The Lightbox: Growing One Artist Studio T-Shirt at a Time


“This is the workspace,” Lucy Hodkiewicz said, pointing to shelves drying screen-printed bandanas. Nearby was a screen printing press that could hold four different screens, all perfectly aligned when printing, plus a powerful electric dryer with a surface the size of the print.

She pointed to battered wooden frames holding screens from her early days of an entirely manual – and slow – process.

“When I was doing [screen printing] by hand, I didn’t need to put it in a press, so the screens didn’t need to have nice frames,” she said. “I just used old frames and painted them.”

Hodkiewicz would lay the frame on the table, lay the shirt down, lay the screen on top, then tug and scrape the shirt.

The owner of The Lightbox, a screen printing studio and retail store in Ephraim, said the process was “super DIY, super slow. If I wanted to run a race with 30 shirts, it might take me three hours, and now 30 shirts might take me an hour.

But everything is changing. In addition to upgrades to the technology she uses to create her art, Hodkiewicz has opened a second studio/boutique in Sturgeon Bay. The new space was home to The Yellow Room, a group of three female artists who have now made their home in a building across the street.

Hodkiewicz was working at Trixie in Ephraim when she met Meg Lionel Murphy, one of The Yellow Room artists, who exhibits with a gallery in New York.

“I was like, do you live here? You too are an artist and we’re the same age? It’s amazing,” she recalled.

The new space in Sturgeon Bay is significantly larger than the 400 square foot store she opened in Ephraim three years ago. Retail space alone measures 468 square feet, and work space is more than double at 1,183 square feet. The new location provides enough space to accommodate its modern screen printing equipment, as well as space for dryers.

Hodkiewicz’s flash dryer may be the store’s most expensive tech, she said.

“It hovers over the shirt and blows hot air over it,” she said. “So right away you can have a dry, ready-to-sell, ready-to-wear shirt compared to when I started they were all going on those shelves in the sun for a few hours to a day to dry.”

That’s useful, given that t-shirts are its biggest seller, the most popular being the Three-Eyed Toad and Amanita Mushroom combo. She also makes bandanas, bags and mobiles.

Hodkiewicz pointed to plastic storage boxes containing gear and blank tees along one wall — his plans for the winter.

“I hope this winter I will produce most of my summer items,” she says. “I always hope that will happen, and then in the summer I used to print my face.”

Over the summer, Hodkiewicz will print new work in Sturgeon Bay as needed, but she still plans to manage the Ephraim site while her boyfriend, Lukas Kubelka, runs the Sturgeon Bay boutique. She owns the Ephraim building, and that’s where her clientele is, she said.

“It took a few years to get regulars, so I’ll be there,” she said.

In between managing the business side of her art, Hodkiewicz said she constantly sharpens her focus. Where she once had 25 other artists represented in her retail space, she now has seven, all female, and mostly artists from Door County.

“I try to have very little consignment in the store and focus on creating as many products as possible in-house.”

The main focus will be printmaking, from t-shirts to 64-inch square tapestries, as she moves towards more artistic expression in her print.

“Screen printing is a really accessible art form,” Hodkiewicz said. “It’s nothing out of the ordinary, which is why I love it as an artistic medium.”


Comments are closed.