I know you must be thinking- how can I learn silkscreen in just one night and be printing within 2 hours? The way I learned silkscreen was in art school, and we had a vacuum sealed light table, we would emulsify the screens, expose the screens, wash them out with a power washer in the work room- it was a big ordeal. I loved silkscreen so much that when I had my first clothing line in my 20’s I set up a darkroom in my house, and went through the lengthy diy process to get to printing. It was very expensive, not just in cost, but the space it took up in my studio!
Finally, I went to Penland School of Craft for a dye intensive, and my teacher Peg pulled me aside. “Andrea, have you heard of a thermofax machine? We use it all the time, and I think you will love it!” A thermofax machine prints off silkscreen mesh in a minute. Its an old transparency maker, refurbished from the 70’s, and you have to buy a special mesh to run it through the machine to make your image. You are limited in size- with silkscreen as I described above, sometimes I was working on screens that were 5 foot wide! With thermofax, you can do 8.5 X 11 or smaller. Still, even with a size limitation, I have used this tool to make all of my textiles for my runway shows over the years.
Here’s what you can do too!
When you learn this process there are so many great things you can do next. Here are a few ideas that you can explore in class with me, and make them yourself that night.
1. T-shirts and custom clothes
When Paul and I first met, he came to my studio to see what I was working on. He went into my kitchen, and saw the thermofax, and could not believe what he had found. When he was in high school, Paul learned silkscreen on the theromfax. It was so quick and easy that he imagined after graduation that he would get into t-shirt design and sales. When he took a job in a silkscreen business, he was surprised to find an extensive process that was hot, labor intensive, and exhausting. Where was the thermofax?! Fast forward, he now has one in his home because he married me, and Paul has put this thing to use! He has designed hilarious shirts and customized his clothing that he sews. For him, its in the details. And its always hilarious when we go to out with him wearing his face t-shirt. People love that shirt and its always a conversation starter.
2. Personal Branding
I use the thermofax to make my own labels for Fair Fit. That lets me sew my tag right into my clothes, and I like that I can change up the color and print them on demand and at minimum quantities. Paul loves putting his tag on his designs too, and I’ve had a few other designers make their own labels in class with me.
For the local organic dog treat company, Marsh Dog, I used the thermofax to print their dog and site on a canvas dog toy. Marsh dog gave these disks as a free gift for customers during the Earth Day celebration in Baton Rouge this Spring.
3. Home Interiors
With thermofax, you can print your own textiles. Love those cute pillows with quotes on them? This is easy to make with a thermofax machine. You can also make your own patterns and prints for special quilts and patchwork projects. I go into printing for home interiors much more in depth in the Print and Patch posts that are listed below. You can check out how I made avant guard textiles and wall coverings for my home and studio, and some pillow ideas too.
4. Drawing and ILLUSTRATION
Paul has a sketchbook full of drawings and fashion illustrations. Every once in a while, he likes to select an image from his book and make a screen. He prints them onto t-tshirts and on cloth. These patches are often sewn into his accessories that he makes, or given to friends as sort of a cloth business card. This is a really great way that silkscreen can help you print your image and get it seen in the world. And once you make a screen, you can print your drawing in any color that you want.
Below are examples of student work in progress from our last silkscreen workshop. A lot of silkscreen enthusiasts like to layer patterns and once they print in one color, go back over in a second color to add complexity.
These are just a few ideas. I will follow up next week with more custom design ideas that you can accomplish with this fast and fun method.