Couple bring interesting designs to life on t-shirts and apparel

This story is part of a series focusing on local makers. In 2022, The Review will find out what local entrepreneurs are creating, explore the how they do aspect of what they do and of course we will ask them why they do what they do. This week we speak with Rosemary and Gill Kingsley. Their small screen-printed clothing business is about seven years old, but since moving to Vankleek Hill in 2020, Rosemary says she and her husband have been aiming to make it a full-time business.

Living life by design. Rosemary Kingsley’s description of the designs used on GROAdesign’s t-shirts and apparel sums up the couple behind GROAdesign and their original design screen printed t-shirts and apparel.

“We both draw the designs,” Kingsley says, describing their work as a kind of mash-up. She explains, “You can tell which ones are mine. They talk about nature, camping and trees,” she says, adding that she has a degree in environmental studies. Her husband, Gill, creates designs that are more in the realm of rave art, she says. Although he works full time in a government job, he DJs and creates psychedelic trance music. He has been a DJ for 20 years, playing his music at festivals and events across North America and as far away as Australia. But having kids has changed being a DJ at nighttime events, he says. And a move to Vankleek Hill meant he was over an hour away from late-night DJ jobs, so he backed off a bit on that front. Nowadays, he says you can listen to his mixes for free on Soundcloud. (Search for Tampered dna to listen to his music.)

Gill jokes that they go back to the hippie era of the 60s and 70s. And he’s kinda right. There’s something familiar, yet new about her designs, ranging from psychedelic neon to line art that makes you think of the 50s, 60s and 70s.

They love creating their own designs and making t-shirts one at a time, all while aiming to make what they love to do a business.

They use Canadian made t-shirts which are also sustainably made. Women’s shirts are made of bamboo, while men’s shirts are 100% cotton.

About seven years ago, they started making screen-printed items themselves. But family and friends quickly started asking for t-shirts for themselves.

“It was just a hobby, but about a year ago we decided to take it more seriously,” Rosemary explained. Although they were unable to attend the shows in person due to the pandemic, they sell their products on Etsy and in Vankleek Hill there are GROAdesign t-shirts for sale at Indigo Hill at 26 Main Street in Vankleek Hill.

Thanks to the news that she was successful in obtaining a grant from the Prescott-Russell Entrepreneurship Center, Rosemary plans to use the additional support to learn more about wholesaling as the couple aims to sell their products in more than stores.

She also points out that they can do small batch work, like creating shirts or other products for local businesses, teams, organizations and community groups.

Screen printing, explained

A fine mesh canvas is stretched over a wooden frame then a thin layer of photosensitive emulsion is spread over the screen where it is left to dry. Next, a black image on a transparent surface is placed against the screen, before exposing the screen to light. Exposure to light causes the emulsion to harden and adhere to the mesh fabric, creating a solid layer. Where the black image, or design, is, will block light and remain water soluble. After exposing the screen, the screen is washed with water, removing the emulsion that was under the design and not exposed to light. Now the design is the cleared area on the mesh fabric. This clear area on the mesh will be where the ink will go to print on a t-shirt or other fabric. To do this, the screen is placed on the fabric, carefully stretched inside a frame. The ink is placed on the mesh fabric and pressed through the transparent part, imprinting the design. Screen printing applies a pattern to the surface of the fabric, rather than being part of the weave of the fabric.

The couple have a small workshop at the back of their Bertha Street home, which is a busy daytime daycare center – that’s Rosemary’s full-time job these days.

You can contact Rosemary by sending an e-mail to: [email protected] Visit Indigo Hill in Vankleek Hill to see some of their designs or find them on Etsy at: https://www.etsy.com/shop/groadesign/

Gill Kingsley and Rosemary Woods Kingsley show off some of their small batch screen printed garments. The couple create their own designs for their Vankleek Hill business. They work to grow their business after hours and on weekends. They both have full-time jobs.
Photo: Louise Sproule

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