Kira Allmark is a recent graduate from London College of Communications DVC program, her work straddles multiple technologies and mediums; including type, print, graphic design and silversmithing.
Her work is eloquent and sophisticated. Each piece exceptionally crafted and Kira's background in fashion and jewellery is evident in her appreciation for space and depth as it applies to Typography and Graphic Design.
Tell us a little about yourself and your creative journey that lead you to the DVC program?
I'm from a small town called Dudley which always seems to get a comical response! I love coffee, Craig David and cartoons. I've always loved to draw and been obsessed with anything creative, I'm from a family of 5 kids and the only time we were ever quiet was when we would all sit and draw. I wasn't always sure of the career path I wanted to take, most people assumed I would become an art teacher but I knew there had to be something more.
I studied Metalwork and Jewellery at Sheffield Hallam University, focusing in my third year on silversmithing hollow ware.
I loved it, learning the skills to create three dimensional objects from a flat sheet of metal, it really felt like an achievement with every piece of work. I still look at the pieces I created during that time and can't actually believe I made them with my own hands!
After graduating I moved into commercial work, designing jewellery for UK high street and then a similar role designing men's tailoring. It was in these roles I gained more of a grasp of computer aided design, I had to teach myself illustrator in two weeks! The part I enjoyed most in both roles were the graphics I would create for meetings, trying to grab a client's interest using mainly visuals. I would obsess over getting the right typeface for a mood board! This is when I started to research visual communication and found the DVC course.
What about Type, calligraphy and/or Lettering specifically turns you on/excites or interests you?
I've always had a quiet appreciation for type. I would often look at signs or posters and internally have a conversation with myself about why they chose a certain typeface or a certain colour. I didn't have any prior knowledge so the conversations to myself were pretty basic like "oh I see what they've done there, that's clever!"
I love hand lettering, some of it is so beautifully crafted and often find myself on social media just watching videos of people creating it. I've signed myself up for a sign painting course which i'm really excited about!
For me type doesn't have to be flashy, sometimes a restrained, elegant typeface can say just as much.
The production quality on your found alphabet is extraordinary! Congratulations! Where did you find your characters?
Thank you! It was a great way to start analysing type and collecting interesting letterforms. I found them in a few locations, mainly around where I live in Reading and around London, and either photographed them or occasionally took imprints using fimo. Also, a few were found in Manchester, hence the Transport for Greater Manchester 'M'.
Some weren't originally letterforms, the 'U' was a sculpture shaped like a giant magnet. The 'S' is one of my favourites, it looks really digital but it was actually from a hand painted sign outside of a discount carpet shop, the rest of the letterforms were very rounded but this 'S' stood out like a sore thumb, I had to have it.
Your work demonstrates mastery in lots of mediums and technologies. After translating the found forms into a digital medium you made them analogue again! Can you describe the print process (It looks like you have used multiple print methods?)
I enjoy putting type through processes so sometimes for me the simpler the better because i'm probably going to enhance it through laser cutting, embossing, or different print methods.
The found alphabet was a great way to explore a variation of processes and coming from a craft background I had a desire to explore materials along with it.
Having found the letters, I thought a nice way to incorporate the print process would be to use found materials, so using a flatbed litho printer I printed onto some of the discarded aluminum plates from the machine as an experiment. As metal is a material I was familiar with I started to apply different finishes; polished, brushed, sanded. After the initial printing I applied thermographic ink which is a powder made from plastic resins which you carefully sprinkle on top and attaches itself to the wet ink. Its then run through a heater causing the powder to melt, giving a shiny resin finish to the letters. It works brilliantly with paper but was tricky with the metal as it conducts the heat and would often burn in places.
Another version was created using the omnicrom, which I have to say I have a love/hate relationship with! It is extremely temperamental but fun and easy to use. You simply print your design on a laser printer, lay the foil over the top and put through the hot foil machine (omnicrom). I became obsessed with G F Smith Plike as it has a smooth, rubberised matte finish which worked nicely with the shine of the foil, the crackle effect is a quirk of the omnicrom but I liked the texture it gave the final piece.
I really enjoy transferring type from analogue to digital and back again. I think that's why was drawn to the work of Philippe Apeloig, I was fascinated by his processes and how he would revert between the two.
(I Love Omnicrom I used it in one of my final year design projects and became totally obsessed with it as a medium! I haven't seen it used in years and love that you have created this beautiful print with it! #LONGLIVELASERFOIL)
You also use print and production to great effect in your silver speaks project! Your animated S is a beautiful exploration of dynamic type form! This project uses scale, light, reflection and movement in a very elegant and sophisticated way! How did this project come about? AND How did the production choices you made in silver speaks enrich your design outcomes?
Thank you, I really loved working on this project! I studied silversmithing in my degree so it's always been an interest of mine. It's one of those subjects people seem to be really interested in when they find out and like to ask questions about the processes and production techniques. The project came about after spending a day at the V&A doing research for another project but I just couldn't resist looking around silver rooms. 'Silver Speaks' is an event run by the association of British Contemporary Silversmiths, and is made up of a number of exhibitions and talks at London venues such as the V&A and Goldsmiths Hall. I knew immediately that this is what I would base my project around, it seemed to be the most perfect way to combine my previous skills and interests with the new ones I had developed on the DVC course.
I wanted my interpretation to be a sensitive identity that reflected the craftsmanship of contemporary silversmithing. The animated S was the focal point of the design, I'm a huge fan of designers who use large letterforms in this way. I chose Rockwell with the aim of representing the hard, angular tools used by silversmiths and combining this with the letterform breaking off into fine, flowing lines, to highlight the versatility of silver as a material. Again exploring materials was important part of the production process and definitely impacted the final design. The advantage of using acrylic meant the marbling could be seen in layers of transparency, which added depth and dimension to the final piece. I attended a mindful marbling workshop organised by Patternity, The flowing ink patterns reminded me of techniques I used during my BA known as chasing and repoussé, which is a way of embellishing metal by hammering from both sides to create a low relief, much like embossing. I originally screenprinted the design onto the acrylic but it easily scratched, so I litho printed using the flat bed. This process gave much more control over the the opacity of the ink which allowed the marbling to continue to be visible under the design depending on how many layers I put down.
Your music of modernism project is also a triumph! I love the blind emboss on the cover and your concertina format! Can you tell us a little about the brief for this project?
For this project we were asked to explore aspects of the city and how it impacted our relationship with our environment. We had to propose our own brief around the subject, I chose to focus on modernist structures, in particular brutalist architecture and the impact it had on popular culture, specifically grime music. The concertina format came about whilst sketching out some of the photographs I had taken of the buildings after being inspired by the work of Charles Scheeler. He often layered images on top of one another showing more than one perspective at once. It caused some production issues to say the least! It was difficult to find anyone who was able to print 1.5meters in length on one continuous roll. It was getting to the point where technicians would sigh when I walked into a room because my ideas were never simple! But I think they liked the challenge really.
It was cut and folded by hand, with the help of Rahel Zoller, who is an amazing book artist and technician at LCC. I didn't want to go down the obvious route of over stylized type so kept it simple with Univers in two weights, and a clean San serif emboss on the cover to contrast with the dark, gritty illustrations inside. I used a lot of texture that I took direct from the buildings as rubbings. The overall colour scheme was taken from Dizzee Rascal's 'Boy in da Corner' album, which is considered one of the most critical grime albums of all time. Its visually a really versatile piece, and lots of fun to fold out and see in one long composition as well as mini double page compositions.
What are you next steps career-wise?
I'm currently doing an internship at a design studio who approached me after seeing my work at our end of year exhibition. Its great experience so I'm hoping there will be similar opportunities. I feel that I sit somewhere in between craft and design. I used to worry about this but now I think my experiences with both have informed one another greatly, and led to some interesting results. My long term goal is to own a shed that is half workshop half design studio, a Mac at one end and a hearth at the other!
How can people get in touch/connect with you?
I have a website www.kiraallmark.co.uk or I'm a regular twitter and Instagram user! I'm open to any exciting collaborations and opportunities so get in touch!