Ornamental Conifer, otherwise known as Nicolai Sclater, is a London based artist whose signwork has recently caught my attention. I can’t quite recall where I first happened upon it but after several clicked-links I was on his page, exposed to the full extent of his work…….Signs, logo design, typography, illustration, screenprinting, T-shirt and leather jackets, zines, flyers and posters, helmet and bike tank work…..the man has an embarrassment of strings to his bow.
Here’s some images from my first large-ish print project – a 3-colour screenprint applied to 100 recycled card sleeves for the EP launch of some Bournemouth band with an odd name!!
Actually, it’s my band and, eager to test some new skills and keep costs down, we thought it would be worth having a crack at some DIY CD artwork. My original thoughts were to create something using paper stencils as I don’t have access to an exposure unit to create anything more detailed. First proofs didn’t really work however and with a CD release date fast approaching I came up with the above featured design with lioness (I like to think she’s yawning!).
I instantly liked it but had no idea how I was going to get this done, seeing as my resources stretch from non-existent to basic. The band seemed to like it too which was good news and a little terrifying.
I started looking around for work contacts who might be able to help with screen exposure and was met with high costs and, in some cases, doubt that the image would even work as a screenprint. With little choice but to persevere (I hadn’t considered coming up with a back-up plan!), I enlisted the generously offered assistance of one Neil Leonard, curator of the wonderful Houschka music nights in Poole who also just happens to be a top designer / lecturer / printer. Neil selflessly helped with the exposure of the screen, battling a serious bout of the flu in the process and, four days prior to release date, I had a successfully burned lioness image on my screen raring to go. I managed to get the prints finished over the following three nights, it would take me roughly 90 minutes to 2 hours for each run of a hundred.
The rest of this enthralling blog episode is reveled below in pictures
To hear the EP click on the link below:
Some info on Neil Leonard’s work can be found here:
One of my earliest memories was of my dad’s sign workshop. It was a sprawling converted stable split over two floors and had a general air of disarray, chaos and mystery that was very enticing to a five-year-old, especially when I was left to explore the cobwebbed corners and paint-crusted surfaces.
One abiding memory is of numerous handmade silkscreens; piled in corners, stacked against benches, some having recently been used, others long dormant . Back then my dad and the two signwriters he employed would hand screen vast quantities of estate agent boards as well as painting the posts, often a hundred at a time (something I was promoted to as soon as I could steadily hold a brush, back in my formative child labour years!), and I would spend idle time after school flicking through the screens, trying to read the words and logos on them.
Unfortunately it was an area of sign making that, with the advent of digital methods and the downscaling of the business to smaller premises, soon became impractical and costly, so the business would eventually have to phase this practice out. These days we still take orders for screen-printed signs as it’s cheaper when producing a large quantity of boards, but we tend to source these jobs out due to insufficient facilities, forwarding the artwork for our suppliers to produce the screens and run the print.
My interest in this particular craft was recently reawakened when I enrolled on the 10-week screen-printing workshop at the Arts University College of Bournemouth. I didn’t have much idea on what it would involve or if it was something I could utilize in a work capacity and having finished it I still don’t know if it’s practical from a business perspective, but I was immediately taken by the methods and processes involved and found the results (even the errors) very satisfying, leading me to investigate several artists working in this medium and consider my next move in acquiring the materials to continue working at home or at the workshop, purely for personal benefits rather than commercial.
Below are the prints I handed in for my final assignment. Most of these were based on song lyrics as we needed to produce a set of prints with a theme and I was interested in combining text and visual elements. The first example is a printed page from “The Worm Forgives The Plough” by John Stewart Collis with screened leaves and seeds. The others quote Clouddead, Bill Callahan, Smog and Tom Waits respectively and were a combination of screens created using an exposure unit enabling finer detail prints, and screens created from hand drawn and hand cut stencils, presented on paper and black fluted plastic.
p.s. During the course a book called Pulled: A Catalog of Screen Printing by a printmaker named Mike Perry was brought to my attention and is well recommended for examples of what’s achievable with a screen and some inks.