Marimekko is to thank for bringing our little Gravel & Gold Goods lady design posse together and inspiring us to make handprinted fabrics. I met Holly on the recommendation that she would be up for copying an auntie’s old Marimekko dress in a mauntie’s old Marimekko panel that used to hang in his mother’s house. When I came to her studio and explained the idea, she sort of hyperventilated. She had studied surface design at CCA, and Marimekko was her hands down favorite. We had a lot of fun making it happen.
When Lisa, Holly, and I began designing fabrics for Gravel & Gold Goods, it was in part because we wanted to create fabrics of the quality and joy level of the old 1960s and 1970s Marimekkos, and in part because we wanted—and imagined we were obliged—to create a largescale screen printing set up like the old Marimekko printing tables, with awesome, stylishly dressed ladies passing a squeegee back and forth.
As an aside, I will add that Marimekko’s current modality is also of great interest, and a place I very much want to visit!, even though, in my opinion, the finished fabric quality has gone way down—a sadness I’m willing to attribute to the cotton they’re using in addition to the mechanization of the printing.
It was the old school style that we were really after, the hands on the tables. But the fact was that we had no idea how to physically print on a large scale, let alone where we would find such a large space that we could afford around the Bay. This stalled us for some time…. And then, as though stumbling upon a mirage in the desert of local industry, we came upon ZOO-INK, proudly hand screening yardage right here in San Francisco since 1972. And while it would be impossible to imagine Charles, the master of ceremonies over there, wearing a cute A-line printed sundress, he has years of experience burning giant screens, mixing paint, dragging giant screens down giant tables, setting them into locks, passing a squeegee back and forth, and making magic. It was a fast-forward dream come true for us.
When creating a hand screened fabric, each color of a print requires a separate screen and a separate trip down the printing tables. Here you can see “First Falls”, a print I designed last year, being printed at Zoo. Using Indian ink on acetate, I drew three large interlocking layers with a ragged edge that would disguise the repeat. These were burned onto three separate screens, each measuring 60″ x 36″. When it came time to print, Charles first laid down the neon yellow, then the dark blue outline, and finally the pale pink fill screen. With the paler version, he started with cream, then metallic silver, then pale purpleish-grey. Both versions turned out real nice.
With such beautiful prints, the finished stuff comes easy. Here is our Gemini Dress and Large Tote in two versions of “First Falls”.
Along with the relief of handing off the printing process to a group of pros and the pleasure of their perfect work, we’ve learned so much from Charles about the process of printing on this scale and the many various factors involved. For us, the dream of one day having our own printing set up with our own sundress ladies, squeegees, etc. remains, but until then, there could be no better a place than ZOO-INK.