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Practical Pillows

Innovative Textile Printing

By Melissa Donovan

Digital printing opens the door for short-run, on demand production. When we think of on demand, it is often associated with paper substrates. In reality, the technology translates to rigid materials all the way to fabric. Utilizing digital print as a means to create decor is quickly becoming a popular practice among savvy, artistic entrepreneurs.

Modern Art
San Diego, CA-based Mint Pillows opened its doors to the online world in 2007. The family business specializes in modern art pillows for both indoor and outdoor living spaces. Offered through wholesale and retail, collections are designed internally and then outsourced for printing, cutting and sewing, and packaging and shipping.

Kathleen Roarty, president/CEO/designer, Mint Pillows, runs the company’s design and day-to-day operations in an 800 square foot space. Her son, Ian, is a professional photographer who creates product shots and photos for pillow designs. Both Roarty’s husband, Dan and daughter, Alish assist with business-related activities. Heather Jackson works as a marketing manager, promoting products. VIVIMEDIA designs and manages the Web site.

The company was featured in several design and home and garden magazines since its launch. Including, but not limited to, Apartment Therapy, Casual Living, Dwell, Garden Design Magazine, Hospitality Design, Ranch & Coast, and San Diego Home & Garden.

Four major pillow collections inspired by world travel and nature are currently available—Aloha, Bali, Elements, and Tokyo. Blue Hibiscus and Monstera Leaf make up the Aloha collection. The Bali collection, hand silk-screened in metallics, offers designs under the names of Monkey Forest, Barong, Warm Silver, and Cool Gold. The Elements collection features Air, Earth, Fire, and Water; depicting each element photographically. And the clean, graphic look of Japanese design makes up the Tokyo collection—a six pillow set of freeway images or Tokyo Green Wall.

Eco-Friendly Media
Mint Pillows reaches out to San Diego, CA-based Advertising Edge to bring the designs to life. The five-person print shop, located in a 1,200 square foot space, uses a Mimaki USA, Inc. JV4 printer to produce the pillows’ graphics. According to Roarty, the Mimaki printers are used because of their color quality. “By printing digitally we get a more vibrant color and the detail is much clearer,” she admits.

An eco-friendly outlook is at the core of Mint Pillow’s beliefs. Aqueous-based ink is used to print the designs because of its environmental friendliness. In addition, the shop choose Aurora Specialty Textiles Group, Inc.’s Act II fabric for three out of four of their current collections. The exception is the Bali line of pillows, which is made up of Outdura canvas.

Act II is part of the Weaves of Green collection. It is a 100 percent post-consumer recycled polyester with a fiber source of plastic bottles. A plain weave, 7.5-ounce fabric, it offers a canvas-like texture.

“Roarty needed a recyclable, outdoor weatherable fabric. She instantly loved the idea that it was made from 100 percent post-consumer plastic drink bottles. Also, being 100 percent polyester it was great for outdoor durability,” says Keith Sawyer, manufacturer’s representative, Southwest territory, Aurora Specialty Textiles.

Perfect for the outdoors, the pillows are fade-, mildew-, and stain-resistant. Roarty and her family test the pillows themselves. Rain or shine, on a boat, in a garden, or by the pool, these decor items withstand the challenges of the elements.

The collections are offered in two sizes, 16x16 and 22x22 inches. Larger pillows usually require 2/3 of a yard of fabric to create, according to Roarty. Pillows should be cleaned with a soft, damp cloth and left to air dry. They should not go in the dryer.

Practical Pillows
Currently the company’s customers extend across Canada, Mexico, and the U.S. Roarty hopes to expand into Europe soon. Digital printing makes this possible. “Through the digital printing process, Mint Pillows is now driven by order. Roarty doesn’t need to purchase a large, random stock of goods,” explains Sawyer.

An added bonus is the company’s eco-friendly mindset. By using aqueous-based inks and Aurora Specialty Textiles’ Act II fabric, they spread an eco-centric message. In addition, the pillows’ durability proves that “green” products are not as fragile as one might think.

Mint Pillows’ success stems from innovation on all fronts—both technological and environmental.

Mar2010, Digital Output

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