Weiskamp Screen Printing has become a staple business in Champaign-Urbana for screen printed graphic t-shirts. This year, the business will be celebrating it’s 30th year of serving the Champaign-Urbana community.
Weiskamp's owner, Ed Weiskamp, is a graduate of the University of Illinois School of Architecture and has always been interested in graphic design and screen printed poster art, but he’s found that the business for screen-printing really lies in designing and producing custom t-shirts.
At Weiskamp, you can get t-shirts made for your bar crawl, family reunion, your softball team, or whatever you want. However, there is more to Weiskamp than just t-shirts.
In 2008, Weiskamp attended a talk at the Krannert Art Museum by Jay Ryan--a graduate of the University of Illinois and now a well-known screen print artist-- on the art of screen printing. Weiskamp was surprised to see that there was such an eager following for this kind of art production. He also learned that it was a member of his own shop that turned Jay Ryan on to screen printing.
Weiskamp describes this as the impetus that led him to reconsider poster art in screen printing and to begin hosting his own poster art workshops.
I was fortunate enough to be able to attend one of these screen printing workshops, where I learned about the process of screen printing and given the opportunity to make some posters of my own.
The most amazing part about this workshop is that it's completely free! I’ve attempted amateur screen printing by myself in the past, but I have never had the opportunity to work with high-quality, professionally made, screens and equipment. It was a blast!
The workshop lasted from 10 a.m.- 5 p.m. and maintained a very relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere throughout. I thought I would only be there a few hours, but I ended up staying nearly the entire day. The Weiskamp staff worked around us on their own projects, but they never hesitated to help out or let us ask questions. What’s more--as if they were not offering enough--Jupiter’s Pizza was provided for lunch.
Participants in the workshop were able to submit a digital design of their own, have it made into a screen (or multiple screens for designs with multiple colors) and create as many posters as they wished using ink and paper all provided by Weiskamp. It's pretty incredible.
“Sometimes I do get asked why I do this - what am I getting out of it? It does cost for the film, ink, paper, and the time that I pay for the employees to do some of the prep. work (those Jupiter's pizzas aren't free either!). I guess we get a little publicity but, other than that, there isn't really an economic benefit for me. It's definitely an expense. I'm just hoping that if I provide the materials and equipment that I can give an opportunity for some creative type to focus on, you know, being creative. I know that most of the people who come to the workshop aren't going anywhere big with screen printing but even if only one or two people really get into the poster art and go onto a career of some kind, that would totally be worth it to me,” Weiskamp said.
It is apparent that Weiskamp has indeed inspired other artists as well. Matt Harlan, a University of Illinois graduate in painting and graphic design, discovered his love for screen printing at the very first Weiskamp workshop. He now runs the current workshops and has many of his own posters displayed on Weiskamp’s walls.
“I love handmade work, paintings, drawings, etc. but, at the same time, felt like I was having an affair with Adobe Photoshop for most of my teen years. I was always trying to find a middle ground between the two media, a space where they could both live within a single personal practice. When I came to the first Weiskamp Poster Workshop, I was totally fresh to the process, and I took to it right away. It was was the perfect balance between digital and analogue, allowing me to create a design using drawing, typesetting, image manipulation, and vector graphics, then create physical iterations that had a handmade imperfectness that even the most expensive printer couldn't emulate,” Harlan said.
Harlan’s love for the medium motivated him to return to Weiskamp whenever possible, until he was finally offered a job at the shop and, eventually, asked to run the workshops himself.
Harlan is now living and working in Chicago, but he returns to Champaign-Urbana frequently to put on these workshops.
You can view some of Harlan’s work at his website.