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.
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.