It all started back in 1987 with Mr.Terrific & his pal "Shoe" Mackenzie. These guys were still in college and just wanted money to go skiing (the kind that involves snow, mountains, and beer). They had the snow. They had the beer. They didn't have the mountains.
Go West Young Man
Every Midwesterner knows you gotta go west, be it Colorado, Montana, Utah, Idaho or anyplace else in the Rockies. For Mr. Terrific and Shoe it was "Colorado or Bust". Shoe was now an old pro at Colorado. Heck, he had been at college in Colorado for two years and while he didn't get any smarter, he sure did ski a lot. From the sounds of it, he was boundary skiing Telluride or partying at Red Rocks everyday and hanging with the best of them. (crazy local dudes who apparently made the US Ski team look like a group of 8 year olds at ski school, who knows)
Meanwhile, back at home, Mr. Terrific was attending classes to be a commercial artist. He had grand visions of being a highly sought after airbrush illustrator. He worked through the night most of the time and did well in school. But this didn't stop him from having fun. He found time to jam with his band and fly west or drive north to ski once in awhile. So Shoe comes home for good. He couldn't afford to go to college and ski full-time. Yet, he couldn't stop yapping about how awesome it was. And Mr. Terrific, who's had a taste of it, couldn't stop listening to these tales of Rocky grandeur.
No one remembers who said it first, but it was along the lines of "So how are we going to make some cash to go skiing out west? "
I Got An Idea
Mr. Terrific was in school for commercial illustration and his pal Shoe had just come home from college in Colorado. He planned to join the same art program as Mr. Terrific. While brainstorming an idea to make ski money, they thought of selling their art on t-shirts. They even illustrated a bunch of ideas for local parodies they reckoned they could sell in volume to retail stores. Mr. Terrific had already taken graphics classes in high school and was now two years into a college program. He figured they could screen print the designs in full color with 4- color process. The ideas kept flowing and the two young men spent weeks sharing ideas. But now it was time for rubber to hit the pavement.
Let’s Screen Print T-Shirts
So now Mr. Terrific & Shoe had to take action. Before they could even think of printing full color graphics, they had to conquer a simple 1-color silkscreen. So the boys went out to a local art store and bought a silkscreen, a squeegee and some inks. They had accepted an order from Mr. Terrific's dad for some navy t-shirts with a gold imprint, using a design Mr. Terrific had created. So they created the screen and setup to print their first t-shirt, carefully following what little directions they had. Oh boy.
Now You See It, Now You Don’t
“Wow!”, they exclaimed. “That looks awesome.” Mr. Terrific was beyond excited. To see artwork he had created become a real printed t-shirt was a pinnacle moment. He didn’t know it now, but he was destined to be a screen-print entrepreneur, not a commercial artist. He was hooked.
But wait. Where did the imprint go? This was also the moment, where Mr. Terrific was now destined to a life of trial and error, research & development, and the growing pains for being a top notch screen printer. The gold imprint on navy t-shirts vanished before their eyes. What happened? Where did it go? Literally the imprint disappeared within minutes of printing. Mr. Terrific went to the books. There was no internet then and very little in the graphics books mentioned about screen printing. Yet, reading between the lines, he figured it out. The inks they bought at the art store were water based and therefore, transparent. They were not opaque enough to cover a dark garment.
Getting A Screen Printing Job
One thing Mr. Terrific has always been, is resourceful. After all, printed t-shirts certainly existed in 1987. So how did the pros print them? Mr. Terrific got a tip from a friend. He went to pay a visit to a screen printer in the next town over and ask some questions. Not only did he get answers, but he walked out with a trade magazine, a cup of plastisol ink, instructions and a job. It seems the screen printer liked Mr. Terrific and gave him all the tools he needed to successfully print on dark t-shirts. He also hired him to do artwork for his t-shirt business, having no issue with the fact that Mr. Terrific was starting his own screen print business.
And The Rest Is History
They printed that first order of gold ink on navy for dad and it worked flawlessly. Mr. Terrific managed to get a 10,000 piece printed bag order while still in college and went to the bank, purchase order in-hand, to finance the equipment they would need to produce the first BIG order.
Over the next 20 years, Mr. Terrific added multiple automatic screen printing machines & hundreds of embroidery heads to his operation. And Yes. Mr. Terrific & Shoe did get to ski out west! Only, not as much as they did before they started screen printing. That's business for ya!