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Behind the Screens


Cyrk--from the Polish word for circus--is a small silk screen design studio in Rockport, owned by two businessmen who met tending bar four years ago. Greg Shlopak and Paul Butman feel they successfully combine creativity and business: mostly, they produce T-shirts, those ubiquitous billboards for the body. The shop works to capacity--over 100,000 T-shirts will be printed this year, double last year's figure.

The polyester silk screen itself is stretched and tacked onto a wooden frame. Artwork is converted into positives which are enlarged or reduced as necessary. In a process much faster than the original method, which used sunlight, an intense light source burns the outline of the positive into the screen, which has been coated with a light sensitive emulsion. The area covered by the positive stays soft, allowing the ink to penetrate it. Excess emulsion is hosed off, and the ink is squeegeed through the screen onto T-shirts which then pass through a dryer.

An assembly line of workers prints the T-shirts manually and folds and boxes them. All the workers at Cyrk are former or present art students who are encouraged to develop their own silk screen projects. To meet heavy summertime demands they work staggered shifts from 8 a.m. to midnight. As the business grows, the owners will have to decide whether to replace labor with costly machines. They also foresee some kind of profit sharing plan. But for now, during a T-shirt boom, Cyrk, their private circus, means bread.

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