Devoted to the art of screen printing

HEALTHY HABIT: Katie Tyrrell screen prints fabric at her kitchen table watched by her daughter, Lucy, 2.
HEALTHY HABIT: Katie Tyrrell screen prints fabric at her kitchen table watched by her daughter, Lucy, 2.

When someone confides they are addicted, most people would worry. But Katie Tyrrell has a healthy addiction to the art of screen printing and she freely admits that right from the start, she became hooked on it.

This addiction provides a balance with parenting two children, Ben, 4, f and Lucy, 2, who keep her on her toes all day, while her husband Colby is away at work. They also live in a recently purchased 90-year-old house, which was partly responsible for Katie's first attempt at screen printing.

When they moved into their Moutere property, they knew it would need work on it. Having been left in a pretty original condition over the years, it now needed a freshen up.

They stripped old wallpaper off the walls revealing the original sarking beneath, then repainted some walls and Katie put her artistic hand to work adding some features of her own. One project involved revamping the hall lampshade and here she played around with making her own coverings, first with printed fabric that she had bought.

Around the same time she decided to learn how to screen print, and was taught by Lisa Grennell, who runs short courses from her home studio. After a three-day intensive workshop, she couldn't wait to get her own equipment and start printing. The ideas flowed and she soon came up with a range of simple but bold designs, and after her first foray into lamp shade making, worked out a way to cover the shades herself.

It is fiddly work and requires the use of acetate as a heat-proof backing, and nimble fingers to attach the shade fabric to the wire frame, but Katie has managed this with incredible neatness.

Katie is committed to using "friendly" materials in her business, so chooses only 100 per cent cottons and non-toxic water-based printing inks. She can also cover shades with material supplied by clients, which can be handy if they want to match curtains or other features in a room.

She now sells her screen-printed shades under the funky label "Skunk and Robot", gleaned from names that son Ben had given two of their pet sheep. "It was original. It has been a great conversation starter," she says.

Working in her kitchen while the children are in bed in the evenings, Katie utilises the kitchen table as her printing bench, and finds it incredibly relaxing spending the evening printing.

With previous experience running a small business, Katie has found the marketing side of her new venture quite easy, and manages this around the constraints of having two small children.

So far she has had a great response from the public, having sold at the recent Great Christmas Market, and now has her work in the Post Office Store in Upper Moutere. She also uses Facebook to promote her work and has had a lot of inquiries.

How does she feel so far about the response to her endeavours?

"It's quite overwhelming and humbling," says Katie.