This story is one of a series focusing on local makers. In 2022, The Review will be finding out what local entrepreneur-makers are creating, will explore the how-they-do-it aspect of what they do and of course, we will be asking them why they do what they do. This week, we speak with Rosemary and Gill Kingsley. Their small-batch silk screen clothing business is about seven years old, but since moving to Vankleek Hill in 2020, Rosemary says she and her husband have their sights set on making it into a full-time enterprise.
Living life by design. Rosemary Kingsley’s description of the designs used on GROAdesign’s t-shirts and clothing sums up the couple behind GROAdesign and their silk-screen, original design t-shirts and clothing.
“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 are 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 at a government job, he is a DJ, mixing 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. These days, he prefers mixing music for the radio and for his own enjoyment, but he hopes that as pandemic restrictions are reduced, he will be playing at festivals once again. You can listen to his mixes for free on Soundcloud. (Look for Tampered dna to give his music a listen.)
Gill jokes that they hearken back to the 60s and 70s hippie era. And he is kind of right. There is something familiar, yet new– about his designs, ranging from neon psychedelic to line drawings that make you think of the 50s, 60s and 70s.
They love creating their own designs and make t-shirts one at a time–while aiming to build what they love to do into a business.
They use Canadian-made t-shirts that are sustainably made, too. The women’s shirts are made from bamboo, while the men’s shirts are made of 100% cotton.
It was about seven years ago that they began making silk-screened items for themselves. But family and friends soon started asking for t-shirts for themselves.
“It was just a hobby, but about a year ago, we decided to get more serious about it,” Rosemary explained. Although they have not been able to attend the in-person shows due to the pandemic, they do 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 news that she was successful in securing a grant from the Prescott-Russell Entrepreneurship Centre, Rosemary plans on using the extra support to learn about wholesaling as the couple aims to have their products sold in more shops.
She also points out that they can do small-batch jobs, like creating shirts or other products for local companies, teams, organizations and community groups.
Silk screening, explained
A fine-mesh cloth is stretched over a wooden frame and then a thin layer of photosensitive emulsion is spread on the screen where it is left to dry. Then a black image on a transparent surface is placed against the screen, before exposing the screen to light. Being exposed 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 the light and will remain water-soluble. After exposing the screen, the screen is washed with water, washing off the emulsion that was underneath the design and not exposed to light. Now, the design is the clear area on the mesh fabric. This clear area on the mesh will be where the ink passes through to be printed on a t-shirt or other fabric. To do this, the screen is laid on top of the fabric, stretched carefully inside a frame. Ink is placed on the mesh fabric and pressed through the transparent part, printing the design. Screen printing applies a design to the surface of fabric, rather than being part of the weave of the fabric.
The couple has a small workshop at the rear of their Bertha Street home, which is a buzzing home day care during the day–that is Rosemary’s full-time job these days.