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Lauren Sexton, Owner of bespoke printing company Avenue Litho speaks with Wild Wood London about their bespoke printing services, running a business with her husband and this year’s printing trends.

What made you want to go into printing?

Printing sort of picked me! I was seeking a change from my career in marketing, something that would allow me more creativity and variety each day. During my quest for pastures new – I met my now husband who just happened to work in the print industry.

 Tell us a bit about the history of the company, how did Avenue Litho start?

Avenue Litho was started in 1979 in the heart of London’s printing district, Clerkenwell, and my husband took over the reins in 2005.

What are your top tips to starting up your own company?

I would say be prepared to wear many hats! I often think people who are employed think running your own company is very glamourous and yes it has perks but I’ve never worked harder since being self-employed. That said, I wouldn’t have it any other way. After all ‘life begins at the end of your comfort zone’.

Avenue Litho offers clients several different printing techniques, what are the differences between them all?

This is the golden question that I probably answer (in long or short) most days. The technicalities and time-constraints of a fairly traditional process can be hard to translate – especially since the widespread introduction of digital printing where you literally press ‘print’.

Our printing methods are offset lithography, hot foiling and letterpress. These are all plate-based techniques which means we etch plates of the supplied artworks and print using these.

Offset lithography is where an inked image is transferred from a plate to a rubber blanket, then on to a printing surface. It creates images from CMYK (four colour) or pantone inks and produces the best quality print possible.

For hot foiling we use specially formed metallic sheets to create a dazzling finish. For Wild Wood London’s stationery we use a wonderful bronze shade which pairs perfectly with grey papers. We have three hot foiling machines (all ladies!), two of which are hand-fed one sheet at a time. Our large automatic foiling press dates back to the early 1900s. Both letterpress and hot foiling are impression processes and leave that wonderful tactile finish.

What type of printing is most popular with your clients and why do you think this is?

Five years ago we moved into the niche of foiling and letterpress, offering thicker card and luxury finishes which is still very popular today. I think the love of print and craft is having a glorious revival with calligraphy, hand-illustration and textures all coming into play.

With so many choices available, how do you guide your clients?

We pride ourselves on offering a consultancy service to clients rather than standard quote-only contact. Our estimating team will help create the print specification to complement the design – if you ask us for a ‘thick white card’ we have around 25 to choose from so a lot of thought goes into selecting the best for the artwork.

What is it like working with your husband? Do you each specialise in your own thing?

It’s the greatest thing to be able to share accomplishments with your spouse. I don’t trust anyone’s opinion like I do my husband and think that goes a long way.

Although we have had to lay down some ground rules about ‘work talk’ at home. We use a code word when we don’t want to discuss Avenue Litho matters outside of office hours!

We do have our own accounts which rarely cross-over and I also look after weddings and our own product lines so our days in the studio are quite different. Our office is connected to the print studio and we are both very hands on so can usually be found catching up on quality control most evenings!

What are the current trends in printing and what do you predict to be the next trend?

Currently we’re seeing a lot of rose gold and copper metallics, with pastel inks too. Print trends, like most design-led industries stem from the catwalks so I’m expecting to see washed-out greens and deep metallics this year.

Having recently got engaged what are your top tips for brides when it comes to the wedding invitation?

This is a tricky one as stationery comes quite early on in the wedding planning. Most brides have only booked the venue but not yet chosen ‘the dress’ or flowers when it comes to sending out the invitations.

If you can sit down with your fiancé and together list three words that you’d like your wedding day to be, this will be a great start for planning in general.

Pinterest and Instagram are great for inspiration but make sure to add a little bit of your own twist too.

How far in advance should you sort the wedding invitation or any invitation?

Traditionally six weeks before the big day but this seems crazy now with everyone’s busy diaries. A good benchmark would be 12+ weeks from the wedding date for a home wedding and six months for a destination wedding.

Ensuring guests R.S.V.P can prove difficult so you needn’t extend the reply timeframe for too many weeks – this should encourage them to respond without delay.

Sometimes ideals don’t fit, and we have had brides who have sent out their invitations 18 months in advance right up to three weeks prior – choose whichever path keeps stress levels at the lowest!

Your favourite flower?

Wildflowers are my favourite – I’m a little nostalgic about them having had a garden that was more of a meadow growing up as a child. That’s why I love Wild Wood London’s style so much.

Most memorable bunch of flowers?

When my husband and I were first dating, one evening I was arriving home late from work and there was a courier’s van blocking the entrance to my flat. As I squeezed by the van, the driver opened his door and asked ‘are you Lauren?’ Terrified, I replied yes, and he then proceeded to present me with the biggest bouquet I’ve ever seen! I have no idea how long he was waiting.

Avenue Litho offer a truly bespoke service.

Check out our beautiful gift cards ideal for last minute presents.  Available as an e-card or postal option.

Author Alexandra Metcalf

More posts by Alexandra Metcalf
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