My place is my brother’s bedroom in my old house in Pennsylvania. For some context after my brother left for college, I turned his room into my studio/print shop so I could make shirts for my brand. At this time I had a broken house with my parents separating I needed my own space to make things to get through my depression. There wasn’t much parental authority so I literally did whatever I wanted.
In my brother's bedroom, I was making the final adjustments to my tabletop screen printer and was ready for my first attempt at screen printing. For weeks I was gathering materials and planning out my approach to printing on shirts. I remember I was really excited to have everything finally set up and had this vision of successfully printing a bunch of fresh graphic shirts.
The room was set up perfectly for my workflow. Though it was a very small room at about 8 feet wide and 10 feet long which also included small closet space. I had two plastic folding tables on either side of the room with all my equipment and tools sitting on top. The one table had the screen printer and a spotlight as my exposure unit. The other table had a heat press and a sewing machine. I also used the closet as the dark room to let my screens dry after being coated and washed out.
I remember adding the last modifications to my screen printer by attaching weights to the main support to keep the equipment flat on the table. I grabbed one of my screens and attached it to the printer and began to practice my movements in how I would place the shirt on the pallet, pull the screen down, and push the squeegee against the mesh. I kept doing this for a while just sort of faking it until I felt confident enough to do the real thing. I knew at the time there were many variables in the process and each one could fuck me up and not to mention I had spent most of my money on this and didn’t want to waste it completely. I was doing this dance from table to table, mapping out how I would move the shirts and place things in the process. Between my practicing, I was on my computer watching these commercial printmakers on YouTube give tutorials on how to screen print. I literally watched these guys for hours analyzing their technique and tips to the process of printing on shirts. I was just making sure I didn’t miss a detail in my own process and made sure I had all the proper equipment to have a successful run.
I finished the screen printer in the morning and was doing my research/practice until the afternoon where I felt less confident but more like fuck it let's do this attitude. I had enough of the prep, I just needed to jump in.
I turned on all the lights in the room to maximize my vision and slid the first shirt onto the pallet, smoothing it out flat with my hand. I slabbed some ink on the screen and placed the squeegee at the bottom edge of the screen. Pulling down the squeegee for the first time I immediately felt any confidence I had slide away as I felt the thickness of the ink. I could barely pull the squeegee across the screen because I bought industrial grade fabric ink that requires a premix and I didn’t know that at the time. Struggling with the thickness of the ink I did manage to pull the ink across with one pass and I quickly lifted the screen to see the results and with great disappointment, I saw nothing on the shirt because I didn’t push down hard enough. So I quickly noted that and made a second pass putting more pressure down on the screen and then I lifted the screen again only to see the shirt stick to the screen and had to peel it off leaving a badly printed shirt. I did this multiple times with many shirts, just one bad print after the next. I remember feeling actual anger and frustration in myself for not getting it right. Each shirt just got worse and it began to suck even more as I ran out of shirts. I just kept trying until I had nothing left and I never had one successful print which made me feel somewhat hopeless. In this time I couldn’t understand what I was doing wrong which made this first experience that much more frustrating. The room was extremely hot at this point or it was just me that was sweating in this tiny bedroom.
The other huge problem with the industrial ink I had was that it was a UV ink which means it needs to be cured with heat to remain on the fabric permanently and can only be removed with toxic chemicals. So me not knowing that I was very careless in how I was using the ink. I got it on my hands and then I wiped it on my shirt and then I accidentally dropped it all over my rug and apparently my dog rolled in it. As I was frantically trying to clean myself I saw my dog running around the house with an ink spot on his side. I screamed and just paused for a moment of reflection and then continued to somehow get it together. It came out of my hands and my dog's hair thankfully but my shirt and rug were stained forever.
After all my preparation, failed printing, and ink disaster I felt truly defeated that day in my brother's old bedroom.