Interview: White Duck Screen Print

Inspired to start their own business following a trip to New Zealand 10 years ago, Joshua Roberton and Rebecca Cleal co-founded White Duck Screenprint in 2004.

Working out of their Bath based studio, their small team of 5 have built a solid reputation for quality screen printing, combining a passion for print and DIY craft and collaborating with a growing number of artists, illustrators and design studios.

For the launch of Glug Birmingham this Summer we enlisted White Duck to produce a two-colour limited edition screen print to celebrate the launch of our first Glug ‘Midland Masters’ event, in collaboration with designer and Glug speaker Alex Fowkes; a seriously impressive dark blue and gold design for our lucky guests to take home with them. We’re delighted to be working with the team again – this time to produce a stunning three-colour print (purple, blue and silver) illustrated by upcoming Glug Birmingham speaker and Outcrowd Collective member Simon Peplow.

Ahead of our 2nd Glug Birmingham event next week we talk to White Duck co-founder Joshua Roberton about their story, and find out more about the process involved in creating our very special Glug poster.


Glug has been going for a number of years but only recently launched in Birmingham – how did you first hear about Glug? Have you been to a Glug event (in London or Brighton) before?

Friends of ours (Fiasco Design) ran a nifty little speaker event in Bristol last year – which we sponsored with some lovely screen prints – and it was during the discussions surrounding this that Glug first got mentioned. As a bench-mark, you understand. Perhaps shamefully we have not attended a Glug event yet, but we’re more than proud to be contributing print to the Birmingham events.

Tell us a little bit about the White Duck story – what inspired the business? Does it still hold true today?

Rebecca and I travelled to New Zealand and whilst we were there I worked for a guy in a tiny print shop in Nelson. We ran a small T-shirt project for ourslelves called Hypermediocrity, just for fun.. this lead to making some white vinyl bumper stickers that read ‘SOME DUCKS’ and by the time we moved back to Brighton and we’d pledged to start our own screen print company – the idea being to create something into which we could pour our heart & soul. White Duck opened 7 months later. Interestingly, I would say that the ideals we had back then, which were pegged back by the commercial trappings all new businesses share, are just now reaching a point of fruitition. It’s an exciting time.

We’re big fans of screen printing and it’s great to work with you again – what made you want to be involved with Glug?

Being asked to be involved made us want to be involved! Lisa from Inkygoodness sent just about the most accommodating email of enquiry, the proposition of which was impossible not to jump aboard. I think Inkygoodness and Glug are pushing a good agenda, and people are clearly very responsive to what they are doing. Who wouldn’t want to be involved in that?

Screen printing is very distinctive and special – what kind of effects can be produced with this printing technique?

Anyone who understands the difference between screen print and its alternatives (which is an already large group of people, steadily growing in numbers) will recognise the unique hallmarks of the process: visible layering of colour; overlapping of translucencies; glittering metallics; punchy fluoros and solid washes of spot-colour; a tactile feel of print on paper, and real direct-from-the-print-shop smell ….. the list goes on. Let’s be honest, there’s very little that isn’t special about screen print. It is the only form of print reproduction that interprets and reimagines an original piece of art by the very nature of its application.

What is it about this particular printing technique that you love?

What’s not to love about screen print? Well, actually quite a lot – the screen print industry is not some idyll where everyone is producing work of unbound beauty and worth – but we’re really lucky to work with a bunch of great clients on a bunch of great projects, every week of the year. I think that because screen print is such an applied process, by its nature we are artisans when we do it, and it’s that that the right clients buy into over other print methods.

Have you noticed a rise in popularity in this type of printing? Why do think this might be?

Absolutely. The number of small print studios today that are producing great quality work is staggering. Exciting, too. I think people have realised that screen print is an applied art that can be set up affordably and run very commercially, whilst still ticking those artistic buttons we all have. In addition to that we have all seen in the last eight or so years the digital revolution rise, and then fall back to a very sweet point – digital and analogue are now on a level.

They’re holding hands and skipping through the park. And with this there is a great resurgent interest in traditional processes and techniques. Record labels are releasing material on cassette, for flute’s sake! Also, it looks like a lot more people are happy to spend their money on a hand-crafted product, and screen print is something of a cornerstone to that new mindset.

I think people have realised that screen print is an applied art that can be set up affordably and run very commercially, whilst still ticking those artistic buttons we all have.

You’re lucky to work with a growing number of talented image-makers. Which artists do you admire? Who would you most like to worth with?

There are undoubtedly some names we’d like to work with, and if we really went to town then the list would go on and on. Instead, what we will say is that 2015 will be a year of collaboration. We’re planning to kick-start some really exciting print projects in the new year, as well as running an event here in the West-Country that will cover a whole load of our creative interests. Look out!

Can you tell us about any projects you’ve most enjoyed working on over the last few years?

The two projects that stick in our minds – one personal and one commercial – are the White Duck Editions launch exhibition from July of last year, and the Coen Brothers Poster Show from January 2014, which we co-hosted with Little White Lies magazine. Both were a real coming together of creative forces, and lingered long in the memory.

Finally what plans have you got for White Duck Screenprint in future? Anything you’d like to tell us about?

Mostly the plan is to carry on producing high quality screen print, for a great range of clients, and increasingly for ourselves. We definitely want to push screen print into new areas, and demonstrate what new things are possible. Whether we’re achieving that is of course not for us to say. Nether the less, we’ve got some big plans for next year, which will definitely involve a print-based event, will definitely involve more collaboration, and will definitely involve the growing of our long-gestating side project: White Duck Editions. In the mean time, we’re just very happy to have print to do every day.It’s a good way to spend one’s time.

Glug Birmingham will launch on Thursday 20th November at Boxxed in Digbeth, Birmingham. Tickets £10 – available via eventbrite. Doors open at 6.30p, talks start at 7pm. ‘You Are a Work of Art’ by Simon Peplow has been designed exclusively for Glug Birmingam. A limited run of 100 prints are available for the first gluggers through the doors!


Posted on Nov 14th, 14 by | Twitter: @lisahassell

Founder & director of Inkygoodness, Lisa is a published writer and arts journalist, focusing on creative business, graphic art and illustration and design education. Her words regularly appear in Computer Arts, Creative Bloq, Digital Arts and IdN.

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