As Joshua describes, making screen prints for Noma is a far cry from just tapping a key.
‘Screen printing is a surprisingly interpretive process. You’re not just making a straight reproduction, but taking an original piece of art through several stages to become a new and unique artwork in its own right. The relationship between artist and printer is therefore very important. Here’s how we take one of Noma’s designs and turn it into a screen printed edition:
Noma sends us his artwork as a digital file, and our first focus is on colour. Getting print colours true to the original is vital. We spend time mixing ink samples and sending them to Noma until he’s happy. With screen printing, only one colour is printed at a time. If an artwork has five colours, we will separate it into five layers and make a silk screen for each. At White Duck we use especially precise techniques to divide up the artwork into these different layers to ensure the colours align accurately. If you look closely at Noma’s work you will see that the simplicity is misleading. His use of space and line is a subtle art, so our screen prints need to be sympathetic to that. Where colours meet there can be no misalignment or the piece is ruined – for Noma, clean colours and pinpoint registration are paramount.
Once we’re happy that everything is exact, we print out each separation layer in black onto a clear film using a large-format inkjet printer. These are the films we use to make the silk screens.
These days the screens are made of polyester mesh (not silk!) stretched over an aluminium frame. We coat the mesh in a light-sensitive emulsion before placing a separation film beneath each screen and exposing the screens to UV light. We then rinse the screens with water. Areas masked from the light are washed clean away, leaving only open mesh. This is our stencil, through which we will pass the ink.