Veteran Printer Embarks On The Road Less Travelled Making New Discoveries Along The Way
After immersing herself in the world of special effects and water-based ink systems for decades, Michelle Moxley now spends her days applying both to the art of digital hybrid printing.
Michelle Moxley tells how she translated an affinity for special effects animation to printing special effects inks on T-shirts to becoming a leading authority and educator on hybrid digital printing.
Michelle Moxley, director of innovation at M&R Printing, shares her journey on how she went from acquiring a fine art degree to becoming one of the leading experts in the field of digital hybrid printing.
Michelle Moxley is an embodiment of the well-known meme “Do what you love, love what you do.” Her early interest in textile screen printing and passion for pushing boundaries, have led her down a path that ultimately has brought her to where she is today: one of the world’s leading experts in the field of digital hybrid printing and special effects.
For those not familiar, hybrid printing is when you add a digital direct-to-garment printer as a station to an automatic printing press.
While neither screen printing nor digital direct-to-garment decorating are new technologies, the combination of the two in a single production application is just starting to gain traction.
As the director of innovation at M&R Printing, Roseville, Ill., a manufacturer of automatic screen printing presses, digital direct-to-garment printers and a hybrid machine, Moxley is on the front lines of the cutting-edge research and development being done in this arena.
Since Moxley graduated with a fine arts degree from The Art Institute of Washington, Arlington, Va., she has gained experience from a variety of jobs that have uniquely qualified her for what she is doing today.
She literally spends all day thinking about ways to maximize the potential of hybrid printing and how it can be used to create interesting, unique prints in a production-friendly environment. Because one of the biggest advantages of digital hybrid printing is to allow decorators to set themselves apart and speed up the DTG production process.
While at community college, she learned about lithography and computer programming. Later at the Art Institute, she had the opportunity to take computer animation classes.
Although she loved computer animation, she found what she liked even more was the hands-on aspects of screen printing. “So I took a job with Latitudes, Portland, a high-volume screen print and embroidery operation with a reputation for doing cutting-edge special effects and working with difficult designs from concept to completion,” she says.
While at Latitudes, Moxley gained experience learning how to do a variety of screen printed special effects. One account that demanded special effects was one of the company’s biggest accounts: Nike and its Michael Jordan line.
“So for the next nine years I worked on Jordan designs, which involved tons of special effects. And, I found out that I not only had a gift as a special effects animator, I also a talent for screen printing special effects. I worked with some of the top industry professionals, which exposed me to the best foundation for my career choice.”
From Latitudes, Moxley moved on to Fifth Sun, Chico, Calif., a high-volume operation specializing in creative design who also is a manufacturer of official licensed apparel for the retail market. Brands include Star Wars, Nintendo, Marvel and Disney.
During her time there, she had her first exposure to digital direct-to-garment printing. “So through that opportunity, I learned about digital color matching. I did all the color matching for the Looney Tunes licensed work,” she notes.
Her growing knowledge base of ink systems then took her to a job for a distributor of Virus Inks, a company based in Italy, specializing in eco-friendly water-based ink systems. “I fell in love with that ink, because it was all special effects,” she notes. “I spent a couple of years learning, and then went around the United States and the world teaching people on how to become a water-based printer.”
Moxley’s next stop was working for New Buffalo Shirt Factory, Buffalo, N.Y., yet another high-volume shop with a reputation for cutting-edge techniques and innovation. It was there that she worked under Dave Gardner, known as one of the top graphic artists and color separators in the country.
“I worked there for six years during which time New Buffalo was purchased by Gildan. I helped develop designs for Nike, Disney, Adidas and some other brands. I also helped run Gildan’s factory in Honduras for a few years,” says Moxley.
Recognizing her vast wealth of knowledge, Rich Hoffman, CEO of M&R at the time, gave her an office to use in his Roselle facility as part of a collaborative project between Gildan and M&R.
Over the next two years, while she was still the research and development manager for Gildan, Moxley estimates she worked on six or seven projects at M&R.
Finally, the new CEO of M&R, Danny Sweem, formerly hired her in January 2019. “I wear a bunch of different hats here, but my major focus has been the hybrid printing for the past three months,” she notes.
On the opportunities she’s had during her career, Moxley says, “My theory has always been that there’s no school for this. So I’ve always tried to find the people who I admire most who are doing this and weasel my way into working with them. So I feel lucky and genuinely grateful in that respect.”
Stay tuned for more information on Moxley’s work in the digital hybrid arena and its future impact on the world of decorated apparel.
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