Direct to garment printing is great for a lot of reasons, but the big one is the fact that set up is really fast and minimal. There’s no need for separations, burning screens, mixing ink or setting up a press. While it's not as simple as hitting control+P it is much closer to instant gratification.
Here where I work at Sharprint, we decorate apparel in three main ways, screen print, digital print and embroidery. Out of the three, embroidery has been a fully formed practice the longest by far. Embroidery using silk thread has been known to have been practiced as far back as the 5th century BC in China. However, it has failed to have as significant a cultural impact as screen print or digital printing despite having a solid couple of millennia to get ahead.
One thing that plagues us as printers of apparel is those pesky seams. When the squeegee passes over a seam, it disrupts the constant and even pressure it applies. The resulting print will be uneven in the area immediately surrounding that seam.
This Fall Sharprint was proud to participate in Chicago’s Spark program. Spark is a national non-profit organization who’s mission is “...to provide life-changing apprenticeships to youth in underserved communities across the United States.” Spark seeks to accomplish their goals through facilitating mentorships between middle school youth and professionals working in a field of their interests.
Let’s say you’ve got a tee shirt with a design on it that you love. Just for the sake of argument, let’s also say that the design is in some way culturally relevant - such as the I heart NY t-shirt. Not uncommon. While we’re at it, let’s say you’re wearing this tee while enjoying a Saturday afternoon at the art museum and you’re looking at a famous screen print by Roy Lichtenstein that you happen love equally as much as the picture on your tee. Now, I ask you, which one is better or more important/relevant and why?
As a college student, studying printmaking and fine art, my professors would always reference something called the “democracy of the print”. They were referring to the fact that woodcuts, etchings, lithographs and screen prints had the advantage over paintings and sculptures in the respects that they are relatively inexpensive and exist in multiple. Even to this day, a person of an average income can afford a print by Picasso, but not a painting. That print would not only enrich that person’s life, but that of many others due to the fact that it exists in hundreds of other places.
Communication is not synonymous with language. I learned this weekend at the Field Museum that ants communicate through pheromones. They can tell each other a myriad of things by releasing scents. Ants can attract each other, warn each other of danger or even inform each other where food is and how much is there. Likewise, we humans communicate in many ways that are not verbal or text, like color.
Ever seen one of those photos from a runway fashion show and think, “Who would wear something like that?” You know what I mean. Bizarre unwearable clothing that’s probably glued on in places worn by equally bizarre zombielike people that look as if they’ve been stretch out in a fun house mirror. Something like these 2009 Alexander McQueen designs:
Without screen printing, we couldn’t do what we do here at Sharprint. There are lots of ways to produce an image on a shirt. There are digital options, there is a long history of using relief printing, I’ve even seen etchings printed on a shirt and of course I guess we could sit around painting on them, but nothing is more versatile, efficient or effective as the screen print.
I (heart) NY. Everyone knows what I’m referring to and its not just a rip off of pop art genius (and fellow Hoosier), Robert Indiana. Its not necessarily the best tee, but its definitely the most recognizable. Its the Mona Lisa of tee shirts. Its the official garment of NYC (even though no one there wears them). But, what is so special about it is that it effectively communicates universally and in an iconic American visual language that transcends its stuffy high art influences.