03/15/10 — T-shirts of the rainbow

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T-shirts of the rainbow

By Laura Collins
Published in News on March 15, 2010 1:46 PM

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Laura Collins, right, and Wes Boyd, owner of Screen It, spread ink on a silk screen to print a new shirt design at the Fedelon Trail business.

The Job: T-shirt maker

The Company: Screen It

The Location: Goldsboro

It's possible I might never change my clothes again.

The team at Screen It helped me design and make The Best T-shirt Ever. It's a hot pink shirt with the Workin' It icon on the front and "Reporter for hire" on the back.

I told owner Wes Boyd he should probably just go ahead and make hundreds of the shirts to prepare for the demand that's headed his way.

I'm pretty sure the design was deleted before I even left. On the upside, that makes mine a one-of-a-kind original, which just increases its value that much more.

My first shot at the shirt was not all smooth screening though. Apparently my attention to detail was not up to par.

"OK Laura, if you're wearing the shirt and it looks like the girl is looking back up at you, you put her on upside down," Boyd said.

"Sorry, I was just really excited," I said and set aside what had just become my "practice" shirt.

Printing the shirts is one of the last steps of the process. It starts with a design, which is where Nikki Davis comes into play. Ms. Davis can put what people are envisioning onto paper. She said Screen It prides itself in thinking out of the box and just looking around the store at the different designs, it's clear that's true. While they also do the traditional-looking shirts, given a little artistic leeway, Ms. Davis can come up with something spectacular.

Right off the bat, I knew I wouldn't be good at her job. Not only am I not artistic, sometimes my patience level runs a little low. I saw a crayon-drawn picture of something someone gave her to base her design on. To me it looked like a blob.

"Sometimes, this is what I have to work with," she said.

"What team are they, the Broccolis?" I asked.

"I think that's a torch," she said.

In the end though, she makes what originally looked like Team Broccoli into exactly what the customer wanted.

From there, the design is separated out by color and each color is printed on paper vellum. Each piece of vellum is then matched with a screen and put under lamps so the image is transferred to the screen. This is where Boyd's explanation of the process gets a little sticky.

"The screens have a different number of mesh counts. As the number on the screen gets higher, the mesh count gets higher and the higher the number the more detail is shown. The only thing you have to know is the higher the viscosity of the ink, the less it likes to push through," he "explained."

I gave my mind a little time to process what I'd just heard. "I literally don't have any idea what you just said to me."

Showing me the process worked a little better than just telling me about it. I also realized exactly how much is involved in making just one shirt. I've bought iron on letters before and thought the process would be similar. It's not even close. After the screens are finished, it's finally time to add ink to the shirts.

Each color in the design goes on separately. The process can be tedious, even for the experienced production assistant Patrick Schultze. He was working on a batch of shirts that used five colors.

"I'm still going to be doing this when Jesus comes back," he said.

While the job was entertaining, I found the atmosphere at Screen It the most entertaining. Boyd has somehow managed to be both extremely laid-back, but also have an efficient, highly productive business.

"Our whole idea is to create relevant massages in a cool, new way," he said. "We started four years ago with no customers and no salesperson. We've been really blessed since then."

If they need help handling the deluge of people wanting Working It T-shirts, I told them I am available.

We will see if they call.