My Latest Obsession: Screen Printing

I have spent months AND MONTHS thinking about screen printing and possibly trying it out, but I shied away from it because of the upfront cost and learning curve, not to mention the mountain of supplies that would inevitably end up stock-piled in my house. There’s a TON of stuff out there and it was all just completely overwhelming.

On the flip side, hiring someone else to do your printing is also quite an investment (especially if you’re ordering in small quantities – you end up paying more per unit) and stuff just takes longer (emailing back and forth, waiting for your order to be complete and being nervous the whole time about whether or not it’ll come out the way you envisioned.)

I ultimately decided that I want to move toward screening my own stuff, and if you follow my SoPupuka account on Instagram, I’ve been sharing a little bit of what I’m doing. And now I’m going to recycle those exact same Instagram pics (sorry but those are the ONLY pics I took of this whole process).

To get the ball rolling, I ended up purchasing what looked like the easiest possible screen printing kit – EZ ScreenPrint. It totally lives up to its’ name. It’s virtually foolproof and I’ve made several screens successfully already.

As I understand it, creating a traditional screen goes something like this:

1) You start with a silk mesh stapled to a wooden frame.

2) You squeegee emulsion fluid to the screen and let it dry. It has to be THE RIGHT amount. This fluid is light sensitive.

3) You print your design in black onto a transparency (whatever’s in black is where the ink will go through).

4)  You put the transparency onto your screen and expose it in direct sunlight (exposure time varies)

5) You take your screen inside, remove the transparency and rinse your screen in water. The emulsion that was not exposed to the sun (because your design was blocking it) will rinse off, leaving the bare screen, and the areas that were exposed to the sun will have hardened emulsion that prevents any ink from passing through.

6) After everything dries you print.

Did I mention that if you have a multi-color design you need to create a screen for each color? Ya. It’s involved.

EZ ScreenPrint takes out a few of the steps. The process goes like this:IMG_4223

1) Print design onto transparency.

2) Places it on a clear plastic plate (provided)

3) Take your screen (which already has the perfect amount of dried emulsion on it) and place it over your transparency).

4) Place a black board (provided) over the screen and clip everything together with binder clips (provided)

5) Expose for 1 minute in direct sunlight.

6) Soak for 15 minutes, rinse emulsion off, let it dry in the sun again, tape it to a plastic frame (not provided – I had to buy it separately and didn’t realize it until I was ready to print) and print.

So basically, the process is shortened drastically by the fact that the screens come with emulsion already on it. All I have to do is print my design and expose it, then rinse and dry and voila! I have a screen ready to go, reusable for as long as I want – provided that I take really good care of the screens.

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I’m still of course, getting used to the printing technique. I have one tiny bottle of screen printing ink and I obviously get the best results from that. This print above was made with acrylic paint, and it’s a little too runny. Because the screen is flooded with paint and the paint drawn down with a squeegee, it’s important to have paint that is the right consistency so it fits through the mesh but doesn’t run everywhere like it did in this print. See the strokes from the squeegee? Too much paint, and too runny. Still, I’m completely stoked that this printing method is now within reach. I’m going to try this particular design on hats, shirts and tote bags.

I gotta say though, what REALLY excites me about screen printing is the potential to design and create my own fabric. I don’t want to make whole garments with it, just small little pieces like zippered pouches. Today I created a screen using this lokelani design (the photo below is just a small sample screen). Lokelani is a Hawaiian variety of rose, and I’m so excited to use this design in small zippered pouches. Assuming that I enjoy this process (especially the sewing) this will be the first of several designs. IMG_4268

After being so much into digital stuff and not actually making or printing stuff with ink, making screens and working with actual paint over the last few days has been really refreshing, and addicting. I can’t wait to have some final products made. I’m hoping that soon I’ll be able to do all my own printing for my business. This could either be really awesome, or really exhausting and time consuming and not sustainable. 72 hours in, it’s still really awesome.

Behind the Scenes: Product Photoshoot

Since I just re-vamped the listings at SoPupuka, I thought I’d share a little bit about the product photoshoot because my method changed quite drastically.

This time I tried something different. I used the wooden box and easel my Dad made for me as my backdrop. I love the wood grain for some interest while still keeping things clean and simple. The deep color also contrasts well with my products. Normally, product photoshoots (especially for notecards) involved me hunting for a cool background, putting the card on the background, standing above it and taking a picture from above. It worked fine, but there was really no depth of field and so images were a little flat. This time I decided to stand my cards up (stand everything up really) and place the camera in front of the items rather than photographing from above. This proved challenging, until I made this amazing discovery:

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One of the unexpected goodies that came with my camera was a Wu-1a Wireless Mobile Adapter (horrible name, I know) – a tiny device that plugs into the camera and creates a small wifi signal.  I downloaded the free companion app and made sure my phone was on that wifi signal. This allows the camera to communicate with my smartphone. When I open up the app, there are two options: view photos and take photos. At first, I had only been using the app to view and download the photos to my iPhone (I was plenty impressed with that, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.) When I started taking product photos, I decided to try using the “take photos” option. When I tapped that button, it took me to a window with a LIVE VIEW of the subject. I could place the object exactly where I wanted it to be by looking at my phone. Here’s a screenshot of what I see on my phone. As you can see, my hand is in there moving the card around. I see all that happening in real time.

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I could also change the zoom and the focus on the camera and see the result very clearly on my phone’s retina display. The app also has a remote trigger, and once the photo is taken it shows me a preview and downloads it to the phone which automatically gets sent to my computer via Photostream.

This made things SO MUCH EASIER. It meant I didn’t have to be behind the camera. The wooden box I was using wasn’t very tall. I had the camera on another box of similar size a few feet away so if I wanted to take pictures the old fashioned way, it meant I’d have to be lying on the ground. Could I have put everything on a table? Yes, but it was really humbug to break it out. Each time I wanted to photograph another product, I’d have to get up, walk over to the product, switch the product, walk back to the camera, lie down on the floor, try to get it into focus and take a picture, only to download it to my computer and realize that while it looked ok in the camera preview, it actually wasn’t that great. MAJOR HEADACHE.

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But with this magic little device, I could sit comfortably in between the camera and the subject, make sure it’s positioned perfectly and in focus by looking at my phone, making adjustments to the camera or the product simply by reaching over and moving it, and then take the picture without touching the camera. MAGIC.

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Needless to say, a part of my work that was kind of a pain is now a lot more fun. With better results. WIN!

Photoshoot at Kealia

One of our favorite hangouts on Maui is the Kealia Boardwalk. We just had to go back and check it out again, and I just had to break out the big camera for some fun photography practice. It’s getting easier for me to get shots I like, though sometimes I forget that what I see in the viewfinder isn’t always what ends up being captured. More than a few times I’ll be snapping away, completely forgetting to check the preview to make sure the settings are correct. Oh well. Doesn’t Keola look like an awesome single dad? Wish I wasn’t behind the camera in these pics.

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P.S. SoPupuka is back on Instagram!

Around Here

It’s been a few days since we returned from Maui. It’s taken us that long to get back into the swing of things but we’re well on our way to Normal Life, especially here on the blog. Maui was wonderful in so many ways. We saw friends, enjoyed good food, celebrated our anniversary with a night a Lahaina (the first time EVER we’ve both been away from our kids overnight!!), explored new beaches, and hung out with the family.

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It was wonderfully refreshing, and I miss it, but now I’m ready to get back on the horse. I’ve had so many ideas spinning in my head and this post is mostly a brain dump for those new ideas.

Thanks to my new camera, I re-vamped SoPupuka.com, re-photographing and listing everything. I added some new Mahalo cards and a some Honi Honi decals (I have very few of those and will probably need more) so now that’s up and running. It’s not perfect but it’s better and I’m done endlessly tweaking things.

I want to add a few new trucker hats to the mix, some new decals and some tote bags. No ETA yet, but that’s in the works, along with a new @sopupuka Instagram. I’ve decided that’s my platform of choice for the shop and so that’ll be up and running in the next few days.

I have another crazy idea that I’m working on. I could either really love it, or really hate it, but since it’s been something that hasn’t left my mind for along time I think I’m gonna move on it. There’s no harm in trying it out, and I’ve learned that as far as my business goes, there’s no reason I can’t try new things. I used to think that once you start a business, you’re obligated to do whatever it is you started out doing FOREVER, but in looking at the examples of other entrepreneurs, that hardly seems to be the case, and I feel an immense freedom now at the ability to do whatever is speaking to me at any given moment.

BONUS: This podcast episode about thinking productively about your passions falls exactly in line with what I’ve been thinking about lately.

I Got a Big Girl Camera!

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Photos on this blog are about to get a whole lot better (and posts will likely get a lot more photo heavy) because I just picked myself up my first DSLR!!! It’s a Nikon D3300. I snagged mine at Costco. It came with two lenses, a nice carrying case, neckstrap, a 16gb SD card and an instructional DVD. Getting all of that stuff at once sold me – especially the bag which I knew I would need it right away (being surrounded by cute but lively short people and all).

Obviously these cameras has a pretty steep learning curve. Just to give you an idea, I took 294 pictures on my first day alone – in less than an hour. Of those 294 pictures, I kept 19. Of those 19, 9 are making it into this post. I hope to improve that ratio.

Not all of the photos I deleted were bad. A lot of them were pictures of the same flower with different settings. I didn’t think you needed to see 75 versions of the same flower. You’re welcome.

Before I started shooting, I read this post called The Exposure Triangle and then these posts on ISO, aperture, and shutter speed and that gave me a GREAT foundation. Before buying this camera I did a lot of reading about these things but it was impossible to grasp without having a camera in my hand (especially ISO and aperture.). After reading these posts and learning how these three things affect the image, I started to be able to predict what certain settings would produce and even better, I was able to start adjusting the settings so I could get the picture I wanted. SO FREAKING COOL! I’m still getting used to the controls of course, and all that will come with practice, but I’m just so happy to have a camera that is so much better at capturing what I see. I love my iPhone, but a lot of the time it falls short my vision for the image.

So without further ado, here’s the best of what I captured in my first “photo shoot.” All photos were taken at the same time of day (except for the last one – I wanted to see if I could get a good low-light shot at night and I did!) and all are un-edited. My goal is to get the best possible shot without needing Photoshop (I guess that’s every photographers’ goal but I’m gonna try to be a real stickler about this for myself.) You can really see how different settings affect the photo. I played a lot with the different exposure settings and focus and I’m pretty happy with the way these turned out. Obviously, I have a lot to learn but I’m so glad I started.

This really taught me something – you can only learn so much by reading. Eventually, you just have to jump in with two feet and DO IT.

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The Gardens at ‘Īao Valley

One thing that I’m coming to understand about myself is that I LOVE taking pictures. I love the challenge of seeing something interesting and trying to capture it with a camera. Sometimes I’m successful, and sometimes…not so much, but I love experimenting with different angles and lighting. I recognized this the other day, when we went to ʻĪao Valley and I went just a little crazy with the camera. It is SO GORGEOUS there and I just had to take pictures of everything.

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Truth be told, we didnʻt actually go all the way in to the valley. We stayed in the park area where there are lots of pavilions. Itʻs a popular spot for locals to have parties. Thereʻs nothing special about the pavilions, but the surrounding gardens are amazing. The grounds are divided into different sections and each section represents a different country from which immigrants came to Hawaii. Japan, China, the Philippines and Portugal are the most prominent. Stepping into each area is like stepping into a new world. Thereʻs a traditional house with a surrounding garden in each area. I enjoyed the challenge of trying to exclude the parking lot and cars and other background objects that donʻt belong, so it feels like you’re completely immersed in that cultural world.

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I’m sad I didn’t get more pictures of the Japanese house. I just love the minimalist design aesthetic. So calming. Doesn’t it feel like The Last Samurai?

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The Chinese house was much more ornate but I just loved the lines in the architecture and the bold color choices. Keola took that pano and I love it. It’s so striking. I don’t think I’ll decorate like this any time soon, but there’s a lot to draw on from a graphics standpoint.

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I fell completely in love with the Portuguese garden. I guess I’m kind of a sucker for European design. I loved all the white walls with the brown accents, the columns perfectly framing the statue of Mary in the garden.  The tile surrounding the door is amazing and the garden…so full of life and color, offsetting the white statue. I stayed and photographed this area for a while. I couldn’t get enough, but everyone else sure did. Leo was getting antsy and she was in the carrier, which made it REALLY hard to get decent photos. Photography 101: Don’t carry a baby while you’re trying to take pictures.

Keola told me that even though he spent his childhood playing in these gardens, he never understood what they represented. I couldn’t help feeling a little sad as I walked through them, thinking about all the people who left their homes and families to try to make a life in a completely foreign place. Today the internet makes moving relatively easy. There’s so much we can learn about a place before going there, but these people stepped into complete darkness with no clue what their lives would look like when they arrived, and not knowing if they would ever return to their homeland. Many did not, and that makes my heart ache a little. It also made me grateful. Being Hawaiian, Japanese, Chinese and German, I wouldn’t be here if my ancestors didn’t take that leap of faith. But they did, and they made Hawai’i their home, and pieced together new families, a new language and a new culture.

Someday Iʻd like to go back to my other homelands – homelands I know almost nothing about, partly to learn more deeply about where I came from, but after this day, I feel the need to do it to (in a way) bring my ancestors home.