Leaders in the field reveal what they think about the challenges ahead for the industry.
Whalen teaches the graphic design courses and helped originate the program along with Primo Designs, a local screen printing shop that provides instruction on the production side. He says that although the program is still in its infancy, they have already placed several students in jobs.
The program is also connecting with students in another way. While screen printing is facing stiff competition from digital on the commercial side, it still has great appeal in the artistic community. Whalen, who has a master’s degree in fine arts, became involved with it after leaving the world
of academia and set out to earn a living.
“I use to screen porcelain enamel on steel and we made murals that are still in the Seattle bus tunnel,” he says, noting that he held a series of jobs in design and printing throughout the country.
His career has come full circle. Whalen is back in school, teaching the next generation how to make a living in screen printing. Some of his art students are also discovering the printing process for the first time and are fascinated with the hands-on, mechanical nature or reproducing their work.
“Before the class I didn’t know anything about the process or how prevalent it is. What I’ve learned has really affected how I think about art and the end process of how it can be produced through screen printing. I really do like the medium a lot,” says Nino LoGrasso, one of Whalen’s students.
The future of screen printing will need young people like LoGrasso, as well as his classmates who go on to work in or start up screen printing shops of their own. They are the next generation. But it will also need the people who shared their insights for this story.
The veterans who have seen the industry change over the years, but more importantly, the visionaries who can see where it is headed and the innovators who can find themselves a productive place at the table. In that sense, the biggest challenge facing screen printing isn’t digital technologies or market forces, it is complacency. As long as there are people who recognize screen printing’s unique strengths and believe in its ability to satisfy customer’s needs, there will be a future.
“Despite the opposing view in certain quarters, screen printing will meet and exceed virtually anything thrown at it,” Young predicts.
Dan Naumovich is a freelance journalist and copywriter. He contributes stories to newspapers and trade publications, and also provides marketing copy to businesses and organizations. Before embarking on a career as a writer, Naumovich had spent ten years working in a family-owned screen-printing shop. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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