Makers and shakers: Carolyn Kimball from Kimball Prints

I’m starting a new series here focusing on inspiring makers. Who better to start with than Kimball Prints! I’ve drooled over Carolyn Kimball’s work for the past few years, adding kitchen towels to my collection stealthily so as to not overwhelm the drawer stuffed to the gills with my existing stash.

I sat down with Carolyn earlier this month to see how she does what she does.

The Basics: Carolyn is trained in fine art printmaking. She grew up in Louisville, Kentucky. She started designing and printing home decor items in a spurt of under-employment, where she joined forces with a friend (also under-employed) who specialized in wholesale account representation. They’ve grown their business over the past 3 years from a first run of 300 towels at the Blue Genie Art Bazaar, to now selling them all over the country. Visit Carolyn’s home decor website to see all the great designs and products there, her woodcuts (that’s another project I’d love to spy on), her bio and retail information.

The Process: Carolyn starts all her designs from the watercolor palette pictured above. From watercolor sketches, she then scans the sketches and hand traces them using Adobe Illustrator. She prints that design out on a transparency sheet then coats a mesh screen with photo sensitive emulsion and burns it on a light table in her screenprinting cooperative’s darkroom. The light table cooks the emulsion into the mesh everywhere but on the design, so, after rinsing off the emulsion that didn’t cook, she ends up with a screen that corrals the ink into the confines of the design she drew, a super-cool stencil.

Inspired by her fine art background, Carolyn individually mixes inks to create unique and distinctive colors for the towel designs. I had a vague idea of how screen-printing works, but getting to watch Carolyn in action was a treat and quite enlightening surrounding the printing work that goes into my own screenprinted goods.

Carolyn dragging ink over the screen.

This ink needs to reach a certain temperature to set, so the conveyor belt oven cooks up the towels.

Check out this video of Carolyn in action!

Carolyn was kind to toss in two of her recent designs, prickly pear and poppy, for HGGH readers. I’ll give them away separately, so the first winner to respond to my winner notification email gets first choice of design. Enter via the widget below. I’m shipping these towels myself and want to spread the love to readers far and wide, no shipping restrictions!

Enter here