Finishing Touch

Paul Haslam shares a peek at his working life behind the scenes of Bermondsey-based printer and print-finisher Benwells...

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Tell us what you do in one sentence...

We make beautiful printed, foiled and embossed stationery, invites and other delights.

What's your professional background, and where did you work before Benwells?
Before joining Benwells, I was on a graduate management scheme in a large US-based company, but I felt very detached from what we did and not terribly happy about it. A production executive role came up at Benwells, and after my first interview I knew where I wanted to be. Ten years later, after working in all the areas of the business, I was fortunate enough to be able buy the company, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Describe a typical working day...
An early start! I’m usually in the office by 07:00, and the presses start turning at 07:30—I love hearing the factory spark into life. Strong tea and sweet porridge fuel a busy day full of client press passes, studio visits, quoting work and production meetings. We are lucky to be so close to central London, so that press passes are breeze and studio visits are easily arranged. It usually takes around thirty minutes to get to the West End from us!

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Has your job changed much in the last few years?
Foil blocking has become more and more popular recently, and we have invested heavily to make sure our foiling is the best available. We like to say we can achieve what most can’t. Letterpress printing is making a resurgence too, and we’ve fine-tuned that process to give a truly beautiful result.

What's the most challenging part of your job?
Balancing client expectations. In this digital age, there is the perception that everything can be done immediately, but with foiling and embossing in particular we need a day to set up the tooling and then usually a day or two minimum to process. I am the scourge of our production department, always wanting to say yes to harder-to-achieve deadlines!

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And what's the most enjoyable?
Seeing a job through the production process. I can often be found prowling the factory keeping an eye on things, and it never fails to amaze me the quality of the finished product we can deliver.

If you weren't working in the world of print, what would you be doing?
I’d be a history teacher, or a house husband, or maybe a beach bar owner—but I’d always rather be at Benwells...

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Tell us about a recent project you really enjoyed working on...
We have just completed a complicated project for Belmond: stationery for their new train, The Grand Hibernian, which involved a box with a beautiful deboss pattern, deckle edged and lined envelopes and singer-sewn notebooks, all printed single colour with a beautiful satin silver foil. A perfect Benwells job.

What are your ambitions for the coming year?
To keep Benwells producing beautiful print in central London. Far too much manufacturing is being pushed out to the suburbs, to the detriment of all involved. Hopefully this year will be calmer than everyone expects, so ‘heads down and get on with it’ is our mantra!

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