Ampersandesign is an Oxford based agency offering print and web orientated brand communication and graphic design. Ampersand Design has over 40 years combined experience.
Good design is good business. Lester Beall

The Twelve Days of Christmas (cards)

In the advent to Christmas, we decided to roll up our sleeves, exchange Mac screens for silk screens and make our own greetings cards.

The thrill of personally seeing through the production of our own design, together with our dogged determination to succeed overcame the obstacle course that paved the way. The juggling jester in the artwork became a metaphor for the tragicomedy that unfolded over our twelve days of Christmas creativity.

Here’s a summary of the process.

1 With Christmas and New Year connected by threads, our playful concept developed through repetition of form and reveals created through folds and die-cuts. (Not that the sophistication of our ideas would have been appreciated from our initial sketchpad scribbles and paper napkin mock-ups…)

2 The juggling jester was added to make sense of the circular holes. The festive season can be a bit of a juggling act, after all… Our juggler was hand-drawn, then simplified on the Mac. Envelope artwork came next.

3 Achieving the closest match to our brand colour took a lot of mixing of 4 pigments from the Lascaux Studio range. Our chosen stock was Mohawk Ultrafelt black – thick and textured.

4 We planned the imposition of our design on to screen and found another use for the circular shapes that would otherwise be a discarded: paper ‘coins’, for use as mini-business cards. We then made our colour separations for silver and blue and printed them on acetate sheets that we tiled, registered and stuck together to make up two large-format silk screens.

5 After stencilling the artwork onto two screens, we prepared the press so we could ‘work and turn’ our printing to make the best use of the stock.

6 We started on the envelopes, printing one and two sided designs. On the front, the ampersand was placed as a guide for central positioning of our address labels; on the backs of some envelopes, the ampersand appeared as a reversed out motif.

7 The positioning of the die cuts needed to relate to the artwork on both sides, so we had to take extra care with registration and trimmed off the deckled edges from our sheets to help with lining up.

8 Several passes were needed for the silver to achieve crisp and even coverage. The screen had to be washed frequently, as metallic paint dries quickly and we didn’t want to lose the fine lines throughout the design.

9 By the time we were ready to print in blue, there were delivery problems, delays through screen damage, followed by closure of the screen printing facility. Like a circus troupe, we packed our equipment and moved on. Unable to find somewhere to continue our ‘performance’, we decided to build our own print bed and frame. And so we were back in business…

With renewed resources – in energy and enthusiasm, as well as equipment – we completed the printing process.

10 Two die-cutters were made from 25mm diameter stainless steel tube, sharpened with an angle grinder. The sparks added some festivity to the occasion, as we punched our way through an impressive stack of cards and filled a box with paper ‘coins’.

11 Fooled by the daylight bulb in the studio, we creased, trimmed and folded late into the night. Our guillotine has never worked so hard.

12 Personalising our handiwork with tipped in translucent paper, we signed and sealed our creations and hurried to catch last post.

Has this laborious process with all its mishaps dissuaded us from silk-screen printing again? No chance. We’ve got plans up our inky sleeves; our own equipment and plenty of elbow grease left for next year. Till then, our juggling with screens is over – perhaps we’ll be spinning (litho) plates next...