B’bye 2013. You were pretty cool. Except for that time you barfed in my car.

Sparky Firepants sick

Rudolph?

Don’t look at me, I’m horrid. Really. Okay, look. Just for a second. I know how your morbid little mind works.

Alright, that’s enough. Back to reading.

It’s just before New Year’s and I’m nursing a bad chest cold (is there a good one?). Maybe that’s a bad turn of phrase. I am not actually the one nursing the cold here, Jenni is nursing me. Big difference. I may publicly throw my swagger around like sweet chocolate treats, but when I get the sniffles, I turn into a sniveling mess.

Still, I’ve been meaning to write a glorious post to sum up our first official year of screen printing. I have scant time left before Ryan Seacrest and Judge Sotomayor officially let us into 2014, so there may be some chest cold-level sniveling mixed in with the gloriousness.

We did it!

First things first. We did it! We turned an idea into ink on t-shirts and happy clients. In January, I was still setting up our first press and trying to figure out how to build our shop out of two-by-fours and a halogen light from Home Depot.

By May we were selling our vegan t-shirts to a Sparky-loving crowd at WorldFest. By September we were serving (multiple) repeat custom screen print clients.

It’s four days to closing out our first official year and while we’re not (yet) the best-known screen printing shop in Los Angeles, we’ve made some really great t-shirts for thousands of great people. That makes me happy. If you’re one of those people, thank you! It was a pleasure serving you.

Oops, I did it again. Or at least once.

There were more hard lessons learned for us this year than even Amanda Bynes would appreciate. The reality checks were bountiful. Here are a few highlights of things we learned:

  • Even though I shake my fist at the gods and swear it cannot be done… I will do it anyway. So new motto for 2014: Shut up and print.
  • Cheap-o t-shirts feel like wearing a Brillo pad. So no more printing on crappy cheap-o t-shirts without a signed and notarized consent form or a ruling by a Federal judge. At least now we know where to get low-cost shirt blanks that feel like cotton instead of steel wool.
  • We can print on paper lunch bags better and more reliably than an inkjet. Panic first, figure it out second, get ‘er done, third.
  • So far we haven’t really needed that heat press and wide format inkjet printer to compete with local shops. In fact, we’ve learned how to do it all differently so we don’t have to worry about competition.
  • We will screw some things up – but we can deal with it. There was that time I ordered the wrong shirts. Actually, now that I look back it was three times. Thankfully we work with two local vendors who were able to send us the right shirts in a day. I generated some unwashable armpit stains over this, but thankfully I own a t-shirt company. Crisis averted, my own stinky shirt replaced, and we soldiered on.

We’ve made our own path.

Sometimes it’s been a slow and painful hike down that path. There have been mosquito clouds to swat and thorny vines to machete our way through to get to this point. All along the way, we kept getting glimpses of the easy, paved road in the distance. It was tempting to step onto it and just do it like everyone else. It was tempting to take the cheapest route with heat presses and direct-to-garment printers, to play the game of competing on price. Just when temptation was strongest, someone would step onto our path and say, “Hey, I like how you’re doing that. Can you help me?” And instantly our focus would go back to printing by hand the best t-shirts we can for the people who appreciate our style of service.

We couldn’t have made that path without help from people all over the world, mostly via the internet. Every time I got stuck on a printing problem, someone from Ryonet, T-shirt Forums, Catspit, or even an ink vendor would rescue me via blog post or YouTube video. Huge thanks to them. I plan to pay it forward to new screen printers in 2014 with some instructional posts and videos of my own.

Go ahead, Judge… lower that ball!

It’s almost 2014 and I haven’t yet mapped our path. It’s all in my head, which is currently stuffed up. I’ll blow it out my nose in a few days and share it on Instagram. Lucky you.

Despite the phlegm hiding in the dark corners of my lungs, I need to print an order right now. Sometimes that’s how it works when you serve people with your craft. Either you take it easy and they get a huge letdown… or you swallow some boiling tea, man up, and get ‘er done.

As selfless and martyr-making as I made that sound, it’s actually the most selfish thing I could do today. I started printing for me and I love doing it. The fact that someone gets to enjoy what I create is very cool, but I think I might get more out of it in the larger picture.

Wow, that tea made me ramble. I better shut up and print now.

All the best to you and yours in the new year!

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(818) 835-2585 Woodland Hills, California | sparky@sparkyfirepants.com

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