Based in Surrey, England, Kate Alger is an artist and printmaker specialising in highly-detailed fineliner drawings and hand-pulled silkscreen prints and has garnered herself a sterling reputation for her homages of classic cars which have become collectors’ items.
We at Mason & Sons are therefore excited to announce that she’s created two limited-edition and bespoke works for us that celebrate the legendary aesthetic of the Aston Martin DB5, a marque of car that's inextricably linked to the Bond franchise (and long may that continue). We caught up with her to find out a little more.
How did this collaboration come about?
Well, I’m pleased to say that David Mason himself is an admirer of my work and so he approached me about the possibility of a collaboration. I loved how he talked about championing British brands and craftsmanship and as he explained the shared heritage of Anthony Sinclair, Sean Connery and James Bond, the ideas started to come. I knew I wanted to create something timeless with a subtle nod to James Bond and we wanted to celebrate the car – hopefully in a way that’s tasteful and understated – but in way that also echoes some of the handmade processes of old-fashioned automotive design and manufacture. The silver edition is all about the metallic tones of the car and how it catches and changes in the light, whereas the embossed edition pays homage to the opening title scenes in the Bond films, whilst literally adding another dimension to the ways in which the light is caught in the piece.
Have you always had an interest in cars? Where does it stem from?
Personally, I have a soft spot for anything battered so my interest in shiny cars initially rubbed off on me from my husband. His family have a history of racing, hill climbing and a penchant for the finer things in life – and quite right too. Over the years, I’ve developed a real appreciation for the aesthetics of classic cars – the curves, lines and colours – and the fact that they’re a physical link to the past ticks lots of boxes for me now.
Can you explain the process to create the silver work?
It’s a really lengthy process and is all done by hand (not computer) but once I’d settled on the overall idea, I created multiple drawings in pen. I then exposed these drawings onto silkscreens (no longer made of silk but back in the day there were) using UV light, experimented with different inks, colours, levels of translucency and papers, and then printed each layer of mixed ink by hand. I push the ink through the stencils on the screens with various rubber blades with handles called squeegies and wash the screens after each layer. Once all seven layers were printed and dry, I then hand-finished each piece using one of the 0.05 fineliner pens that I use for my detailed drawings.
And what about for the embossed work?
For the embossing, there was a long trial and error phase... I hand-cut mountboard with a scalpel and used an antique printing press with a lot of pressure and blankets to push the paper into the cavities but not crease anywhere else. I then hand-printed all the different layers using my screens and hand-finished every piece with the same 0.05 fineliner pen that I used for the silver ones. Just like the silver ink used for the body of the car, the embossing changes in the light, depending on the angle it’s seen from and so the shadows which are cast change too.
How important is producing work that’s entirely handmade to you?
At the moment, it’s really important. We all live in an increasingly digital world yet our minds (and hands and eyes...) weren’t designed to work like this. Producing handmade work - from start to finish - feels honest and authentic, and I believe that this is important. When somebody buys a piece of my artwork, they know that it’s special.
You use a pretty incredible antique printing press to create the embossed work, don’t you? Tell us about that.
It’s an absolute beauty. Nobody in the studio knows exactly how old it is but it’s a Bradbury and Wilkinson intaglio printing press. The story goes that they were instrumental in printing the first engraved banknotes ever in the 1850s, and many coveted intricate stamps used all over the world. I like to think that all the printmakers who’ve ever turned those massive wooden spokes are watching and helping, sharing some silent wisdom as the cogs turn, the roller moves and the bed travels from one side to the other.
What’s the most rewarding part of what you do?
To see a collection of my work framed and displayed at an exhibition is always rewarding, and to receive positive feedback from satisfied clients is of course a reward that I strive for. I must say though, being approached by David himself to create a series of bespoke limited edition screenprints specifically for Mason & Sons has been incredibly rewarding – I can’t wait to see how far they’ll travel now they’re no longer a secret...
Finally, what’s your all-time favourite Connery as 007 moment?
It’s got to be the raised eyebrow with those dark brown eyes... He’d have been more than welcome to be “just looking” at my artwork any time he liked!
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