, visit our Out & About at Ivo Prints blog post.
We were extremely lucky to be given a grand tour by the one and only, Howard Voyce, also known as Podge. Podge is the factory manager and has been working at Ivo Prints since the age of 16. His knowledge of printing and design is infinite – he is the maître d’ of Ivo Prints and has worked with everyone from English Eccentrics and Celia Birtwell to Bennison. Here he is standing next to Vivian Westwood’s trademark print design which, if you look closely, they first printed on the 8th January 1996.
He is a true character, incredibly enthusiastic, extremely funny, kind, creative and intelligent – a real says it how it is kind of guy. Podge is a hero in textile terms, he deserves the equivalent of an Oscar for a lifetime achievement in the field of printing.
This week we were lucky enough to interview the man himself…
When and how did you get into screen printing?
I started in 1978 at the age of 16. My Aunt and my Grandmother were already working for Ivo Prints. I had little experience in screen printing when I joined. In the mornings I would use a single colour jig to print placemats and coasters. In the afternoon I would hand screen ready for stretching and engraving. After some time I was asked if I wanted to have a go at hand printing and I was fascinated by the two hand printers that taught me my craft, Abdul & Eddie. At the time we were working around the corner in an upstairs factory, working on two 25 metre hand printing tables and two 22 metre hand tables. Everything at that point was printed by hand and there was no machinery involved, other than the baker that was used to cure the fabrics.
Around 1982 Mike Hass, the owner, and his dad, Victor, rented the building that we are currently in. They installed three Spanish machines which are technically called Galis. They are semi-automatic but still need to be set up by hand. Our Gali tables are 50 metres in length and 1.50 metres wide.
I taught myself how to use them as nobody knew and we then took more staff on who I trained to use the machines.
What is your favourite method of printing and why?
I have two favourite methods – hand printing and Gali printing. The reason being is that both processes are very physical and very hands on. I hand printed this silk programme to celebrate the Queen Mothers’ 80th birthday. I would have been 20 years old at the time. It was such a beautiful print.
Traditional printing methods are such a craft, how do you feel about technology replacing what was previously hand-made?
We do have wallpaper machines and a digital printing machine. People often ask if I like the processes. If I am honest, I don’t have a problem with them, but I still find screen printing much more entertaining and more engaging.
I don’t think technology will take over the textile industry entirely as we are finding there are limitations with particular types of colour. Pastel colours and metallic colours still can’t be printed with true success using digital methods. I think there is a place for both processes though and they could work together quite well.
What does a typical day in the life at Ivo Prints look like?
We have a fantastic team of people who I help look after. I oversee most of the work that goes through the factory and I’m sometimes called to oversee problems arising from jobs. I also oversee new customers who are printing with us and offer advice and support when printing new collections or new designs.
We actively encourage new and existing customers to visit the factory so that they can see first-hand the printing processes we use, any problems that may arise or occur in the sampling stage and their designs being printed for the first time.
Do you have a favourite fabric or wallpaper design you have printed over the years?
I would probably have to say I still find Carnival for Christopher Farr Cloth the most exciting design to look at. The design has become a phenomenon over the last 10 years since we began printing it. Here you can see the different layering stages.
How has Ivo Prints changed and developed over the years?
The printing process by hand certainly hasn’t changed. The materials are still essentially the same. Although for some time we have been using a large flat bed printing machine called a ‘buser’. It is capable of printing 14 colours at the same time and we also have a rotary machine which is capable of printing 8 colours at one time. When I first started we did everything by hand, but the market started to grow and we needed to evolve. Here you can see us printing two of Kit’s designs, Travelling Light and Tasha’s Trip.
How has the past year affected your printing?
Fortunately for us a business, we have not suffered any real hard times or losses due to Covid. In fact it’s been the other way, it’s been really busy. We have had a great year, possibly due to the fact people have a bit more disposable money whilst we haven’t been able to go anywhere and the high streets have been closed. People have had to think differently about ways of buying and selling. So we are actually just as busy this year as we were five years ago. The orders and new customers just seem to be coming in non-stop, which is great!
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Here at the Kit Kemp studio we have been working on something very special with Christopher Farr for Thomas Lavin in LA and we could not have done it without the help of Ivo Prints! Here is a sneak peek of what we have been working on… keep your eyes and ears peeled for more on this latest project soon.