Meet Corin Kennington, London's new favourite signwriter

Corin Kennington

Have you been stopped in your tracks recently by a larger-than-life hand-lettered sign while walking through London? Then chances are, you’ve already come across Corin Kennington’s work. 

The Hackney-born designer uses traditional techniques to create big, bold and colourful signs on buildings across the capital, in a style that feels distinctly British. Step into Corin’s east London studio, decorated with paint-splattered work clothes and experiments inked onto walls and it’s hard to imagine him anywhere else. So it comes as a surprise to learn that his interest in signwriting partly stems from time spent in India. 

Corin Kennington

 Image courtesy of Corin Kennington

 “In Delhi I met a guy called Hanif Kureshi, who works with sign-painters.” he explains. The technology over there is little further behind, but these guys were really inspiring, very colourful and expressive.”

Corin’s work blends these analogue techniques with modern methods. “As much as possible I will start completely from scratch by hand,” he says. “But it often starts with a digital mock-up. With how technology is advancing and how easy it is now to print lettering digitally, you almost need to make sure the traditional methods move with the times.”

In a recent exhibition, 70x100, Corin explored hand-painted outcomes with a “very flat, perfect aesthetic”. 

Corin Kennington

 Image courtesy of Corin Kennington

 “A lot of the pieces were hand painted in reverse on glass,” he says. “You lose all the imperfections like brush marks and build-up of paint, so everything looks flat and digital. It’s playing with perceptions. If you see it and you don’t know what you’re looking at it doesn’t read as a painting, it looks more like a digital print. I find that quite interesting.”

Each piece in 70x100 was a one-off painting. When editioning prints, Corin prefers to work small, and often limits his runs to 30 or less. “All the prints that I do, however they’re produced, there’s a lot of emphasis on the fact that they’re hand-made,” he adds. “Having them in limited numbers adds an element of authenticity, a lot of which is to do with the imperfections. For example with the letter press prints, the way the ink sits on the wood blocks and the way the wood grain is printed into the paper varies in each one. I think those elements make it special.”

Corin Kennington

Corin wears the Sand Workman Jacket in his east London studio.

Corin Kennington's studio

Londoners will soon be able to see Corin’s work displayed in the Saatchi Gallery as part of Jealous Studio’s Jealous Needs You residency. He says: “I’ve done five colour screen prints using inks and varnishes to achieve different finishes and playing with how the light interacts with the prints.”

Those in the north will also be able to catch him at Letterspace, an upcoming exhibition at the Whitworth Gallery in Manchester. “It’s 26 designers,” he says, “each looking at a different letter of the alphabet, inspired by a place or a surrounding. I use the studio as my natural source of inspiration and I’ve created a print of the letter O which tries to use all the differs processes that are available in my studio. It’s hand printed and scanned in digitally, then printed on a risograph machine, rescanned and finalised digitally.”

Sand Workman Jacket

Shop the Sand Workman Jacket

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