This shop tour is by our brother-in-arms Brett Bowden El Capitan of Printed Threads in Texas.
I have known Stephen Till for years through music. It is to my delight that he has become a brother in the screen printing world as well. While spending some time in the mountains of Colorado, I took the trip down to Denver in order to check out his shop. It is a great creative shop. I saw lots of really cool designs and great quality prints. Here is an interview with him and photos I grabbed while I was there.
How did you start screen printing?
I started Screen printing in 2004 after I bought a kit from an internet site that was making wood manual 2 color screen printing presses. I think it might have been a Ryonet starter kit….I still have that press. My entry into screen-printing was probably similar to the progression of a lot of screen printers: I played in bands, thought about careers that I could have after playing in bands and decided screen printing would be a fun option. I started and stopped working for a few screen printing shops. Around 2010 I decided it was time to try again….and with Daniel Garza I created A Small Print Shop. Daniel was (and is) a great designer I met while working at a mid-sized screen printing shop in Denver.
Why the name A Small Print Shop?
A Small Print Shop came from my attempt at creating an approachable screen printing shop. I felt the name was cute and relatable. Since we have grown it is a fun name now. Clients and friends like to tell us we should change our name to A Medium Print Shop or A Big Print Shop. When I first started ASPS I did think about also buying those other domain names….but I did not and now we are keeping A Small Print Shop. Even as we grow I like that the name still allows approachability and it is a great conversation starter.
What has been the most fun part of running ASPS?
The most fun part has to be learning how to allow something to grow organically and also intentionally, which is a fun juxtaposition. At first I was set on just keeping this a garage set-up and really focusing on the craft….just me and Daniel Garza at the time. No need for employees….just a printer and a designer. Now we have grown to 7 full-time employees and 1 part-time employee. We have a production space with two autos and are about to launch a retail space and we continue to grow. Daniel has moved on to a great design firm called Consume&Create and now gets to be a full-time designer. I have taken over all aspects of running the shop with a lot of focus on the growth of ASPS. Pretty wild to think at a time I really thought I could print everything we put out into the world.
What has been the hardest part of the business?
I think I might have combined the most fun with the hardest….but I think they all go together. Sometimes the hard parts have been the most fun. Growth has not been easy….but very rewarding. I don’t know if it’s the hardest part….but it is constantly challenging to know when to pivot. Knowing when to just jump into something and take a risk or chance and be ok with the outcome whether or not it is totally successful….or a complete learning curve. But the hardest part probably is just pushing forward and always allowing failure to be an option while not becoming a goal. Success is the goal. We strive to create careers for employees. We strive to create a great customer experience and we strive to really honor the craft of screen printing. All those rewarding ideas and hopes are really hard to achieve…but totally worth the fight.
Why do you love screen printing?
I really keep combining all these answers! I love that I am never not learning in screen printing. That really has allowed me the ability to become obsessed with screen printing because there is always something to learn and achieve.
Why do you hate screen printing?
I hate screen printing because there is always something to learn and achieve!
What is your favorite brand/style of shirt?
I love American Apparel TR401 for a personal shirt I can wear all the time and the Next Level 3600.
Favorite brand has to be Next Level. They are wonderfully consistent and at a great price point. And it really is just a solid shirt and an easy one to feel comfortable offering clients.
What do you love to do outside of screen printing? like… hobbies?
I often ask myself this question….and have to push myself to embrace things that are not related to screen printing. My kids joke a lot about how I am obsessed with touching and feeling shirts when we are out and about! Once on a vacation to DisneyWorld I was thinking about trying to visit a print shop while in Orlando and rightfully so my kids threw a huge fit and put their collective feet down and told me I have to spend time with the family and not work for a couple of days.
So anyway, on to hobbies….I try to stay active in the music world. I am always writing and playing music. It is a great outlet. Other than that, it really is family and work.
I need to work on getting more hobbies!
What do you think would make the screen printing industry better?
More outlets like The Ink Kitchen. I have been reading that blog for a few years now. I think the openness of the screen printing community has grown with wonderful apps like Facebook and Instagram….and to continue to create a culture of helping one another overcome problems and also encourage one another to have success is important and will actually make the industry stronger.