Nick Loaring, Double Dagger
We start the week with a look at the world of letterpress printing with Double Dagger’s co-publisher, editor and printer Nick Loaring. After only two issues, Double Dagger has established itself as a strong reminder of the creative power of letterpress. Nick also runs The Print Project in Shipley, Yorkshire, producing work for clients and spreading the word about the letterpress process through workshops for all ages.
Tell us about your typical Monday journey to work
Both Pat (Randle, Double Dagger co-founder) and I ride bikes to work so sadly neither of us get to experience the joy of listening to music, reading a book, or spilling hot coffee over an unsuspecting stranger as we’re both too busy concentrating on not getting mowed down by cars and lorries!
I don’t get to listen to music until I get into work, but stuff that is making me go weak at the knees at the moment comes in the form of Bib, The Estranged, Krimewatch, Marbled Eye, Halv Drom, Saccharine Trust, Rudimentary Peni and the new LP from Hot Snakes is a total banger.
Describe the state of your desk and what you can see in your office
I’m a printer so I don’t really have a desk or office, what I've got instead is a room full of printing machinery and an eye melting selection of prints and other ephemera that covers every available inch of wall space in my workshop, then there’s piles of clutter everywhere else which drives me mad.
I look at this stuff all day long - and to be fair the type of printing presses I have are pretty damn sexy really so I don’t really mind not having any windows (that I can look out of). You get to appreciate going outside more anyway which I do quite a lot as I’ve also got a small skate ramp and set of curbs that I smack the crap out of myself on before I read any emails or put any ink on any printing press.
Which magazine do you first remember?
R.A.D. (or BMX Action Bike as it was before) got me into skateboarding. After this came Thrasher, a magazine which was a window into another world and got me hooked on punk and graphic design. In turn this lead to Maximum Rock N Roll, another American magazine that I used to get from record stores (Selectadisc in Nottingham and Jumbo in Leeds). Then it was fanzines such as Skate Muties From The Fifth Dimension, Bugs & Drugs, Florian Bohm and the Crossed Out Converse, Dear Jesus and many more.
Which magazine matters to you the most right now?
Same Old because it’s beautiful to look at (above, centre), it’s funny, irreverent and it covers all eras of skateboarding from a British perspective with a dizzying array of international contributors such as J. Grant Brittain, Neil Blender, Lance Mountain and David Carson. Eye because it’s always an absolute treat (the recent issue featuring the Imagerie d’Epinal was stunning). Iron Fist, a metal magazine that makes my eyes bleed. The Wire - often I have no idea who the heck is being interviewed or featured. A friend of mine turned me on to Footnotes “...the periodical bulletin of applied research in type design,” from La Police which is a mighty fine read (above, left).
Last but by no means least, Pressing Matters, a new UK printmaking magazine that covers all aspects of printing, that looks damn good and is inspiring to boot!
What is a double dagger?
A double dagger (above) is number three in the cluster of typographic symbols used as reference marks. The asterisk comes in at number one, the single dagger at number two, and last place goes to the now familiar number sign which is mostly known as ‘the hashtag.’
Where does your love of letterpress printing stem from?
It all happened by accident. I stumbled across some wood type in a shop in North Yorkshire eons ago which cost me £25. Now, I own and operate over 20 tonnes of printing equipment (not all at the same time) which is how I make my living. Letterpress printing is a process that enables many beautiful things to come alive on the page, from the finest types to a striking lino to an exquisite wood engraving, its allure and appeal never ceases to amaze me.
It teaches us about words and how to use them and it provides another way of working and of looking at the world and in doing so it helps us to hopefully understand ourselves a little better.
Do you worry that your desire to use traditional technologies will limit the growth of the magazine?
The last issue of Double Dagger was printed in edition of 4400 copies on a single colour Heidelberg SBB Cylinder press. This herculean effort alone involved over 140,000 impressions and that’s not including all the type casting & setting after it’s been written and re-written (and sometimes just thrown out!).
Once the type is cast we have to lead each line with 2pt leads which is then made up into pages by hand, and don’t forget...all the type is back to front. These made up pages can contain thousands and thousands of objects made of wood, plastic and metal which are all locked up in a frame called a chase which can sometimes take two people to lift onto the bed of the press.
And there’s all the design decisions and discussions about who to feature that are made remotely (Pat works near Cheltenham, I work near Bradford) which can’t be done via PDF or shared drives as 90% of what we do is working with physical objects. It takes about a year for the issue to come together and around 2 months to print once all the type has been cast, headings & pull quotes have been set, blocks have been made up and arguments have been had.
If we’re not happy with the layout of a page we can change it on press as we're both the designers and the printers which is a luxury and a curse at times...! We’ve just hooked up with a distributor, so Issue 3 will be available nationally in book shops, museums and art galleries from September 2018 onwards. Neither of us are worried about using a traditional process with increasing print runs.
What are you worrying about at work this week?
Getting to the end of it in one piece!
What’s going to be the highlight of the week for you?
I’m off to give talks to students in Birmingham and Wolverhampton about Double Dagger and the other work that I do.
What will you be doing after this chat?
Going home, drinking a cup of tea, stuffing my face with a curry and hanging out with my family and two stupid cats.