Screen-printing is enjoying a resurgence on a worldwide scale, in part because the industrial/functional side is incorporated onto, or into so many everyday items from cell phones to solar cells, but also because its versatility and low cost entry point make it the go-to imaging process for graphic entrepreneurs and DIY crafter types. You’ll find them in basements and garages and lofts in every town big or small making t-shirts and textiles, posters and serigraphs and using the process to decorate and label a range of products. Manufacturers glom onto the process for imaging glass, metal, plastic and wood. They even use it in Campbell River to print Styrofoam fish carriers. It’s a major component creating swag for the tourism and entertainment industries. Canucks sell towels like crazy when they actually win a playoff game or two.
The Comox Valley has its share of screen printers and small businesses that use the process. There are the long time players, who interestingly can be traced back to Island Screen Print on Plateau Road. In its (pre-computer) day it was the go-to shop for almost all real estate signage on Vancouver Island and sold into Victoria and the lower mainland. It also printed stickers and fleet marking, had the first multicolour t-shirt carousel on the north island, did sub dye printing on hats, made reflective road signs and even offered hand lettering. Started by Gary Willis, who now runs Pacific Screen Print north of Courtenay, the spinoffs from ISP in the early 1980s begat established local print shops Aero Art, Hi Tec Screen-printing, and Squeegeeville, the online home of MacDougall Screenprinting Ltd.
After 30 plus years of production printing in Edmonton, Vancouver, and the Valley, and subsequent ventures in writing & publishing and equipment manufacturing & distribution, Squeegeeville ‘mayor’ Andy MacDougall has been working to pass the squeegee on to a new generation of local (and not so local) people. They are enthusiastically embracing the process and putting it to use making clothing, art prints, packaging, and more.
The following profiles give some insight into the process of our local CV screen-printers.
Wachiay Studio is run by Andy MacDougall, Erin Brillon and a growing staff. It grew out of an afternoon art program for aboriginal youth presented by CVAG and Wachiay Friendship Centre along with local artist Andy Everson, and started in 2012. This year they expanded into a full print shop that produces limited edition prints and textiles, and provides technical instruction and cultural business support. Their aim is to build up the social enterprise so it is providing income for further programs, and train aboriginal youth in screen-printing production.
LOVE “I love how universal and accessible the process is, and how it straddles art and commerce. Also how it keeps getting re-used to invent new products. Plus the camaraderie of the squeegee.”
HATE “When you drop your squeegee in the ink. That and drying in.”
JoAnne McElroy started Jipsi Tree in 2014. She screen prints her own clothing line using real plants to create stencils – plants from the local forest and gardens here in Cumberland…$1 from every purchase is donated to the Cumberland Forest Society to help raise money to buy local forest slated for logging.
LOVE “I love how I can take a beautiful plant and capture it onto clothing through the printing process…the creativity of printing is awesome too… creating colour combinations onto beautiful clothing.”
HATE “What I hate hmm… I have not been doing it long enough to hate anything yet. I can only say that my studio is so small that printing is trying. I need more space.”
SELAH SURF CO.
Johnny Sugrue and Kenton Duncan started Selah Surf Company this year producing custom fibreglass surf fins, along with designs on apparel.
LOVE “I love how creative you can be in the process of designing and how everything in the system – from emulsion to print works so well to get a precise image onto your textiles – I guess what blows my mind is that someone was smart enough to come up with it all. I also love how hands on it is – that it is commercial and you can make some cash, but it really is an art form that varies a little with each printer’s unique touch. I love that there seems to be a constant learning curve – so it is still just as fun and engaging as day one.”
HATE “When I do it wrong and everything goes horribly awry, like this one night I was up late trying to get an order ready and I burned a screen backwards… three times. Arg. There goes a whole evening and a bunch of emulsion and my sanity (laughing).”
Santosha Clothing is two years old and features the work of Gordon Ross & Gillian Brooks. They print custom designs by local artists on sweatshop-free clothing for men and women. With t-shirts, tanks, hoodies, dresses, bags, totes and more, they’ve got something for everyone.
LOVE “I love analogue technologies. As a photographer, the whole world has gone digital. It’s refreshing to know that not all artistic processes are being swept away by the digital revolution. Hand printing makes each piece unique and hence more interesting.”
HATE “Printing with white!”
Ian Adams started Done Creative as a side project from his corporate design work as a way to create his own art while giving back and donating to community and environmental causes. Ian got his own equipment and has been doing his own printing since 2014.
LOVE “In the same way Done allows me to design what I want, the printing has become an extension of that. As someone who works mostly on a computer, screen-printing is a balance for me. Doing something that is 100% tactile is a nice change from staring at a computer screen. It has become very relaxing, even to the point that longer print runs have almost become like meditation. It’s another art form for me to play & experiment with. Trying different techniques & materials just to see what’s possible.”
HATE “Not much, my flash dryer maybe… but that’s only due to the size & location of my studio. During summer months it’s the same temperature outside, then jumps up a few degrees once the dryer is on. That said, it’s a lifesaver in the winter!”
Andrew Barksdale started screen-printing around 2002. He is the senior separation artist for Nike’s licensed t-shirts in the NFL and NCAA, but he also runs Nike’s internal screen print studio where he teaches members of their design team how to screen print and assists with projects in their creative lab.
LOVE “The thing I love about screen printing is how simple it is. What can go wrong?”
HATE “The thing I hate about screen printing is how complex it is. So much can go wrong.”
Nick Wilson has been printing since 2003. He is the studio manager of the Analog Research Lab, Facebook’s internal creative conscience, located in Menlo Park, Ca.
LOVE “I love screen printing because it can do so much that other processes can’t, it’s incredibly old, hasn’t updated that much over time, is a very simple concept, cheap to get in to, is really open to an insane range of substrates and inks, and you get a workout when you do it.”
HATE “I hate that perfecting it takes several lifetimes.”