Screen Printing Coming to Alchemy Intiative

Growing up my family hand screen printed and sold The Dolphin Studio Calendar which was designed to put money in the bank for college for me and my sisters.  2010 is the 39th (or maybe it is the 38th) year of calendar production.  Mom and Dad are 80 and after all these years have decided to relinguish calendar production to me and my sister Sofie.  Beginning for the 2009 calendar we subbed out the actual printing to an old family friend, John Ahlen, who has an immaculate screen printing studio here in Pittsfield. Sofie and I have taken care of collating, wrapping, boxing, marketing, selling and shipping for the last two years.

Much to our chagrin John Ahlen would like to retire after printing the 2010 calendar.  (Which we finished yesterday!)  I have spent a lot of time this summer apprenticing in John's studio in the hope that I can learn the process well enough to print the 2011 calendar in my studio with equipment from my Dad and John Ahlen's studios.  About a month ago I realized that the guy is a true master of his trade and that it would take me a bigger time investment to get it all together to make a high quality, calendar of the caliber Dolphin Studio customers have become accustomed.  YIKES!

First off I need to learn about water based, environmentally safe paints, solvents, emulsions etc.  Mom and Dad work super old-school hand cutting stencils with Ruby-Lith film and a make-shift vacuum table.  John Ahlen exposes photo emulsion to make screens which saves lots of time and reduces the range of expertise demanded by this crazy job I have taken on.  He also works old-school with all oil based paints, thinners, cleaners, etc. (without much ventilation!).  I leave his place with pounding headaches and taste the smell for literally days.  John Ahlen is not really interested in changing the process he is getting excited to leave behind.  This prompted me to attend a screen printing workshop in Brooklyn last Sunday at 3rd Ward.  A place with an uncannily similar mission to Alchemy Initiative.  The day was well spent.  My teacher Phil, has a shop of his own called Sheepshead Design.  He simplified the process and detailed ink suppliers and attributes.  All really helpful information.

Brooklyn was inspiring all by itself.  The day was sunny, cool, and bright.  I walked for miles taking in the sunshine, grafitti, and alternative culture that abounds there.  Great to get out of the studio and Pittsfield just for the day!