Saint Gertrude is Amy Constable; the self proclaimed hardcore cat-lady with the lovely marmalade-haired is a goddess when it comes to being a machine-wrangling letterpress printing queen. Amy Speaks to us about changing career paths, the joys of collaborating with designers to achieve beautiful results and some strong career advice for anyone doubting themselves.
Where did you study and what were some of your first jobs?
I did a BA at Melbourne Uni, majoring in English, and I wanted to be a writer. I’ve been writing stories as long as I can remember so I got an entry-level job at an ad agency with the intention of becoming a copywriter. I was cutting classified ads out of the newspaper in my first job, then at my second job I met a like-minded designer who told me I had a natural eye for type. Together, we worked on personal design projects; me copywriting and art directing and him designing and we ended up being the creative team for the AFA Young Bloods. Moving jobs back then was nerve-wracking because I didn’t have a design degree, just a self-initiated portfolio. In retrospect, it hardly mattered except once when an unscrupulous agency tried to use it to pay me less than they’d originally offered and I turned the job down without a second thought. I believe in study, but we don’t all arrive in our careers in a linear way, and on-the-job experience teaches you some very valuable stuff.
Give us the elevator pitch on what you do.
I’m a letterpress printer. I work with designers and artists to create beautiful pieces of printed works that range from business collateral to fine art. My favourite jobs are the collaborative ones that I art direct and write copy for, then produce the finished product at the end of the process.
I came to letterpress from design at a time when there was a looming philosophy that print was dead. But I’m a book reader, a paper lover, a letter writer. Digital can only take us so far before we need to be reminded that we are human beings. I realised I could either be another cog in the death of print, or I could be a member of the resistance. I chose the latter, dragging print (kicking and screaming) into the 21st Century.
What does a typical working day include for you right now?
I cycle to work 15 kms along the Yarra like a little BMX Bandit. It’s the best way to gear up for work and by the time I get to my shared studio space (Little Gold Studios) I’m energised for the day. I split my day into 6 Periods like I’m back in high school. The start and end of the day is generally taken up with admin and email, the middle of the day is all about print. What I print each day depends on what jobs I have on. Sometimes it’s a simple business card for a client, sometimes it’s a complicated piece of fine art. Every day is different, every print job is different and letterpress is fussy and unpredictable. Some days I use the cycle home to problem-solve print issues I’ve come up against that day so that when I come in fresh the following day, I have a new angle to take.
Are you involved in any mentoring/teaching/workshops and if and how it shapes your practice?
I run a monthly Introduction to Letterpress class which has been an incredible way to share the love of modern letterpress far and wide. I’m a sharer, maybe even an over-sharer, so teaching and public speaking was unexpectedly enjoyable for me. I’ve taken on a couple of work experience students in the past, but this year will be the first time I start taking interns and I can’t wait.
Tell us about any collaborations you have been working on.
I’m in an ongoing creative collaboration with my studio mate, Carla Hackett. We have Ladies of Letters; hand-lettered, letterpress printed stationery that supports the Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation.
I’m also working on a new collaborative project with lettering girl-group The Letterettes. It’s still in its infancy, but it’s going to be pretty mad. Stay tuned for that one!
What career advice would you give your 16yr old self?
You will evolve gradually but constantly over your working life, so choose a career path based on the actual activities you love and are good at, rather than an image you have of yourself or an image others have of you. I probably would have done Fine Art rather than Arts if it weren’t for the fact that I thought my identity was as an academic rather than as an artist. It took me another 16 years to really make peace with that.