(short version, ha!)
During school I won a grant that enabled me to buy a steel etching press -- that was the beginning of Piano Nobile's print studio. When we began to print textiles a few years later, we quickly outgrew our homemade set up in our loft in Brooklyn. We were frustrated by the printing equipment that was commercially available -- we didn't want to print t-shirts with cheesy plastic inks, and it seemed like that was all that was out there!
Nick and I scoured the used book shops to find manuals and books that dated back to the heyday of American textile manufacturing, a thriving industry that began to die out in the 1980s. We used the technical drawings and factory floor photos as a guide to designing and building our own printing press. Using industrial cast offs, recycled steel, and heavy duty soft goods intended for high-end camping suppliers, we built a four-yard-long press with a travelling carriage that holds a lightweight aluminum screen frame. After lots of fine tuning and hauling pieces back and forth across the workshop, we got all of the pieces to fall into alignment. We hung up clothes lines and a "flying trapeze" to increase our room for drying. We built shelves for ink, paper, and fabric. Then we used what we'd learned to design and build printing equipment for another print shop with even greater production volumes.
Today we are busier than ever, and ready to grow. Our shop is part fine art press, architecture and design studio, engineering laboratory, and messy workshop. We hope to develop more industrial tools for our community of designers and makers, and the community we all share.