Process: Hand-Screen Printing Leather

Printed leather is the heart of the Produc­tion Mode 2015 collec­tion, but the idea was a bit of a happy acci­dent: Paula Wilson and I were discussing ideas for a custom screen print that she would design for the line, osten­si­bly on cloth. In one of our conver­sa­tions, Paula said, “Maybe the base cloth should be hide-colored”. When she said the word “hide”, the light­bulb went on and all the sudden the direc­tion of the collec­tion was set.

Paula then designed and printed an initial sample run of leather as part of her resi­dency at Cannon­ball Miami, using the facil­i­ties of Turn Based Press.

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She came up with a billion bril­liant ideas, but even­tu­ally we settled on one that took into account the special chal­lenges and oppor­tu­ni­ties of work­ing with leather and screen­print­ing, an all-over print with no visi­ble repeat that could be cut with mini­mal waste, using a single screen printed using two colors, offset so that the inac­cu­ra­cies of hand-pulled screen prints would add, rather than subtract, to the finished prod­uct. The design embod­ied the goals of the Produc­tion Mode brand: to exploit the strengths of small-scale produc­tion, namely the abil­ity to manu­fac­ture limited edition, hand­made, high qual­ity pieces nimbly, creatively, and ethi­cally.

The next hurdle was to find some­one will­ing and able to print 82 hides–enough to create a small run of garments and acces­sories. Paula connected me to Nora Renick-Rine­hart, who jumped at the chal­lenge of a project of this scale (very large for one person). Nora in turn added her exper­tise and magic to the print. She turned it into a seam­less repeat, added some “noise” to the screen to create inter­est­ing vari­a­tions and inter­plays of the two colors, and tested differ­ent inks, fixa­tives, curing, and setting meth­ods.

 

In the video above Nora breaks down her print­ing process (all the while keep­ing up a brisk print­ing pace). Thanks to a lot of metic­u­lous and tedious prep work (pinning down the hides, calcu­lat­ing the repeat, prep­ping and clean­ing screens), she makes the process look fast and easy.