By Cassandra Balentine
People are attracted to the world of wide format digital printing for a number of reasons. For Lisa DiAntonio, owner, Green Park Studios, it was her passion for the creative process. Before embarking on her digital print journey, she was an engineering professional by day, but enjoyed creative hobbies including sewing and photography.
She was inspired when realizing the potential of combining these pastimes to create personalized items like pillows, curtains, and apparel.
Back in 2009, DiAntonio took a photograph from the top floor of the Lenox Hotel in Boston, MA, overlooking the city and the Boston Marathon finish line.
Fast forward a few years, and DiAntonio has since left her corporate job to stay home and raise her three children. Beginning to sew more frequently, and selling some of her creations in local shops, she thought back to her shot of Boston and how it would make an excellent subject for a pillow.
It turned out to be a more difficult task than anticipated. She came across a few businesses that offered custom fabric printing, but it was cost prohibitive for short runs. It was then she realized there was a need, and she could fulfill it with a personal investment in digital print technology.
In the Spring 2014, her dream became a reality. DiAntonio located ITNH, Inc., a local distributor specializing in dye-sublimation (dye-sub) and direct textile printing. She was fascinated by the technology, and knew it was a business she could be passionate about. “I was flabbergasted by the price of these printers, but my husband and I had decided that we were committed, and we were going to make the leap—otherwise we’d regret it,” says DiAntonio.
ITNH introduced her to several products and vendors that would help form her custom fabric printing business.
She selected the 60-inch Mutoh America, Inc. ValueJet 1628TD direct to textile printer, a Wasatch Computer Technology SoftRIP TX, a Practix Manufacturing LLC heat press, fabrics from Pacific Coast Fabrics (PCF), and Huntsman International LLC Lyosperse pigment dye ink.
And so, Green Park Studios was born. The equipment was installed in DiAntonio’s garage in Andover, MA earlier this year, where she works diligently to market her business, create custom fabrics for clients, and learn the ins and outs of how to design fabrics using Adobe Systems Incorporated Photoshop and Illustrator.
As part of the learning process, DiAntonio and her husband traveled to the Specialty Graphics and Imaging Association’s trade show in Fall 2014 to learn more about the industry and meet some of the vendors whose products she was using. Some of her work was even featured by ITNH, who shared a booth with PCF.
She is currently working on mastering the challenges that come with the territory. Without a background in printing, DiAntonio has come a long way, but is still learning each day. “Right off the bat my biggest challenge was learning to effectively feed the materials through the printer. Every fabric is a different weight, and I had to find the ideal setting,” she explains.
Color management is another challenge, as each fabric type needs to be profiled differently. “I’m getting better now. I understand how to profile the machine and can make minor changes to achieve the best results.”
She’s also working on establishing the appropriate print speed for each fabric she offers. “I try not to run at the slowest speed, but I’ve played around with the settings and resolutions to come up with the best configuration that balances speed and quality. I’ve created a spreadsheet so that I can refer back to these settings and go from there.”
Getting the Word Out
Building a business is daunting work, but Green Park Studios is committed to continued growth. “Being brand new, I’m still trying to build the business by letting people know I exist. A lot of my customers have found me through social media—which is huge for me. While many of these are people making things for themselves, I’d also like to do more business-to-business work in the future,” she says.
The company’s primary goal is to maintain affordability of its custom printed fabrics. “I try my best to keep my overhead low. I come from a manufacturing background where the goal is zero overhead growth and continuous streamlining of manufacturing processes,” she explains. This background has helped her remain focused on her goals, and maintain profitability.
Customers currently have the choice of five fabric options, Lawn S/201, a simple cotton; Broadcloth Poplin 4 oz.; a smooth twill; Linen/Cotton Canvas S/621; and a cotton sateen—all from PCF.
With a Web-based ordering platform, clients are reached worldwide. Many of her customers are entrepreneurs with Etsy sites and novice crafters that want to create their personal effects with custom prints. Her site is equipped with file uploading and a pattern configurator to make the process easy for the end customer.
In addition, she has collaborated with a few designers and hopes to also incorporate a seamstress locator on the company’s website to provide options and help clients connect with other professionals to expand their businesses.
One Entrepreneur to Another
As previously stated, many of Green Park Studio’s clients are Etsy shops that create fabric-based items such as pillows, curtains, and apparel and accessories. Sew Cute by Liv, a young woman based in Hopkinton, MA, offers a selection of homemade items such as tote bags, infinity scarves, and cosmetic bags.
The customer found the shop through word of mouth and submitted two images, one of a flamingo and the other of a whale.
The designs were uploaded to the shop’s Web-based configurator, and DiAntonio created the repeat pattern with Wasatch SoftRIP TX, and sent it to the Mutoh ValueJet 1628TD.
The flamingo was a mirror reprint, which was printed on Linen/Cotton Canvas S/621, and the whale image was created on Lawn S/201. The turnaround time was two days to run the 4.5 yard order.
Green Park Studios shipped the fabric out to the client, who turned it into finished products sold through her own Etsy shop.
In just a few months, Green Park Studios has come a long way, and DiAntonio has no plans to stop. She is excited about the possibilities of print, and is thrilled to be part of the industry.
The next move is to purchase a dye-sub printer, also from Mutoh, to expand her offerings and ability to print on a wider variety of fabrics.
She also has a patent pending on a solution that takes some of the pain out of the sewing process by printing patterns directly to the fabric, which could become a major differentiator for the business.
The print industry is ripe with inspiring stories of people passionate about print and their work. This ranges from the traditional print provider to the small at-home business looking to fulfill a niche.
Green Park Studios is poised to enable customization in crafts for both individuals and businesses, offering another excellent example of the possibilities digital print brings to the table, from signage to home décor.
Jul2015, Digital Output