Each year, the Museum produces a gift exclusively for Members who renew early, in response to the first notice that their membership is about to expire. In 2020, we worked with Orchard Street Press, in St. Francis, to produce a distinct Member tote bag. The bag features an original design by Alison Kleiman, design and brand lead at the Museum, that is a playful abstraction of the Museum’s Burke Brise Soliel, affectionately known as the “wings.”
I recently spoke with Julie and Whitney Teska, the owners of Orchard Street Press, about their business. Julie answered for the pair, while Whitney provided the printing press descriptions that accompany the photos below.
As Museum staff, it’s important for us to direct Museum resources toward local partnerships and projects, whenever possible. We value the opportunity to be creative with the annual member premium offering and view its creation as a moment to celebrate hallmarks of our Museum and the collection in a way that we hope will surprise and delight Members—and as an opportunity to partner with local companies, contributing to the area economy and culture.
How did Orchard Street Press start?
Whitney grew up playing in bands as a teenager so when his band wanted t-shirts to sell, he learned how to screen print them himself. Fast forward to 2008. Whitney and I were both recent UW-Milwaukee grads and we heard about a business plan competition that the Business School (at UWM) was hosting. We entered, presented our business plan to a panel of judges, and won first place. We used the winnings to set up our first basement print shop.
Why did you choose to open your shop in St. Francis/Milwaukee?
Milwaukee is home. There’s a very supportive small-business and arts community here, so we knew it was a good fit for what we wanted to do. Our first shop was in the basement of our first house in Milwaukee, on Orchard Street in Walker’s Point. The business grew, we moved, and finally in 2015, we were able to purchase our shop’s forever home in St. Francis.
Tell me about your art background and that of the O.S.P. team.
Neither Whitney nor I have a formal art background. He’s a history major and I’m a journalism major. But we’re creative people, so it was important for both of us to start a business that was fulfilling to us in that way. We have a staff of about 15, almost all of whom are artists in some capacity. We’ve been lucky enough to hire several recent MIAD grads.
What is a misunderstanding people hold about the medium of print?
People often don’t realize that screen printing has not changed much over the decades. Yes, there is newer equipment with technology that can make our job more efficient, but at the end of the day, we’re still just pushing ink through a screen with our hands. We still have to print one color at a time. We live in an on-demand culture so sometimes our customers are surprised at how methodical the printing process can be. But there is a charm to it that makes a garment look much richer than if it were digitally printed.
What role does Orchard Street Press play in supporting Milwaukee’s culture?
We like to think of ourselves as a tool to help people’s vision come to life. We print for many local brands, who help shape the cultural landscape of our city with their fresh ideas and contribution to the local economy. I love seeing people wearing shirts we’ve printed when I’m out and about. I love that that whole cycle can exist locally.
How has your business changed since the pandemic?
It’s been tough. As I mentioned, screen printing is an “old-school” process that cannot be done virtually. It’s a hands-on job and running an in-person business during the pandemic has been a challenge to say the least. A lot of our business relies on events, which have come to a standstill this year. Nevertheless, we are very thankful to our loyal customers who’ve helped us stay afloat during this crazy time.
Sustainability Matters: In addition to your Member tote bag being a reusable item perfect for a farmer’s market haul or a curbside order from a Neighborhood Discount Program business, it was also made with environmentally friendly materials, including using phthalate-free plastisol and soy-based biodegradable cleaners.
Museum Tote Bag Printing Process: In Images
Images 1–4: Here the design image is being printed onto the screen digitally. The screen is then placed into an exposure unit, where light hardens all the areas not covered by the printed ink. The screen is rinsed with water using a pressure washer, removing all the emulsion, or ink, of the printed design, which hasn’t hardened; this allows the screen print ink to pass through the design areas of the screen.
Images 5–11: These show the bags being printed on the press. The bags are loaded onto the press (the large round machine) by the operator and travel to the screens with different ink colors in them (white for the base and yellow/gold for the top). They then come around to the puller, who puts the bags onto a conveyor dryer. Finally, they are caught, folded, and boxed by a third person.
Elisabeth Gasparka is the Development Officer for Membership within the Development Department at the Museum. She crafts Member communications, plans and oversees Member events, and manages relationships with external partners, including through the Neighborhood Discount Program.