To inspire and collaborate

The KAB Gravesend Art Group wearing the Totally Touchable design
The KAB Gravesend Art Group wearing the Totally Touchable design

Wilflex Originals is a unique community created for screen printers, designers and artists to join with like-minded individuals to share ideas and designs in an online environment. P&P editor Melanie Attlesey finds out more.

Wilflex Originals is described by Peter Juhl, global marketing director for Specialty Inks and Polymer Systems at PolyOne, as an exclusive community of influencers.

The community is the result of Peter and his team’s desire to bring the global screen printing industry closer together. “At the moment we feel it is somewhat disconnected,” explains Peter. “We feel it is important to get people to work together and to show others what the screen printing industry can do. There are so many great things going on in the world that other screen printers can learn from and aspire to become in terms of producing a design that people really want to wear. I believe that by having a community of influencers, these trends will spread faster in a more energetic environment across the globe.”

Tomorrow’s trends

Launched eight months ago, the community has so far gathered the support of 200 industry participants from as far afield as the US and Australia, making it a truly global forum. To kick start the idea sharing, creation and innovation, the Wilflex team created six designs that they felt would be an inspiration for tomorrow’s trends. These designs are meant to be challenging in concept and application, yet still easy to reproduce in any production environment. Members of the group are sent a packaged box with a sample design and print sequence each time a new one is released, which is one benefit of becoming a part of the community. Other benefits include the chance to network with others in the global screen printing industry to help evolve and improve one’s own business.

Wilflex Originals #007

The Totally Touchable Design
The Totally Touchable Design

The seventh Originals design was created in collaboration with Kent-based artist and creative practitioner Wendy Daws. Wendy is also a volunteer for the Kent Association for the Blind, for which she runs two art groups – KAB Medway Art Group and KAB Gravesend Art Group. She is truly passionate about making artwork accessible for all – a passion that started while studying for her BA in 3D Crafts over 10 years ago. The design was created as a result of a 12-week project Wendy ran in autumn of last year with the Gravesend group called Totally Touchable, after which the seventh design has been named.

As the eight members of the art group are either blind or partially sighted, the aim of the Totally Touchable project was to ensure that every piece of artwork created by the artists was entirely touchable for visitors to the resulting art exhibition. Pieces produced for the exhibition included tactile pictograms, touchable enlarged 3D thumbprints, castings of the artist’s hand squeezes covered in red flock, green flock, black flock or gold leaf, and sculptures. The exhibition provided a fully immersive experience for visitors, as they were encouraged to get hands on with all pieces of artwork, something that is usually discouraged in art galleries.

After hearing about Wendy’s work with the KAB and the Totally Touchable project, Peter got in touch and suggested working together to create the seventh design in the Wilflex Originals collection.

The design features an enlarged 3D print of Wendy’s thumb, a theme that ran through the Totally Touchable exhibition. It also features the Totally Touchable logo and the words Totally Touchable in Braille. It has been created with the blind and partially sighted in mind, using a variety of different Wilflex inks and techniques to create 3D effects to ensure everyone can get an experience from a printed garment.

Peter says: “Wendy’s design provided us with an opportunity to work with a unique community. This print demonstrates that an image doesn’t just have to be for those with sight, and the technique allows blind and partially sighted people to experience what they are wearing.”

But what does this design mean for Wendy and the group? Wendy answers, “I can really see this print making a difference. It allows the blind and partially sighted to become more in tune with their clothing. I can see similar designs being rolled onto the highstreet, perhaps with coding on the garments. But, rather than featuring a mere instructional neck label, 3D prints will provide a creative and fashionable way for blind and partially sighted people to decide what item of clothing or colour garment to wear that day.

“The T shirt has made a big difference to the group. Not only have we been provided with exposure on much larger scale than we could ever imagine, but when the group wears the T shirts provided by Wilflex they act as a conversation opener, allowing the public to ask questions and for us to raise awareness.”

Working with Wilflex has opened up to Wendy the possibility of using 3D ink in any future projects she runs with the art group. She adds: “One member of our group has been talking about screen printing bags, and maybe one day we will be able explore this method. If this member walks around wearing her artwork, with the Totally Touchable logo included, this is going to increase peoples’ awareness of the project and what blind people are capable of doing. It can be hard to get the public to be interested in the artwork of the blind and partially sighted, but the interest is growing. The avenues that working with Wilflex has unlocked are very exciting. Totally Touchable has sparked off so many other ideas.”

The eighth design is due out later this month and is described as more of a technical design. “This design will be relevant to screen printers who work solely with six colours or less,” says Peter. “Screen printing today is not that far away from digital printing in terms of what we can do with a few colours. We don’t have to work with 14 colours to achieve something special.”

Peter has big plans for the Wilflex Originals community and hopes that over the next few years, the number of members will double. He would also love for the community to become more engaging. “I would like to have a standalone community on social media where screen printers can talk and discuss any ideas inspired from the designs they have seen,” he adds.

So if you have a design which you feel can inspire others within the industry, then join the Wilflex Originals community and spread the word.

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