The Controllables

A screen printer’s to-do list knows no bounds.

My to-do list this weekend includes vote on new Academy (ASDPT) members, shortlist 10 from a field of 34 amazing Women in Screen Printing award nominees, watch Canucks hockey, and write a column. Some items – beer drinking, riding the motorcycle, playing guitar – are not list-worthy; they get done anyway, like brushing your teeth.

I downloaded and dealt with the Academy voting, because it looked like the easiest and quickest thing. I’m all about completing a first task on any list, just to get going. Some amazingly talented people who have – and continue to – advance the screen and digital printing industries through technological improvements and education were on the ballot. But all I could think about was missing out on what might be The Last Supper: the annual Academy dinner. It’s the fanciest thing this hoser goes to every year, a chance to see a lot of long-time friends face to face, the induction of new members, the roasting of the old, the presentation of the Parmesan Award…

With no “PUSGIA” in Atlanta, there’s no Academy dinner. Come to think of it, there’s not much left of SGIA in the new regime, especially as a few long-timers were let go in the latest reorganization and the demographics (i.e. screen printers) dwindle at the show. I was going to put in a link to the Academy, but we have disappeared from public view on the Association website. Skimming the SGIA Journal, I don’t see too much on screen printing these days, which begs the bigger question: Will there be anything left for screen printers in the new PU? Or are we back to square one – a unique process practiced in  diverse fields of manufacturing, but with no association to unite us, and little attention paid by the much larger print industry as they also struggle to survive.

Feels a bit like we got swallowed by a sick whale. Now what, Jonah? SPTF? Tech archives? Educational support for the specific process the organization was originally formed to promote and grow? Or is it all for the greater glory of the mainstream and a steady mishmash of vague business articles and digital overload. 

As Rich Hoffman from M&R once remarked, “Don’t forget who brought you to the dance.” Well, looks like the dance got canceled. But fear not. Out of disaster, some of the stalwarts at Nazdar who have been quietly plugging away got their just reward.

One thing that truly makes “Printers United,” is good beer. This is a fact. Check out Printer’s Ale Manufacturing (printers-ale.com). It took Nazdar and their tech honcho, Bruce Ridge, to uncover these people in Georgia. The original plan was to distribute their beer at the show in Atlanta. Now the plan is to sample the goods back at HQ in Kansas. Let’s all raise a virtual toast of our own brand of Printer’s Lube.

Printers Ale
Printer's Ale

Gender Balance

Looking at the weekend to-do list (remember the list?), it’s also time to shortlist the Women in Screen Printing nominees. Reading the nomination form, I’m reminded of our own small shop. We went through a growth spurt this year. I’m also trying to back out the door into semi-retirement. I made a list (not another one?!), and I’m happy to report that without even trying, we have what I would consider a gender-balanced staff at Wachiay Studio:

Andy Graphic

I look at our client base and I see a lot of women in leadership/ownership roles. We work with a lot of small businesses to help them develop, and our introductory workshops attract more women than men. The biggest contract customer, West Coast Karma (westcoastkarma.ca), is run by Mel(anie) Varney, who also does all of the designs, runs the social media marketing, and still manages to raise three little kids and one big one, her husband, Gabby.  

We have a group of women on Northern Vancouver Island (their husbands were laid off from logging), who decided to create 19 North (19northapparel.com) to design and sell clothing that reflects the lifestyle of the people who live day-to-day and all year round where the “Alone” series shot a few seasons worth of survival reality TV. 

South of us is Westcoastees (westcoastees.com), co-owned by Marija Midgley. When I met her and her partners, they didn’t know how to print. A year later, they were selling their own designs at festivals. A few years more, they had expanded, bought a couple of automatics, became experts in discharge printing, and opened three retail stores. After years in leased premises, they pulled a classic screen printer move. They bought a bar and restaurant that had closed. Renovations and conversion to a print shop saw most of the fixtures removed, but they did keep the taps and the bar. Nothing like a pint after work, at work, especially when printing discharge.

Back to the list. I had hockey to watch, and unfortunately, my beloved Canuckleheads managed to go from a 2-0 series lead to a 2-2 series tie. St. Louis Blues were last year’s Stanley Cup Champs, and they started to show the skill sets that made them winners over the weekend. As of “press time,” it’s all up in the air.

That’s a lot like everything these days. Our lives seem up in the air. As screen printers, we’re used to that. As much as we want repeatability and control over the process and by extension, our lives, there are external influences we have little control over. We can’t walk away from the job just because something went wrong. We are wired to find a solution. All we can do is use our skills and knowledge to overcome obstacles and move forward. Like the good Dr. Bonnie Henry says: “Be Smart. Be Safe. Be Kind.”

Like AndyMac says, “Oh yeah, the column…”

Andy MacDougall is a screen printing trainer and consultant based on Vancouver Island in Canada, and a member of the Academy of Screen & Digital Printing Technology. If you have production problems you’d like to see him address in “Shop Talk,” email your comments and questions to andy@squeegeeville.com.

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