Silkscreen Printing Creates First-Year Scholarship

Jordan Sutherland starts the silkscreen process on a T-shirt

Orders are streaming in to have Caledonia High School art students custom print logos on T-shirts, hoodies and crewnecks using a printing technique that started in China more than 1,000 years ago.

Consequently, students are learning how to juggle a variety of projects while sharpening their computer, hand drawing, people and time management skills.

And for the first time, a college-bound senior will receive a $1,000 scholarship.

Learning how the business and artistic aspects work together is a win-win opportunity for senior Nick Adams.

It’s More Real-World

“It’s kind of a little more real-world than the rest of the school, because we’re getting real orders,” Nick said.

The printing orders are made possible because of a silkscreen printer the school district purchased after art students won a video contest three years ago sponsored by the Right Place MMTC-West Manufacturers Council.

The silkscreen printer, kept in a small room in the art department, is where independent study students learn to press ink through a stencil onto a taut mesh or “screen,” which then transfers bold lettering and graphic designs onto the desired material, such as T-shirts, posters and hoodies.

The printing method is traced back to China during the Song Dynasty (960–1279 AD), and was later adapted by other Asian countries like Japan and improved upon by creating newer methods.

After the ink dries, students hand fold the clothes and then see to it the product is delivered to customers, which range from local businesses to various school clubs, musicals and events within the district.

The business end of the screen printing operation includes ensuring customers are happy with their orders, junior Jacqueline Mercier said. She recently went to the Essential Bean Coffee Shop to ensure the owner was satisfied with the T-shirts he ordered.

“It’s more than the typical class work,” Jacqueline said. “We’re learning management, organization and people skills.”

The silkscreen workload sometimes requires additional students to help fill the orders.

“When things get crazy, we’ll pull people in,” said art teacher Mike Cornell. “We’re happy to do workshops to get the orders done.”

Pride Courses Through

Business has been so brisk that proceeds have made it possible for the Caledonia chapter of the National Arts Honor Society to confer for the first time a $1,000 college scholarship to a graduating senior who intends to study art. The first student’s name will be announced in May.

That achievement produces a certain level of pride that courses throughout the art department.

“It’s a good opportunity for the art department to make money and have their own scholarship,” senior Jordan Sutherland said.

More Hands On

In a world of desktop publishing, screen printing is more hands on than clicking on a computer mouse to create a design. That active participation often fills a large space in students’ imaginations.

“Sometimes we hand draw the logos and then scan them as high resolution images,” said sophomore Katie Bork, who next school year will become president of the Caledonia chapter of the National Arts Honor Society.

Kids seem to like silkscreening’s retro vibe, Cornell said.

“It’s back to when signs were hand painted,” he said. “There was a big push toward the tech stuff, and we feel things are moving back to more hands on.”

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Caledonia High School Art

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