To say students spent little time in college may be rather misleading. We did go in to make use of the facilities. As final year students we had priority to such functions as the photographic studio, type room and the print room. I made good use of the photography facilities for my RSA project, creating a 1930’s based campaign employing large posters, sepia toned in the huge darkroom tanks.
The print room was also in great demand later on the year as we worked on our thesis projects. My chosen project was ‘Graffiti’. I had spent much of the year photographing examples and making prints on thin, matt airmail paper that I could mount in my pages without them becoming thick and unwieldy. A junk shop had provided an old Remington typewriter with a 14” carriage that allowed me to type direct onto the oversize pages.
My intention was to section-sew the finished pages and hand-bind into a hard cover. I wanted a striking cover image and I had decided upon writing the title in a style based upon Roy Lichtenstein’s brush strokes – this was to be one, large, single word sweeping diagonally across the cover. I had acquired some sheets of exceptionally high-gloss, white Astralux board and planned to use my silk-screen skills to print this in two colours, black and green, in matt ink to contrast with gloss board.
Pride before a fall
The stencils were painstakingly hand cut at home and then taken into college to iron onto the stretched silk screens. Being close to the deadline, the print room was busy and I soon had a handful of critical spectators. carefully registering my first colour, I took my squeegee and spread some green ink, pulling the thick viscous liquid through the screen. I made three copies for safety then left the sheets in the drying rack and went for a cigarette and a coffee. I knew my own impatience was the biggest threat and I was likely to ruin the job by pulling the second colour while the first was still wet in my eagerness to see the final result.
Half an hour later I returned to the room, heady with the sweet vapours of cellulose thinners. as I laid out the first sheet with the green ink a satisfying matt against the white, my audience returned. I carefully registered my second screen with the black streaks that were to overprint the green. I pulled the black ink through and gingerly lifted the screen – it was perfect. Printing the remaining two copies, I spread the sheets out to the admiring gaze of my fellow students. Reg, a student I knew slightly from the other group, leaned forward to look and I obligingly moved to one side.
‘You don’t spell it like that.’ he said.
‘ “Graffiti”, you’ve missed an “f” out.’
‘You’re kidding!’ I was not sure. Was this a leg pull? I was not confident now, and if he was right, it meant I had spelled it wrongly throughout my thesis.
‘No, he’s right.’ Martin butted in.
‘Shit.’ There was no time for feeling sorry for myself. I packed up all my materials and headed for home to burn some more midnight oil correcting the error.
Fortunately, on this occasion, I had not gone right up to the wire and had just about enough time to make some new stencils and reprint the cover. Curiously, I had spelled the word correctly throughout my text. Thankfully my blind spot was limited to creating the cover image.