Interview with Stefan Guzy
Stefan Guzy and Björn Wiede create posters and are involved with analogue printing processes. In their Handsiebdruckerei Kreuzberg in Berlin, where printing was first carried out a century ago, they endeavour to continue the Kreuzberg printing tradition and print “everything that’s flat, apart from t-shirts”. In their laboratory, they experiment with unusual materials such as blood, bones, tobacco and vodka, and produce special colours based on these materials. Here, it is “not a question of processing, we are more involved in developing great products and projects and not how fast we can churn things out.” We spoke to Stefan about their work in the manual screen printing workshop. More information on the topic of analogue working methods in graphic design can be found in the article entitled “Tired of the Digital” in form 260.
Where do you know each other from?
Björn and I both studied Visual Communication at the Berlin University of the Arts and ran into one another here and there (and in the unfrequented screen printing workshop). Then he joined Zwölf as a member of staff in 2005. The studio that I had founded at the end of the year 2000 with a few friends was at that time kitted out with interdisciplinary equipment (print, video, space and web). With Björn, who became a studio partner in 2010, we initially concentrated on books, lettering and posters, and now we actually make posters.
How did your manual screen printing workshop come to be founded?
In 2010, the lease on our factory floor in Berlin-Mitte – yes, it was really there – ran out, and the unit was (unsurprisingly) converted into living space. As almost simultaneously, another large workshop space on the edge of town where we did freer work, was slated to become a parking lot, we started to look around for premises that would allow us to combine the two aspects of our work. Also, we could no longer print our posters “as an exception” at the university, our degrees were some time in the past by then so, without further ado, we decided to set up our own small workshop. Within a really short period of time, we had scraped together used items from across the country, bought a few things new and kitted out our new workshop accordingly. In 2014, we then expanded the printing area a little more.
Over the past few years, we have seen that, in spite of many golden flower pots, graphic design is simply not a good industry to be in: too much competition, the financial rewards are too low and too much frustration. Printing now pays the rent. Not creating posters was never up for negotiation so now we are taking a two-pronged approach. Creating (and printing) posters and printing for other designers.
What is the charm of screen printing for you two?
For Björn and me, it was equally important to print poster designs ourselves, that were almost exclusively created for bands and exhibitions at the beginning. On the one hand, we could, at last, work using the appropriate size, and on the other, we felt to be connected to the creative process. Added to this was the desire of both of us not to sit at the computer the whole day long.
Basically, we are both interested in posters. Every serious poster designer must simply love screen printing as a printing technique. The colours illuminate opaquely or can provide exciting covering over-printing effects. Then there is the high level of light-fastness.
Which machines do you use?
We have a vacuum print table with a hand position which means we can print somewhat larger than A0. Add to this a series of screens, a copy frame for producing templates, a washout booth, a few drying frames and a palette of squeegees and coating grooves. In addition, we have a small store of pigments and different types of paper.
You experiment with various materials and produce your own special colours. What sort of colours do you develop?
We are constantly experimenting. Some of our own developments are still under lock and key and are waiting for suitable projects. Recently, we have been mixing a lot of colours with modern and historic pigments ourselves. You can find some of our colours on our website.
What are you working on at the moment?
We have just finished a 30-colour edition of our poster motif for this year’s Kieler Woche – which took almost six weeks to print all in all. We won’t do it again in the near future.
What, in your opinion, is a “good” printed product?
We are fortunate enough to print almost exclusively beautifully designed products, or those which are exciting in some other way. And as we usually use good material, an optimum result is not so rare: beautiful design, beautiful colours and beautiful paper.
Which has been your most challenging project to date?
The CD packaging “Half Skill” for Ruin.