Featured Artists: The Hungry Workshop

FK chats to the Simon & Jenna from The Hungry Workshop, who are the designers of our amazing new Brisbane flyer.

Tell us a little about The Hungry Workshop and what we can expect to find?
You’ll either find us at our desks, sipping coffee/tea, answering emails, sketching, flipping through books, plodding away in Illustrator or you’ll find us in front of the press, wiping ink from our brows while concentrating on colour, impression and the rhythm of our big old printing press.

What are your backgrounds and how did you both meet and decide to work together?
I worked as an art director at Brisbane advertising agency Junior for the past six years, at that same time Jenna was a graphic designer working at Oblong + Sons. Although we met before that, studying graphic design at Griffith University, Queensland College of Art. Jenna was a fresh faced mountain girl from Missoula, Montana and I was a borderline video game addict. When we  finished up at uni we both went and had quite respectable careers in our chosen field, each with a little swag of awards under our belt, but working in the creative industries can be quite demanding. We’ve always been very hard working but we want to start a family someday (soon) and we think we will be better able to handle late nights at work, if work is at home. So we decided to team up with each other and run for the hills.

Why did you choose to specialise in Letterpress? or did it choose you?
Letterpress is certainly not something we thought we would be doing full time five years ago. It certainly wasn’t part of any grand scheme. Jenna was doing it as a bit of a hobby and I went all ‘art director’ on her when we were working on our wedding invitations and it really sprouted from there. We hadn’t really collaborated on anything before that and we were both really excited by the results. We loved working together, and I don’t think either of us were really expecting the process to be as smooth and fun as it was.

Why do you think it’s important to nurture old processes like the art of Letterpress?
Letterpress is a really important part of our history. Not just design history but the history of western society. It is one of the first methods of mass communication and is responsible for the democratisation of knowledge, and the spread of democracy itself.

There is a certain charm and character involved with the process, and the resulting printed work. Wood type is a stunning example of industrial craftsmanship and style, and what’s left of it should be preserved and appreciated in its true form, not made into coffee tables or ‘art’. They need to lock it up in the museum! But what really excites us is where letterpress can go in the future. It is such a simple form of printing and the elements that go into the prints be easily manipulated to better communicate a story.

What have been some of the challenges you have faced? and what is it that you love most about what you do?
I guess one of the biggest challenges is the lack of knowledge about letterpress, especially in Australia. Everyone is either very old or very tight lipped (though this is beginning to change). It was pretty hard work figuring out what we know about the craft now. To explore new territory within letterpress we first had to master the traditional techniques. We feel like we’ve really gotten a bead on it now, but there was a lot of ink, sweat and tears spilled in the process. I can’t imagine doing it alone, and I’m pretty sure if we didn’t have each other we would have thrown in the towel long ago. That is also the best part, working with Jenna who is my closest friend and ally, to craft physical objects that are a direct result of a good honest day’s work.

What kind of clients have you got to work with, and what have been some of your favourite projects?
A lot of the projects we have really enjoyed aren’t published yet. We have recently completed a few exciting branding projects that we can’t wait to share. We’ve also done a typographic illustration for the Creative Women’s Circle, which was really great fun. At the core of it, we are passionate and creative story tellers and we like working with the same sort of people. Those that are passionate about what they do and have an exciting story to tell often understand our craft, and we understand theirs. Like people such as yourselves at The Finders Keepers!

The other aspect of our business is printing the work of designers we’ve always admired. We love having a little bit of input on other people’s work that we love, it makes us happy.

Where do you go for inspiration for your work?
I am constantly re-arranging my google reader for a good feed. There is so much content out there on the internet that it is often really, really difficult to consume it all properly and give it the attention that it deserves. Though there are some websites I make an extra special effort to read every word. Courtney from designworklife.com runs an incredibly well curated blog, I don’t know how she does it but every project is pretty fresh. The crew at australianinfront.com.au do an excellent job of promoting and supporting talented Australians. And then there is the99percent.com, which is pretty much the bible for anyone who wants to turn any idea into reality.

Offline, we’re constantly gathering bits and pieces from our travels and have a really good collection of ephemera from op-shops. We are also avid collectors of books. We have amassed a fairly sizeable library of different books and in particular, type reference. So even with all the inspiration online, we always find ourselves coming back to the hard stuff.

What aspirations do you have for The Hungry Workshop’s future and where do you hope to see your work in the future?
We’d like to keep doing more illustrative and design work for other creative people. As for the business, the five year plan is to stay small and stay Hungry. Maybe put on one or two helpers, someone to keep us organised and on track and someone else to help us finish up jobs and do a bit of extra design work. Perhaps in that time have a couple of kids and then live happily ever after. Fingers crossed.


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