I've been in screen printing for 40 years. Wow, sounds like a long time if you say it out loud, but it went by like a Lamborghini.
Most people, when they get their first actual job, don't think its going to be what they do for the rest of their lives. I certainly didn't. In 1977, my first job out of high school, through a friend, was at “National Sports Sales / Red Diamond Co.” in Belleville, NJ for Mark Tartaglia. My job was cleaning screens and squeegees in a Varsol tank for minimum wage, which I think was about $3.35 an hour at the time. Needless to say, I learned quickly that the real money was in learning to pull a squeegee instead of washing them, so I watched and I learned.
At the time, screen printing was pretty young, mostly holding a screen in one hand and a squeegee in the other and walking along a row of "Jigs" (platens) printing one color designs without a flash. Numbers were in little individual box screens and done pretty much the same way. I can vaguely remember printing 80,000 aprons that way, …."I mind my P's and Q's" for A&P Food Stores. I was even there the day they brought in the first Vastex Rotary printer! 4 colors and it took only one person to load, unload and print!
Like most screen printers I know, I am also a musician. I'd like to know the percentage of screen printers who are, the number must be astronomical. I moved around a lot, so life took me to south Jersey where I got a job working for Bill Kramer at "The Lettermen" in Brick, New Jersey and printed on a similar Vastex manual until the day they brought in the first Precision electric 6 color Automatic! I was pretty amazed!
At that time, I left screenprinting for a year or so to pursue my music career and got married and had my first son. So, back to screen printing in Freehold, New Jersey for Ken Krellin at “KZI”. I was promptly made production manager and we ran 4 presses. An Old Advance machine, 2 precision electrics, a 4 and 6 color and a 6 color Precision Hydrolic which leaked like an old tin can.
I left there after a few years as again my music career took me away. At this time I answered an ad for someone looking for a working partner in a screen print shop about a mile from my house. A nice older couple who wanted an experienced person to run their small mom and pop shop. So I became a partner in “TNT's” in Union Beach, New Jersey for about a year...that didn't work out so well but from that experience I learned that sometimes when things sound too good to be true, they usually are.
I went back again to printing though, this time to "American Imprints" in Red Bank, New Jersey and at the time, I was also working nights for Jim Smith at "J&S Sporting Apparel" in Belford, New Jersey where I learned an exciting new program 'Corel Draw' and became pretty proficient at vector art creation. We created our our line of t-shirts that we called “Smittee Sez”.
When my wife and I had our second son, I of course looked for better screen printing employment, but all I could find was 3rd shift embroidery for Alan Geber at Screened Images in Lakewood, New Jersey. My shift ended as the screen print crew came in at 8 am and I worked up a conversation with the production manager about letting me stay a few days a week after my shift ended and manual screen print. I soon ended up running their screen department, stretching Newman roller frames and shooting screens for about a year. When the manager decided to leave, I again ended up in the Production Manager role, running 2 manuals and 2 TAS 8 color automatic presses. At Screened images we did quite a lot of printing for HBO and NBC and I worked closely with Marc from 'Ecko' on some of his first T shirt designs.
After about 2 years, the business moved from Lakewood to East Brunswick, New Jersey and I moved with it, setting up what was, to me, a very large shop. 2 Manuals and 5 Automatics. 2 - 14 color M&R Formulas, 2 - M & R Gauntlets and one of the 8 color TAS machines from Lakewood. We printed a lot of designs for Ecko and worked extensively with high density inks, reflectives, gel and suede inks. We did quite lot of experimenting at the time and I came up with my own way of printing gels and sugar before it became popular. I saw the place change hands, partners came and went and I made it a point to learn how to do color separations in Adobe Photoshop in my spare time. So after many years on the print floor, I moved to the office as a supervisor of Screen Print and of the Art Dept. I loved to experiment and at that time I came up with my own way of printing 4 color process on dark garments. We were one of the only ones doing that at the time.
I enjoyed that job for 23 years and I won't go into the details except to say that being bought up by a big corporation and working for years to gain better pay and status, somehow puts you in the precarious position of being the guy that makes too much when the business begins to fail and the big corporation is lightening the load. Nuff said.
Not to worry though, I was the happiest guy in the world 5 minutes after I left for the last time!! Now I have my own freelance color separation and graphic art business and with all the contacts, acquaintances and friends I have in the business, I'm doing pretty well :)
Oh...and my Crosby Stills Nash and Young tribute band “CSNsongs”, tours theaters across the USA.
ASPA Member - PucciGraphics
Tom's River, New Jersey
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