Based south of Manchester you would be forgiven if you walked straight past EE Chrisp printers. Working out of a purpose build garage at the side of his house Phil Chrisp is producing a high percentage of all letterpress printing coming out of Manchester.
This printing process that nearly died out years ago is making a resurgence today because of a unique tactility that designers and customers are once again enjoying. Back in the 60’s litho printing completely changed the printing industry and letterpress machines were scrapped or given away because the technique was no longer economically viable. Luckily there were a few printing houses that held onto these beautiful machines and Phil’s company was one of them.
The company was founded back in the 1800’s, Phil showed us his granddads order book with the first entry reading 1899. There are lots of gems like this in his workshop giving a real sense of a family business and a lifetimes work dedicated to printing. Phil joined the business after college and was trained up on the letterpress machines saying “back then you were taught to make a ‘kiss’ impression so there was little or no impression when printing. These days it’s the deep impression on thick stock that people love”. Shortly after he entered the business the letterpress started to die out with the introduction of litho, but Phil held onto the Heidelberg platen, a machine that he still uses today. It moved with him to it’s new home out of the city centre were it has enjoyed a new lease of life. He notes “It’s funny, I saw the litho takings steadily overtake the letterpress before it became almost obsolete and now it’s turned nearly full circle, most of my output these days is letterpress”.
When you look around the workshop it is clear to see that Phil is excited by the process and the work he produces. He keeps lots of examples which he happily showed us describing the types of inks, the papers and the impressions used. Each printed piece just as special as the next. That’s the beauty with the letterpress, because of the nature of the printing each impression has tiny unique differences. It’s the tactile nature of this printing, the tradition and hands on approach, the time taken for each job and the unique finished articles that all combine to see a real resurgence of this traditional printing method.