Brace yourselves: the bandana’d letterpress wonder, Dafi Kühne is back, and he’s revealing his secrets. Earlier this year he let us into his mind-blowing studio in the Swiss Alps–taxidermy badger and all—and now, he’s taking us inside his innovative printing processes with the video series The Dafi Kühne Printing Show.
The debut tranche of videos are all online now and reveal his unusual takes on printing processes including casting plastic resin type, making crooked lock-ups with Magnetic Wood Type, and using vinyl stickers to change the qualities of the printing surface. Kühne worked with local “ski professional and videographer” Sämi Ortlieb, who created the bonkers animations; as well as production company Image and Content. “I hoped this way the production would have a good balance between a professional production and a quick and dirty punk clip,” says Kühne, who worked with music producer Chang Kee Jazz to record the sound for the clips himself (as his music duo Captain Moustache & Fredo Ignazio). “So everything is a bit between DIY and a professional production.” We had a chat with him to find out a little more about why he’s okay with giving away his secrets, his slightly unflattering portrait, and his lovely hair.
Why did you decide to make the videos?
I’ve developed these techniques, and I wanted the videos to be like a recipe book. I haven’t invented salt or pepper, but I’m showing how I use these in my recipes. For example, casting detailed objects with plastic resin is not new, but casting letters with plastic resin to print with them is. My processes haven’t been written about or photographed, so I was looking for a way to document them and publish it.
They say a magician should never reveal his secrets, why are you giving yours away?
Techniques themselves don’t make a good poster, so I can be free and giving with them. I often teach at workshops and summer programs in Switzerland and abroad, and it’s always cooler to not be too protective or worry that in giving them away everyone will copy me. The magician should always be one step ahead, and make new interpretations of techniques.
The videos are very funny. Are you always like that when you’re teaching?
I didn’t want to play too much in these videos—that’s just how I am in real life—but I knew they needed to be entertaining; you don’t want to make them too dry. The metaphor of the cooking show made it really fun, but the material I’m showing is quite serious—these are techniques that aren’t jokes, they’re real—and that’s maybe similar when I’m teaching.
Sämi Ortlieb’s animations are great. How did you find him, and why did you want to include animation?
I didn’t just want a serious intro style of me doing some type or whatever. He’s local—I met him at a concert venue a while ago; he’s a really crazy guy. I just said “do them in your style,” and I’ll say what I like and don’t like. He’s more than 10 years younger than me, and I wanted someone to bring in something fresher.
Did you enjoy being in front of the camera?
I don’t know, it was weird! It was the first time I’ve done something like this. I enjoyed it, but I really had to practice before the first episode—it was hard to know if it would be too serious, or funny enough, or if it all sounded stupid.
I get the impression you were having a lot of fun. Especially when you drive off on a scooter after the credits.
It was absolutely fun! The motorbike idea just came from watching a YouTube series of a guy doing drumming tutorials, he was just a funny guy and gave us the idea of having repeated elements like that in each episode. I don’t usually ride my scooters inside the studio. The first time I did it my neighbours came out of their studios, like “What’s going on?!” In one episode I was very close to hitting a table on it…
Each episode shows you opening a letter, and its contents sets the question about the process for the video. Do you really get letters like that?
The joke with that is that all the names I’m using are famous letterpress printers like “Jim S from Nashville,” the longtime former manager of Hatch Show Print, so obviously I’m not really getting questions from people like that! Sometimes people email me though.
Tell me more about the cooking show idea. Do you watch them yourself?
I like to cook, but no, not really. Taking the setup of a cooking show, I’m standing behind the press—that’s stupid, you’d never really stand behind the press! But we liked the idea of it being like a kitchen counter or stove or something.
Finally, importantly, your hair always looks very shiny in these clips. What shampoo do you use?
I use some wax, then just any shampoo for long hair. Sometimes I borrow my kids’ shampoo. I do like Burt’s Bees shampoo—it’s super expensive here, but I always buy some large bottles and bring them home when I’m in the States. The gloss is just wax, though. I’ve had so many different hairstyles in the last 10 or 15 years. Once I was giving a talk in Rochester, New York, and one of the questions someone asked was “When will you give a talk about all your different hairstyles?”