Being free to be creative…

four colors of Susie

I have worked in printing since 1980. I loved printmaking in college so I was drawn to the idea of putting ink on paper. My first job in printing after college was doing camera work for billboard signs. A small silkscreen company in Lexington, KY called United Grafix. You would walk in the front door and get a strong smell of the process. Ink, paper, dryers…. I loved it. My job there was doing process camera work and it was smelly and messy. I, along with another employee prepared large, ( I mean really large) wooden photo silk screens with the color separations that would be hauled to another building to produce a four color billboard signs. It might be a full size billboard of four colors or just a section of the sign depending on the ad or the reason for the board. Lexington Kentucky is horse country so many times we prepared billboards for the horse industry. I was pregnant with my oldest son and would stand at a processing tank of photo chemicals all afternoon hand developing ( they didn’t have a processor) large 53.5 x 60 inches pieces of film and then exposing and processing the screens. It really  is a miracle that my son didn’t have some difficulties because of the fumes I was breathing. Happily, he didn’t seem to suffer any ill effects and is super bright.

After a brief stint as a stay at home mom and another son later, I took a position at a prepress facility in Lexington, KY. At this job I had to learn the computer. Magna Graphic was a reputable prepress company that did separations for school textbook adoption. My job there was to work on a computer system called Scitex and key in commands to create pages for the books. The on the job training I received included color correction. I learned how to judge the color of images and to correct the images per the color technicians specs. I also learned, pre Photoshop days, how to do “magical” things to images to create new images. Retouching out wrinkles to make someone younger, create a prototype product that didn’t yet exist, change a person’s race, mask an image to place it on top on another image. All the things that we think of today as common practice was really a new idea then. I worked there for 5 years.

After being laid off at Magna Graphic in 1991, ( really bad management choices in the “Education year of the first Bush administration”) I was able to get work through a headhunter at a newspaper in Evansville, IN., the Evansville Courier. We had almost gone through all our savings so it was crucial that I take this new position. My boys were now in school and this meant that Herb and the boys would stay behind, finish out the school year and then join me in Indiana at that point.

The newspaper job was a real learning experience for me due to becoming the employee that needed to bring other employees up to speed on system skills and to develop commercial end of the department to do color separations for Bristol Myers Squib infant formula labels, local ad agencies and a Scripps Howard photographer doing special projects of coffee table books from the cities that had Scripps Howard newspapers. The newspaper industry was the dirtiest printing job I have witnessed. Quality was almost non existent on the newspaper side due to needing to meet deadlines and get the paper onto the news stands. The commercial work was challenging however and I liked it very much. What we didn’t like was Indiana. Too flat, too hot, too windy, too boring. We needed mountains and streams. The dirty Ohio just didn’t do the trick.

My headhunter had perfect timing. We moved to Indiana saying we would only be there for a year and after three the call came for a job in Strasburg, Virginia at Judd’s Incorporated, a magazine printer. So 10 years after the first printing job we moved to Virginia, Herb’s home state. We had a river named Shenandoah, plenty of mountains and  DC  an hour away for any cultural needs that weren’t available in the Shenandoah Valley. I had a family to care for and printing was our bread and butter giving me plenty of overtime and challenges to satisfy my creative side through my work and pay me well enough to have a comfortable life.

scanners and light booth in the background

at RRD with Scanners and light booth in background

So now 16 years later,  printing has fallen from being something I have a true passion for to a thorn in my side. The internet is taking the industry in a totally new direction. Advertisers are going to the web and in the magazine industry it is the advertising that is paying for the book to get printed. Less ads means less pages and magazine companies folding. My job has changed so many times in the past 20 plus years that it just isn’t fun anymore. And, I felt that my sales force was taking food from my table by selling my job to customers as a way for the customer to save money. If the customer could do their own color work  or page assembly then they would save money and our company could keep the printing part of the work. I became the sacrificial lamb.

Happy at my mac at RRD

And yesterday I got the speech. “With the economy where it is and our company needing to make reductions, we have eliminated your position”… I smiled. I have been expecting it for some time and am glad that I can finally get off this roller coaster and concentrate on my creativity.

My boys are grown. Herb is happy as an elementary school librarian. I have worked in printing for 20 plus years and can now take the time I need to focus on new passions. I’m not sure if there will be one in particular that I focus on but for now, I don’t have to watch the clock and that feels pretty good.

2 thoughts on “Being free to be creative…

  1. Susie-Usually a person finds it disheartening and stressful when they receive “the speech”. I’m glad you were able to smile and feel gratitude for the freedom that particular speech has given you. I have been impressed by and envious of the creative skills you have shared on Facebook. I look forward to seeing what you come up with next!

    • Thanks, Beth. Very kind words indeed. In the coming months there may be all kinds of things to see. I am trying to be as positive as possible because at my age, and still being a way away from retirement, I’m going to try and enjoy the freedom to just do… Herb is being especially supportive and that is truly reassuring. Thanks again.

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