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Local screen printers revive an industry

by Amy Kingsley

The decline of Greensboro’s textile industry is old news. Lamenting the area’s shuttered factories and pink-slipped workers has become something of a regular public ritual.

But all is not lost in the land of Wrangler denim and Burlington plaid. The manufacturing behemoths may have shuffled offshore, but in their wake a cottage crafts industry is emerging, largely led by a bunch of post-collegiate creative types.

Lawrence Holdsworth works out of a room in the apartment he shares with his girlfriend. Shelves sag under the weight of ink bottles, squeegees, screens and fabrics. Holdsworth screens images on cotton T-shirts and on sheet fabric stretched on a frame.

“I really like vintage fabrics,” he says. “Really crazy bed sheets, pillowcases, stuff like that.”

Holdsworth orders most of his T-shirts from American Apparel, but he also prints on shirts, dresses and skirts found at thrift stores. His girlfriend Kat Lee says Holdsworth has a “thrift gift.”

“I like using old T-shirts because it incorporates an element of ‘found,'” he says.

When he started screening T-shirts for his band, Tiger Bear Wolf, Holdsworth only used donated or thrift-store shirts. Until last year, he’d confined his screening to band shirts and the occasional poster.

Now he’s taking his new designs, which are heavy on symmetrical and floral patterns, to the internet. He opened a storefront on Etsy.com, a portal for handmade crafts, and has been moving his merchandise on the web under the name Dreamup.

A distant relative curated East Asian antiquities at the Museum of London, Holdsworth says, which led him to study Japanese culture as an undergraduate at Guilford College.

“I started collecting Japanese art at an early age,” he says. “Prints, ceramics. The Japanese have a really strong woodblock print tradition.”

Recently Holdsworth picked up a batch of 1970s era bedsheets from Lee’s Hendersonville home.

“It’s best to find stuff that’s not too busy,” he says, holding up a sheet done up in the era’s earthy orange tones.

Holdsworth is still making shirts for his bands and others. He and another designer, Caroline Clark, collaborated on the design for the Marijuana Wolf T-shirts, the de rigeur wardrobe piece for the Greensboro hipster crowd.

Like Holdsworth, Clark began silk screening in earnest a year ago. Before that, she’d done pottery and painting and helped friends with their silkscreen projects.

“I’d been making functional things,” she said. “Which is why I was interested in silk screening.”

Clark sold her homemade creations at the last two Tate Street Festivals, and she’s stocking her T-shirts at the Space. She gave away her first shirts as birthday presents for friends.

“I like motion,” she says of her designs. “I like things on a flat surface giving the impression of movement. That’s why I like birds.”

Some of her designs feature flocks of stylized birds, google-eyed octopi and patterns of alternating dots.

“I do a lot of layering of different colors and different levels,” she said.

The Marijuna Wolf shirt came together after an interchange of ideas. Holdsworth came up with the central cannibis motif, and Clark worked on the script and background. After that, the two designers met regularly to bounce ideas off each other, Clark says.

Clark, who teaches for a living, wants the keep her crafting a hobby.

“I really love doing it,” she says. “I don’t want it to become a job for me.”

To comment on this story, e-mail Amy Kingsley at amy@yesweekly.com

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