'Bad Santa' Makes His List and Checks It Twice

2017 has seen its fair share of naughty and nice.

I’d been waiting about half an hour just outside international arrivals in the Mexico City airport. The usual hustle and bustle was going on, emotional reunions erupting all around me, half a dozen drivers with signs picking people up – none with my name on them. I admit I was starting to wonder if maybe they forgo…

“Are you Andy?” A smiling young man introduced himself as Fernando and apologized for being late – traffic was brutal.

“They told us to watch for a gringo who looks like Santa Claus!” he said.

They thought it was pretty funny. I didn’t tell them it was true. For the last few years I’ve been playing Santa at the Wachiay Friendship Centre’s annual Christmas party in mid-December.

I guess if I’m Santa, I get to review the list. You know the one I mean: people who were good as well as the ones who were acting bad. Who’s been naughty, who’s been nice.

We should get the bad and the good out of the way first. Anybody who knows me or has read this column through the years knows I am a screen printer. They also know I decried the name change of SGIA back in 2003 as well as its makeover from a screen printing organization to one with a more digital focus. I still don’t like it, but I’ve learned to live with it; let’s call that one a lingering bad.

Now, with the next big shift announced at the recent show in New Orleans – with the Expo to become “Print United” in 2019 – I was left wondering if SGIA was getting further away from the old core, giving up the ghost on screen printing completely and picking up offset around the corner and running off to Vegas (or, more correctly, Dallas). Or if they were clutching at life preservers to maintain the viability of the annual tradeshow and convention format, their main focus. Turns out, it’s neither.

It took reading a review of the recent show in the Canadian Graphic Arts Magazine – an offset-focused journal – to get an outside perspective on what was happening. While screen printing lost a sector – graphic advertising – to digital, offset got crushed over the last 20 years. The reviewer in the magazine had never been to the SGIA show, and the takeaway from the article was disbelief over how big and vibrant the show was compared to the dwindling efforts of traditional print and graphic shows in North America. They were genuinely excited about Print United.

So I’m making the call: Ford Bowers and the management team at SGIA get on my good list this year. We’ll see how it shakes down, but I think print – all print – needs to get together and tell governments, business groups and other industry sectors, the education system from preschool to university research labs, and the general population that we are still here. We’re in your phones and on your buildings and buses, as well as your books and magazines. We are not just some old guy with arm cuffs, an apron, and an A.B. Dick press making business cards (though we all know him). Print in all forms, including screen printing, is still a major employer as a sector, and we are growing, not fading away.

Let’s move on to naughty. This is probably the biggest part of my list, but once we remove politicians, it becomes way more manageable. The list is still long, but filled mainly with people who think it is fine to steal an artist’s work and reproduce it and sell it online. My rock artist friends are robbed daily; my indigenous artist friends get ripped off all the time; and they join a parade of brands that are counterfeited. This theft is aided and enabled by online retailers and social media platforms that let anyone sell things for pennies per click. The rampant theft is also facilitated by digital printing. This Santa hopes that in 2018, all their printheads dry up, and some enterprising lawyer catches the attention of Facebook, Amazon, eBay, et al. with some class action suits that make it a crime to allow the sale of stolen art products on their various web platforms.

Onto nice, the best part of the Santa job. I need you to indulge me here. My Vancouver Canucks have a new coach and a group of young players who play the game at a high speed, as well as a potential rookie of the year in Brock Boeser, a young American from Minnesota who played at the University of North Dakota. After finishing near the
bottom the past few years, the Canuckleheads are in the hunt for a playoff spot and playing well. They recently knocked off Philly and the Pittsburgh Flightless Birds, which probably made my friend Art Dobie of Ikonics upset, so that’s nice, too.

Speaking of the New Year, I’ll take this opportunity to wish all Screen Printing readers a great holiday with family and friends. Looking forward to new adventures in 2018.

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