Weiskamp Screen Printing is a local screen-printing shop in Downtown Champaign. They specialize in custom t-shirts, professional work wear, promotional items, and embroidery. CCP spoke with owner, Ed Weiskamp.
How did you get into screen printing and what motivated you to locate in Downtown Champaign?
I went to school at the University of Illinois for architecture. I had some cousins who went to U of I, so already I had a very positive impression of the campus and the town. I grew up in Lockport, IL, which was a very industrial town. Champaign is a clean, upbeat place where you can find new people and new activities. After graduation I worked for the University, but eventually I wanted to do something on my own where I could create a tangible, physical end product. I spent a lot of time researching the process of screen printing, and in 1982 I began to screen print part-time. I bought the Weiskamp building in 1991 and we made that our home base a couple years later.
Why did you choose screen printing?
Well, when I was looking for a business to get into, I wanted something that was cheap to start out with and where I could work for myself to save up some money. I saw this article in a magazine talking about two friends who went into the business together; eventually they got rich enough to save some money, go to Vegas a couple times a year, stuff like that, and I thought, that sounds pretty nice, I’d like to do that! It’s funny because a few years ago, I found that magazine in my house and read the article again; it turns out that they were actually SELLING t-shirts, not printing them!
Can you tell us about the process of screen printing?
Now with all this new technology, the hardest part is the idea! In terms of the process, you need to be able to picture the final product and all its frames or layers, to de-assemble the idea into a collection of parts. After the layers are created, they’re transferred to stencils on screens and printed piece-by-piece. The ability to work with many variables and make decisions is very important. You can learn about it more at our workshops, which we try to hold once or twice a year.
What’s a recent project that you really enjoyed working on?
The most fun and rewarding projects are the ones that the customer is really excited about. We get to help a person solve a problem and often they’re really appreciative, which means a lot. It means we’re helping the community. The types of projects people have come to us with over the years has really changed; now it’s mostly t-shirts. We used to do a lot of political signs and bus signs (which used to be a massive production), but that’s all done now on inkjet printers.
Anything else you’d like to add?
The employees are really the backbone here; it’s a cooperative effort. I’m lucky to have had great people working for me: many of them artists. I like to make working here as great as possible for them, a place where they can use their own skills and judgement to make a project the best it can be. I see employees as an opportunity to do better, to hire people better than yourself to grow your business and make it great. We love being involved in the community through presentations, workshops, and making products that people love.