Thursday, June 12, 2014

Bern's Black Yard

Imagine being lucky enough to be on vacation in Switzerland, find yourself with some solo spare time, and the city of Bern at your doorstep. It was just this scenario that I stumbled across the bear bridge (as I called it), up an ancient avenue and happened upon this storefront sign. Now imagine how many seconds it took for me to boldly cross the threshold into the Black Yard.

Inside proprietor Silvio Brügger greeted me warmly, but my attention quickly diverted to the eclectic mix of old and new print technologies, art posters, vintage type and various other (cool) stuff in the space. I learned that Black Yard is a graphic design studio that specializes in custom illustration and bold solutions for their clients.

Silvio Brügger

As I weaseled my way further into the studio, another friendly designer and illustrator, Christian Calame came out from his desk. And still my eyes wandered around their amazing work space.

Silvio and Christian

After all the visual clues, I should have known: Black Yard does their own screen printing. In haus. This being Switzerland, their table fit into a small corner, is highly mechanized, and pumps out dead-on registration prints. Silvio was kind enough to follow up with information about their table, their work and his thoughts on screen printing. Since my visit, Black Yard seems to have migrated to selling their wares in an online shop. Give up those clients for marketing your own products? Nice work if you can get it, and it seems to be working.

The Table!

Marty: We are really interested in your vacuum table, which to me reflects the Swiss aptitude with precision. Did you make it, or is it made to purchase? Please explain how the printing mechanism works. (we’d love to have one here!)

Silvio: It is a screen printing table made in Switzerland in the '70s. there are still some around to buy on the internet. We even had contact with a dutch design school who printed on the same table and they had some difficulties and asked us for help. Also to find spare parts is quite easy, because most of them are standard mechanical (or ISO-norm) parts. The printing mechanism works quite easy. You have a frame that holds the screen in a horizontal position and can be lifted and lowered via counterweights by hand. The squeegee is mounted above the frame and can be moved from left to right. The table itself is punctuated with holes and attached to an vacuum pump which will be activated when you lower the frame on the table. These are the basics see the table in action here.

Marty: The Swiss culture has such a rich history in design, do you know if screen printing was present in any of the influential schools in the area, such as the Bauhaus?

Silvio: Well, the most design schools here has their own print atelier. But one of the influential screen printers in our area was Albin Uldry, he even printed for Andy Warhol.

Marty: Why are most of your posters in English?

Silvio: There are two reasons: First because Switzerland is a multi-lingual country with four languages, therefore English is the easiest way to communicate on posters. Second, because we are heavily influenced by American gig posters.

Marty: Who are some of your favorite artists pushing the screen print boundaries today?

Silvio: There are a lot great screen printers out there and I guess we even know a few. Worth a mention are Chuck Sperry, Serge Nidegger and the awesome Michael Hacker.

Marty: Thank you, Silvio, for your warm welcome and your interview for Screen print Society!

Detail of a poster screen printed at Black Yard.