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Lessons From my Visit to a Screen Printing Studio

Business For Creatives Jan 22, 2016

how to screen print

There’s nothing I love more when travelling than tapping into the creativity of the local community and going to a class or workshop. Leather making in Italy was out of this world and gave me a hunger for travel that involves more doing and making – not just for the sake of the craft but for the opportunity to meet talented people. Which is why I was excited when Etsy invited me to visit one of their star sellers when I was in Byron Bay recently, as part of the launch of Etsy Resolution (I talked about it a little while ago here). If you’re not up to speed, Etsy Resolution is a free four week online bootcamp to guide new makers through the process of opening their Etsy Shop under the mentorship top sellers. All you need to know to turn a passion for making into a business!

I was super excited to visit the screen printing studio of Carla, who runs Bubbles at the Head, a store with the most amazing cushions and textiles. I loved every minute of exploring her studio (I am sooooo nosy!), and the lesson she gave me in the process of screen printing. Carla is passionate about hand made, Australian designs and showing people how they can screen print themselves and I felt so lucky to get a personal screen printing lesson. Read on for a few questions I put to her when I was there including how she got started, the process and the major lessons she’s learnt from running her own business. Here’s to exploring the spaces of more creating people in 2016.

How did you get started as a screen printer?

In my mid thirties I stopped in my tracks for a “sea change”. I was working in the catering industry for many years until I felt I wanted to explore the art-making world. When I left school it was always going to be art or food, food or art. I actually fell into food in my younger years, as there were many opportunities to find a job in the food industry.  I enrolled in a Visual Art Degree at Southern Cross University and explored my creative side and absolutely loved every moment of it. I was dabbling in Wearable art and costume at the time so screen printing for me was freedom in taking my designs further. My first screen printed fabric was to incorporate hand embroidery into the design; from there the love affair began.

Can you explain the screen printing process for us?

Sure! I’m all about sharing the process with other makers, in fact we hold workshops where we teach people all about this.

  1. Draw: I start by hand drawing my designs mainly with India ink and a glass calligraphy pen or brush. These are drawn directly onto paper.
  2. Transfer: Then we use a process not dissimilar to old school film developing to essentially expose the design onto the screen, so essentially the pattern is burned out of the screen allowing the paint to get through.
  3. Paint: After we cut the fabric to size, we lay the screen on top and paint the fabric by using a big squeege to push the paint through the design. We go over it a few times and then remove the screen to reveal the pattern. It’s a pretty good feeling to see the design laid down on fabric like that.
  4. Set: We set the design onto the fabric using a big iron so the paint doesn’t fade over time.
  5. Finish: One dry the fabric is then ready to be sewn into the final product, whether it be a cushion or napkin.

How has Etsy helped you to build your business?

Etsy has an incredibly supportive network through teams and fellow Etsy businesses. It really does have a sense of community with lots of information and stories about other peoples experiences, which after reading I didn’t feel so isolated and related to what others has to say. I have gradually built my shop and products up over the last two to three years with nearly all my wholesale inquiries coming through Etsy. I find a lot of retailers are looking for unique, handmade and locally made homewares for their business that sets them apart from the major labels.

What three important lessons do you wish you knew when you started?

  1. The most important lesson of running my own business is to find your passion. If you haven’t found your passion, it will find you. It may even change over time, but give it a go. If you have then nurture it, know it, develop it.
  2. All the self-doubt and the unknown will dissipate over time with experience. Experience is everything and in the meantime no amount of reassurance will help. Other’s may say it’s going to be OK, but until you live and breath your business you will feel unsure of your journey. That’s ok! Take small steps at first, leap if you must, it all comes down to experience.
  3. Your brand needs to be consistent. To build a following and trust with your audience, consistency is the key. You can build your brand by keeping your product, images and information tied together via connections through blog posts, Face book, Instagram, website and what you present to the public as in Markets, Pop-up Shops and retail.

Thanks Carla! If you’re pondering starting a business based on your making or craft, think about signing up to Etsy Resolutions, because more is more when it comes to knowledge right? And you just might meet a few nice people too. Oh and make sure you check out those amazing cushions… asap!

This post is in collaboration with Etsy. Photos by me.

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