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Meet the Maker: Syndicate Screen Print Co.

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BmoreArt’s Picks: May 2-8

Whenever possible, at BmoreArt we want to work with Baltimore-based small creative businesses. For new projects this year, we needed to source a high-volume screen printer for BmoreArt branded goods, and we wanted to support a local business who represented our values and devotion to high-quality craftsmanship. As a graphic designer, it was important for me to find someone recommended by detail-oriented customers. After asking a couple of colleagues in the design field about screen printers in the Baltimore area, several suggested the same name: Navid Sarfaraz. We selected his Syndicate Screen Print Co after meeting Navid and his team and learning their incredible story. 

In this interview, Navid shares his journey from being homeless to discovering screen printing and turning it into a career. He talks about his passion for the art form and the satisfaction of bringing people’s ideas to life. Navid also discusses the challenges of growing their business while maintaining high-quality standards and building a positive work environment for their team. He shares details about collaborating with BmoreArt to create our t-shirts and tote bags. He also highlights the importance of making time for personal creative projects, such as his garment line available for sale online

 

I believe it to be an art form that brings people’s ideas to life. Apparel is an element of self-expression, it conveys a message and is an important part of culture. Plus, I love seeing the look on a client’s face when they see the finished product and are truly satisfied with the result.
Navid Sarfaraz

Raquel Castedo: Tell us a little bit of your story. What’s your personal/professional background? 

Navid Sarfaraz: I am a college dropout. There was a point in my life when I made many bad decisions, and I had gotten to the point of being homeless. I was fortunate enough to learn the ins and outs of screen printing and embroidery through a mandatory job training program, and it gave me the drive and motivation to pursue it as a career after I completed it. 

You seem very passionate about your work. When did you first fall in love with screen printing? Why did you become a maker, and why is making important to you? 

I honestly had very little knowledge of screen printing or the process until I was fully immersed in it. I often have clients mention that they remember taking screen printing classes in high school or college, but I never had any exposure in that aspect.

The more I learned about it, the more intriguing it became, and I began to look at each design as a puzzle. The sequences of building the layers of ink, in combination with the mesh counts of the screens, along with the pressure, speed, and angles of the squeegees—all that makes a successful design. There isn’t one set formula that works across the board.

I believe it to be an art form that brings people’s ideas to life. Apparel is an element of self-expression, it conveys a message and is an important part of culture. Plus, I love seeing the look on a client’s face when they see the finished product and are truly satisfied with the result. 

 

You worked nearly a decade as a production employee for other apparel printing companies before opening your own business. Why did you decide to take that step toward entrepreneurship? 

For several years I worked full-time for another printing company. After finishing there, I would drive from Laurel to Baltimore to print another 8 hours for myself. Most nights I would finally get home around 2 am, sleep for a few hours, then head back into work. I was comfortable at my job because of the security I had knowing I’d receive a weekly paycheck. But once there was a nationwide lockdown, I was laid off and had to make a serious decision.

I knew then that it was time to take the leap and put my skill and knowledge to the test. In December of 2020, we moved the shop from Falls Road to our current location on the corner of Buena Vista and 41st. The move nearly tripled our production space and allowed us to take on much bigger jobs. Within our first year at the new warehouse, we purchased an automatic screen press which significantly increased the volume of shirts we print on a daily basis.

What challenges do you face to grow the business while ensuring you’re true to your core values? 

Quality is very important to me. Keeping that standard high as volume has drastically increased has been a challenge. Ensuring no corners are cut and that we operate at a less than 1% margin of error can be extremely trying on certain days and with specific projects. Currently, I have a lot of focus on my employees and team members. I am really striving to build a good work environment, a place where employees are passionate about the job and not just there for a paycheck. 

 

I make it a point to do at least one project a month for myself. I spend 90% of the time bringing other people’s and company’s visions and ideas to life. If I didn’t set the time to fulfill and feed that creative aspect, I don’t think I would be able to last very long in the industry.
Navid Sarfaraz

How was it like having BmoreArt as a client? Would you share some backstory about the process? 

We originally got involved with BmoreArt through a referral by SewLab, another local company that we have worked with for several years now. We got to work directly with you (Raquel Castedo), the graphic designer of the project. Several team members from BmoreArt made a trip to the shop where we selected the inks and got more of a feel for the project. Later we would work with SewLab to print tote bag panels for bags along with the tee shirts we printed that would be sold during the November release party of BmoreArt Magazine at the Maryland Zoo. We had a fun time at the party and it was great getting to meet and network with other local artists and makers. 

The Syndicate shop is very vibrant. Whenever we visited you, it seemed that there were always fun projects going on. What other services besides screen printing do you offer? 

Besides screen printing, we offer embroidery services, logo design, and brand consulting. I think one thing that really sets us apart from other shops is that we are willing to think outside the box and get creative to meet the individual needs of our clients. One pretty unique job we did this past year was printing thousands of leather shoe panels that would eventually be sewn into boat shoes. The project initially seemed pretty daunting when we were approached by the client, but we were able to break it down and figure out a process to get it done. The special ink we used to print on the leather definitely had the shop smelling pretty bad for a few days! 

Besides working for clients, do you develop personal projects in the shop? 

Absolutely, I make it a point to do at least one project a month for myself. I spend 90% of the time bringing other people’s and company’s visions and ideas to life. If I didn’t set the time to fulfill and feed that creative aspect, I don’t think I would be able to last very long in the industry. After all, what’s the point of working for yourself if you don’t get to enjoy it too? 

 

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