Career Profiles

What It’s Like…To Be a Screen Printer

Kid Icarus According to Greek legend, Icarus, the son of master craftsman Daedalus, tries to escape the island of Crete by using wings that his father has fastened out of wax and feathers.  The story doesn’t end so well for the Greek youth, but for Toronto-based screen-printing boutique Kid Icarus, handmade creations are the only way to get off the ground.

The husband and wife team of Michael Viglione and Bianca Bickmore, crafts original designs for band posters, fine art posters, greeting cards, wrapping paper, invitations, and much, much more.  I was lucky enough to visit them in their Kensington Market studio to find out what goes into creating and maintaining their screen printing specialty shop.

However, before we get into why Mike and Bianca do what they do, it’s important to first understand what screen printing is.

Very basically, an artist imprints a stenciled design on a piece of porous mesh that is stretched on a wooden or aluminum frame.  With the stencil blocking areas the artist doesn’t want printed, the screen is placed on top of the material (paper, fabric, etc) receiving the design.  Ink is placed at the top of the screen, and using a squeegee, the artist drags it across the screen.  The paint travels through the mesh exposed by the stencil and is transferred to the material underneath.  Voila!

Now, on to Michael and Bianca:

I Am:

Mike: Master Printer, Store Owner

Bianca: Graphic Designer, Project Manager, Store Owner.

Together we are creators of Kid Icarus, a store in Toronto, Ontario that specializes in screen-printed goods, and husband and wife.

I have been working towards this since:

Mike: In 1994 I was enrolled in the Ontario College of Art and Design when I realized I wasn’t really into the drawing and design aspect of the program.   What I did discover, however, was how much I loved the screen printing process and the value in the handmade prints. In 2004 I began printing full time and Kid Icarus opened in 2007.

Bianca: In high school, my parents pushed me to excel in the math and science programs, even though my marks were significantly stronger in my visual art classes.  After high school my folks wanted me to apply to University instead of college, but I applied anyway, and took design.  It upset them at first, but when they see how happy I am now, it was worth it.

After college I worked in corporate design for five years.  I knew I wasn't going to be doing it forever, but that job gave me the discipline and skills to apply them to what I am doing now.  When the company announced that it was moving to a new location, I knew right then that this was my chance to follow my dreams and leave the corporate world.  My boss actually told me to do something I was passionate about, because she knew I needed to move on.

My responsibilities include:

Bianca: I correspond with the clients and work with them directly on their project.  I deal with the files and help them with anything that needs to be changed.  I am also the in-house graphic designer and store keeper.

Mike: I take over from Bianca after the pre-production work has been done, and work on the technical aspects of printing. I separate the colours involved in each design (as each colour needs to be on a screen of its own), and do the colour mixing to create the shade the client wants.  I prep the screens, and physically do all the printing by hand.

What I love about it:

Bianca: I love that every day is different!  People come in to the shop and see how much work and value there is in a piece, and easily fall in love with the store.  I enjoy developing new ideas into projects, but what I value and love the most, is that almost all of the products in our store are local, that's really important to us.

Mike: I love teaching people what kind of work goes into a print.  The shop is open-concept, so I’m often printing and explaining what I’m doing to people at the same time.  I also love being able to be selective with the work we do.  We have gotten to the point where we are fortunate to choose what we work on, and I really enjoy the challenge and the excitement of seeing something amazing come in.

Something else I really love is when I see clients come back, or when they have spread the word about us to someone else. They’re happy with the work we’ve done, and that is an amazing feeling.

What I hate about it:

Bianca: Accounting and inventory.

Mike: Sometimes things don’t go right, and we have to cancel our evening plans and work until the job’s done.  But in the end, we’re not letting anything leave the shop that we don’t believe is a quality product.

In our job there is no such thing as ‘same day service.’  Multi-colour prints are expensive due to the number of screens and time involved, which some customers don’t realize.  Also, photography doesn’t always translate well onto the screen, but we’ll show samples to our clients to see if it's the style they are looking for.

Is there a special moment that stands out in your career?

Mike: A year after we opened the shop, there was such a buzz around the city about us!  I remember a couple girls who walked into the shop and were looking around, and before they left I overheard them say: “I thought this place was [going to be] a lot bigger.”  It was funny; our reputation was obviously working for us.

Bianca: I remember the day I stood inside this shop, before it had opened, and decided to quit my corporate design job. Working full time with Mike (my fiance and husband to be) was a crazy idea, but I knew that this was the beginning of something I would be proud to be involved with.

Advice to those interested in a career like ours:

Mike: Whatever you’re doing, if you’re passionate about it, you’ll find a way to make money off of it.  Not to become rich, but to live.  People pick up on your passion and feed off of it.

Bianca: Don’t listen to your parents or anyone else; listen to yourself.  Talk to people; business owners, go to the places you’re inspired by and learn from them.  Don’t be close-minded; leave your computer at home, and do the footwork.

Favorite Quote:

“Small businesses make neighborhoods.”

- An anonymous friend of Kid Icarus

What It's Like...To Be the Owner of a Media Company

I met Andrew Tylosky in 2003, at the start of our college careers.  We were both enrolled in the television production program at The Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT), and right from the beginning everyone in our class knew he was going to make it big.  Andrew understood the technical world of broadcasting like the rest of us knew how to cross the street - it was second nature.  During lectures he soon became known for his in-depth and technically complex queries, where he would interrupt our professors with one of his infamous ‘unrelated questions.’

Now, five years after graduation and only 25 years old, Tylosky is the Founder and Media Director of Motion Media, a one-stop media-shop based in Fort St. John, British Columbia.  With a team of eight employees and major Canadian broadcasters knocking down his door, the company has grown from simple video production to include web design, corporate video production, printing services, and documentary work.

‘I never planned to start a business,’ says Tylosky, ‘I’ve been doing media ‘stuff’ since I was 12 years old.  I took every opportunity along the road. As circumstance worked out, the opportunity fell in front of me and I had to take it or leave it. I took it.’

Tylosky is a hard worker who expects the same from his employees, but doesn’t get offended when something doesn’t work out, ‘It’s always been hard work. There have been times when I get discouraged, but I always find opportunity in those discouraging moments.  I say, “Okay, that’s a lesson on how not to do it next time." Or, "If I was in control of the situation, I would do it this way.”'

The nature of the media industry is one of constant change, and in order to work in an environment such as this, you need to be open and flexible.  And although the energy and creativity necessary for careers in the media can no doubt be found in Generation Y (18-30 year olds), Andrew points out a flaw in some his peers, ‘I think...people of [my] generation have very high expectations of their employers to say, “This is what you do, and how you do it."  We’re often quick to say, “ah, that’s below me.”’  Viewpoints such as this, however, won’t get you anywhere fast, especially at Motion Media.  ‘I never want to hear: “That’s not my job,” because it is your job.  Whatever it takes for us as a team to get the work done.  If that means that you’re the guy who has to get up at 5am to get the project done, it’s your job.’

A particular obstacle to the growth of the company is the size and location of its home base.  The city of Fort St. John, located in northwestern British Columbia, Canada, has a population of 19,000, and winter temperatures that commonly dip below -30 C  (-22 F).  Not to mention, the nearest major city (Edmonton, Alberta) is over 800 km (approx. 500 miles) away.  According to Tylosky, these factors make it a lot harder to attract employees, ‘What I hate most about it is looking at all the opportunities we have as a company, and not having the people to do the things we want to do.’

But at the end of the day, there’s nowhere Tylosky would rather be, ‘It’s different every day, I have great people to work with, we get great results, and there are always new achievements.  There are no two days at Motion Media that are the same, and I get a real high off of being able to be flexible – if we want to do the work to make the client happy, we’ve got to figure out a way to make it happen.’

Visit Motion Media's website:

10 Questions with Andrew Tylosky

I am: The Founder and Media Director of Motion Media in Fort St. John, British Columbia

I have been working towards this position: Since I was 12 years old. I took every opportunity along the road.  In grade 11, I ended up hosting the afternoon drive show on the local radio station because they didn’t have anybody else to do it.  And I got that job because I was the 'cool kid,' the ‘keener’ who hung around the studio and recorded stuff after-hours just for fun, and did an okay job of it.

My Responsibilities Include: Managing the company, making sure projects stay on track, and knowing that when an existing project is done we have new work coming in the door.  Making sure there’s money in the bank account to cover payroll, and making sure the garbage is taken out!

How I got into this job: I don’t limit myself.  I’ve always said I would do something with technology or media, but I’ve never been like, “I’m going to be an Executive Producer of a hit T.V. show,” and nothing else.  I’ve never had that attitude.  I’ve always said I’ll take whatever is thrown my way, and I’ll figure out if I’m good at it or if I’m bad at it.  If I’m good at it, I’m going to figure out a way to do as much of it as I can.

When I head to work in the morning: I usually wake up every morning, about 5am, with a panic attack!  (laughs)  But it’s always a panic attack of opportunity.  As in, “I’ve got to get this done, before I can do that!” So it’s a good panic attack.

What I Love: It’s different everyday!  Great people, great results, new achievements, and flexibility!

What I Hate: My biggest problem with the job is finding people that want to do the work. What I hate most is [when I look] at all the opportunities we have out there as a company, and not having the people to do the things we want to do.

The most common misconception about my work is: I don’t get to do a lot of creative things anymore [due to] my position.  I would love to hand my job of running the company off to somebody that has a business education, but I’m working towards that.  I think by the time I’m 30, I’ll be in that position.

Why YOU should think about a job like this: As somebody getting into the media industry, whether you want to work in media or own media, you need to take advantage of opportunities.  Whether it’s volunteering somewhere, or [working] in an entry-level position sweeping the floors or making coffee - if those opportunities lay in front of you, you need to take them.  If you don’t, you’re going to miss out.

Favorite Quote: There’s one thing I never want to hear: “That’s not my job.”  Bring me solutions, not problems.

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