Spring is Here, and Inspiration is in the Air

Roberts tells how a visit to one of the world's most popular Websites revealed a variety of educational and idea-generating videos that can benefit any screen-printing operation.

Take a look outside. It’s April again, spring is in the air, and every red-blooded screen printer’s fancy turns to figuring out how to take full advantage of the oncoming busy season. Taxes are out of the way, summer vacation is booked (if you’re lucky), and the shop is running like a well-oiled screen-printing juggernaut. All the employees are cross-trained, the shelves are stacked with all the raw materials that you will possibly need, and the new espresso machine is perking out the necessary liquid energy that will guarantee you 50% business growth this year. Alright, I concede that those last few sentences are probably not quite true, but what the heck, spring is here. We can allow ourselves to indulge in little seasonal fantasy before the craziness of the summer rush hits.

There is a very unusual vibe at work in the graphics world this year—one that I don’t think I have seen for quite a while. In fact, on further reflection, it might be true that I have never actually seen it before like this in such a universal form. I’m talking about the general air of confidence and optimism that I’m getting from my customers and colleagues in the business. People in our industry usually are a surly lot (just joking) with a world-weary, reality-based view of their profession that mostly leans towards mild cynicism. Ask a graphics professional
how his business is doing and you usually get a roll of the eyes and a shrug, coupled with a hand gesture signifying that things are so-so.

Not this year though. Everyone I talk to seems to be energized in a way that I have never seen before, with many telling me that they feel like they have finally turned the corner that seemed to have eluded them for years. I’m sure it has something to do with the general sustained growth in the economy that we have experienced since the dark days of 9/11, but I also believe that it has to do with the quality of the equipment that’s available right now and the level of understanding of the screen-printing process at all levels of the business. All results that have come from a concerted effort to educate those involved in the science and methodology of this printing method indicate a skilled, motivated, and proud workforce. I, of course, with my humble little column here, take complete responsibility for this magnificent turnaround. Just joking again.

I was hunting around on the Internet, looking for something interesting to write in this month’s column, and found myself browsing through www.youtube.com for some inspiration. At least that’s what I was telling myself. After catching up with all the cool stuff I had missed on television and watching a number of classic music videos from the eighties, I wondered what would happen if I typed “screen printing” into the search engine. Much to my amazement, the search resulted in 76 hits, and I realized that my evening was shot because I was going to have to watch them all.

There seem to be roughly three categories of video that get posted under the screen-printing heading. The first is of little use to us and mostly centers around a young college kid who demonstrates how to print a rude word on a T-shirt, using an embroidery ring, a tube of adhesive, and some ink purchased from a local hobby shop. I know that some of you reading this column got your start in the business doing exactly what this kid did, and you were just as amazed at how good a print you could get using this method. I’m sure, however, that the words you printed were much more acceptable in polite society. I wish that I could say the same myself and hope that all the evidence of my teenage creative endeavors have long since broken down in the laundry.

The second category is of much more use to us. I came across a series of 16 very informative videos produced by Ro-ger Jennings. The videos take you through all the screen-printing basics, from screenmaking through curing. Roger has a wonderful, down-to-earth and practical approach to teaching, and although it is targeted at someone considering starting a screen-printing business from scratch, it would be a very useful tool to show new hires. They can lock themselves away with a laptop and come away from the experience with a solid overview of the process. I certainly recommend the videos to anyone embarking on the screen-printing-business path. Excellent work, Roger!

There are also numerous videos created by various equipment manufacturers that we all know and love, extolling the virtues of this carousel printer or that exposure unit. I was actually surprised that there weren’t more of these video clips available because I know that there are many more out there. Take a quick look around SGIA ’07 this October, and you will see a plethora of equipment and product videos on display. Perhaps it’s time for equipment manufacturers to get their product videos on the Internet where we can view them at our leisure.

The third category, and the one that is the least utilized, is self promotion and advertising. I was fascinated to come across a wonderfully professional video commercial created by a Canton, OH-based company called Zombo Screen Printing. I did a little research and managed to get hold of Stan Pixler, the owner and person responsible for the video. Stan has been in the screen-printing business for a little more than a year now and tells me that he really enjoys it, mostly because of the low stress quotient compared to the video-production business that he previously ran. All I can say is thank goodness I’m not in video production. If screen printing  is a welcome relief from stress, then I want to have nothing to do with that business. Stan developed video spots to appear on local television stations, utilizing very effective skills he brought from a previous career.

The idea came from the company name, which is an obscure nod to a character that appeared briefly on the Munsters TV show; hence, the horror-movie motif. Zombo expects to run several more ads in this vein since they successfully began airing it during Halloween last year. Stan has been surprised by the reaction to the clip, since it was put on www.youtube.com as an afterthought. I asked him if he felt the ads had paid for themselves. He thought for a while and agreed that they had. I’m sure that there are a lot of folks in Canton that by now have heard of Zombo. They probably never would have stumbled across Zombo elsewhere. Kudos to Stan for thinking outside the box. I have a feeling that he will do just fine in this business.

When you have a chance, visit www.youtube.com. To view Roger Jennings’ videos, search for “rogerjennings” on YouTube. To view Stan Pixler’s videos, search for “Zombo Screen Printing” on YouTube.

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