ART4D SPOKE WITH CLIFF LEONG AND ZEEJAY WONG OF THE ALPHABET PRESS, A LETTERPRESS STUDIO BASED IN KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA AIMED AT “CREATING INTRICATELY UNIQUE LETTERPRESS WORKS THAT PUSH THE PROVERBIAL ENVELOPE.”
We understand that your team comes from quite different backgrounds?
TAP: We were once web designers and were running a web design company for more than eight years. We always felt that, as a designer, the first impression is very important so we tried to look for very beautiful name cards. We loved the tactility and textures of cards made on letterpress but we couldn’t find anyone making them in Malaysia. After three years of struggling to find someone who could actually make them for us, we just couldn’t stand it anymore and we flew all the way to Melbourne to pick up a course and learn what letterpress was all about.
How about the name, Alphabet Press?
TAP: We wanted something very foundational because letterpress was the primary printing form before digital offset was introduced into the market, so we thought we needed a name that would be very basic and very down to earth.
It’s no secret that printing presses are gradually fading out nowadays, why do you think that running this kind of studio is going to work?
TAP: The letterpress has been in the world for more than 600 years. Obviously, there is a reason for that. It is something that you can’t reproduce by any other form of printing. We love something tangible and now it has turned into an art form, something that you can’t make using new technologies.
Do you think the way you work could raise awareness among people to preserve this type of old-fashioned printing?
TAP: Yes, because a lot of people are quite curious about how these things work and while we are reviving the craft we are also trying to share what we know about letterpress and invite people to be a part of the process itself as well. When you can understand the process you value the craft even more.
What are your greatest challenges?
TAP: There are a lot of challenges, especially in Malaysia. We have a lot of problems about resources and paper, inks, printing tools, machines and even the skills, that is why we had to fly all the way to Melbourne to learn about the craft. When we finally found machines in this area, it took us about two months to convince the soon-to-be-retired printmaker to sell us the machines because he could not believe that young people would want to venture into something like that.
What are the ideas that inspire your collections?
TAP: We have this great diversity of culture here in Malaysia and we think that we should make something out of it. We have a lot of different resources, foods and architecture that can become content and inspiration for products to introduce Malaysia to a wider audience.