Risograph printers PageMasters: “Buckle up if you’re thinking of starting a business”
We meet self-proclaimed ‘Paper Maiden’ Jordan Taylor and ‘Page Master’ Justin Bailey, to delve into the vibrant sphere of PageMasters, a Bermondsey-based Risograph printing workshop. Both graduates of LCC, and having worked at Hato Press, they joined forces in 2017 and have been gradually growing the studio ever since. Speaking about the importance of loving what you do when you’re working long hours, they put into perspective the difficult but fulfilling reality of making it on your own.
Co-founders of PageMasters, 2017–present
Design Museum, Tate Exchange, Breakdown Press, South London Gallery, Matt’s Gallery, Turf Projects, Kiosk
Jordan: Hato Press (Print Technician) (2012–2015)
Royal Academy of Arts (Workshop Leader), (2016–2018)
The Broca (Baker) (2016–Present)
Hato Press (Production Manager) (2012–2017)
Bronze Age (Overlord) (2011–Present)
Place of Study
School of the Damned, Year of the Monkey (2016)
LCC, Surface Design, (2009–2012)
LCC, Book Arts and Design, (2008–2011)
How would you describe what PageMasters does, and your roles within the studio?
We’re a small printing workshop in Bermondsey that specialises in Risograph printing for a host of different businesses, publishers, artists and designers.
Set up as a way of utilising our collective wealth of experience within the Risograph process, we also wanted to offer a way to support our individual art and publishing practices. Whilst we share the work equally, Jordan has more of a role in pre-press, colour separation and image preparation, whereas Justin does more administration and creative direction.
What does a typical working day look like and where does it happen?
No two days are the same, as there are always shifts in the amount of work required. It could be non-stop printing one day, and folding, collating and binding books another.
“[Working] flexibility has been fabulous for our mental health. But it does come at the cost of uncertain leases, taking the financial hit and all the free labour.”
We’ve adopted complete flexibility in our hours during these crucial months of establishing the business, so that we can support ourselves financially in this expensive city. However, we always prioritise meeting our deadlines above everything else.
How collaborative are your roles?
We have worked with each other for years, so have a good balance of fun and hardworking – our intuitions and ethics are really well synced. We often cross over on bigger projects, however many small jobs are managed individually.
What are the most and least enjoyable aspects of your work?
The flexibility has been fabulous for our mental health, and watching the business grow organically has been rewarding but it does come at the cost of uncertain leases, taking the financial hit and all the free labour. Plus the constant fear of the machine breaking down. And printing wedding invites.
What has been the most exciting project of the last twelve months?
Recently we have been working on some really lovely book jobs. Particularly exciting was working with Portuguese artist Janis Dellarte on her book JANIS E O MAR – utilising a mixture of screen-printing, Risograph and digital printing methods. As well as this we printed Paul Clinton’s recent publication MILITANT DESIRE: Lionel Soukaz and Sexual Liberation Today. We ended up going with a giant newspaper format and printing onto folded A2. Working with Breakdown Press has also been a highlight, as they publish some really progressive comics – we’ve admired them for years.
What skills would you say are essential to your job?
You have to be able to visualise the artwork in layers of colour, so a lot of patience, flexibility and an open mind. As the Risograph process has only been used in the creative sector for the last ten years, it is still relatively unfamiliar with many of our clients. One of the most important skills is to spot potential mistakes in pre-press. It requires always second-guessing the client’s intentions and expectations.
“We have a constant fear of the machine breaking down. And printing wedding invites.”
What do you like about working in London? And particularly at SET?
SET is a fantastic community of artists and practitioners [with studios in Dalston, Bermondsey, Lewisham and Wimbledon, London] that have supported us, as we’ve supported them. One day we might branch out to less claustrophobic and less expensive realms, however London has a great plethora of print jobs available so right now it’s perfect.
Would you say it’s hard to make a living from this kind of creative work?
Absolutely. Buckle up if you are thinking about starting up your own business. It’s very possible but if you aren’t good with responsibility we wouldn’t recommend it. Saying that, you’ll learn through mistakes very quickly. Always reserve one day a week to do something else, and remember to take time off, otherwise you’ll burn out.
Although print has been in decline since the late nineties, printing for creative markets seems to be thriving due to its specialty and value. We both work part-time jobs to support ourselves, however as our workload at PageMasters increases we have been reducing this.
Are you currently working on any personal projects aside from commissioned work?
Jordan: I will be working with Lisa Selby and Elliot Murawski who run Blue Bag Life, an Instagram account dedicated to shining a light on addiction, mental health and prison. My other practise is crochet and textiles, so I’m also working towards an exhibition of queer quilts, films and photographs with Sarah-Joy Ford and Janina Sabaliauskaite.
Justin: I am working on many publishing projects for Bronze Age, the small press project I run. I’ve most recently released a book called Verk with Iris Erlings, a fantastic Icelandic artist who makes amazing graphite drawings. Other projects include books with Sam Bailey, Heresy (a clothing label), Margherita Huntley and many more.
What tools do you use most for your work?
A Risograph MZ 770e printer, Itek 3985 small offset press, Ideal 5221-95 guillotine, Superfax PF-380 folding machine, Duplo DB-200 perfect binder, 10-station Collator, computers, paper and ink, crochet hooks and yarn.
How I Got Here
What did you want to be growing up?
Jordan: A wizard, Harry. I got my wish.
Justin: I don’t think I ever wanted to grow up, so Peter Pan.
Did you undertake any studies or courses that have been useful in your current roles?
LCC was great, but we’re in a lot of debt, and wouldn’t want to recommend that to anyone. There are many ways to learn new skills these days. There is always a way round the heteronormative approach to life. Look up the School of the Damned, use social media, don’t worry about your online image. Just do what you love and ask for help.
How did you come to found the studio?
We had both worked at Hato Press. Jordan left and tried to move to Portugal as he was sick of London (classic). Then ended up coming back (classic), got hold of some printing equipment and waited for Justin to leave his job and take some time off to decompress. After that we set up PageMasters.
Working at Hato Press was definitely crucial in the genesis of PageMasters. Having worked there for over five years and learnt so much from managing commercial print jobs, we collectively decided doing it on our own terms was very important for our wellbeing.
“There are many ways to learn new skills these days. There is always a way round the heteronormative approach to life.”
Would you say you ever experienced a lucky break?
Yes – a rich man just gave us the money to buy most of our equipment; an art collector. I have no idea where he is these days. A big thanks to KR, that gift is still giving!
What’s been your biggest challenge along the way?
When you can’t take something on, DON’T. Don’t worry about what anyone else is doing – just do what feels good. Get ready to never have any spare money or time, and you better love what you do, boo. Gathering the capital to start PageMasters without taking out bank loans has been a big challenge, but after a year and a half of trading, it is now starting to pay off.
Getting our name out there has been tough too, as we know nothing about SEO. However, being a printing company, we resorted to good old fashioned flyering, featuring the incredible work we commissioned from Sophy Hollington. These have gone down so well, and people have told me how they got our flyer framed because it’s so beautiful!
How do you see PageMasters developing?
We hope it blossoms and we meet lots of great people to work with. We hope to pay ourselves enough, to employ people and pay them properly too. Jordan would love to open a ThreadMasters, for the textile version – digital fabric printing, embroidery, quilting and screen-printing.
We have a new website in the works, which comes with an online store – we’ll be commissioning our favourite artists to print editions with us. And we’re adding new Risograph colours very soon, so keep an eye out!
Words of Wisdom
What advice would you give to an emerging creative wanting to get into the same line of work?
Spend time creating a few different steady ways of making an income. Be proud of yourself – in the end you’ll find out all the people you’re up against were just very rich from the start. Invest in the surrounding community, build positive relationships and you’ll be fine. Hopefully.
Plan your business very carefully. Printing is incredibly tough right now due to the rise of online publishing, so make sure you do your research. Risography is a good starting point for someone wishing to set up a printing business, however it has so many limitations. It is very important that the printer is well-versed in these, and that the client both understands the process and knows what to expect.
Is there a resource which you would particularly recommend related to the work you do?
Riso Working Group UK is a network of Risograph enthusiasts that have many channels of communication for helping each other. The aim is to pool our knowledge and resources so that we can develop our skills. We meet every month, this month will be at Dizzy Ink in Nottingham.
Mention Jordan Taylor
Interview by Rebecca Irvin
Mention Justin Bailey
Written by Anoushka Khandwala