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From Panhead Harleys to Process Color: The Story Behind Anderson Studio

(January 2008) posted on Tue Jan 22, 2008

What happened when a passion for art, music, and motorcycles collided with an interest in screen printing? Anderson Studio was born. Learn about the shop's history and how it became known around the world for its garment work.

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By Ben P. Rosenfield

“I keep my hands in a lot of things artistically that I enjoy. That’s my philosophy on life,” he says. “I really wanted to find a way to make a living and enjoy doing what I’ve always liked to do—the creative field, whether it’s screen printing, airbrush work, illustration and design, or photography. It’s all fascinating and challenging to me. I tell young kids all the time: If you want to go into the arts, you need to figure out a way you can do what you love to do and also make a living at it because it’s very difficult. You’ve got so many people coming in with their eyes stuck on stardom, and one out of 10,000 might make it.”

Among Anderson’s accomplishments in the arts is the creation of album covers as a freelancer in the late 1970s for artists on the RCA and CBS labels, including Neil Young, Charlie Daniels, and Barbara Mandrell. He’s also been featured in magazines and books about airbrushing techniques and has sold photography to motorcycle magazines on a freelance basis. He says being able to make a living doing what he loves to do is a blessing.

On the screen-printing side, Anderson has decided to build a client base solely on custom printing. His goals are to continually increase the number of jobs the shop accepts and boost order volumes. He also recognizes that, as he puts it, marketing isn’t the company’s specialty.

“We enjoy the printing end of this thing and the technical side of it, but if we had started the business being salespeople and sales-motivated marketers, the growth of the company would have been a lot different compared to focusing on quality of the print and technical issues,” he explains. Anderson also admits that’s he’s coming to terms with the idea that jobs have to be done in a certain amount of time, that compromises must sometimes be made, and that he can’t spend all day working on a 12- color job when the order is for 12 dozen garments.

Another of Anderson’s goals is to “quit being in denial of the computer age.” He has avoided certain modern technologies, he says, because he feels they take away from people’s lives.

“I like to feel and touch things. I like to see the outcome of what I’m doing and have my fingers actually touch something. With the mechanical process of the computer, it’s so cold and impersonal that it really hasn’t motivated me enough to get into it. I’m not a video person. I like to get outside and do things. That’s just my mentality, but at some point I’ve got to address this and get up to speed and learn this stuff.”


Today and tomorrow

Anderson Studio made a name for itself in garment screen printing by becoming an early specialist in four-color process. The company has since added simulated-process printing to its arsenal and has won awards for that work (see page 41 for a selection of Anderson Studio’s processcolor and simulated-process prints). Still, Anderson sees possibilities for his company that he says may require the addition of a marketing professional to help raise awareness of the shop’s capabilities, secure new accounts, and take the business to another level.

“It’s very difficult for us with two automatics to do the kind of volume and the kind of profits that you need just for contract printing. It wears you out. And you’re so dependent on the other guys to keep your presses running,” he explains. “When they’re not busy, you’re kind of sitting and wondering what to do. If you have a salesperson who is dedicated, and has a salary on the line, then it’s a whole different ballgame. There are a lot of potentials for us out there.”

Some may be surprised to learn that what started more than 30 years ago as a one-man operation, with wooden crates for platens and a warm Nashville breeze as a textile dryer, has grown into an award-winning garment-printing business. But perhaps more arresting is that the whole Anderson Studio story started with the unmistakable rumble of a 1949 Harley-Davidson EL.




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