by Juleana Enright
Call them the Bob Vilas of the screen printing world. The brains behind local how-to guide, Screen Printing: On the Cheap believe art is do-it-yourself-able and are out to inform communities in Minneapolis – and beyond – of the accessibility and ease of grabbing your future by the squeegee.
Dispelling the rumors that you need a giant machine and tons of expensive fancy equipment to fulfill your screen printing dreams, the SPOTC squad have long been preaching the good gospel of DIY screen printing and sharing their skills citywide at art events, parties and classrooms. And now they’ve taken their mission to a whole new level – fine print. A cumulative book featuring expert and indie advice from locals in the biz, Screen Printing: On the Cheap details everything you need to get started and how to successfully create a semi-professional screen printing operation in your own home without going completely broke.
Unlike anything of its kind in the DIY screen printing scene, the book is a relevant revelation allowing artists to be in control of their own creative destiny. Imagine a world where education and skill sets are bartered and shared rather than held captive by only those who can afford. It’s not really a radical notion, but unique in today’s world. In fact, it’s the way we used to learn trades. Some brackets of the art world still practice this style of training through internships, apprenticeships, job shadowing and fellowships. Under the guise of SPOTC, this mode of education – perhaps seen to our modern society as antiquated – is helping power a community of self-sustainable artists and entrepreneurs and build awareness around the wave of “new school” screen printing.
In addition to creating their DIY manual, the SPOTC crew is active in the local community, a practice what you preach mantra. They frequent events like the Red Hot Art Festival, Hoolie Fest 2011, Feast MPLS and Art-A-Whirl to host workshops and live demos. They’ve set up a forum to link artists and answer screen printing queries, aide in assisting independent screen print businesses set up shop and – with help from SPOTC member local filmmaker extraordinaire, Sam Thompson – they’ve produced a series of quirky instructional videos (dubbed “Cheap Tips”) demonstrating important stuff like how to clean your screen on the cheap at the car wash and what squeegee technique fits your mood.
I caught up with SPOTC author Andy McInnis and Project Coordinator/Producer Caitlin Hargarten to chat about their on-going Kickstarter fund, their recent Art-A-Whirl jaunt and the importance of the DIY aesthetic in the modern art scene:
l’etoile: Screen Printing: On the Cheap is the most comprehensive how-to book on screen printing at home to date. How did the idea come about and how long did it take to compile the book?
SPOTC: There’s a local HUB where any screen printer in Minneapolis typically gets their supplies. If you print, you know that HUB is Northwest Graphic Supply. Andy has not only been their customer, but has had the luxury of working there for the past five years. In this time, he’s exchanged technical information about the process of with almost every screen printer in Minneapolis. The bi-product was intelligent language applied to cheap alternatives. Similarly, a collective DIY energy had presented itself. The book idea was conceived in 2009 and we have organized information around it ever since.
l’etoile: Introduce us to the SPOTC team.
SPOTC: The SPOTC team is compiled of an arts educator, a web developer, a producer, a graphic designer, a filmmaker and a copy editor. We are all self-employed or highly active in our respective fields.
Andy is the brainchild behind the project, he’s been printing on the cheap and teaching others how-to ever since he got out of college and realized that the studio wasn’t coming with him.
Bjorn and Andy met working at Northwest. He’s an extremely talented web developer and also has extensive screen printing knowledge.
Caitlin has been producing art events, videos, and other creative projects for quite some time. Andy interned for Caitlin while she coordinated the Red Hot Art festival in Stevens Square way back when.
Nate is a designer and creator to the core. He puts the sex in SPOTC. He met Andy over-the-counter at Northwest. Andy helped when Nate first started screen printing and now Nate is showing Andy the ropes.
Sam contributes to the project in many ways, as a photographer, videographer and promoter to name a few. Sam has produced feature length films and he knows the art of executing large-scale projects. He met Andy through his wife Caitlin.
Rusdon is an editor and the newest member of the team, boy are we glad he’s here. When it comes to the English language, Rusdon knows it like the back of his hand.
l’etoile: In the project’s description, you mention the concept of “new school” screen printing. Can you elaborate on this genre?
SPOTC: Traditional institutions teach you the process from their facility. As an alternative, we teach you the process from your facility. That’s the “new school.” It’s your home.
l’etoile: What’s the book’s style format like?
SPOTC: Like a field guide applied to printmaking. It’s a durable, physical resource to walk you through the entire process. You can take it to the store and use it as your shopping list, have beside you as you prep your files, bring it in the dark room to help you expose your screen properly, and even use its blueprints to build your own equipment. Nate has done an amazing job of breaking down a huge amount of content and creating a clean, easy to use manual.
l’etoile: The book features savvy contributions from a ton of local industry professionals, artists and entrepreneurs throughout MPLS. Who are some of the guest voices?
SPOTC: Voices can be heard through video content currently found on our website. Our friends Miles Mendenhall (Faux Poco) and Erik Hamline (Steady Print Shop) have both helped to support us in this way. Obviously, a BIG shout out to Northwest Graphic Supply. But as for further “name dropping”, watch for future SPOTC videos on the interweb!
l’etoile: Your Kickstarter fund is still in progress. With 14 days left to go, you guys have less than $2,000 to raise. What are the different donation levels and their pledging incentives?
SPOTC: We are beyond humbled by the amount of support we’ve received thus far! That said, we see endless possibilities and potential resources to provide for artists. Should we meet it, we’ve planned to extend our goal and take the project even further. We will launch details of such plans on our Kickstarter and Facebook page in the days to come.
Rewards meant specifically for artists who are ready to start screen printing include a pre-order copy of the first edition for $50. We have a PDF of the book available at the $25 level. We also have a sweet one color T-shirt press available with a pre-order of the book for $250. As a reward for entertainers and event planners, we have a printing party at the $1,000 level. With the party, we will bring our screen printing studio to you. From there, people can learn the basics and leave with their own printed party favor. A reward for organizers or organizations who need a bunch of people to wear the same silly outfit for an event, is a run of shirts (branded with your design) for $500. Other rewards meant for “normal people” who simply want to help make this project happen include fun items like stickers ($10), totes ($15), tees ($25), and of course the signature SPOTC BVDS ($15)!
l’etoile: Last weekend, the SPOTC crew hit the streets for Art-A-Whirl for a “drive-by printing” demonstration via an awesome custom-built bike press. Can you tell us a little about the mobile press and your AAW experience?
SPOTC: We’ve been doing on-site screen printing demonstrations at events since 2007. After a while, we started to see a significant drawback to our conventional approach. That drawback was being stuck in one spot for the duration of the event. So, this year we decided to go mobile and see more of Art-A-Whirl. As it turns out, going mobile also helps to round out and strengthen the concept of our idea. It makes screen printing more accessible to the community.
The press is built on top of an old Burley frame found on Craigslist. Inside houses everything you’d need for a down and dirty print run. The inside also includes a custom screen rack for backups. The top is actually a one color T-shirt press. This year, we handed out instructions on how to make the T-shirt press yourself (also featured in the book). We hooked it up to a tandem bike and hauled it all over NE, teaching people how to print on hankies. When you’re printing hankies, one size fits all!
l’etoile: Why is Screen Printing: On the Cheap an important book not just for screen printers, but for artists in general?
SPOTC: It’s important because a lot of people don’t believe art to be significant. That’s why art is still the first subject to receive funding cuts in public schools. In fact, some schools have completely cut art altogether. So artists grow up learning to rely on a hand-out and that the hand-out can be taken away at any moment. It’s taught, that unless you teach it, you won’t make a living at it.
In addition to a hand-out, traditional education teaches artists to rely on a facility. Facilities cost money. Artists don’t have money. So, rather than put money into the hands of a stranger, as (screen printing) artists we’ve realized we can keep it in ours. The book is an alternative to our traditional education.
l’etoile: If the Kickstarter goal isn’t realized, what happens to the project? Will you still be able to publish the book?
SPOTC: More than anything else we’ve participated in, Kickstarter has held us accountable and forced us to get our “ish” together. Similarly, without the publicity of the campaign, we would not be answering these questions for your magazine. Even if the project is not “successful”, it will have been a success. And yes, we will still find a way to produce the book. It may take longer to raise funds and there may be fewer printed copies, but the book will exist. The collective energy we have backing this project is far too strong.
l’etoile: How can one pre-order a copy of the book and when can we expect it to be distributed locally?
SPOTC: At this point in time Kickstarter is the sole way to claim your copy of the book, soon it will also be available on our website. Look for the book’s official local release this summer!