John Spencer veteran

Begging, borrowing or stealing

Conac 43580 St. Privat d'Allier, FRANCE

How long have you been printing?

Around 1975,as an illustrator I became frustrated with the delays involved with mainstream publishing, so I found some type and a hand press and taught myself wood engraving. The idea being that I might think about something in the morning, make some images and put some type together in the day, and then print it in the evening, so to be free to think of something else by the next day.

Describe your first encounter with letterpress

When I was at art school, we spent one day a week in the letterpress print shop fumbling about with type. I didn't learn very much, but later when I wanted to do it for myself there was enough of a basis to build on.
I do recall enjoying conversations with the teachers who were retired letterpress printers rather than designers or artists and even was given a "good report" despite not having spent much time at the case.

Where did you learn?

I think I must have learned about typesetting by begging, borrowing or stealing materials and had a miserable time trying to set up type with inadequate reglet, leading, quoins and battered and mixed type.

Who was your most influential teacher?

Ronald Wood taught me graphic design, but at heart he was a craft printer. This also fitted into his overall view of life, for example he said how if he needed to choose between his car and his bicycle, the car would have to go. He spent his summers printing bibles in India.

Do you prefer to work alone or with others?

Both. Sometimes I need to be alone and yet at other times it's stimulating to work with others. It really depends on the people and the project.

What do you most value in your friends?

Kindness, good humour and optimism.

If you were to die and come back as a typeface, which would it be?

72 point Stephenson Blake's Caslon Italic

What tool do you use more often than any other?


What books are currently on your nightstand?

Dark is the Grave Wherein my Friend is Laid Malcolm Lowry
The Spanish Holocaust Paul Preston
French Grammar and Usage (!!) Hawkins/Towell
Lithography for Artists Stanley Jones
Secret Knowledge David Hockney

If you could study with any printer throughout history, who would it be?

Emille Puetmann at the moment. This would change depending on what interests me at any time.

If you have your own shop, what equipment do you own?

Albion x2 (crown)
Farley Proof (50 × 80)
Farley Proof (45 × 65)
Slack & Parr "Derby" light treadle platen (11 × 7 inches: Imp 8v0)

Type: founders, Riscatype, Monotype about 120 cases

Polymetaal hand litho press (140 × 72)
Antique litho transfer press (50 × 32)
about 25 stones

Small craft bookbinding workshop

If you could change one thing about your shop, what would it be?

Less dust

When and where are you the happiest?

Eating at home with friends

What is your greatest fear/worry?

The infirmities of old age

What do you think is useful about what you make?

ZERO, perhaps educational possibilities

What’s your day job?

Recently retired freelance illustrator. Wonderful

Do you use any other techniques or media besides letterpress?

Stone lithography