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From Panhead Harleys to Process Color: The Story Behind Anderson Studio

(January 2008) posted on Tue Jan 22, 2008

What happened when a passion for art, music, and motorcycles collided with an interest in screen printing? Anderson Studio was born. Learn about the shop's history and how it became known around the world for its garment work.

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By Ben P. Rosenfield

Stretching T-shirts over wooden crates, using flock adhesives instead of ink, eyeballing registration—it was the early 1970s, and Andy Anderson had decided to become a garment screen printer. Off-contact and screen tension had yet to become part of his vocabulary, and the thrill he got from printing overtook any momentary urge he may have had to learn the accepted methods of apparel decoration or score the right equipment for the job.

Back then, Anderson would print 300 shirts just to get 100 that were good enough to sell. So how did he manage to become an internationally renowned garment screen printer who would win more than 20 major awards for his work? It all started with Harley-Davidson motorcycles.


Artistic roots

Anderson’s interest in screen printing stemmed from his involvement in the arts. A self-described hands-on kind of guy, Anderson spent four years at art school studying illustration, design, and advertising art. He also enjoyed building custom Harleys and airbrushing. He initially used his airbrushing techniques to decorate garments (Figure 1)  and started with enamel paints. His first real screenprinting gig came from a motorcycle shop that wanted Harley-Davidson T-shirts. The prints were made without the use of a conventional garment press and textile dryer, and some of the techniques he used would put the fear in the owner of today’s high-tech, high-volume garment shop.

“Back then, Harley wasn’t concerned about trademark infringement, so anybody could do their logo. So I drew up a design and printed it for the shop,” Anderson recalls. “I had a friend helping me, and he would hold screens down, and I would manipulate the shirt underneath the screen to get it back in register after I had printed one of the colors until we got all the way to the black outline. There were some pretty good ones. We were stretching shirts onto old wooden Coke crates. My biggest problem was the fact that the ink was drying in the screen by the time I’d get it reregistered—and getting intoxicated from smelling all the solvents from cleaning the screens.


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