Brian is standing over a box of shirts as I enter the brand new Sodo location for Clone Press. Shortly thereafter, Brandon (above) pops his head out from the back and says hello. There’s an energy in the air, a buzz of men working. Even though there’s just the two of them.
Clone Press is a family business run by Brandon, Brian and the woman they have in common – Jennifer, who is Brandon’s sister and married to Brian. Together they print things like posters and T-shirts for other small businesses, local venues, bands and artists. It’s silk screen the old school way. Done by hand with lots of love, care and professional pride.
At first, both men keep working, Brian on a batch of shirts for a local record store, Brandon preparing the mirror he plans on hanging in the bathroom. He wants to put a print on it before it goes up, but now realizes that the corner is cracked. Before I arrived, he just finished putting the print on the windows out front. Clone Press has been in business for nearly a decade and this is their biggest expansion yet. The two guys are obviously excited about it, having built their business to this point, and continuing to grow, recession or no.
CP: I love the versatility of screen-printing. It’s the most versatile of printing techniques. It feels like any surface can be screen-printed and it’s used in so many ways, commercial or artistically. It’s also such a tangible process. The ink has texture, the colors are bold, and you can tell when something has been screen-printed. I think screen-printing is by nature imperfect but that’s what gives the medium its cool aesthetic. People like screen-printed things, even if they don’t know it. There always seems to be something new to learn about the nuances of printing. That in itself makes it worth my time.
AP: You started out printing things for your own band, Couch of Eureka, in the 1990s. At what point did printing become more important than the music?
CP: Really neither is more important. I still play in bands, Brian and I even play in a band together. They are both a creative process. One is definitely more a means to an end, financially, but one doesn’t exactly trump the other. I feel it’s a “have your cake and eat it too” kind of thing. Printing is about having a business but I think we feel lucky to be able to do what we do and make money doing it. Although by no means is anybody getting rich! My passion for both hasn’t really changed. It’s just doing what I’m compelled to do.
AP: Clone Press began in a garage in 2001, now almost a decade later you have just moved into a new, bigger space. To what do you credit this growth and success, especially when so many small businesses are struggling?
CP: On the business end things kind of fell in our laps. We never have taken loans or tried to grow big for the sake of being bigger. Like the
letterpress I just found while getting my paper cut at a small offset printing shop. I noticed it just gathering dust and asked if they wanted to get rid of it. I always wanted one and it was just luck I guess. I admit that a lot of the time we’ve been a business we just got by, but we are dedicated to seeing the whole thing become what we envision it to be. The shop has been a lot like the printing process, making something from a blank slate. Lately like any small business we’ve felt the need to take risks. These days are an unusual circumstance for small business and we think you just have to go for it.
AP: Until now you’ve specialized in silk screen prints. With your new space you are looking to expand into letterpress printing and add more types of textile printing. What are your hopes and fears for this expansion?
CP: We hope to grow painlessly! We’ve tried to keep the overall risk low, by making the growth gradual, without leveraging the operation as it is right now. That meant having a larger space out of necessity while making other options available. It’s a balancing act for sure.
CP: It means everything. We’ve always been close and I’ve felt that family support through the last nine years with the shop, or any endeavor I’ve engaged in and I hope I’ve been supportive in the same way. We’ve met a lot of great folks and had interesting things come our way because of the shop. Brian and I even got to act on stage in a play called Point Break Live! That was fun. It’s been an interesting ride so far for sure.
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