Adam Smith from Luckyprints, Chicago, is an avid devotee of live printing events. Born in Georgia, Adam has always enjoyed the energy of fairs and community events. Eager to combine his love of printing with his Southern Hospitality, Adam has printed at live events for the past 4 years, which has also helped him drum up some helpful publicity for his business. We talk to him today about his experiences with live printing and what you can expect if you haven’t tried it before.
Live printing seems like a really exciting opportunity for decorators. How did you get into it?
Chicago is known for its amazing summers, with lots of free and accessible street festivals pretty much every weekend. There's no shortage of opportunities to get on the ground. So we first selected a few of our clients that we had a good relationship with, and told them about our live printing plans in a way that would be mutually beneficial for both of us: We wouldn’t charge them upfront for any of the services if they wouldn’t charge us for the booth space. It was very appealing to them and also works out well for us. We were able to gain some exposure as a company, and help our neighborhood and community at the same time!
What’s the first thing you do to prepare for a live printing event?
I would say before you get into it, visualize what the set-up is going to look like. What we sometimes do is set up the entire mobile print set-up. The tent, the tables, the dryer, the press... And we set it up in our shop ahead of the event, just to make sure everybody is trained on it. That way, everybody knows what to expect, what the limitations are and how it's going to be different from printing in our shop. The biggest thing of all this is just planning!
What kind of equipment do you bring to a live print?
We actually built a couple of carts that we can load into the back of a regular U-haul compartment van to store everything in, because you never really know where you have to park versus where you’ll print. Then we like to have a minimum of two people there: At least one with really adept printing skills – as you're going to need someone who can knock out a lot of shirts in a row. And somebody that is personable and knowledgeable enough to explain what’s happening. It's good to have someone who is there to talk our clients through the process. And then for equipment, we bought stuff specifically for the live printing set-up. We use a single station, 4-color press and a companion dryer that doesn't require high output - so you can plug it right into your regular wall outlet. We can just run a 100ft extension cord to that dryer and it's the only thing we need power for. Then we have another table where we put our Point of Sale system if we're using that, with a little cashbox on hand (make sure you have change, not everyone thinks about that!) and then just have back-ups of everything. When you're moving things around and you’re outside, something could blow over and pop a hole in your screen. So it's good to bring some back-up screens, more ink than you think you need, and some stuff to keep your space clean and tidy.
Which garments work well for a live print?
We really try to understand the client and the demographic that will be there at the event, and choose the garment appropriate to that. So say you were doing an event for a brewery, we wouldn't bring out an old school, heavy-weight cotton shirt that these people probably wouldn't wear. You can expect the age range there to skew a bit younger and a bit more fashion-aware, so you want to have a nice quality garment. At the end of the day, they're going to touch that garment in person and feel it when they buy. So we try to stick with light to medium shirts and cotton-rich ones that are a little more flexible for printing on-site.
What do you like best about the whole live-printing process?
Showing people how it all works! We love talking people through the process and explaining that it's 2019; and yet we're still using the same printing process and it really hasn't changed at its core. I think because the main perception of the garment world is mass production, a lot of people think t-shirts are just made in a giant factory overseas, but that's not always the case. We're able to show them that we're a small business composed of artisans and people who really enjoy the craft of printing.
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