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Printwear on Point: Voices from the Screen Room

Rick Roth is president of Pawtucket, R.I.-based Mirror Image. In recent years, his business has taken home numerous Golden Image awards in various categories, as well as top honors in the industry media's various printing competitions.

This month, we enlisted one of our favorite contributors and well-respected screen printer/artist Rick Roth to capture an insider perspective on the real business of the screen department. Listen in on his conversation with Carlos Ruiz (pictured below, on right) and Melvin Shaw (pictured below, on left), who both work on press and do, as they say, “whatever is necessary” at Mirror Image in Pawtucket, R.I.

Images courtesy Rick Biskit Roth

RICK ROTH: How long have you been cleaning and reclaiming screens?

MELVIN SHAW: I have been doing it over six years. 

CARLOS RUIZ: I have been doing it since I first worked here; for 11 years.

RR: What is the biggest difference you have seen since you started cleaning and reclaiming screens?

MS: The chemicals we use are more eco-friendly all the time, which is safer both for the environment and for the people doing it. One thing that is important to me is that the smells are not as harsh.

CR: I am always getting more efficient at getting through the work. I used to reclaim one screen at a time. Now I figured out faster ways to be removing ink and letting emulsion remover work at the same time. Basically I can do two screens at once; I can go twice as fast as I used to. Two screens at once instead of one, boom-boom-bada-bing, clean and done. 

Also, even though the chemicals are more green, they also seem to work better than when I first started doing this.

RR: How has the recession affected your job?

MS: People have less money, so they make do with fewer colors. Less colors means less screens, so less reclaiming.

CR: We do our job, but sometimes there is no work. It is out of our hands.

RR: Do you think that your part in the operation of the business is appreciated?

MS: Reclaiming is not for everyone. You have to get down and dirty and I can tell you, some people cannot handle that. Some people are afraid to get a little ink or water on them so they can’t do it. But you have to have pride in what you do. If you don’t reclaim properly, you get screens that won’t shoot right. And if you have bad screens, you can’t print. 

CR: Of course! Reclaiming is part of the job that has to be done here. Whatever needs doing, somebody has to get it done. 

RR: Anything else you want to share from the trenches? 

MS: It isn’t that easy. There are proper and improper ways to reclaim and if you don’t do it right, it will all show up in the end.

CR: The important thing about reclaiming is all the pieces have to fit together. If you use the wrong tape, it is hell to get it off. The reclaiming chemicals have to work right with the emulsion that you use. Everything in the system has to work together.