Reviving an old art form, and making it mobile

By Jared Davidson – 

When Johannes Gutenburg invented the printing press in the mid-fifteenth century, he helped to set off a renaissance of creativity, discourse, and political upheaval. Suddenly, everyone had a voice. For centuries afterward, those who claimed that the new technology would only show that ideas and creativity should be kept from the “common people” were proven wrong.

It is in that tradition that Printfiniti! falls. A mobile screen printing cart designed in collaboration with two local design teams and help from the Wellington West BIA, Printfiniti! has been making appearances at festivals and events, giving participants the opportunity to print their own poster. Like the printing press, the screen printing cart makes poster printing accessible, and lots of fun. According to Jamie McLennan of Character Creative and Pitt and 2nd, the experience of hand printing is something special.

(L to R): Stirling Prentice, Jamie McLennan, Eric Chamois. Photo by Earl Havlin

“Hand pulled prints means the person printing is in control,” he says. “It lends itself to small inconsistencies that you may not have control over which in turn allow each print to shine on its own. Also by physically printing the item you have the feeling that you have created something.”

The idea to build a mobile screen-printing cart came about when, inspired by other examples of mobile print in Toronto and Vancouver, Stirling Prentice from Winged Beast approached Jamie McLennan and Eric Chamois of Pitt and 2nd. The idea was to create a printing cart for The Happening, Hintonburg’s yearly neighbourhood celebration. It was then that Zachary Dayler of the Wellington West BIA got involved, helping with funding and booking.

“That the idea supports street level activity in a fun and creative way,” Zachary says. “If we can support an activity that encourages getting out to discover a wonderful area of the city, that is great!”

Since then, Printfiniti has been touring Ottawa, performing demonstrations and encouraging participation. Thus far, the response has been enthusiastic. According to Jamie, many people who visit the cart have never seen screen printing in action. Their curiosity soon turns to creativity.

“It’s fun to pull back the curtain and show people how it works. It’s memorable,” says Jamie. “Especially the kids, when they step up and print their own posters. It’s neat to see them trying something new. They’re always a little proud of their print. That definitely doesn’t happen with digital printing.”

Those eager to try Printfiniti! should stay tuned to the BIA’s website at The cart will be making appearances throughout the summer, and the Printfiniti! team invite you to step up and participate, with your own design or one of a selection. For many events, the mobile print cart will be able to print out posters of the event while the event is going on, offering souvenirs to the attendees.

Printfiniti! is another in a line of new Ottawa initiatives that seek to throw off the restrictions on creativity. With our Maker Spaces, our Innovation Pods, and our Printfiniti, there’s plenty of ways to be creative in the city this summer.

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