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Child's Play: Training the Next Generation of Makers

(February/March 2018) posted on Tue Feb 27, 2018

A fun, interactive workshop could be just what it takes to inspire the next wave of screen printers.

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By Andy MacDougall

Liz Murdoch and Daryle Mills, who run the Bears after school youth group at the Wachiay Friendship Centre on Vancouver Island, asked me about developing a program utilizing screen printing for their kids aged 7 to 12 years old. In four sessions, they wanted to familiarize the kids with the process, have them create some art, give them a chance to print their shirts, and in the end, leave them with a positive experience where they all felt good about what they made and left with a desire to do more.

The first session was familiarizing them with the actual print process. We set up two print stations, each with a cute bear image – one to print on paper, the other on cloth. The explanation about art, film, and exposing and washing the screen went over their heads, but they were all eager to try once we pulled the first print and they saw the image appear. They started on paper, and once they mastered a print and flood stroke and got a nice print, they went to the second station to print on a fabric square.

The second and third sessions had to do with the creation of the art. Daryle is of Cree descent, a huge man with a big heart and a pocketful of stories, so the kids made a story circle and listened to his tale of a little mouse who went on a journey through the forest to the mountains, and along the way met various creatures including a frog who taught him to hop, a family of raccoons, a bunch of fat mice who watched video games, and an eagle who ate the mouse, but magically transformed into an eagle-like flying mouse. The kids were given the challenge of drawing characters from the story on half sheets of paper with black markers we provided. Our artist, Rowan Helliwell, showed the kids how to sketch their character first with pencil, and then ink it in with the markers. We used medium-weight markers in order to ensure decent line width – more on that in a bit.

We asked the kids to write their names on another sheet of paper. During the third session, the story was repeated to the kids, but this time they were much more involved, elaborating on sections of the story with their own versions of what the individual characters did. What amazed us was how without prompting or suggestions, the group managed to independently draw all the characters from the story. (We also needed trees.) By the end of the third class, we had all the characters and trees we would need to create an image about the story.

Before the last class, we ordered white shirts. Rowan scanned all the drawings, created a storyboard, and started populating the image with the characters and the trees. We knew each image would shrink considerably, so using the thicker markers when the kids drew the images ensured the line widths remained printable. The design for the back of the shirt included all their signatures.

The kids were pretty excited when they saw the final design illustrating the story on the screen. They picked up their shirts and stood in line to print. With a little help (extra squeegee pressure for some, and a stepstool for others), every kid was able to print their own shirt. Once they came out of the dryer, the kids grabbed a set of fabric markers and went to work coloring in their shirts. The kids loved seeing their individual drawings come to life as part of a bigger picture, on a shirt they could proudly wear and tell their friends and family, “I made that!”

And this is why you take the time to get involved. This is where young screen printers and graphic designers come from.

Read more Andy MacDougall's Shop Talk or check out the Screen Printing February/March 2018 digital ediiton.


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