The question i get asked the most frequently is, "What is this stuff?" I give the quick general rundown of the process and usually, without fail, i get, "Oh, like tee shirts?" I always have a hard time answering that question. It is like tee shirts, the process is the same. Final images get color separated, the separations get printed onto film positives, the positives become screens, a squeegee pushes ink through the screen and onto the paper below... But... It's not the same. I realize a lot of people say "Oh, like tee shirts?" because they hear the word screen print. Explaining the process as the same is almost for nothing, as people don't fully understand the process of tee shirt printing. I also feel that explaining it as "like tee shirts" completely devalues the process. While printing on tee shirts can be done by hand, DIY, most people recognize the mechanical aspects of this and never realize the human interaction needed.
Here's the hard part: What makes the image silk screened on paper more valuable than the image silk screened on a tee shirt if, in theory, they are the same? Do folks wonder the same thing about James Jean, Warhol and Rauschenberg prints? I suppose it is all relative. Explaining the printmaking process, though, leaves out a lot of what makes it so special. If i explain the process, do you picture a cool artist's loft studio or a crammed corner of a basement? Do you picture the screens getting washed out in a clinical area with a big sink or someone using the self-serve sprayers at the car wash at 1am outside on a Winter evening? Do you think about the cool piece of electric machinery that burns the screens or the cobbled together light box? When these pieces of art get printed onto the paper do you imagine an operator hitting "Start" on their Print-O-Matic 5000 or a person awkwardly leaning over a table sweating and stressing out while pulling a squeegee with their hands and hoping that the final color lines up correctly?
What is my point? People take art for granted. The process is 9/10ths of the actual image. I am so thrilled to see a resurgence in America of hand-made, small-batch, locally-owned and sourced etc companies. Now, don't get me wrong, the same exact things are done by some folks who make tee shirts. I've done it all on tee shirts as well, myself. I've sprayed screens at the car wash when the the water was freezing on contact and i couldn't feel my hands. I've burned images onto screens using work lights from Lowe's and baby oil to transfer the image. I've ruined hundreds of almost-finished pieces of art because the last color didn't line up, or the last screen bled too much, or because i didn't realize i made a mistake in the separations until it was way too late. Silk screening is a process and what i find amazing is that everyone i know has their own setup, their own process and their own tricks for doing it.
Local Summer Co., in contrast to what we say, doesn't sell silk screened works of art on fine art papers- We sell ingenuity, craft, problem-solving, time, anxiety and a true love of an art form that can be seen on a final image on a piece of French Paper. Hang tight to our Instagram and Facebook pages in the coming weeks- we're going to dive deep into what it takes, from start to finish, to create a Local Summer Co. print. We're going to feature the process and the team that makes it happen. Will this sell more prints? Hopefully. Will we inspire someone else to do this? I sure hope so.