Printmakingblog

Graphic Chemical & Ink Company is a world leader in the fine art field of printmaking. We manufacture our own time-tested inks for etching, litho and relief printing, as well as sell screen print inks, papers, tools, chemistry, plates and supplies for all of a printmaker's needs

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Location: Villa Park, Illinois, United States

I have worked for Graphic Chemical & Ink Company since 1968 - with a brief hiatus(almost 4 years) to travel the World courtesy of my uncle. Sadly it turns out it was my Uncle Sam, and I wasn't too thrilled about the places that he chose to send me. My wife and I have run Graphic Chemical for many years, and have enjoyed the travel that comes with the position. We get to meet our customers (and the occasional vendor) from all over the World

Monday, November 26, 2007

REMEMBER WHEN

Most of you have heard me say many times that our roots go back 1920, and my grandfather, Robert P. Faulkner. He did, indeed begin the company and help it to survive the Great Depression and World War II, but the most notable thing he did was probably hiring my father, Vernon Clark.

Dad was a biochemist by training and an engineer by direction of the U.S. Army and Congress, but he was an ink maker by God! He learned the industry from his father-in-law, his customers and even from his suppliers.
When Dad started working at Graphic Chemical he had just finished his studies at the University of Chicago, was married with two young sons, and from what I understand, was broke. He had retained his Army Reserve commission (not a great decision given that Korea was just around the corner) and he probably saw Graphic Chemical as a short-term employment opportunity. He was here, for the record, for 53 years


While Graphic was not directly involved in printmaking at the time, it did sell to printmakers - engraver's plate inks to etchers, and letterpress inks to block printers. Lithography wouldn't really be a viable medium until June Wayne started the Tamarind Institute in Los Angeles (yes, Los Angeles!) in the '50's.


One of his jobs was to travel around the Midwest calling on commercial engravers. One circuit was driving from Chicago to Indianapolis to Cincinnati, then on to Knoxville, Nashville, Memphis and finally St. Louis - and this, I hasten to point out, was well before the Interstate system.


As the story goes, he got out of sync between Indy and Cincinnati, and had a little time to kill in Oxford, OH, the home of Miami University. He walked in, told them he sold printmaking supplies. In view of the fact that at that time nobody sold printmaking supplies, the staff at Miami figured they'd stumbled unto either a godsend or a real nut case. They took a chance and placed an order with him.


Dad was so confidant that he began making calls at other Universities in the circuit: the Universities of Kentucky and Tennessee, Austin Peay, Vanderbilt and several others. The confidence allowed him to convince my grandfather, who was clearly skeptical, to purchase an advertisement in American Artist Magazine, an ad which in 1949 cost $12.50. The ad offered a catalog (which by the way didn't exist until after the ad appeared) at no charge. Dad fired up the old Gordon Letterpress and printed catalogs at night and sold ink by day. After a few weeks the number of catalog requests was in the hundreds and we were on our way to becoming printmaking suppliers.


A couple of years later, my grandfather died unexpectedly and Dad was left to run the day to day operation, now working for his mother-in-law. He probably learned as much about business from her as he did from his father-in-law. Sadly, much of that learning curve was trial and error.


By 1962, he'd bought the business from her (in fact, he bought it twice because she wasn't happy with the first sale amount!). moved the business to our current location two blocks west of the previous location, doubled the space (it's now almost six times the space we originally had in Villa Park) and began focusing predominately on printmaking. In the late '70's, we closed the original product lines for commercial engravers, making us exclusively printmaking suppliers.


The rest, as they say, is history

5 Comments:

Blogger insatsuya said...

it is very good article thanks dor all infos, nice.
Pietro
www.pulib.sk/kocak

10:07 PM  
Blogger Sharri said...

Dean, What a fascinating article. Thanks for all that wonderful information and what a great legacy for you and your off-spring, which I hope are also working in the business.

Cheers ~
Sharri

10:31 AM  
Blogger Printblog said...

Sharri -
Thanks. We are very aware of our heritage around here, and how we got to the point we are right now. I do have lots of family here, it's the only way a business like ours can thrive. My two daughters, one's husband, and the other's boy friend, assorted cousins and other extended family are around from time to time. All three grandkids have occupied space here until they were old enough to crawl out of playpens, and their Golden Retriever (named Turtle) is here every once in a while. Gives new meaning to the term - family business

10:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dean,
Your article really brought back memories.

Being a transplanted Chicagoan I remember getting art supplies from Grahic Chemical back in the mid 50's. It was just about the only place in the mid-west, other than Woolworth's or Kresges, to even buy pencils.

Barbara P.

5:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dean............Thank you for the background story.

When I was teaching myself block printing back in the 50's, Graphic Chem was my only resource.

I'm content knowing that you are still there and better.

E.B.Atwood

7:55 AM  

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