Turin’s unique workshop for artistic printing

Turin’s unique workshop for artistic printing

Giovanni Blandino Published on 3/20/2023

In the south of Turin, not far from the railway line, there’s an old foundry dating to the turn of the 20th century. In 2010, the building was renovated and turned into a home for innovative businesses and organisations working in the cultural sector. These include one of Italy’s first coworking spaces, dozens of start-ups and a fab lab, as well as a place dear to the hearts of printing enthusiasts and professional designers alike: Print Club Torino.

Print Club Torino is a creative workshop for printing and graphic arts where people can experiment and share ideas, techniques and processes. It hosts all sorts activities: year-long courses on engraving, binding and calligraphy; one-off workshops on papercraft, modelling or textile design; equipment for screen and risograph printing. It’s home to a community of enthusiasts and creatives, and organises one of Italy’s premier graphic-design events: Graphic Days.

Intrigued by this successful foray into the world of artistic printing, we wanted to find out more. What were the founders’ backgrounds? What was their initial idea? How has it changed over the years? How has this business become financially sustainable? We put these questions and more to Luisella Cresto, workshop manager and co-founder of the Print Club.

Hi Luisella. Can you tell us how the Print Club was born?

The Print Club officially opened on 1 October 2015. The workshop was born out of the merger of two organisations with shared sensibilities and common interests. TAL (Try Again Lab) – a place for experimenting with printing and screen printing that wanted to broaden its horizons – and Plug, which was exploring design as a means for building social relationships.

We had very clear ideas from the beginning: The print club is not a printers or a copy shop. It’s a special place that is open to the public, a workshop where knowledge is shared.

What happens at Print Club Torino?

Above all, Print Club is a workshop in the traditional sense of the word: people come to the workshop to use the equipment and print things. There are digital inkjet and laser printers, a risograph machine, various benches and a press for screen-printing, as well as machines for finishing and manual binding.

But there’s another part that’s just as important: consultancy. Members can bring a concept to the Print Club and develop it together with a tutor. This involves thinking about what approach to take and which printing techniques to use, as well as considering the sustainability of an idea – both from an environmental and financial standpoint.

Not only do Print Club members have access to the workshop and use of the machines, they also get free hours to spend with a un tutor (including online). There are also eventsGraphic Days being the best known –, training activities for schools, team-building activities and workshops [the workshop calendar for Print Club Torino can be found here].

Img: Print Club Torino
Img: Print Club Torino

Which of these activities has contributed most to the success and financial sustainability of your project?

Being able to successively run the place as a printing and production workshop was key. But our strength is also that we are a cultural project: In other words, we’re able to work with other organisations in the area, enabling us to share knowledge. This was one of the goals we set ourselves at the outset, and I’m delighted to see that we’re achieving it.

In addition to this, there’s the capacity to develop new ideas, new directions and new project very quickly.

Tell us more about the founders of the Print Club. Did they all come from the world of printing and design?

First of all, I should say that the group that founded the Print Club was pretty big and involved lots of students and volunteers. Today, a dozen or so people run Print Club and Graphic Days®.

Our backgrounds are actually really varied. For example, Fabio Guida, who runs Graphic Days®, is an architect and has a marketing and signwriting agency. Giuseppe Quercia, president of the Print Club, is a psychologist who also works in tourism. I and Ilaria Reposo, director of the Print Club, have a somewhat more “conventional” background: we come from graphic design and art direction, but we’ve also worked on artistic printing at agencies. It was there, stuck in front of our computers, that we really missed the hands-on aspect of our work – which is another reason why Print Club was born.

Since you opened, about 2000 people have joined the Print Club. What type of people come to your spaces and events?

It’s a decidedly mixed crowd. And this is, in my opinion, one of the great things about this place. There are experienced designers who come to take courses, but also beginners. There are people who started out in graphic design but then took a different career path. There are students, people who love the world of printing and graphic design and who want to learn new things. And there are people who want to make a career out of it.

IMG: Print Club Torino

Can you tell us an anecdote that encapsulates the Print Club?

Each person who walks through the door brings with them a story. An interesting feature of Print Club, I think, is the ability to accept everyone’s background. There’s lots of generosity and no judgement. In this sense, it’s a very “zen” place.

A nice story that comes to mind is this one. Last year, the artist Alice Serafino came to the workshop to do some screen printing (she usually works with cyanotype). Two of our interns helped her. It’s common for students from local graphic design schools and universities to do internships with us. And when an artist like Alice comes to the workshop, it gives interns a unique opportunity, because they can learn a lot from just watching a professional work.

Afterwards, Alice gave a signed screen print to each of the interns,  which goes to show that the Print Club is a place where you can grow personally as well as professionally.

It’s seven years since you set up Print Club Torino and you now have a front-row seat of the world of artistic printing. Have you noted changes over the years?

If we’re talking about printing techniques, it’s easy to pick out cycles in terms of the techniques most used at a given moment.

For example, screen printing has undergone a renaissance over the past 10 or 15 years, but over the decades it has come back into fashion in cycles. In fact, it’s a printing technique that has never gone away, just as screen printing workshops have never disappeared over the past 50 years. In recent months,  risograph – a little-known technique up to now – has become increasingly better known and appreciated.

Immagine: Print Club Torino

But for us, the real change was the pandemic. It was a tough time, but we found that we were a flexible organisation that was focused on what was happening. When everything was closed, we started to think about how to involve our community remotely, with new tools. One example is the “Around the world” project – a collective graphic journey through which we wanted to give enthusiasts and artists the chance to express themselves and stay in touch overt the months of restrictions.

It was then that we decided to provide free hours of tutoring – including remote – as part of membership. In doing so, we opened the workshop to people who don’t live in Turin.

Can you tell us anything about your future plans?

We’re already working on Graphic Days® 2023. We can’t reveal everything that’s new or the next edition’s theme, but it’s likely that we’ll be wearing T-shirts rather than scarves and jumpers!

As well as holding workshops throughout the year, we will running a summer school and we’re thinking about who to invite as guests.

The summer schools are intensive in-depth courses on different techniques, from engraving to illustration. And every year we look for a high-profile name to offer our students. We always work with established professionals who can teach techniques in detail and, at the same time, show that you can make a career out of them. In the past we’ve had the master engraver Giancarlo Busato, the illustrator Lucio Schiavon, the artist Jesus Cisneros and Fernando Cobelo.

All are experienced, generous professionals who are passionate about their work.