Kelpra Studio

In 1957, Chris Prater and his wife Rose, with a working capital of pounds 30, went into business as commercial screenprinters. Rose’s maiden name was Kelly, so they combined it with Prater, and called the workshop Kelpra Studio. Inside a decade, the brilliantly inventive images that Prater printed for many of Britain’s most famous artists had won his workshop an international reputation.

Prater grew up in Battersea wanting to be an artist, and could not remember a time when he did not draw or paint. As his father was a cripple however, he went out to work as soon as he was 15, and it was as teaboy to a signwriter that he first saw screenprints being made.

During the Second World War, he served in the infantry, then as a troop- carrying glider pilot, until his legs were injured in a crash. After the war, he won a scholarship to art school, but when his first wife complained that she would not be able to manage on the grant, he took a job as a telephone engineer. But he also studied drawing and etching five nights a week at the Working Men’s College. 


 David Hockney – Cleanliness is Next to Godliness, 1964

In 1951 he went on a three-month government training scheme and became a screen printer and worked for many printers in London.

The Kelpra Studio was set up originally in Kentish Town as a screen printing company working off an old kitchen table. Many of the early prints they made were for theatres and arts organisations. In 1959 they made their first artist print for Gordon House.

 Richard Hamilton – Adonis in Y fronts, 1963

Kelpra Studio had printed Adonis in Y-fronts for Hamilton and from that time their studio defined the 60s print scene in London, in 1964 they printed: Gillian Ayres, Peter Blake, Patrick Caulfield, Bernard Cohen, Robyn Denny, David Hockney, Howard Hodgkin, Allen Jones, R.B. Kitaj, Victor Pasmore, Peter Phillips, Bridget Riley and William Turnbull.

 Bridget Riley – Blaze, 1964

 Joe Tilson – Ziggurat, 1964

Pat Gilmour – Obituary: Chris Prater, Friday 8 November 1996 01:02

A Story Cycle.


The film ‘A Single Man’, directed by Tom Ford is a wonderful piece of cinema. There is behind the story a little set of links between the writer of A Single Man, Christopher Isherwood and the director of the film Tom Ford.

In 1939 Isherwood travelled to America for the first time, leaving Britain on the first steps of war. He moved to Hollywood, California. On Valentine’s Day 1953, at the age of 48, Isherwood met the eighteen-year-old Don Bachardy. The couple started to date. It was at this time Isherwood was teaching a course on modern English literature at Los Angeles State College. He worked there until the 1960s much like George, the leading character in A Single Man. During this time he wrote and published three more books.

After Don Bachardy broke up with him Isherwood started to write, the result of this was the 1964 book, ’A Single Man’.

Isherwood and Bachardy reunite and apart from fleeting breakups, they spend the rest of their lives together. They were both painted by David Hockney in 1968.


 David Hockney – Don Bachardy and Christopher Isherwood, 1968

Meanwhile in 1979 Tom Ford moves to New York where he meets and dates the artist and illustrator Ian Falconer. Falconer was Ford’s first boyfriend and they dated until Falconer leaves Ford for David Hockney. Depressed and lonely, it was at this point that Ford reads Isherwood’s ‘A Single Man’.

Later Ford would say about the book:

We end up feeling isolated most of the time. That’s what the story is about for me: that isolation we can all feel even though we are surrounded by people. And in my script, George decides to kill himself, so he goes through his day in a completely different way, seeing things in a completely different way, and people respond to him in a different way because he is different. He thinks it’s his last day. For the first time in a long time, he’s actually living in the present.

Tom Ford then got to meet Isherwood in the early 1980’s at David Hockney’s house in L.A. In 1986 Isherwood died. In 2009 Tom Ford directs the Movie ‘A Single Man’.

So Isherwood writes a book. Ford reads it. It’s about Isherwood’s break up and Ford reads it after a break up.


 Chris O’Dell – Don Bachardy and Christopher Isherwood, 1976