Belgian printmaker David aka Dimitri Runkkari is creating fascinating letterpress printed LP record sleeves by using just brass rules, metal type, pieces of plastic and cork.
David is one of the co-founders of Vlek, a music label from Brussels, and he’s the one who is responsible for the whole visual art direction of the label. Although you can listen to their music online they emphasize the importance of producing the physical releases. "Having a physical object for each of our records acts like a business card – it’s a good way to get people’s attention" explains David.
These are mostly limited edition runs, usually 300 copies, designed, letterpress or screen printed by David in-house.
I had a pleasure meeting David a few years ago when he was visiting the printing department of the MIAT in Gent. When chatting to David and learning more about his work I was surprised to hear that he was a self taught graphic designer and discovered the letterpress printing just a few years ago upon enrolling to RHoK academy in Etterbeek (BE), where he decided to follow printmaking course. He has been fascinated ever since. "The print bug gets into you forever" says David (well, I'm sure many of you are familiar with that feeling:).
Although he has been producing beautiful screen printed LP covers for Vlek label in the past, like Ssaliva on the picture above, it is the letterpress printed album covers that attract my attention the most. These experimental and dynamic compositions assembled from brass rules, lines and plastic cut-outs are revealing the surface of music.
David is that kind of guy who can tirelessly stand for hours in the printing workshop with tweezers in his hands, adjusting the metal lines, 6 point metal type, experimenting with multiple print runs by rotating the same elements over and over again to reach the visual aesthetics corresponding with each album release. He could have used wood type for his artworks, but he feels more attracted to simple geometric forms. Which might draw a parallel between the music and printmaking. Creating of music, as well as the printmaking, is a very physical process that is time-consuming and methodical, requiring the total focus on a task.
Even though the Vlek’s sleeves may be printed, cut, folded and glued by hand, but a DIY look isn’t the impression David want to give to the public. Every detail of each cover design is very well thought out and the musician of that particular album is involved in the creating of the artwork from the start.
"Creating bespoke vinyl record artwork for Vlek is one of the most challenging and rewarding things I’ve ever done" admits David.
In addition to LP record sleeves, David is also expanding the use of metal lines into his "50x70 print" artworks as for instance in his latest work called Ukiy-Ok. An interpretation of an Ukiyo-e print by Katsukawa Shunshō, made for an exhibition of UKIYO-e art in Brussels. It was painstakingly composed from 5 different types of brass rules: 3 points, 2 points, 2 points dotted, 1 point line and 1 point dotted. Printed on the cheap paper (used to wrap french fries) on Vandercook SP20 it counts over 35 print runs with 1 print run for each line orientation.
Whether David is constructing a music wave from brass rules for the next LP album cover or creating a poster, he is transporting the viewer into the world of rhythm and texture, illustrating the unseen, virtual music.
Check out for more letterpress. lines. records by Dimitri Runkkari