Going for the Gold

If students can advance their skills this far in such a short time, just think of the work they will produce and the new products they will invent if they choose a career in screen printing.

Going for the Gold

I took some time to look at the Golden Image award entries and winners at the SGIA 2010 Expo, an experience that is always instructive. To tell you the truth, it’s also a little humbling to see how well some of my fellow squeegee meisters can print. This ain’t your daddy’s silkscreenin’ anymore. Maybe SGIA should look into touring the winning entries so that the wider world can get a look at the array of screen-printing applications we industry insiders sometimes take for granted—but that’s a topic for another day.

Contests like this are important, and they are in stark contrast to many of the competitions we see in today’s society that seem to be based on popularity, nastiness, or the ability to remember a lyric—more than talent or ability. With criteria based on technical merit, and the judges coming from the Academy of Screen Printing Technology, the winners of various categories really are the best of the best from around the world.

Michel Caza, 2010 Parmele Award winner, past chairman of ASPT and FESPA, a winner of multiple Golden Squeegees, and the granddaddy of high-end screen printing worldwide, puts it well: “For me, to compete has always been extremely important because it is—even if frustrating sometimes—the best manner to know at which level you are and how you can compete with your peers or other students in the same technique and in the whole world.”

For the first time this year, industry vet Joe Clarke had the opportunity to act as a Golden Image judge for the Tom Frecska Student Printing Awards and it was, in a word, exhilarating. “Had the judging area not been cordoned-off as student entries only, there would have been no way to differentiate their work from those of the professional entries,” he says. “It was a challenge and a comfort to see so much talent from so many students in so many countries. It is quite apparent to me now that, due to the up and coming talent, specialty graphics will live long and prosper.”

Clarke wasn’t the only one to notice the quality level in the student section, which featured the work of both high-school printers and those attending a post-secondary institute. Neil Bolding, the manager of quality, technical, and marketing at MacDermid Autotype, has judged the student printing awards for the last three years.

“The caliber of work is at a very high level,” Bolding says. “Every piece submitted deserves full attention as the diversity of the work ranges from true artistic inspiration to highly technical graphics printing—all of the highest quality. I caught myself wondering, ‘How did they do that?’” I thought I knew how most things are printed. I am still learning, and it is a sheer delight to be shown something new by students.”

Bolding mentions the number of school programs that submit work using the screen-printing process is growing every year. “Who said screen printing will die? Not with the talent of the youth I see today,” he explains.

Best in Show winner Cassandra Montenegro and her classmate, Victoria Garcia, both of whom won gold in their respective categories (Textile and Fine Art), attend Paramount High School in Paramount, CA. It’s pretty obvious their instructor, David Yakubovsky, knows how to impart correct technique and desire to excel. I’ve seen firsthand the enthusiasm and excitement of students of all ages when they get the screen-printing bug, and it seems to me that all of us in this industry should be doing everything we can to encourage schools in our area to set up screen printing in the classrooms and make sure the teachers know they have a wealth of information and resources available to them through trade associations and manufacturers. The work of industry leaders who actively support SkillsUSA screen-printing competitions at the state and national level should be applauded and encouraged. We have nothing like that in Canada, which is unfortunate.

What blows me away about the student participants’ submissions is the realization that working with good teachers who know which end of the squeegee is up produces such an instant jump in print quality. If anyone wants graphic evidence (excuse the pun) of what the most beneficial single improvement in their screen printing might be, look no further than technically-based educational programs. The results speak for themselves and reflect favorably on both the educators and the young printers who did the work. If the students can advance their skills this far in such a short time, just think of the work they will produce and the new products they will invent if they choose a career in screen printing.

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