IN CONVERSATION WITH: KEN KIRTON

July 29, 2015

Issue seven of the UO zine, SHEET has landed! We spoke to Ken Kirton, co-founder of Hato Press, an independent printing and publishing house, to find out how it all came together. From risograph printing techniques to Reese’s Pieces, we spoke to Ken to find out more.

UO: Can you tell us a little about the story of Hato? What inspired you to set up the company?

Hato began with Hato Press, which is the UK’s largest Risograph printing and publishing house. It was set up in 2009 by myself and Jackson Lam, to act as a support structure for its members and to offer an affordable means of production for others.

Today, Hato is manned by just a 12 person team and is divided up into Hato Press, Studio Hato, a design studio and Hato Labo, a digital production house. It primarily serves as an educational partner for cultural and commercial clients. For instance, since 2009 we’ve worked on various workshops, exhibitions, websites and events. (Plus many other things in-between!)


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UO: Can you tell us a bit about risograph printing?

Risograph is a hands-on printing method that creates a really unique and distinctive finish. The process itself is the middle ground between screen printing and lithography. Although the printers have been available since the 80s, it’s only been in the past five years that Riso printing has become a production option for publishers, designers and artists. Before this, the printer was mainly used at anarchist publishers, political parties, schools and churches.



UO: What’s your favourite thing about this method of printing?

Aesthetically, its warm colour is something that’s difficult to replace, but it’s also the accessibility for young designers and studios. Its a really affordable method of production and therefore allows a lot of experimentation.

UO: Can you tell us a bit more about the process of how SHEET comes together from the Hato perspective?

At Hato, we really believe in the ethos of learning through play. The books we publish are educational children’s books, cookbooks and learning resources. A large output of the design studio is framed around working with schools and galleries in developing educational programmes and workshops for all ages, from early years up to adults.

This month, in conjunction with Urban Outfitters and the Hato Shop launch, we’re also launching ‘Learn with Hato’. This is a curated series of workshops informed by the notion of learning through play. All our workshops, whether printing a riso masterpiece, or making the perfect kimchi pickle, are framed around our belief that having fun is the best way to learn something new.


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UO: What other projects are you working on right now?

We are designing a new school playground in Liverpool in conjunction with Liverpool Biennial’s Dazzle programme. The playground is designed in collaboration between us and the students through hands on workshops and digital drawing applications which we’ve developed.

Towards the end of the month we’ll also be launching our latest book, ‘Curious’ by the incredible illustrator Alice Bowsher. The book turns the idea of ‘curiosity killed the cat’ on its head. It’s all about a woman who attempts to find out how her mischievous cat spends his day, only to end up stuck up a tree!


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UO: Could you tell us how the design studio, Studio Hato came to be?

Jackson and I met whilst studying Graphic Design at Central Saint Martins’. Whilst we set up Hato Press, we were still practicing as freelance designers. Two years on from establishing Hato Press we had the opportunity to merge our practices and set up Studio Hato. In 2014 we established Hato Labo, which is a digital production house, specialising in apps, websites and digital interactive installations.

UO: What else does 2015 have in store for Hato?

A lot of the projects we are working on right now will be realised towards the end of the year. We are working on an exhibition design for the Wellcome Collection, the playground for Liverpool as well as a series of new titles. We plan to go to the New York Art Book Fair and London Art Book Fair to release these new titles as well, which is really exciting.


Herschel Feather Print Settlement Backpack

Herschel Heritage Pocket Backpack

And finally, finish this statement:

If I wasn’t at Hato I would be… An amateur chef

My ideal breakfast is… Blueberry pancakes, crispy bacon and maple syrup

I’m currently listening to… YAM records

My favourite time of day is… Summer nights

If I was a colour I’d be… Indigo

My favourite on-the-go snack is… Reese’s cups, crazy skittles and a coke

My biggest release is… Yoga

If I could be anywhere in the world right now it would be… Taking Hato to Tokyo or New York


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