A local screen-printing collective for teens teaches more than just shirts and squeegees.
To Meghan Sobocienski, age is but a number. “Solutions to struggles stem from the community and from young people,” says the Grace in Action Collectives (www.graceinactiondetroit.org) director. In the summer of 2013, with little in her toolbox but a masters in theology, a supportive congregation, and a passionate 14-year-old, Meghan looked to screen printing to stir up ambition in the youth of Southwest Detroit, a neighborhood where high school dropout rates have been known to hit nearly 50 percent.
After the success of a youth collective focused on web design, Meghan and the Grace in Action church were searching for another opportunity to allow youth to grow and express their talent when they found David. The high school freshman had just fallen in love with screen printing
at a summer camp for art entrepreneurs and was determined to learn more about the art and use it to build a successful future – even if it meant teaching himself. He was exactly who Meghan was looking for to spearhead a youth-driven collective that would, in her words, “build on the skills that already exist in these young people.”
Together they rounded up 10 kids, many of them David’s friends and family. The next step was to find some cash. Grace in Action, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, was able to cobble together the funds – including a $50,000 grant from Wheat Ridge Ministries along with $21,500 in crowd- funding on the WeRaise platform – to purchase three screen presses from Jensen, Ryonet, and Riley Hopkins Jr. Before they knew it, screen printing and graphic design collective Stitching up Detroit was born.
Better than Cheetos
T-shirts don’t print themselves, however. Meghan had no background whatsoever in screen printing – “although I’ve become quite good,” she laughs – so the group teamed up with a local screen printer from Uganda who was looking to share a storefront space. In return, he offered tips on proper techniques, color separation, and more. And it paid off: less than two years later, business is booming. When Meghan spoke with Screen Printing in early February, Stitching up Detroit was booked with orders on all three presses all the way through July.
“The print world is the best,” she says. “It’s an awesome market. Schools, family reunions, sports teams, youth groups – they need T-shirts constantly.”
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