Screen machine
Artist renovates vintage truck into eco-friendly printing studio

Screen machine

Clint Reid inside his vintage-truck-turned-studio in Mancos with one of his hand-screened creations. Reid's small-scale operation uses earth-friendly materials and processes./Photo by Missy Votel

Missy Votel - 04/18/2024

Chances are, you’ve got an entire drawer of T-shirts that could be considered swag – from races you participated in, to brand logos to concert tees from your favorite band. But have you ever stopped to consider how these shirts were made? More than likely, that answer is no – after all, swag is swag, right?

Well, as it turns out, not all T-shirts are created equally. Even your most cherished tee may not be so soft and cuddly after all, depending on where and how its material was sourced and the chemicals and solvents used to make all those cool graphics.


But it’s not all bad news. Here in Southwest Colorado, we’ve got a screen-printer who has made it his life’s mission to produce swag that is kinder and gentler – on the planet and himself.

Reid, who in full disclosure has inked the Telegraph’s “Chech it Out” cartoon for the last decade or so, recently launched his newest artistic venture, “Unlucky Press” hand-screening. The hopefully soon-to-be mobile studio is based out of a 1965 Ford truck, which Reid recently renovated. 

And while Reid said he named his new venture “Unlucky,” because that’s “how he feels sometimes,” his eco-friendly screen-printing practices are anything but. In addition to using organic apparel (unless the customer requests otherwise), Reid also uses water-based citrus and soy-based inks and cleaners that are more earth-friendly than traditional screen-printing, which can use heavy chemicals. (Think that permanent marker smell, which in no way can be good for Earth or screen-printer lungs or brain cells.)

“The whole ethos is of working hard and in the right way. We don’t cut corners. We use the healthy, water-based stuff,” he said. “It’s more difficult, but I don’t want to jack up my lungs, and I don’t want to make an even bigger dent on life than I need to.”

And not only is his process better for the planet, it also results in a better product, he said. “It creates a softer feel to the T-shirts.”

Reid shows off one of the designs he helped create./Photo by Missy Votel

Indeed, prints on Reid’s shirts have an almost fuzzy, velvet-like feel compared to other processes that use acrylic, which gives shirts a “plasticy” feel. “That plastic sits heavy, it can get really hot if you’re wearing it on a hot day,” Reid said.

In addition, Unlucky Press uses recycled packaging and is WRAP certified. Short for “Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production,” the third-party organization accredits apparel and other manufacturers who promote safe, lawful, humane and ethical practices. 

“We work really hard to make it ecologically friendlier,” Reid said. “We re-use whatever we can and just try to make sure we’re being good stewards of our little pocket.”

Admittedly, Reid’s original motivations for getting into screenprinting were not altruistic so much as financial. Reid, 40, said he began screen printing about 20 years ago, when he was working at a ski shop in Red River, N.M.

“I started my own studio because we wanted to make apparel but didn’t want to pay for it,” he admitted.

Reid continued his DIY screen-printing journey when he moved to Durango in 2010 and became a member of Durango’s quirky, cutting-edge Studio & Gallery. “I built a dark room in the back and started getting it dialed in and did some small wholesale orders,” he said.

But Reid didn’t really master the process until he moved back to his hometown of Frederick, Okla., in 2016 to work as a school art teacher. (Where, incidentally, he not only won Teacher of the Year for his school but Fine Arts Educator of the Year for the entire state in 2020.) Reid began incorporating screen-printing into his art classes, with students selling their screen prints to finance art trips.

He recalls one time when kids sold shirts to pay for a trip to Oklahoma City to see an Impressionist exhibit at a museum – a trip that had a huge impact on some of the students.

“One student was from Mexico and had never been to the big city. She was so moved by the paintings, that she just started bawling when she saw them,” he said. “Because of screen-printing, we were able to do that.”

Reid, who is married with two daughters, eventually realized that Oklahoma was not for him or his family and moved back to SWCO in 2022, settling in Mancos. Unfortunately, the family’s new digs were too small for a full-blown studio, which is where the idea for a satellite studio was born.

When Reid first saw the old truck for sale at the Hogan, outside of town, he admits he was apprehensive. But then he got some gentle nudging from his old friend Tim Kapustka, owner of Studio &.

“Tim reminded me I wanted a mobile screen printing set up for years,” Reid recalled.

Although the truck only had 85,000 miles on it, it had suffered extensive water damage. “I got it for $3,000, it was worth a lot more, but the back was in such bad condition, the owner didn’t want to deal with it,” Reid said.

Reid bought the truck in the spring of 2023 and spent the next several months refurbishing it inside and out – including a Mondrian grid-themed paint job. For those who don’t know (such as myself), Piet Mondrian was a late 1800s/early 1900s Dutch painter credited as a pioneer in modern abstract art. His more well-known paintings used simple combinations of straight lines, right angles, primary colors, and black, white and gray. For Reid’s take on Mondrian, he used the primary printing press colors: cyan, magenta, yellow and black.

“He is one of my favorite painters, I painted the whole truck in that theme,” said Reid.

Eventually, the truck was restored enough that Reid moved in last fall and became fully operational. In addition to screen-printing, he also has a small sticker-making set up inside his house, and his wife, Amy, helps out with sewing the custom hem tags (which Reid also makes).

So far, he has landed gigs with KDUR, Toast Records and the Durango Coffee Co., to name a few. But his hope is to someday get the engine running long enough to take his traveling art studio on the road – not too far – to art festivals, farmers markets and events in the area.

“We have a range of products – t-shirts, poster prints, archival giclé prints, stickers and die-cut vinyl,” he said. 

But overall, Reid said his focus is on small-scale, local artisanal screen-printing. “We don’t have all the bells and whistles. We won’t be able to do the glittery, puffy prints,” he warned. “But, it’s better than putting out a subpar product that was made by who knows who in a factory somewhere.”

Rather, Reid prefers to take his cues from American pop art king Andy Warhol – who surely would shudder at the thought of puffy paint or glitter.

“In the 1950s, Warhol really brought fine art and commercial printing together in screen-printing,” Reid said. “I think that’s just a really great way to take this industrial tool and feed art into it. I call it a holistic approach to screen-printing. We all gotta exist in this weird place and make money to survive. I want to do it in the best way we can.” ?

Screen machine

Reid's studio: A 1965 Ford Camper