User login

Documenting the Screen Scene: ‘A History of Screen Printing’

(August 2013) posted on Sat Nov 02, 2013

New book explores how an art evolved into an industry.

click an image below to view slideshow

By Andy MacDougall

The “Selectasine Process,” a patented version of screenprinting, was the first to come with instruction books, supplies, and even automated presses back in the 1920s. Through aggressive salesmanship to printers, sign shops, and manufacturing companies, the knowledge spread. Due to low startup costs compared to other printing processes, plus an adaptability to an ever widening range of substrates and products, silk-screen printing caught on. Selectasine eventually fell by the wayside, but not before the process had been adapted worldwide – all in a few short years. Many of the families that helped Lengwiler in his research found old photos and diaries and made them available for inclusion in the book (and in some cases, Lengwiler was able to provide descendants new information about their relatives).

It’s these connections being lost to the past that spurred the author to start his research in 1998. As a young screenprinter in Switzerland, Lengwiler worked for a man who himself had worked for Hans Casper Ulrich in the 1940s, and told screenprinting adventure stories from the “good old days.” Ulrich, an artist and trained lithographer, had gone to the USA in the 1920s on behalf of the Swiss bolting cloth industry, who wanted to know why a small group of artists, signshops, and manufacturers in the US were buying up ever increasing amounts of their silk fabrics mostly used in flour mills for sifting. Ulrich learned the basics from the Americans, kept copious notes, then brought the process back to Europe and continued to refine it, and then spread it through supply company Serico, which is still in business today.

Today, of course, screen printing is used in a variety of markets and industries – from high-tech manufacturing sectors like the solar and fuel cell industries and the electronic products industry to the automotive industry, medical, glass and ceramic applications, and much more. The list is ever expanding, and Lengwiler has rescued this largely forgotten and rapidly disappearing history of the birth of the printing process we all now use.

Some of the book’s chapters include: 19th- and 20th-century stenciling techniques; origins of the process in the USA; how it spread from the USA to Europe; technical developments; World War II; specialty applications; a list of patents; and much more. The hardcover book “weighs in” at 6 pounds and comprises more than 500 pages, measuring 12.2 x 9.8 x 4 inches.

Richard S. Field, retired professor at Yale and a noted author of many books on art and biographies of artists writes, “What a wonderful, much needed, and long overdue book this is….”

For some peeks inside History of Screen Printing – How an Art Evolved Into an Industry, visit this facebook page.

The book is now available from the ST Media bookstore. Click here for purchase. 


Did you enjoy this article? Click here to subscribe to the magazine.