Provenance: A Two Pipe Problem
We think Stephen Kenny is great. In fact, we'll freely admit we're rather envious of the way he spends his days, working from home at 'problem press' headquarters in Walthamstow, listening to Radio 4 and producing some of our most favourite posters and greetings cards. No fuss, no computers, just three presses, the most amazing collection of wood type and a man with a great sense of humour who loves what he does.
Much of the equipment is over a hundred years old. The Adana '8 x 5' prints all the stationery and two proofing presses print the small, medium and large scale prints. Then there's the wood type collection. Over 50 complete sets dating from the 1840s - 1930s. A hand cut gothic font from the 1840s is probably the rarest, but it still gets used.
Everything is designed directly on the press with moveable wood and metal type. As Stephen says, "I like letterpress in its purest form...rather than design in Illustrator to produce a zinc plate to print with. You can emboss with the zinc plate. But what's the point? It's soulless. Also, printing with old worn out wood blocks that are marked and scratched makes each block and each print entirely unique."
Inspiration comes from musicians and artists more than designers and typographers. Names like Andre Breton, Harry Houdini, David Lynch, Peter Doig ...and Sherlock Holmes, hence the company name. If ever Holmes had a particularly tough case to solve, it would require two (or sometimes three) pipes to solve. Stephen doesn't smoke a pipe. But he is partial to a glass of fine French wine after a good day's printing.