A series meeting designers, creatives and makers in the world of craft. Craft takes many forms from products to processes, objects to original techniques, handcrafted materials to printed paper. We have a great appreciation and love of craft and will be sharing a series over the coming months of people working hard in this space. What inspires them, what motivates them, what drives them. Stay tuned as we delve into their processes and share the inner workings of some great modern-day makers.
The third in the series sees us take a trip over to East London to meet the printing craftsman Thomas Mayo. In a fast-moving digital world, beauty in old-fangled techniques is more sought after than ever. Thomas' understanding and respect for tradition, combined with a modern digital twist is a great advert for authenticity and has led to him collaborating with some high profile clients. We had a chat with Thomas to understand more about his approach, how he got into the art of printmaking and to see what he's got in store for us over the coming months.
Thomas, great to be able to chat with you as part of our Craft feature. Can you tell our followers a little bit about yourself and what you do?
I’m a letterpress printmaker based in East London, where I run a design, letterpress and laser cutting studio under my name, Thomas Mayo & Co.
Take us back to the beginning… how did it all start for you?
I guess things really began at The Whittington Press, a private press hidden away in an old gardener’s cottage in the grounds of a manor house in the Cotswolds. I was studying Graphic Design at the University of Gloucestershire and had heard of Whittington from my course leader. I visited one evening and was shown around by the proprietor John Randle. I was absolutely blown away by all the old equipment there, from printing presses to type casting machinery. During my next visit I was allowed to have a go at printing so I got out a load of ink and played around with some big wood type, I found it fascinating. Eventually I began an extended apprenticeship there which lasted for about 4 years. It’s a really special place, I often go back to visit but I really miss it.
Your work always has a real authenticity to it and manages to mix old techniques with new. Can you tell us more about how you do this?
Why thank you! I suppose my work usually involves the use of a laser cutter to create the relief blocks, not too many people are doing that so I guess that has something to do with it.
Other than that I really like to focus heavily on typographic design in my prints, using bold and vibrant colours. Big posters are also a fond favourite of mine so the bigger I can print the better.
We’re really interested to hear more about your processes. How do you get started and does your process change when using different methods or techniques?
The process usually starts from the computer, wether it’s from a clients design or my own. Sometimes I might begin the process from printing wood blocks or type, scanning the proof in and drawing it up in Illustrator. The laser cutter basically needs a vector file to cut through the substrate, so there’s always a bit of digital work to begin with. I like to use this method because it enables me to create my own type or design for printing at the size applicable to the job. Printing just from original woodtype has its restrictions in size, fonts and number of characters available so it’s good to bridge the gap sometimes with modern technology.
What project are you most proud of?
I’d say the first large commission I worked on with Jameson Whiskey was the most challenging, I learnt a lot about making wood type for that project and it was really rewarding so I guess I’m most proud of that one, definitely one to remember that’s for sure.
What’s the best experience as a result of your work?
That would definitely be meeting new people, whether it’s in London, the rest of England, America and as far as New Zealand. It’s amazing what sharing a few photos of my work online can lead to.
Do you do many collaboration projects with other artists or designers?
I often collaborate with local designers and fellow craftspeople, hence the “& Co”. It’s great fun and you get to meet so many nice people and learn different skills depending on the task in hand.
What are you working on now?
Right now I’m working on some letterpress coffee labels for a Parisian based cafe and roastery. Each label has been designed by my good friend Ged Palmer and is laser cut into maple printing blocks and printed here.
Do you have a personal motto?
There’s a quote that I sometimes repeat to myself: “You can do anything but not everything”. I seem to try and do everything at once and you gotta remind yourself to tackle one task at a time.
“You can do anything but not everything”
Do you have any top tips for anyone wanting to get into printmaking?
Start as an intern, whether it’s for a few weeks or a few months, you’ll learn so much.
What does the future of Thomas Mayo & Co hold?
I’m planning to launch a new website with a store to buy prints, cards etc and in the new year I’ll be running letterpress printing courses. I’d love to pursue sign writing and lettering but I guess that’ll have to wait!