Lesley and Pea's "Keep it Wonky" Studio

Creative Workspace Tour

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Name: Lesley Greening Lassoff and Pea Crabtree of Aardvark
Location: Hastings Old Town, Sussex, UK
Size: "It's one room in an old brewery."
Years worked in: 6 years in business and 3 years in this studio

Step inside the wonderfully wonky world of Lesley and Pea, creators of old-style letterpress prints, enthusiastic tea drinkers, and champions of all that is homemade, folksy, imperfect and authentic. Their studio in a former brewery in Hastings Old Town — a jumble of crooked houses and twisting lanes — is a world away from the tacky seafront arcades nearby. Here, they mix up inks, assemble vintage typeface, and crank out their manifestos on an ancient Vandercook printing press. Come take a look!

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When I popped in on Lesley and Pea, they were feeding a new print, Home it’s where I want to be, through their mighty clanking beast of a printing press. “The beauty of our prints is their handmade-ness, the roughness, the fact that it’s a bit wonky. You can’t imitate that digitally. We've tried!”

Lesley has a background in fine art and Pea used to be a blacksmith, but their interest — or obsession — with printing started while they were running an artsy tearoom on the seafront. As a spoof on the Starbucks loyalty card, they decided to award regular customers with a poster-sized version of the shop's manifesto.

Initially they typed it up on their computer and had it color photocopied. Then two art students visited the café with a miniature printing press, and Lesley and Pea knew they had to use it for their manifesto. It was Pea's idea to make it in the style of an old wrestling poster, and Lesley came up with the words. Demand for the prints grew, and Lesley and Pea realized they were making more selling their manifestos than they were from tea and cakes, so they closed the tearoom and Aardvark the printmakers was born.

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Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: Typographic, letterpress, linocut, wonky.

Inspiration: Pop music, poetry, books, animals, politics, folk art.

Favorite Element: The type drawers.

Biggest Challenge: Trying to fit more stuff on the walls.

What Clients Say: "Aardvark is the original and best!"

Proudest DIY: Our first attempt at making a type chase (the frame in which letters are set) from a picture frame.

Biggest Indulgence: The Vandercook printing press. We were so lucky to get it. It is a very rare machine. Pea met someone on Twitter who knew an old press engineer who used to work for the newspapers and had one in a lock up nearby. He took it to pieces, rebuilt it in the studio and renovated it for us.

Best Advice: If you can see the band wagon, you've already missed it.

Dream Sources: Old print shops that are clearing out their woodtype.

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Resources of Note:

EQUIPMENT

  • Vandercook printing press: from Basil Head, a former newspaper press engineer.
  • ink: all ethically sourced
  • paper: blotting paper made in the UK
  • Typeface: junk shops. "We don't have full sets of all the letters of the alphabet, so what we write is dictated by that. It can be frustrating but ultimately it makes us more creative."

FURNITURE

  • trestle tables: IKEA
  • plan chests, chest of drawers, shelving: picked up second hand from junk shops and charity shops

ARTWORK

  • papier mache aardvark head: made by a customer at Aardvark Tearoom
  • painting of smiling woman and cat: "It's Beryl Reid, the British actress. It was in an art show at Aardvark Tearoom."
  • typographic prints: Aardvark

ACCESSORIES

  • tea cosy: knitted by Lesley. "We used to sell them at Aardvark Tearoom."
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Thanks, Lesley and Pea!

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(Image credits: Rebecca Bond)

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Rebecca Bond is a House Tour contributor at Apartment Therapy. She is an interiors-addicted, design-obsessed, Italian-speaking former TV producer director and mother of two gorgeous kids.

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