Saturday, June 7, 2008

Mass Production

When I was about 10, my future brother in law taught me and my brother how to silkscreen. We hand-cut designs with exacto knives into a sheet of emulsion, which he then transferred to a screen and we printed some shirts and a bunch of stationary. I still have some of that stationary somewhere- I was big into dungeons and dragons at the time and I copied an image of some monster from one of the various books we had related to it.

Later, when I was in high school, I took courses in graphic arts and became quite interested in it. That was so long ago (says I, my joints creaking as I write) that we even learned to set type- a skill that has been relegated to the realm of phones with dials on them and such (apologies to my dad, who picked up a bunch of job cases and assorted paraphernalia probably for nothing when their previous owner decided they were a waste of space, and heavy too). I even got a job in the print shop my senior year, running an offset press. And I did silkscreening too. I'm pretty sure I still have a multi-color shirt I printed in a drawer somewhere.

Then, about 12 years ago, I decided that I would get into making my own t-shirts. I had some professionally printed and still have a bunch of them stored in my dad's attic. I didn't get very far with the marketing part of the plan. At one point I planned to get into screening shirts commercially, and someone I knew even gave me a full set of used equipment including dozens of screens and a screen exposure unit to get me started. I never got around to it, and eventually sold it all on ebay.

Now, today, here, at my house, with a nominal investment, I put squeegee to screen once more to make a run of home-made stickers. How exhiliratin'!

It was pretty fun, actually, but I'm glad that I took my Murphy's Law pill before I started in case (that is, when) something went wrong. After all, a lot of time has passed since I last screened anything, and what little I read in some online tutorials was helpful, but by no means going to solve all my problems. It went pretty well actually, and now I have hundreds of stickers to plaster up all over the city and give away and get me psyched up to do other projects!

The thing that appeals to me about mass-production is this: I'm basically a lazy guy, and it's just too much freakin' work to make individual stickers by hand and go out and put them up. With silkscreening, or xeroxing, or etching or woodcutting or photography or whatever you make the image once, and then whip off several or many dozens in the matter of an hour or two. All of which can be wheatpasted, or stuck, or framed, or maybe, in some future world, sold over and over again.

The other thing is it really bums me out to see my handmade stickers ripped down or covered over by some city worker or stupid fortune teller's fliers. That being said, I know it's part of the whole street art thing ('ephemeral' they call it) and I do hope I keep making the hand-made ones if for no other reason that I've come up with lots of good ideas in the process of doing them.

Posted below are some pictures of my morning's industry, for those who enjoy that kind of thing.

The workspace, with everything I needed to make a couple hundred stickers- sheets of adhesive vinyl, ink, squeegee, screen, and the most important item- cup of coffee.

The screen, ready to go with the ink across the top!

The first sheet of stickers. I had problems with blank spots, and also with some over-inking.

The sheets pile up in short order.

The finished product, after cutting, which is turning out to be the most time-consuming step. You might recognize this photo from the beginning of the post... Our friend Nelson said that the eyes (which I did in about 10 minutes before I ran to get the screen developed- it's actually one eye flipped over in photoshop to make two) remind him of Oju Oba, or 'Eyes of Xango', a symbol of one of the Orixas.

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