The craft of letterpress typographic design and printmaking is alive and well in Alan Kitching’s south London Typography Workshop – even if part of his studio is being transported to Suffolk as part of a retrospective of his six-decade career.
Examples of the master craftsman’s hand-set type will be on show at The Lettering Arts Centre at Snape Maltings – near Aldeburgh – alongside sketchbooks, posters, prints, book designs, equipment and other artefacts, including a small letterpress.
Kitching’s long career started at 15, when he was taken on as an apprentice at a jobbing printers. There, he learnt to set type for catalogues, dance tickets and pantomime posters.
By the 1970s he was a practicing graphic designer, and became a partner at Derek Birdsall’s Omnific studio.
However, by the late 1980s, Kitching was ready to leave the studio environment to go back to his roots – and he took the printing press with him.
He spent many years teaching letterpress techniques at the Royal College of Art, introducing several generations of students to the technique and transforming it into a new art form.
Kitching’s style developed to be loud and clear, dramatic and even forceful where appropriate. His design signature can be seen at The Lettering Arts Centre in his wood and metal lettering designs for magazines, books, stamps, posters and billboards, including work for The Guardian, the National Theatre, British Library, Royal Mail, Random House and Penguin Books.
Best of all, some lucky visitors can book in for a day’s workshop with Kitching in typesetting, imposition and printing, from 15 June.
The exhibition coincides with a new illustrated biography, Alan Kitching: A Life in Letterpress, published by Laurence King.