“The need for interdisciplinary designers is certainly growing, but often it’s a jack of all trades, master of none situation. There’s something to be said for bringing in the experts on something you’re not as good at, and working with them to make something better than you could do alone.”—Kyle Van Horn
Kyle Van Horn + Kim Bentley: Co-Founders, Baltimore Print Studios / Baltimore MD
“the need for interdisciplinary designers is certainly growing, but often it’s a jack of all trades, master of none situation. there’s something to be said for bringing in the experts on something you’re not as good at, and working with them to make something better than you could do alone.”—kyle van horn
How do your individual backgrounds compliment one another?
We used to joke that Kim was the designer with a little printing experience, and Kyle was the printer with a little graphic design experience, and together we would make up one complete design and printing shop. Since we started the business, we’ve both taught each other about our respective disciplines, and continue to learn from each project, client job, and workshop that we do. Kim adds an organized, clean look of her design aesthetic to the printing processes, while Kyle adds his sense of humor, and troubleshooting skills to all of the jobs.
What is your collaborative process?
Usually, one of us will have an idea and bounce it off the other. Then one of us will take the lead on the typesetting or printing, while consulting the other as we go along. More often than not, the work goes back and forth between us during the whole process.
We really like to make work combining the collection of wood and metal type in our shop with screen printing methods, all in one piece. We often screen print the backgrounds to get a solid color, and then letterpress print over that. Because we’re using type from our collection, our work is constricted by the fonts and sizes of type that we have, which sometimes means we need to be creative to make it work. We usually proof the text in as many fonts and sizes as we want to see, and then cut up the proofs, and try out different combinations to see what options we have. Once we have a design down, we typeset it, then proof it again, and make minor adjustments and tweaks, like kerning and leading decisions.
How do you co-manage your print studio?
Kim does more of the digital design work for the studio, which is either for clients or in-house projects. Art direction goes both ways. Kyle manages the maintenance of our machines: finding replacement parts and fixing a press when something happens. Most things are a joint effort—from big purchasing or major shop decisions to smaller day-to-day management. Both of us are here when the studio is open for rental, because we both help renters, as well as work on our own projects, do client projects, work with our intern, and keep up with the endless organizing and cleaning. We co-teach our workshops and step in when one of us gets side-tracked or tired. Both of us also manage the social media accounts, posting as much as we can from our phones.
What collaborative piece benefited from having two perspectives?
In 2011, we worked with our friends at Radica Textiles, a local studio specializing in hand-drawn and screen printed textile designs, to create an installation in the entryway of Union Mill, an old mill in Baltimore that was renovated into condos and offices. It was an unusual job for us, but we got to push the limits of our design skills, technical abilities, construction, and research to make something completely unique to their needs.
In our Intro to Letterpress Workshop, we have students break into groups to design and print a poster together using wood type. Students are less intimidated by the letterpress process if they have others to work with on something for the first time alone.
The Most Important Press in This Shop
bps + kyle durrie of power and light press
courtesy of bps
We did a fun print with Kyle Durrie of Power and Light Press and Type Truck, an old truck outfitted with a printing press. Kyle drives across the country doing mini-workshops and events. We joked around about how printers and coffee go hand-in-hand and came up with a phrase. She went back to Portland, carved a linoleum cut of a french press, and sent it to us. Then we added type and printed The Most Important Press in This Shop. We also did a 2nd Most Important Press in This Shop, just to cover all of the bases.
Speaking of coffee and printers, our latest collaboration is with Thread Coffee, a small batch coffee roaster in Baltimore, who happens to be down the street from us. We approached them with the idea to create a custom coffee roast, unique from their other flavors and blends, and perfect for our habit of all day coffee drinking. After many months of taste-testing—a true collaboration on both parts—the coffee is available to drink and then of course, we completed the project with label designs. The hand-set wood and metal type was proofed, scanned, and scaled down for the digitally printed labels, but we also include a free full-scale print with every order.
Does the need for designers to be more interdisciplinary impact your shop?
The desire for authentic and hand-crafted work is readily sought after today. We’re fortunate to collaborate with designers who understand the strengths of printing by hand, but that also understand the limitations of ink on paper compared to pixels on a screen. The need for interdisciplinary designers is certainly growing, but often it’s a jack of all trades, master of none situation. There’s something to be said for bringing in the experts on something you’re not as good at, and working with them to make something better than you could do alone. If a designer is only a mediocre printer, that’s fine; someone else is good at putting ink on paper. That said, we’re happy to supplement the designers’ trade with the skills necessary to make them better designers for print, and more specifically, the traditional forms of printing that we do at BPS.