“The tools and materials are the loaded gun”

“The tools and materials are the loaded gun”

Posted in ExperiencesInspiration

Nicholas Kilford is a Scorpio. We call him the Edward Norton of fine art printing.

Who is Nicholas? He is our Master & Commander in what printing is concerned, in other words, the reason why our reproductions are so unbelievably realistic. Meet the man who knows paper and ink better than anyone, the man who introduced us to the habit of wearing cotton gloves.


Nicholas, are you what we call in Portugal, a ‘beef’ (true Brit) or is Nicholas Kilford your artistic name?

More of a half-caste actually! Born to a portuguese father and english mother in Bristol, UK. My last name is Sereno but I use Kilford. Seems to have a cooler ring to it. 🙂

Tell us about your life before Kilford Studios.

My background is in Communication Design. I went to António Arroio art school and after a brief passage through a university Psychology course returned to the creative realm and did Communication Design and Design and New Media at ETIC. 

My first job was at Impala as a layout designer, a year after I left and took a job at a pre-production company. One year later, around 2004 I went solo and Extramedia Design Studios was born. We mainly took on design jobs, from logos to page layouts and web design. As a side-kick I got into photography (self-taught), this must have been in 2005. I honed my skills, experimented a lot and spent a ton of cash on gear, jeez. Before I knew it I became an Exclusive Photographer for iStock and Getty Images. The image selection process at these companies was so strict that this just compounded my obsession with perfection and detail. It was a great experience and most of what I learnt translated over into other areas of my work. Due to lack of time i no longer actively contribute to Getty. Along the way I have taken on a few personal photography projects but over the past couple of years time constraints just don’t allow me to pursue image making anymore. 
During the time we were exclusively catering to design clients some of them were also asking for canvas prints so we invested in our very first fine art printer. Things just sort of took off from there and so we created our online print store Extramedia. Soon after we were doing more print work than design and eventually our core business became large format printing and we gradually dropped design work.
 Yes, they also give advice on how to frame beautifully
Yes, they also give advice on how to frame beautifully
How was Kilford Studios born?
Initially, with our online store Extramedia we were fundamentally serving the general public but also professional photographers and illustrators. By year two we were getting contacted by more and more artists and professionals that needed personalised in-person assistance and in no time the tables had turned and this was where most of our business was coming from. 
Kilford Studios was born through a gap in the fine art printing market that needed to be filled. Artists and other creative professionals needed a more one-on-one kind of approach. We wanted to get to know the artists, understand where they were coming from, their work, their goals so we could advise and help them achieve the best results possible. From our point of view, the relationship we have with our clients is one of collaboration. We love it and we feel our customers do too, many of which have become good friends over the years. 
So to sum it up, Extramedia is our print-direct get-your-own-coffee store and Kilford Studios is a personalized gourmet fine art printing service. Today, about 75-80% of our business is Kilford Studios powered. 
We are a small team of two at the moment, myself and my wife Luisa who I met while at Antonio Arroio art school after which she went on to study Multimedia Engineering and was responsible for web development and implementation back in our design days. Now she’s our framing guru, our natural client charmer, super-mom and helps keep me (in)sane.
Luísa, Kilford Studios' framing-guru
Luísa, Kilford Studios' framing-guru
Let us know (in layman terms, please) the reasons why your prints are amazing.
Archival pigment prints a.k.a giclée prints need to follow a few basics guidelines to be considered as such. Firstly the substrate needs to be acid-free and natural fiber based (alpha cellulose or cotton or both).
Secondly, inks need to be pigment inks. Not solvent inks, not dye inks. Pigment inks! These inks, in combination with a fine art substrate are what gives giclées their longevity, in some cases in excess of 200 years.
The third part of the equation is the image to be printed. It is paramount that the digital capture is of great quality to ensure the best final output possible. Can you make a giclée print with a great paper, pigment inks and an image taken with a 2004 mobile phone? I suppose so, but to me that’s just wrong on so many levels that I actually try and convince people out of spending their money on a limited edition if the image quality just isn’t there. Most of the time we take care of the digital capture to ensure the best quality possible. 
Of course, these are just the raw materials needed for a piece to be considered an archival pigment print. But saying that this is all you need to get an awesome museum grade print is the same as saying that all you need to make a great image is a professional camera.
Besides some other equipment we use like colour profiling equipment (yes we make our very own paper profiles) there is always a human being behind the machinery and that is what makes the difference. We believe (and I think that shows through in our work) that it’s all about knowing your tools and materials and how to use them to their highest potential. It’s about understanding digital imagery, editing and colour matching, how certain images will react on different substrates etc.
Again, the tools and materials are the loaded gun but it’s up to a human being to pull the trigger and hit the target.
The realism of Kilford Studios' prints
The realism of Kilford Studios' prints
One of the workers of Kilford Studios
One of the workers of Kilford Studios
In what way is the paper important? Is it only a matter of paper?
As mentioned above, paper is a considerable part of the process but it’s not the only part. I don’t want to sound too cliché but the whole is indeed greater than the mere sum of it’s parts. 
Had you heard about Mercart before we got in touch?
Yes, we have a few clients that participated in the first edition and told us about the project.
What compelled you to collaborate with us?
The concept of democratic art is something that deeply resonates with us. Talent in Portugal is abundant and widespread but has gone unnoticed for a long time. Projects like Mercart have changed that and will continue to do so for years to come. On one hand, Archival pigment prints have been helping artists make a living beyond their originals, most of the time with a higher return on investment than their unique pieces and on the other hand, allowing people to purchase high qualitycollectable pieces at reasonable prices.
When Alexandra got in touch with us, I knew I wanted to work with her in the first 20 seconds of our conversation. A no-brainer.
Where do you aim Merc’art to go/reach with your help? 
I would like to see Mercart become the number 1 place to purchase amazing works of art at reasonable prices and would be honoured to help make that happen.
The project is solid, has a strong focus on amazing portuguese artists and there’s an atomic blonde behind the wheel. Who else? 🙂
Is it true that there’s a new, valuable, Kilford, on its way?
LOL! Yes we have already added a new team member, our little baby boy Lucas. Not quite sure what roll he will play yet… maybe public relations. LOL! 
Definitely will be laying down a decent amount of paper (the green kind) and can anticipate getting a truckload of prints done of the little guy too.


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