Tasty Printing Treats At The Hungry Workshop

Beginning on one hot, summer night in Brisbane, Australia, lightning struck as Simon and Jenna Hipgrave decided to take the plunge into letterpress. Flash forward through clouds of contagious printing enthusiasm, a shop full of charm & character, and bucket-loads of unusual printing methods and you’ve got The Hungry Workshop in full force. The pair sat down with us to laugh over their craft’s peculiarities, rich history and one of Australia’s most talented printers.

Simon Hipgrave of The Hungry Workshop shows how to print on a Vandercook.

PRINTING IN PARADISE I love design, print and making things. Either for myself or for other people – it doesn’t much matter. Making things real, that’s what we love about letterpress.

LETTERPRESS WEEKEND My wife, Jenna, stumbled across a historical village on the Queensland coast through a neighbour. Two old chaps, Bob and Ken, were collecting presses and were super keen to pass on the knowledge of their craft. They had spent their whole lives working on these machines and in an industry that was disappearing. Jenna was heading up every weekend and I eventually went and checked it out. Bob and Ken’s enthusiasm was contagious to say the least, and it went from visiting every second Sunday to every Saturday and Sunday. They couldn’t get rid of us. Until one day they offered us one of the presses.

AWESOME IN AUSTRALIA We have a shopfront with our four presses, two Heidelberg 10×15’s near the back and our Asbern Proof Press and Chandler & Price pressed up against the window. Behind the shopfront is our studio, where we do our design work and then a third section which is a store room, with our stock and our guillotine and other bibs and bobs. Above the store room is a small one bedroom apartment where Jenna and I live!

The area itself is located in a suburb just north of Melbourne CBD. The strip we are on has the tram stop right out the front, and a tattoo shop next door. Head out either direction and you’ll run into a pizza shop and a bunch of other restaurants. A little further up the hill is a great pub that is renowned for live music. It’s a great spot. A bit out of the way, but still full of charm and character.

Eye-popping letterpress business card printed by The Hungry Workshop.The Hungry Workshop shows fun and flair for letterpress.

PRINTING MENTORS Bob and Ken taught us everything we know.

DESIGNED TO PRINT We are designers first and foremost and print definitely came second for us. Jenna and I met studying at Queensland College of Art. I worked in advertising and Jenna worked in a boutique design studio for six or so years. I think our creative background really informs the way we print. We really like to experiment and play with the press. Sometimes finding unusual ways, methods or approaches to getting things done.

Type locked up in a chase and extraordinary detailed letterpress printed pieces by The Hungry Workshop.

THE CREATIVE FLOW It’s always about the brief. Bucket-loads of research, design development and the evolution of ideas are the most important. Once we’ve got a direction locked tight we then move on to execution, which is a much simpler affair if the ideas are tight.

Colorful thank you letterpress cards printed by The Hungry Workshop. More colorful thank you letterpress cards printed by The Hungry Workshop.

FULL TIME FUN We run the business full time, which is a mixture of print and design. Typically there is something going on the press. We have an employee, Adam Flannery, who we think is the second best letterpress printer in Australia. Jenna is number one, and I rank much, much lower. We’ve been doing this for about 3 years now.

PRINTING FEATS I think transitioning from a feeling in our guts on a hot summer night in Brisbane to running a business, full time 1500+ kilometres away in Melbourne is the achievement I am most proud of. Hiring our first employee was another big step for us.

PRESS HISTORY Our first press was a Heidelberg 10×15 platen.

Simon Hipgrave prints on a Heidelberg printing press.

BOXCAR’S ROLE We use the Boxcar Base to get our plates up to type high. It’s a great system and without it we probably wouldn’t be here. Also, when I was getting started with printing I scoured the Boxcar site devouring as much information as I could. You’ve got some really excellent articles and videos!

SHOP TIPS Take your time – as quickly and efficiently as possible.

WHAT’S NEXT We have a surprise or two up our sleeves for 2014 but I don’t want to jinx it, but we’re most definitely going to stay hungry.

Huge round of applause out to Simon for letting us take a tour of The Hungry Workshop!