The Man from Mo'Wax - Swifty Poster process video

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The Man from Mo'Wax, is a documentary that follows James Lavelle - the founder of pioneering hip-hop and dance music label 'Mo'Wax' - on a rollercoaster journey through the music industry. 

One of the things that allowed James to build his label from a rag-tag band of underground artists to a cutting-edge Artist and Repertoire machine with major financial backing was the style he curated in the visuals and graphics of Mo'Wax - an eye-catching mixture of graffiti pop-art and abstract, psychedelic design.

For the film posters, production company Capture wanted to do something different and resurrect the 90s visuals of Mo'Wax. They reached out to 3 different artists - a graphic designer, a photographer, and an illustrator - who had worked with Mo'Wax. In this way, they hoped to pay homage to the era in a triptych of different styles. 

British graphic design legend Ian 'Swifty' Swift created the look for Mo'Wax records, so it made sense to go back to him for the film poster design. He began his contributions to the UK urban art aesthetic with his design for the magazine 'Straight No Chaser'. Since then he has founded ‘Typomatic’, the UK's first independent font foundry, made t-shirts and skateboards for Addict, and designed title sequences for the likes of Derren Brown, Smack the Pony and Peep Show. 

He incorporated and adapted the title graphics of the original TV show The Man from U.N.C.L.E  - which was, in fact, the original inspiration for U.N.K.L.E - The alias under which Lavelle collaborated with DJ Shadow, Thom Yorke, Ian Brown and Joshua Homme (of Queens of the Stone Age). 

Illustrator and print artist Luke Pantelidou then executed the design at Print Club London, hand-making 100 numbered, limited-edition silkscreen prints on Fabriano 5 300gsm paper.  

“When Capture gave me the opportunity to print the Man From Mo Wax Swifty poster I was well chuffed. Not only did it give me the chance to work again with a long time friend (Mac) but I was also a fan of the work of James Lavelle and Swifty. I’ve been into DJing since my teens, and remember the releases Mo Wax put out back in the days of pioneering trip hop. The distinct Mo'Wax logo and the great sleeve artwork, were all part of the label's appeal, always eye-catching and out there. 

Swifty’s design carried his trademark bold and solid style which I knew would lend itself well to the medium of screen-printing. It’s a versatile craft and all sorts of styles of art & design can be reproduced through it. When it comes to solid flat consistent colour, there is no competition between a screen print and a print that has been spat out by an inkjet. The process is much more of an art-form and can carry the charm of something that has been hand-crafted.

There were some challenges in producing the print. One of the main hurdles we had was the very fine text and details in the logos that run along the bottom of the film poster. This is usually very small in nature but it was even more of a challenge as the poster was to be printed at half size. I did a few test prints and wasn’t happy with the first results. Capture made some fine tuning adjustments to the text and logos on the black layer and I advised them to change inks to a slower drying system. With those adjustments and by creating a new stencil on a higher mesh count screen, I managed to pull out all the detail on the poster.

The inks we finally used were Swiss made Lascaux studio acrylics which are a very high quality artists standard ink range with excellent pigmentation and great permanence and lightfast qualities.  The paper Capture decided on was Fabriano 5, a beautifully made paper with a brilliant white finish and a good weight for printing. A perfect compliment to the bold colours chosen.

I love the printing process. The anticipation when seeing that final colour go down and then lifting the finished print of the bed and seeing it in all its glory is a real buzz. I love that you can screen print all sorts of images in this medium. It lends itself equally well to sharp computer graphics, hand-drawn line illustrations and photographic images. I also like that it’s a hands-on process. There’s a physical aspect to it which beats sitting on your arse all day staring at a computer screen!”

- Luke Pantelidou

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For the second poster Capture reached out to another renowned artist who had worked with Lavelle: Brian Cross. Known as B+, Brian is one of the world's best hip-hop photographers and film-makers. His break-out project It's Not About a Salary won both Rolling Stone and NME Music Book of the Year awards. He has photographed legends such as Mos Def, Q-Tip, Eazy E, Warren G, J Dilla, and Damian Marley. He provided this photo of James Lavelle, which was used to make 100 numbered prints on 250gsm, silk-finished paper.

The third artist Capture worked with was celebrated illustrator Ken Taylor. He has designed artwork for musicians such as Queens of the Stone Age, Metallica, Kings of Leon, Bob Dylan & The Rolling Stones. Over the past few years he has become very well known for his limited-edition silkscreened movie posters, working through MONDO with some of the worlds biggest movie licenses. To celebrate the epic and genre-defining album Psyence Fiction - U.N.K.L.E's flagship record - Capture released a 'Psy-Fi Edition' colourway. Both are numbered prints of 100 on 300gsm Somerset photo satin paper.

This project seeks to support the art of screen-printing and limited-edition art that is hand-crafted yet affordable.

All of these posters and more available at http://www.themanfrommowax.com/shop/

John Coe