By now I guess everyone knows I have turned imatioθiki into an educational adventure. This time some bright images and lots of good taste captured my attention while browsing through facebook. And it all came from one source. Tind. Who is Manolis actually, but I think everyone calls him Tind. What’s more, I left his workshop so excited and I still am. Not only is this guy a very very sweet person – and I totally mean this – but he is also a true lover of silkscreen printing, with an excitement only found in 5 year olds, ready to try anything and push his art to the limits. Plus he loves design and he can break it down for you in simple words, which makes him the best person on earth. Trust me, it is very important to have the skill and gift of explaining your art to people that have no clue about it. And Tind can pull it off, I tell you. But, as the saying goes… like father like son. Nothing could be achieved and accomplished without Tind’s father, mr. Xrysanthos, who not only dropped out of school because he came across silkscreen printing and decided to dedicate his life to it, but he is a true mechanic, filling his workshop with models and machines he has built himself. So, you can imagine me being speechless and not knowing what to capture first. This post had to be huge. I couldn’t leave anything out.
Why is it called silkscreen, when you aren’t using any silk?
Manolis: Because the screen we use, originally was made of silk. It is not anymore.
You originally started the silkscreen business in the family and now have the pleasure of working together with your son. What was the reason you decided to become a silkscreen printer?
Xrysanthos: I was born in Heraklion in Crete. Spent all my childhood there, in the fields, working on the land and near the beaches. In the early 70s I came to Athens to enroll at the University of Economics and I came across a silkscreen workshop by chance. I got so fascinated at the things they did and that’s when I decided this was going to be my occupation for the rest of my life.
What did you print back then?
X: Large posters. We did a lot of prints for Shell and the Greek Power Company.
There are many people who try silkscreen printing at home. Is it hard to do it yourself?
M: Not at all! All you need is a little bit of curiosity and some basics on chemistry.
You use all kinds of inks and colors on your prints. I’ve seen glow in the dark ink, I have seen chalkboard ink. It’s pretty amazing.
M: That’s the point. You don’t limit yourself to what the market has to offer. You try making your own stuff. I have used glue, I have used chocolate, I have used inks that react to light or temperature. The combinations are endless.
What I didn’t know is that we come across silkscreen prints all the time, everyday. I just thought that silkscreen printing was only for posters or works of art.
X: No, silkscreen printing is used pretty much everywhere. The logo on your phone device, on your TV, on your car. Actually, there is no surface whatsoever you cannot apply silkscreen printing to.
Now I have to ask. What are the strangest places you’ve printed on?
M: On ostrichs’ eggs. It was for a restaurant that only served ostrich meat.
X: Once I met a girl at the bank and she asked me where my workshop is because she wanted something printed. Turns out she wanted to print on toilet paper notes to her boyfriend.
M: We once did a very fun project. Lakis Gavalas was sending out invitations for a fashion show and the invitations were light bulbs. You had to plug it in and turn it on and then, the printed invitation would show up on your walls.
Apart from printing you are actively involved in design and bringing this whole design – create process closer to people. You have already hosted a workshop starring the Greek alphabet, along with Panayiotis Haratzopoulos. How did that go and how do you plan to continuing this project?
M: Keep Calm and Print On went really well and I was very happy with the results we got. You see, when you are hosting a workshop you don’t want everyone to design just one thing. So I gave each participant a letter and they worked on that, testing the endless possibilities silkscreen printing can give to just a simple idea. I am planning on hosting another workshop which will be, again, based on the Greek alphabet, but I want to go supra local now and perhaps do the whole thing online. I think it will be very interesting to see how someone from Germany would work on the greek letters.
How are things with designers and printers here in Greece.
M: The sad thing is that there’s not much communication between us. The whole point is to share the information and take your art a step beyond. Unfortunately the field is filled with many people who are afraid to share, believing that you might overcome them. I am hoping things will change. My dream is to team up every silkscreen printer in the country and book a venue, so we can all be there, with all our prints that we have collected over the years and have people over to see what our art is all about and try out themselves.
You have focused a lot on a saying found in a carpenter’s workshop in Syros that says: ‘The mistake is superior to art.’ What is your current design – obsession that you wish to develop?
M: Locksmiths! It’s a truly interesting phenomenon! I mean the design of the stickers you see on the street. No designer has ever made those, it’s probably the locksmith that designed them himself. And you know it is bad design. But somehow it all works out. And it’s not just the design, it is also the way people stick them on surfaces. As if a machine stack it there, you can find ten identical locksmiths’ stickers glued together. Locksmith stickers’ design is the Greek contemporary design. On my way home, I won’t see super minimal designs or really classy stores, I will see locksmiths stickers on street lights and telephone booths. Think about it.
The ‘for rent’ signs are also very typical Greek design, no?
M: Yes we have worked on that in the past.
X: You know in 1981 there was a guy that came to me and said I want to change the ‘for rent’ signs. And he did, he changed the fonts and the colors. But he never sold a single house he was selling. And that’s a wise lesson for companies that change their logos without first thinking about it. Changing the design isn’t always the best solution.
Can you think of a really bad design you’ve seen recently?
M: I was walking below the Acropolis hill one day, and on this street there were ancient greek design jars (amphoras) which served as trash bins. I got so mad at whoever designed those and decided to put them on the street as places to throw trash in! I mean, those jars were the Coca Cola bottle of the day. They were the ultimate design. And with this action, it’s like we are saying that our culture should be thrown to the trash. Or worse, it should be recycled. I mean, come on! These are design principles that should be well established within us by now!
What is it so great about silkscreen printers?
M: We carry less of our ego. We just print the stuff, we don’t design it. That gives us the freedom to play around a lot more.
A few comments about the things pictured and said above:
Firstly I have to say that Manolis is not only a silkscreen printer, but also a major collector. The things found in his workshop looked like fossils. Did you see the evolution of Ericsoon mobile phones? When I asked him about them he said he collects them, puts them on a time capsule and then in many years’ time he will look at them and be happy. / On his workshop I had the joy to meet SER who tried silkscreen printing his work for the first time. / The silkscreen ‘Το Λάθος είναι ανώτερο της Τέχνης’ was designed by firzb / The orange haired girl was designed by twelve times two / The glow in the dark prints use Indyvisuals / The steel silkscreen robot is designed by b-positive / The silkscreen Manolis is showing in the picture that bears the words ‘obsessed’ is a very very old poster that has been torn and nailed on the wall and who knows what, but the silkscreen still remains bright and vivid in color. That’s why silkscreen printing rocks. / The Apple laptop was found near a garbage bin on the streets of Athens. Manolis cannot believe someone would throw away this treasure. / The huge print Manolis is holding outside his workshop is his father a while back. / I need at least three sessions to show you the treasures father and son hold in their workshop!