Learning How to Silk-Screen


The Education Department is excited about our upcoming Massachusetts Cultural Council grant-funded program teaching silk-screening techniques to teens from Lowell’s United Teen Equality Center (UTEC). The program allows teens to create t-shirts and other items of their own design, and display them for a while at ATHM. We have worked with members of UTEC before to create our cell phone tour, which has been a great success, and we look forward to working with UTEC again. We got to know engaging young people who had unique talents and interests, and whose cell phone tour is now enjoyed regularly by visitors from across the country.

In this new project, the participating teens will learn design concepts to help them express their ideas as decoration on any range of items from holiday cards to t-shirts and other clothing items, or any other surface. Then they will learn how to use expensive silk screening machines newly available in stores for home use, as well as a simple way to create re-usable silk screens from inexpensive items like Mod-Podge, sheer curtain fabric, and embroidery hoops. Silk screening is a dye resist technique where all space but the wanted design is covered with an impermeable gel on a screen, then dye spread over the screen seeps through to the surface below to imprint only the wanted image.

I have been surprised at how easy it is to create a very professional-looking image made by copying your own photographs or other graphic sources to make crisp and impressive new designs. This is a trick illustrators use. The cat t-shirt pictured above was made from a photo of the family cat taken by the artist’s daughter. The cat’s face image was adjusted to the wanted size using a copier, then that image was traced directly onto the silk screen – and voila – an incredibly accurate cat’s face transferred onto a t-shirt. The artist was even able to create a two-color effect by cleaver dye use.

We hope that the teens who take this program will gain new skills, be it by creating gifts and cards for friends and family, spicing up their own wardrobe with colorful and expressive items, or exploring related career options. It will be great to see and work with teens from UTEC again, too, and we know they will make the most of this opportunity. We can’t wait to see what they have to say – emblazoned on whatever their imaginations lead them to.

Sue Bunker
Director of Education

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