A Colorful Conversation with Printmakers Jan and Ondrej

Jan and Ondrej with their ‘Olegu’ silk screen graphics. Photo: Jan and Ondrej

We asked Jan to described Ondrej, his partner in art. Jan proceeded to tell us that Ondrej is the left hemisphere of Calico, the systematic power source of the studio and indispensable in every conversation about the final design. Ondrej, on the other hand, describes Jan as creative and an inexhaustible source of ideas. His ideas are always pushing the art of Calico to new directions — perfecting and conceptualizing every aspect.

Six years ago, the duo worked together in one of Prague’s museums as paper conservators. Jan decided to pursue paper restoring out of almost a sense of duty. His family have been paper restorers for three generations. Ondrej, on the other hand, was drawn to the craft out of interest for its history and art.

Though coming from different backgrounds, they shared a similar interest: “When we saw those prints, we immediately knew that this is the thing we want to do.”

Prints by Jan and Ondrej

In a colourful conversation, these two Prague-based artists talk to us about printmaking, Prague and their passion:

Let’s start with the differences of Calico and Screen Printmaking.

Calico printing is one of the oldest printing methods. It is actually very simple. You have to put separate woodblock prints next to each other, and by doing this you can create the final print.

Screen printing is a little bit more sophisticated, which enables it to be more detailed and precise compared to Calico printing. In Calico printing, the print can be more dynamic with unexpected imperfections. These imperfections are not considered to be a bad thing, but are part of the visual appearance of the print.

Walk us through the process of creating a pattern.

You start by deciding on what kind of pattern you want to do. It can be modern or historical. Floral or animal. Sophisticated or simple. And many more!

Then, you brainstorm for inspiration where you choose the repeating symbol for your pattern — which is a big part of the final result. After that, you work with the symbol itself. You choose precisely every single detail on it: it should work by itself as a whole pattern. Next, you choose the size and color combination. It can be a long process. But, it could also just so happen that you create a perfect pattern during a phone call as you doodle within those two minutes.

What’s essential to enable that creative thought?

The basic of it all is an open, creative mind and a sense for detail, abbreviation and self reflection. And as in every human work, you have to love it to make it right.

Jan printing in studio Photo: Kim Ng

What can one expect to see in your studio?

Probably the both of us printing, designing new products or trying to come up with the best solution for our projects. Everything is happening in the middle of the creative chaos of paper, silkscreen colors, music, laughter, discussions, cats, dogs, our work  and visitors!

That’s quite a sight! Is there a project you are working on that you’re excited to share?

We are preparing a new work of art. It’s a special postcard, where people can create their own pattern or have any custom picture by scratching the top layer of color.

We’re excited for that, as well! Tell us about your most inspiring artistic project.

This year, we came up with our own print. We called it Olegu. It is created by overprinting many patterns of different colors. This made it into a very original structure. Different and unique, each time. On top of this structure, we printed the picture of different animals so the structure fills the shape of the animal.

We submitted them to Fedrigoni Top Award 2017 and we just found out that it got through the next level of this competition. So, of course, we hope that we will be able to repeat our success from the last FTA, where our wrapping papers won a second prize in the Packaging category.

Congratulations on that! Let’s talk about Prague — what is it like and what do you love about it?

Prague is a city of accurate [perfect] size, neither large or small. It is full of unique architecture, art, history and an inspiring mood. Our favourite sources of inspiration in the city for our patterns are the cubist architecture, the zoo garden with its many animals and the small fields that you can see from the airplane as you land at the Prague Airport.

It’s wonderful that you’re inspired by your city. Lastly, are there any artists you look up to?

There are many, but what is important for me (Jan) is a clever conceptual idea behind the project.

I (Ondrej) love the wallpaper and patterns of Vojtěch Preissig.

Vacation With Jan and Ondrej 

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