I think the year was 1991. I had been working at Graphtec Screen Printing & Design in Irving, Texas for about a year. One day I showed up to work and the owner of the shop had a couple of passes to the Imprinted Sportswear Show and had signed me up for a couple of classes in Dallas. I was probably 19 at the time and never been to anything resembling a trade show. He wanted me to learn about my craft. the craft of custom t-shirt printing.
The day is a blur at this point but I remember seeing other people who did the same that I did on a daily basis. They spoke the language. I had never met anyone who was remotely familiar with screen printing outside of my shop, so this was a treat, and a little intimidating. There was so much to know that I had no idea about.
I remember taking a class on screen prep. I learned about the importance of screen tension and how roller frames can help keep your mesh nice and tight for a superior print. I learned about emulsion thickness and how the emulsion creates a barrier for the ink to gain thickness and create a crisp line on the garment. I learned a bit about burning halftones correctly.
There was a lot to take in that day, but I remember that was the first time that I felt like screen printing was a career and not just a job. I felt like I was joining a fraternity of craftsmen who appreciated the complexity of the job. It was really the first time that I felt like an adult in the real world, and not just a highschool kid wandering the world after highschool was done.
This past week I took Sarah to the Imprinted Sportswear Show in Ft. Worth. We had a great weekend away. We ate good food and walked around Ft. Worth taking in the sights. I had not been to the Imprinted Sportswear Show since 2008, so it was good to see all the vendors in one place. Sarah had never been to anything that focused on printing outside of our shop in Tulsa. She experienced something similar to what I experienced in 1991. She met people who spoke the language that we speak in the shop. It was funny to see her reaction, because when you work in screen printing you really feel like you speak a secret language.
We didn’t take any classes. We just looked at the new equipment and met shirt vendors. We bought a new dip tank for our screens to help improve efficiency when reclaiming screens and I saw something funny happen. Sarah was excited. Like, really excited… about a dip tank!
I started this shop about 3 years ago and it was MY thing. I was the one with the history and the secret lingo that no one else spoke. She came alongside to help me because she loves me. There wasn’t a really draw to the craft. Her help in the shop has been a help to me, not a pursuit driven by passion for printing or anything like that.
I saw something new this week. She’s developing her own affinity for the craft that we are engaged in on a daily basis. It’s fun for me to see. She’s learned so much helping me that she never knew that she’d learned just by being around custom t-shirt printing. Now someone else in the house speaks the same secret language, and it’s just so great.