In 2013, when Birch & Brook founder, Jessica Jones, was looking for a specialist packaging designer to work with on the box designs for her burgeoning luxury candle business, Jessica turned to Harrington & Squires. Impressed by the unique traditions of their letterpress offering, Jessica contacted owners Chrissie Charlton and Vicky Fullick and a new partnership was formed.
The Harrington & Squires workshop lies nestled in ’the Corridor’, a 1.2 metre wide, three story high, space between two High Street buildings in Tufnell Park, London. Blink and you will miss them; but although small, Harrington & Squires are nothing if not perfectly formed, with a reputation for high quality, innovative design. Both Chrissie and Vicky are from a graphic design background and they employ traditional letterpress printing as well as digital printing to maximise the design options for their clients.
Chrissie and Vicky first met in 1985 when Vicky came to work in Chrissie's graphic design practice. Some 17 years later, they came back together as Harrington & Squires. “Our design and letterpress business started out when, quite by chance, we came across an old dusty Adana eight by five,” explains Chrissie. “This is a small ‘desk top’ printing machine which was first designed about 90 years ago for hobbyists to use at home. Finding this printing press coincided with a realisation that the Apple Mac may be a limited tool in the design process and as graphic designers, who had studied and worked before the advent of computers, we wanted to get back to a more hands-on approach to graphic design. We began by teaching ourselves the basics of hand setting type and simple printing, and quickly graduated onto designing and printing very simple little books – just for our own pleasure. Commercial considerations were not in our minds at all at this point and the letterpress printing was simply a hobby that we fitted around our other work. Nevertheless, we decided to take a stand at the London Artists’ Book Fair and, to our surprise, our little books were very well received. The Tate Gallery, for example, bought a couple for their artists’ book library.”
As Chrissie and Vicky became more ambitious they realised that they had two choices – either carry on with letterpress as a hobby or turn it into a business. They decided on the latter and in 2005 found the perfect workshop in Tufnell Park. Their small format printing presses fitted perfectly into the small building and the quirkiness of the workshop’s contents are, in many respects, an embodiment of their philosophy – bringing old technology into contemporary use. They still undertake all the design and printing themselves and relish the incredible variety of work that comes their way. The business is divided into three areas: firstly, their own products such as books, calendars and cards sold directly or on a wholesale basis; secondly, the commissioned work, such as stationery, invitations and poetry books; and thirdly, their letterpress printing workshops, which have proved to be so popular.
As their reputation continues to grow, Harrington & Squires are increasingly benefiting from work from some unusual sources. Recently they have been asked to take part in the exhibition Well Said! at the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) Theatre in Stratford upon Avon to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. “Twelve artists from diverse disciplines were asked to respond to a Shakespearean quote chosen by writers, actors and poets. Our quote was given to us by the writer Jeanette Winterson and is taken from The Winter’s Tale. We designed and letterpress printed a large eight page book using both wooden and metal type, which was mounted on a circular oak board.”
Birch & Brook first came to Harrington & Squires in 2013. “From the moment I met Chrissie and Vicky I knew I had come to the right place,” Jessica remembers. “I was struck by the commitment to quality, attention to detail and traditional values of Harrington & Squires, the very values which underpin our work at Birch & Brook.”
Chrissie and Vicky were similarly impressed . “We were very motivated by Jessica’s passion and vision for her business,” explains Vicky. “Her range of scented candles were infused with such wonderful fragrances, sophisticated and elegant. We discussed the mood and feel she wanted for the packaging and produced several routes showing how this could evolve using various typefaces and illustration styles.”
Some three years later and both companies continue to benefit from the high standards they set themselves at the outset. For Jessica Jones, part of her success lies in her determination to seek out the very best suppliers - such as Harrington & Squires who, like Birch and Brook, remain as true to their original values and ideals today as they were at the outset.
To find out more about Harrington & Squires, visit their website at www.harringtonandsquires.co.uk