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Andy MacDougall

Meet the 2 Guys Helping to Launch a Youth Movement in the Screen Industry

The founders of MADElab are the subject of AndyMac’s latest podcast.

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THE CONTINUING METAMORPHOSIS of this industry just might be taking place in Ft. Worth, Texas, with an ex-cable guy/musician/wanna-be teacher and a transplanted Californian spinning a new cocoon of mesh and machines.

According to my high school English class, the past tense of make, is MADE. Past tense? This is why English is so confusing. “Tense” is definitely not a word that describes my next guests on the Podcast. And “past?” That’s crazy talk because today we’re going to visit the future of print and apparel.

M.A.D.E. stands for Modern Apparel Development and Education. Slap “lab” on the back end, add .io, (madelab.io), stuff the place full of new toys and the latest production equipment supplied by a range of manufacturers, add some people who know a halftone from a hinge clamp and care deeply about the industry – specifically apparel decorating – mix in a bunch of base elements and processes (screens and screen printing, of course, weird inks, digital design and printing, sublimation, heat transfers, exotic fabrics and naturally occurring ones), throw some imagination into the cauldron, and start stirring to see what results. This sounds a lot like Alchemy to me… Buckle your seatbelts everybody because we’re about to land… (in your best Texas drawl) “Welcome to DFW.”

MADElab.io is the brainchild and baby of two industry characters my editor likes to call the “cool kids.” You might know them. If you don’t (or even if you do) have a listen to the podcast.

Brett and Tom, founders of MADElab.

Brett and Tom, founders of MADElab.

Brett Bowden and Tom Davenport are part of a “youth” movement in the screen and decorated apparel industry. I actually have no idea how old they are, but they aren’t showing much gray, let alone the telltale white hair and beard that mark us old pharts. Brett could probably get work in a shampoo commercial with his flowing locks, and he still has lots of it, unlike many of my colleagues and contemporaries. Although they have more than a few kids between them, they don’t have grandchildren. So, to me, they are still, and always will be, classified as youths. And right now, this industry needs the younger set more than ever.

What makes them cool is their past and current efforts to create and support events and opportunities for printers. Today’s entrepreneurs are growing their operations and looking for tech help, automation information, and innovation in the apparel and fashion industries. Tom and Brett have made commitments outside their day-to-day businesses conceiving, promoting, and running educational oriented activities – The Water-Based Boot Camp at Tom’s old shop in Sacramento, California, and the Ink Kitchen’s mix of interviews and how-to tips come to mind.

They participated in Printing United Alliance activities, serving on the Board of Directors, and tried to keep screen printing on the table as the organization went through a metamorphosis of its own. They run (Brett, Printed Threads) or have ran (Tom, Motion Textiles) successful screen businesses, building them in the time-honored way: from scratch. In the podcast we learn a bit of their background, what brought them to this point in time, and what they are hoping to accomplish going forward with MADElab.

In the midst of a continuously changing industry, instead of abandoning it for greener pastures, MADElab has stuck with screen printing, continuing to embrace the process in production, and creating hands-on opportunities for learning and experimenting as screen printing morphs once again into new areas.

PHOTO GALLERY (3 IMAGES)

Andy MacDougall is a screen printing trainer and consultant based on Vancouver Island in Canada, and a member of the Academy of Screen & Digital Printing Technology. If you have production problems you’d like to see him address in “Shop Talk,” email your comments and questions to [email protected]

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