Story of a bike type in Scotland

Dynamo Works hand prints limited edition, cycling themed screenprint posters
by dandyhorse staff photos courtesy of Chris Sleath
Chris Sleath is a Scotland-based printer who really likes bikes. dandyhorse asked him about the bike life in Scotland and what it's like to make hand-printed art about bikes.
Here's a video about his work.

The poster above that features the quote "Age and treachery will overcome youth and skill" is one of Sleath's favourites (and ours.)

"The Fausto Coppi quote just appealed to me a lot and seemed appropriate as I no longer do long distance road cycling due to back and knee creak," says Chris Sleath, British proprietor Dynamo Works. "I think he said it at the end of his career during an age when professional cyclists did all sorts of underhand things and he wasn't winning races any more. It has been a very popular print with senior riders and I have been asked to do it as a T-shirt too."

Here's more of Chris' work below. 


Where does the name Dynamo Works come from?

I was looking for a cycle related name and most names derived from bike parts have already been taken. I thought the answer might be found by looking into the 'past' and old cycling magazines which I have...however whilst travelling to London by train we passed a huge red Victorian industrial building near Manchester with Dynamo Works written right across the back of the building in huge white glazed brick and it seemed perfect. Also the dictionary definition of 'dynamo' is an energetic person and the word crops up in Russian Constructivist print material of the 1920s which I'm a big fan of.


How did Dynamoworks get started?

This all started when I offered to do some voluntary hours at Incline Press in Manchester where they had a very small amount of vintage wood type which has become very rare. I am not very confident as an illustrator but thought I could do some kind of text based artwork using wood type which people were getting very interested in. At the time I was trying to restore a couple of vintage bikes, so old cycling quotes seemed like a good place to start....alas...cyclists are notoriously bad at giving good quotes especially when journalists pounce on them after they have ridden a couple of hundred kilometres. Consequently there ain't much out there.

Do you have a favourite cyclist or favourite cycling image?

The golden era for me is the 1950's/1960's. I love the iconography of this time and the beautiful images of Coppi and later Merckx. There have been some amazing books about them published this year.

Why old school printing?

There is a short film made by a friend on which explains the process of printing my posters.  I begin by hand setting vintage wood type (in a museum in Scotland) and use very old platen and vandercook presses to produce black and white proof prints which are then scanned by computer to create acetates which I can expose onto a screenprinting 'mesh'. This makes it easier to edition and gives me a lot more freedom to play with different colour combinations and size. It turns it into a much more immediate process too, which fits into the time I have to do it. I love the tactile nature of working with the wood type and it's a messy deal too (good). I have a dislike of working with computers and the distance it puts between me and the work.

I've been doing it for about three years and during that time have become a technician at the open access studio where I print. I am involved in all the internal and external print exhibitions and the maintenance requirements of the large, busy building.

What does cycling mean to you?

Cycling represents freedom to me. It sounds a bit cliched, but I grew up in a commune and some of it has 'stuck'. The way I print is very free. I don't labour over preliminary drawings, colours and paper. I just get on with it and see where the process takes me.

How long have you been cycling?

I got into cycling properly about twelve years ago and used to go out with a couple of mates up into the hills, initially around Manchester then Edinburgh where I now live. The city at present is a complete nightmare to cycle in due to ongoing tramworks which have been VERY badly managed around multiple contractors. The system has been greatly reduced and we will end up with a ten mile track and a £800 million bill. I use the path along the river to get across town. It's always been challenging to cycle in Edinburgh due to the hills, narrow streets, cobble stones and wind! There are no dedicated cycle routes. I have cycled in Toronto which seemed great and am trying to get over to Holland soon.

I've had unexpected success with my posters and have worked hard to 'get it right' but mostly it's about messing about and having fun...and not growing up too much. I'm still the twelve year old pulling 'wheelies' on my bike when my dad's back is turned.

You can read about his commute too as part of our dandyCommute series here.

You can see more of his work here:

Chris is also is one of the few non bike builders who gets to have a stall at the Bespoked Bristol Handbuilt Bicycle Show coming up in April.

Related on the dandyBLOG:

Chris Sleath's dandyCommute


Kim Adams at Nuit Blanche



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