In London, a Printer Match for a Queen

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LONDON — Throughout Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral final month at Westminster Abbey, most attendees — together with royalty, dignitaries and politicians — acquired a sublime paper program, generally known as an order of service, detailing the occasion’s audio system, prayers and musical alternatives.

On the again web page of the 22-page booklet was a reputation that, in contrast to these high-profile mourners, wouldn’t have been extensively recognized: Barnard & Westwood, the corporate that printed it.

“Nobody’s actually heard of us,” mentioned Alasdair Abrines, the corporate’s gross sales and advertising director, throughout an interview at a restaurant close to the corporate’s discreet workshop in Clerkenwell, a neighborhood about three miles northeast of Westminster Abbey. “We’re type of tucked away, within the again streets of a really residential neighborhood. We don’t get a number of passing commerce.”

Westminster Abbey has been a longtime consumer, as have royalty from a number of international locations — Barnard & Westwood printed the invites for the 2019 wedding ceremony of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle and makes customized stationery for a number of Center Japanese monarchs — and types together with Hunter, Bentley and Paul Smith.

Disclosing particulars about its shoppers and their orders, nevertheless, is one thing Barnard & Westwood is not going to do.

“We now have a really strict confidentiality protocol,” Mr. Abrines mentioned. That features, for significantly high-profile shoppers, locking proofs in safes.

About 20 % of the corporate’s enterprise, Mr. Abrines mentioned, comes from people. They order all the pieces from engraved letterhead that begins at about 350 kilos ($395) for 100 sheets, with out envelopes, to an elaborate suite of wedding ceremony stationery — together with invites, response playing cards and an order of service — that may value as a lot as £12,000 for 100 invitees.

Customized stationery will not be cheap. However, as Mr. Abrines put it, “The processes that we use are so labor intensive that there’s a price ticket connected.”

There are almost two dozen printing presses at Barnard & Westwood’s headquarters, together with three Waite & Saville die-stamping machines for engraving which might be least 50 years outdated; they had been made in Otley, West Yorkshire, a city in northern England that after was recognized for producing industrial equipment. The machines incise the specified lettering or design on metallic plates, which then are inked and utilized to paper, creating the raised lettering distinctive to the engraving course of.

On a typical weekday — in addition to, typically, in the course of the night, and over the occasional weekend for a late-breaking undertaking — the massive workshop buzzes with the whir of machines, together with the three Heidelberg presses from Germany that deal with duties like letterpress printing, which creates a subtly indented end result, and stamping gold or coloured foil as an ornamental ingredient. The corporate additionally makes use of extra up to date printing strategies, reminiscent of digital printing, a course of much like an workplace printer however producing a lot higher-quality outcomes.

Most of Barnard & Westwood’s 14 employees members have discovered the work by many years on the job. The corporate doesn’t have a proper apprenticeship program however repeatedly trains new printers, who, these days, have predominantly been girls.

The corporate additionally does bookbinding, from creating new volumes, like custom-made picture albums, to restoring outdated books.

“What they’ve managed to do is admittedly retain that romance and that type of aesthetic inside their merchandise, however utilizing the entire advantages of contemporary expertise,” mentioned Gary James McQueen, a British artist and designer who not too long ago collaborated with Barnard & Westwood on a limited-edition artwork piece. The cardboard, which encompasses a design by Mr. McQueen, was a fancy undertaking: It was printed each digitally and with 4 custom-made engraving dies, incorporating a number of colours of foiling in addition to multilevel blind embossing, which entails urgent a sample with out ink into the paper.

Barnard & Westwood has been in enterprise since 1921, when it was based by a printer, Albert Reginald Barnard. (An aunt of his, whose final identify was Westwood, was the monetary backer.) It has modified fingers a number of occasions over time, and in early 2021, it was bought by Maurice Bennett, a veteran retailer who has been an proprietor of a number of profitable British manufacturers, together with the ladies’s vogue chain Warehouse.

“I had one look and I mentioned, ‘I’ve acquired to purchase it,’” Mr. Bennett mentioned in an interview.

At the moment, the corporate was wholly employee-owned and, as about 50 % of Barnard & Westwood’s enterprise comes from invites and event-related stationery, “their gross sales figures had been minute” on account of the pandemic, Mr. Bennett mentioned.

However income has been choosing up steadily over the past 18 months, Mr. Abrines mentioned, and the corporate’s goal this yr is to achieve its prepandemic stage of an annual gross income of greater than £1 million.

A latest enterprise concerned what the retail commerce calls a white-label undertaking: producing correspondence playing cards that the British retailer Fortnum & Mason sells beneath its personal model. Every card encompasses a single preliminary, lithographed within the retailer’s distinctive shade of eau de Nil inexperienced and accented with die-stamped gold detailing.

They replicate, mentioned Emma Hawkins, Fortnum’s purchaser for stationery and Christmas objects, the eye to element that the shop expects from the suppliers of all its house-label objects. “It’s us collaborating with a model that we all know goes to supply that stage of high quality,” she mentioned.

Like Fortnum & Mason, Barnard & Westwood holds royal warrants, a recognition that the corporate repeatedly provides items or providers to royalty. Its warrants — for printing and bookbinding to the late queen and for printing to the Prince of Wales, now King Charles III — technically are void on account of the queen’s demise, however corporations are allowed to proceed utilizing the credentials for so long as two years in the course of the transition.

A royal warrant signifies to the consuming public, to public opinion if you happen to like, that this model isn’t just good, but it surely’s royal good,” mentioned Chandrika Kaul, a professor of contemporary historical past on the College of St. Andrews in Scotland. “It units the best attainable normal that everyone seems as much as when it comes to high quality, professionalism, supply and all of the issues that we search for in any commerce or career.”

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