Screen-printed posters were an important part of the Bauhaus, Constructivist, and Pop Art movements. To pay homage to that history, François Chambard of New York design studio UM Project has created a screen-printing press with an industrial design that itself resembles a screen-printed poster.
The Print Shop is a new screen printing studio at the Museum of Arts and Design that assembles historic items with contemporary works to showcase the possibilities and legacy of screen-printing. It’s a fully functioning print studio, but the centerpiece is the colorful, geometric screen-printing press in the middle of the room.
“When MAD invited me to design the Print Shop, it sounded like such an incredible and unusual opportunity that was appealing on so many levels,” Chambard writes in an email. “Immediately images of Bauhaus, Constructivist and Pop Art posters came to mind and were an obvious starting point for design of The Print Shop, and particularly of the print press. In many ways, the design of the print press is a kinetic rendering of a Constructivist poster with simple geometric shapes staggered in a balanced arrangement and punctuated with dynamic lines.”
Most manual screen-printing presses are simple machines. They’re flat surfaces on which a squeegee applies ink through a screen, and hinged clamps hold the screen in place. Chambard’s machine is still simple enough to be run manually, but it’s slightly more advanced: for example, the Print Shop press has a vacuum table, which holds the paper in place by air suction alone. Meanwhile, the squeegee is mounted on a sliding arm, which uses a to apply ink to a screen evenly, something which is virtually unheard of outside of automated presses. It all makes for a more reliable, easy-to-use press.
According to Chambard, there was a steep learning curve. “I knew what everybody knew about silk screening, which was very little,” Chambard says. “I had to learn things pretty extensively, and quickly, I spent a lot of time in print shops to observe and understand how posters and other things are printed and how silk screening work.”
Screenprinting is not as easy as it looks. Even small variations in the way ink is applied to the screen can mess up posters. But Chambard thinks his efforts trying to design a really good one paid off: all the people who have tried his screen-printing machine have walked away with a beautiful poster every time.
Or so he claims. If you want to test those claims for yourself, you can check it out on the sixth floor Open Studios at the New York Museum of Arts and Design. Meanwhile, you can read more information about the project here.