Paul Bristow buys HP Stitch for face masks pivot

Richard Stuart-Turner
Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Printed textiles manufacturer Paul Bristow Associates has taken on an HP Stitch S300 to enable it to produce face masks adorned with its customers’ favourite artworks.

RA Smart supplied Paul Bristow's new HP Stitch S300
RA Smart supplied Paul Bristow's new HP Stitch S300

The Wrexham, North Wales-based company serves galleries and museums and it clients include Tate, V&A, Saatchi Gallery, National Gallery and Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, as well as international clients like the Centre Pompidou in Paris.

While the firm’s product offering typically includes t-shirts, tote bags and home accessories for museums’ gift shops, this summer it pivoted to start printing face masks featuring artworks as a reaction to the impact of coronavirus restrictions.

The Stitch S300 was installed at the company's premises in August. The 1.63m-wide machine, which was supplied by RA Smart, is designed for ease-of-use and is capable of both transfer and direct-to-fabric printing. It is suitable for apparel and accessories, home décor and soft signage applications.

Paul Bristow Associates was founded 35 years ago by Paul and Maggie Bristow – a print lecturer at Ravensbourne College and a textiles designer, respectively – and is currently managed by the second generation of Bristows, Ben and Sebastian.

Director Ben Bristow said: “Pre-Covid we already used dye-sublimation for apparel because it achieves all-over print in rich colours, which is great for reproducing artworks on t-shirts.

“This summer we were experiencing more and more demand for printed masks so needed more capacity, with the width to match our rotary press.”

He added: “We started as a screen printing business and those skills suited the art world. However, it's difficult for screen printing to compete with the definition and colour accuracy possible with digital, or with the potential offered by low order numbers.

“With screen, only large orders from big galleries were financially viable, but digital dye-sub enables us to make a profit whether we’re printing 50 pieces or 500.

“We can now reach smaller galleries who can order just 50 masks, 50 tea towels and 50 bags and then have the confidence to reorder. HP Stitch has expanded the size of our market.”

Bristow said the Stitch S300 is “good quality, robust, versatile and straightforward from an operator point of view”.

“The integrated rewind unit makes life easier and colour matching is quick and simple, which is essential for reproducing artworks.”

He added the machine is particularly good for face masks produced and maintained in line with WHO guidance; a three-layer mask made from a cotton inner layer, a non-woven centre layer and a polyester top layer, washed at 60ºC.

The company also uses ViralOff on its masks, a wash-stable, virus-repellent textiles coating that is known to work against coronavirus in two hours.

Bristow said the business will continue to use the Stitch S300 for numerous other products and services once the pandemic and the demand for face coverings recedes.

“This year we have been moving more into print on demand and drop shipping, which requires a productive digital workflow.

“Our customers are conscious of sustainability and we’re looking to use recycled polyester for fashion products, which is compatible with the Stitch. We're expecting a busy 2021.”

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