We created The Art Press in 2008, a couple years after starting Vardagen. We were receiving a lot of requests to design and print for other people after seeing our work. We had struggled ourselves to find a screen printer that could meet our needs so we wanted to provide our services to others as well.
From our perspective most screen printers are focused on the sports and promotional industries because that's the biggest chunk of the screen printing market. However, we were looking for a more creative shop that would have the passion to get the textures, colors and ink feel perfected. Since we couldn't find it, we set out to build it ourselves. We wanted to offer softer prints that were embedded in the garments so we started experimenting with inks. After a lot of trial and error, we finally came up with some formulas that gave us the look and colors we wanted.
We worked in a garage for the first few years, and since we couldn't afford an automatic press in the early days, we hand-printed everything on a manual press. Once we started getting larger orders we "upgraded" to a semi-auto flatbed press. I found this old Filbar press in Chicago and bought it for seven hundred dollars. This press was intended for paper stock but we re-engineered it to work for us for a while so we could save up for the equipment we wanted.
Screen printing was more than a business to us, it was a creative outlet, a way to spend time with family and friends, and a way to make cool stuff for people. Night after night we would print til the wee hours with music blasting and friends dropping in randomly to join in on the fun.
In 2011 I visited a press manufacturer to get an idea of what a press would cost and to see if he had any deals available. After chatting it up with this guy for a while I knew a new press was still out of the equation. I wanted to pay cash and a new one would be over $40k. Before I left his shop I noticed what appeared to be a disassembled press on his dock. He said he was planning to refurbish all the parts, reassemble it and sell it. I asked if he would sell it to me as-is for $8k cash. He said "No way... if I do that you'll be calling me every day". I told him I would give him the money today and never call him again. He agreed and I rented a big truck the next day and loaded it all up. I had never seen an assembled textile press in person, but I was determined to figure it all out. With a lot of patience and help from friends we got it working and the shop was ready to take on another level of production.
In 2012 we bought an old printshop on the eastside of Indianapolis and were finally able to stretch out a bit. We went from a 400 sq ft garage to a 3600 sq ft industrial building + a 1000 sq ft office. It wasn't long after that we were finally able to purchase some new equipment.
It took a lot of work but we were able to update the shop and get it setup for production.
We even found a little corner for our first press :)