August '21

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G R A P H I C S - P R O. C O M 2 0 2 1 A U G U S T G R A P H I C S P R O 1 3 Almost a year later (at the time of writ- ing), the Wilco job is still on pause. But by holding back the final screen, Baker protected his business, ensuring that his team's efforts weren't wasted, and the work remains viable and ready to go. FALLING IN LOVE "I started my career as a freelance designer. I didn't set out to run a print shop," says Baker. Sunlight pours through tall win- dows in his studio on Chicago's North Side as workers move about, checking colors, mixing inks, and making adjustments to the presses. "But when I learned how to screen print, I fell in love with it. The whole process." The walls are plastered with vibrant ex- amples of the studio's output: exquisite concert posters and album art featuring intricate designs, flamboyant colors, and fastidious hand lettering. They represent a who's who of international touring acts, including Dead and Company, Bruce Springsteen, Counting Crows, The String Cheese Incident, and The Avett Brothers. "I find it tremendously challenging and rewarding. I often refer to 'the art and sci- ence of screen printing' because I see those as twin dimensions," Baker states. He points out numerous pieces of equipment in his shop that he designed and custom- built himself: a print catch box, screen coating jig, squeegee sharpening station, a removable steel skirt for his exposing table, and an impressive registration and screen tension template system. Wearing an open flannel shirt over an ink-splattered T-shirt, he speaks fervently of blending artistry with pure physics of printing and devising unique solutions to improve his processes. "And there is a com- plex matrix of discretion, technique, taste, voodoo, and hardcore empiricism involved in every job," he believes. Creating and screen printing visually ar- resting graphics for the music industry — and specifically the performance-intensive jam-band genre — is itself a venerable artistic tradition with its roots in the psy- chedelic counterculture of the later 1960s and early 1970s. Posters and album covers by the best-known artists from this period, such as Rick Griffin, Wes Wilson, and Bonnie MacLean, reached a worldwide audience through mass distribution and established a set of design parameters and stylistic conventions that continue to be essentially definitive. Original works and limited-edition seri- graphs by these artists have become highly collectible and command formidable pric- es when they appear on the open market. Opposite: Kyle Baker speaks fervently of blending artistry with the pure physics of printing. Above: The walls at Baker Prints are plastered with vibrant examples of the studio's exquisite concert posters and album art. (Images courtesy AWT World Trade Group)

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