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A Magazine for Sheffield

The Lost Fox: This Month's Featured Artist

The Lost Fox are a Leeds-based artistic duo made up of illustrator Dan Forster and printmaker Jan Hirst. We were first made aware of their precise, geometric work at Sheffield Print Fair and have had them on our list ever since, so it's a pleasure to have them decorating this month's issue. Jan and Dan are passionate about printing, which is just as well, because their simple, stylish designs require a great deal of meticulous planning and millimetre-perfect precision. What drew you both to screen printing? [Jan] We’ve both worked in graphic design for many years and have a real love of beautiful print. About ten years ago we got really interested in letterpress and bought an antique Arab treadle press that lived in our garage for a few years, but we found it quite limiting to work with and it wasn’t really appropriate for our style of illustration, plus it was freezing in the garage in winter, which didn’t really encourage us. So we started exploring screen print instead and were hooked immediately. On the face of it screen printing can seem quite a simple process, but there are many factors that can influence the outcome and lots of things can (and do) go wrong. We’ve got better through lots of practice and learning from the mistakes we’ve made. What's your approach to creating a new design? [Dan] Most of our new ideas are inspired by activities outside of our day jobs travelling, new experiences, the natural world etc and often in places far from the studio or a computer. I'd say our process is collaborative right from the start. We'll often talk about ideas while hiking in the Lakes or during a long journey in our camper van. Or, in the case of our Parrot screen print, in a beach cafe in Costa Rica with pencil and paper while drinking out of a coconut. You both have a background in graphic design and illustration. How does designing for screen prints differ? [Jan] Once we’ve got the illustration to a point we’re happy with, we then review it for printability and we do often have to make some small amends to be able to actually print it successfully. Having a background in graphic design really helps with this, as we’ve set up artwork for print in our day jobs and understand things like grip (where one colour runs fractionally under another to make sure there’s no white gap in between) and registration (the alignment of each colour with the others). With all of your work being handmade, is it quite time-intensive? [Jan] Yes, it’s very labour intensive. We build up each print one colour at a time, and because of the nature of Dan’s illustrations being so technically tricky to print I have to make tiny adjustments to the positioning of each print for every colour I print. So I spend a lot of time under the screen moving paper around by fractions of millimetres. But you’ve got to work as quickly as you can because if you take too long the ink can start to dry in your screen and then you need to start washing it out, which is best avoided. [Dan] Yes, we’re pretty fussy. Even down to weighing our ink to ensure the mixes are consistent from one print run to the next. Then later, hand trimming, signing and mounting. For us, part of the process is the time and effort to get things right, rather than putting out an inferior product. If we wouldn’t hang it on our wall, it doesn’t make it into the edition. We first saw your work at Sheffield Print Fair. What is your experience of that and similar print fairs and will you be involved again this year? [Both] Sheffield Print Fair in November 2014 was the first fair we ever did and we’ll definitely be doing it again if they’ll have us. There are some other great fairs out there, like the Hepworth Print Fair and Saltaire Makers Fair, but we’re always on the lookout for new ones to try. Print fairs are one of the best things about what we do. We love to meet people and hear their feedback on our work. There’s no better compliment than hearing people say they love what we do and want it on their walls at home. [imagebrowser id=72] )

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