The term “craft goods” has been slowly working its way into the Duluth lexicon. It’s been applied to micro breweries, manufacturers of outdoors gear, bakeries and on down to individual blacksmiths and jewelry makers. A new screen-printing business recently joined the ranks of those embracing this “craft” philosophy.
Proctor native Ian Scherber launched Duluth Screen Printing in May 2015 with a focus on creating sustainable products for those in need of a quality, customized T-shirt. In an odd twist, the popularity of the craft trend quickly led him into partnerships with large corporations like Target, Patagonia and Ernst & Young, putting out small-batch custom apparel for three behemoth brands.
“Industry is changing,” Scherber said. “There (are) a lot of really awesome options out there. We sell that opportunity and we wanted to be a nitty-gritty, hardworking brand based right in Downtown Duluth that’s making awesome stuff right out of our shop.”
Scherber has been practicing screen printing since his days at Proctor High School. He learned the trade through his after-school job at Proctor Builders Supply, where he learned how to use the screen-printing machine the company had just purchased. One of his first attempts at making a T-shirt was for the infamous Proctor/Hermantown “hammer game” in which the winning football team becomes the proud holder of a six-foot sledge hammer until the next year’s rematch.
“After I met with the boss, I went to football practice the next day and told him that I could make the hammer shirts, and after that it just kind of took off,” Scherber said.
His Duluth Screen Printing Company occupies a studio space above Lake Superior Bottle Shop on East First Street. Along with two employees, Scherber has put a lot of work into the overall environment of the company and the mission to use high-quality materials such as organic cotton and water-based ink. The theory is that longer-lasting shirts won’t end up in the waste stream as quickly, consuming fewer resources over time.
“T-shirts are meant to be T-shirts and not rags,” Scherber said. “We all have those crappy T-shirts that we don’t want to wear, but our big goal is to produce stuff that lasts.”
Scherber is also developing a second business, Neverest Outfitters, producing canvas bags and apparel with a similar focus on old-fashioned work ethic and quality products over the fast and cheap approach.
“Get out there and get your hands on something and do it,” is Scherber’s advice to other young entrepreneurs. “If you haven’t found what you’re passionate about, don’t stop, keep going, do something with your hands and try it.”
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