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The newcomer's ode to print

It was a fascinating experience for the print industry newcomer to see tangible, printed products emanating from the machines I have written about for almost two months.

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Getting hands-on with traditional techniques in the masterclass area

Visualising the physical results of a machine in real life says so much more about its capabilities than specifications on a page. Of course, I am not the target market. But I can appreciate the passion of those working within such a vibrant industry when you can see the stunning outcome and touch it with two hands.

I certainly did not expect to be talking about some of the biggest names in art at The Print Show, so when I sat down with John Purcell of John Purcell Paper I was pleasantly surprised. Exhibiting alongside him was St Cuthberts Mill – a paper mill based in Somerset that has been making specialist paper since the 1700s.

Vibrant and impressive prints poured out of machines at the show

Based in south London, paper merchant Purcell supplies the mill’s specialist papers to some of the most famous practicing artists in the UK today – Damien Hirst and Peter Blake to name a few. Despite being part of the more traditional side of print, Purcell tells me that mainstream printers still find a need for his paper. “We’ve seen a fair number of commercial printers who, for 99 percent of their business it wouldn’t be our kind of paper, but the odd jobs that come through, they know who we are. In the world of commercial we are the go-to people when someone wants something unusual.”

From conversations I had over the three days, it has been a difficult summer for most in print. But the show was not short of success stories. I spoke with John Thomas, business development manager at Your Print Partner, who tells me that recent new contracts will see the business grow exponentially over the next year, thanks in part to a huge rise in demand for stretch display in the last few years.

He comments on the show: “It’s been quality rather than quantity for us. Some people measure success of a show with footfall or how many people you talk to. But if you’re talking to lots of people who aren’t decision-makers… I’d rather talk to two or three people in a day who can make decisions and potentially we can win business off the back of.”

Those representing companies on the Bazaar felt having a readily available ‘drop-in’ centre for print queries was an essential part of expanding people’s imaginations – and markets

There were almost 6000 visitors to The Print Show over the three days and whilst I cannot say all of these people made huge investments, I can say the content of this year’s show did its very best to inspire those thinking of working outside the box. The Printers’ Bazaar was another successful instalment that invited visitors to consider diversifying into new areas of print. Those representing companies on the Bazaar felt having a readily available ‘drop-in’ centre for print queries was an essential part of expanding people’s imaginations – and markets.

A highlight for me and I think, for most of those who attended, was the aptly-named Park Life. You could almost forget for a moment that we were under tungsten lighting in a rather large, noisy hall full of the sound of metal objects whirring and the low hum of people talking. A small corner of calm in the madness could be found at Park Life, where fake grass and trees invited guests to take a moment, grab a coffee and take stock of the event. 

Bringing the outside in at Park Life

Being my first Print Show and my first experience of a trade show ever, I have noticed how important these lounge areas are – places where visitors can discuss ideas and thoughts away from the bustle of a busy stand and more importantly at The Print Show, consider their environmental impacts in relation to business practices. The park was strategically located opposite the stand for the FSC – the Forest Stewardship Council, which works to help consumers identify products from forest-friendly sources. It also encourages businesses to make a pledge to source sustainable materials and to responsibly dispose of paper waste.

The theme this year was to ‘energise your business’ by encouraging visitors to look at new ways of working and new areas of print to diversify into. I think the show is the perfect place where different aspects of the same, diverse industry can come together, share ideas and learn about new possibilities in print – we’ve only just scratched the surface.

Email your thoughts on the show to summer@linkpublishing.co.uk or reach out on Twitter to have your say.

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