March '20

For the Business of Apparel Decorating

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SHOP SNAPSHOT GRAMMATICAL ART LOCATION: Phoenix, Arizona OWNER: Natalie McCasling PRODUCTION EQUIPMENT: • Epson F2000 DTG printer • Ryonet 4-color, 2-station manual screen-printing press • Vastex D1000 conveyor dryer • Stahls Hotronix Fusion heat press The Words Do the Work I t's not uncommon for printers to integrate hobbies and passions into the work they do, but for Natalie McCasling, owner of Grammatical Art, her background helped build the foundation for what her business is all about. "I'm basically a nerdy scientist who was looking for a creative outlet," says McCasling. Scientific themes, a background in chemistry, and jokes based around grammar pet peeves sparked some of her earliest ideas and set the wheels in motion. McCasling says she started by creating short runs of archival inkjet prints and the catchy phrases and designs sold well. Growing her name through the company's website and an Etsy storefront, she says custom- ers started asking about the possibility of transferring some of those designs to apparel like T-shirts. She explored the option of contract printing and sold a few successful runs of shirts through her store, but she knew she'd have to adjust to fit the ever-changing demands of cus- tomers. As clients continued to request her designs in a variety of garment colors, McCasling says moving away from contracting seemed like the best option in order to remain flexible. "I ordered a tabletop unit where I was just burning one screen at a time," she explains. The DIY setup worked for the first few initial orders, but McCasling says she soon realized if she wanted to turn a sizeable profit with the trade, she would need to bring on other equipment. With the sales from her small run of shirts printed with the DIY kit, McCasling says she upgraded to a 4-color, 2-station manual press. In recent years, McCasling invested her profits into more equipment and eventually brought on a DTG printer. Having the two options now allows her to do a combination of higher-volume screen printing orders, matched with the short-run nature of DTG prints. With a largely online-based business, she says digital printing has come much more to the forefront. "What's interesting is I would say (the business) is now about 75% DTG," she explains, noting that the ability to do one-off designs and trial designs makes it much more enticing for her customers. "(Coming) from the science background, I also like being able to prototype anything." To date, McCasling says she offers roughly close to 1,000 designs on her site, all easily cued up for printing on an expanded set of substrates, which now includes shirts, bags, and other soft goods. If a design starts building significant popularity, she'll burn a screen for largescale production. Along with providing a broad set of choices on the website, McCasling says the DTG option has helped her tap into lucrative niche markets that are in her wheelhouse such as ComicCon and WonderCon. "You can do a convention event and in one weekend, you can do one to three months' work of revenue," she explains. In addition to the convention crowds, McCasling says her business model works well for the teacher's market. The hyper- customization allows her to provide a set of decorated goods tailored to a teacher's classroom, as well as offer creative gifts that students can give to their teachers. Even with the success McCasling has had in sectors like the maker market and the greater decorated apparel world, she stresses that she learns something new every week and that growth doesn't happen overnight. "I didn't start in the business having the best of everything." She adds, "You start off small, you're working it out, and as you start making money, you put that money back in the business. You continue to grow, and then you can bring on bigger, better equip- ment and then staff." McCasling also chal- lenges those who are considering turning their creativity into a business to explore their options. "Anybody who is thinking about doing it, you won't know until you start trying. You try, and you start doing it, and you'll get better every day." For more information, visit www.gram PW Natalie McCasling, owner and founder of Grammatical Art, serves up a variety of cus- tom-decorated goods themed in the gram- mar and science categories. (All images courtesy Grammatical Art) 6 4 P R I N T W E A R M A R C H 2 0 2 0 McCasling originally entered the industry with custom-printed poster art, which she still creates today. Maintaining a solid online presence through channels like Etsy, Grammatical Art also finds success with large convention events like ComicCon and WonderCon.

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