Screen-Printing Gives Art Students New Option

In Issue, News, Spring/Summer 2021 by Sarah Moss

Art and design majors have a new screen-printing studio, thanks to the work of Graphic Design Instructor Vaughn Donahue.

Last year while cleaning out closet space in the art department, Donahue discovered screen-printing equipment that had not been used in a long time. Donahue decided to explore the possibility of putting together a screen-printing studio. He applied for and received a project grant and a teaching innovation grant from Dordt before reaching out to Staples Promotional Products in Orange City to see whether they had any old screen-printing materials they would be willing to donate.

“I was hoping for 20 screens, but they donated more than 150 screens, 100 squeegees, important chemicals, and mesh,” he says. “They also gave us two six-headed presses, which is huge.”

Donahue located a few other helpful items, including an old shower that he converted into a screen-washing station to complete the screen-printing studio.

Digital Media Production and Graphic Design Major Emily Broersma worked in the screen-printing studio this spring as part of a printmaking class. She enjoyed screen-printing and the printmaking class so much that she spent her free time in the studio making more prints.

“I love the hands-on experience and the creative freedom we have in our projects,” she says. “The wonderful thing about screen-printing is that it has so much room for creativity but also forces you to think strategically about your designs. It is so satisfying to press the ink onto your paper and watch as each layer reveals a new aspect of the design that wouldn’t have the same effect without it.”

Graphic Design Major Morgan Stoltzfus also enjoyed screen-printing, which, she says, taught her to be intentional with every element she includes in a design.

“I tend to be ambitious with my designs and love to include details that might not be entirely necessary,” she explains. “With screen-printing, I’ve found that the more complexity you add, the more difficult it becomes in the long run. Each color requires its own individual screen, and every detail needs to be lined up in a way that leaves little room for error. These limitations have helped me look at design in a different way; by narrowing my designs down to the most necessary details and colors, I am forced to focus on what I actually need to create a successful design.”

Donahue says the art department plans to use the screen-printing studio in graphic design, printmaking, and possibly 3-D design courses in the future.

Stoltzfus thinks it’s important for graphic design majors to learn screen-printing skills because it gives them an opportunity to step back from the computer screen.

“Because of how design has progressed, most of our work is done on the computer. However, there’s something about taking a step back from the screen and working with your hands that helps you see design in a more tangible way. By learning screen-printing, you get to be part of every step along the way and get a big picture view of design, from sketch to print.”