Of Two Minds

The Fine Print

We take a look at screenprinting through the eyes of Sally and Christian, owners of Plastisol Beach.

The hardworking duo behind local screenprinters Plastisol Beach are known for their superb attention to detail, appetite for experimentation and all-round mad skills.

Ok, so it doesn’t instantly roll off the tongue, but you’ve got to admit ‘plastisol’ is a pretty cool word.

“It’s a bit of a mouthful for some people but plastisol is such a common term for us — it’s one of the main inks we use to print,” says Christian Biedrowski, owner of Plastisol Beach screenprinting in the Mount. “The name came around when I launched the business back in 2016 and needed to register for GST,” he explains. “I had to come up with a name for the paperwork, and was drawing graphics for the logo and listening to the Gorillaz album Plastic Beach at the time. Suddenly I thought ‘Plastisol Beach’ — I liked the idea of saying I worked at the beach even though it’s an industrial warehouse!”

Signage designed by Christian

Technically, Christian and his wife Sally do work their magic from a warehouse, but it’s a beautiful one. Think sandy aesthetics with hints of blue, giant walls of paint in every possible colour and
an array of custom-built, high-tech and grunty-as-hell equipment. Their signature palm tree logo
also adds to the workshop’s cruisy, coastal vibe. “It took me a long time to realise that the palm
tree was coming out of a screen — I thought it was just a rectangle,” Sally laughs. “Christian is
such an amazing illustrator and a bit of a perfectionist, so I guess the logo was bound to have
a deeper meaning!”  

As a youngster, many of Christian’s friends were in pop-punk bands, and being involved in that
scene first exposed him to the world of screenprinting. “I used to do the graphics for my friends’
band shirts and built a few connections with the local screenprinter along the way. I was offered
a job straight after high school and was hooked. Being able to print my own stuff was awesome,
I’d rock up to youth group every week in a new t-shirt!”

Sally grew up in Cambridge, went to Wintec in Hamilton and then finished her Bachelor of Design
in Auckland. Although they lived in different cities, she had crossed paths with Christian a few times when they were at high school. “I loved Auckland, but after growing up on a farm, I missed the slow pace of smaller towns. I decided to move to the Mount — which is where I ran into Christian again while getting some products printed for work. I definitely remembered him. He always stood out.”

“And not just because of the eyeliner I used to wear, back when I was a bit more in the scene,”
laughs Christian. “Teenage guys can be really attention seeking but Christian was never like that,” says Sally. “He was always so kind. When I saw him again after all these years, I thought he’d grown up alright!” Christian liked what he saw too and the pair started dating. Fast forward to today,
they’ve been married three years.

“Money was a little tight after a wedding but when the opportunity came up to start the business,
our amazing friends and family got behind us,” Christian recalls. “I was working in a bike shop at
the time — I needed a mental break after eight years in the same job. One of the bike reps had recently bought some new screenprinting equipment and asked me for advice, so I went to give
him some tips. All of a sudden, I was buzzed on it again. We were then over at Sally’s sister’s one
night and some screenprinting equipment popped up on TradeMe, so we went for it.”

“Christian never went out in search of work, but his reputation for quality and attention to detail meant as soon as people knew he was back, he was in demand,” says Sally.

Word got out amongst Christian’s old connections in the industry, and the jobs started rolling in. “Christian never went out in search of work, but his reputation for quality and attention to detail meant as soon as people knew he was back, he was in demand,” says Sally. “I sometimes catch myself saying, ‘He was so lucky’ to get where he is now, but it wasn’t luck at all — it was hard work.”

And he certainly knows a thing or two about hard work. After months of slogging away in “the
sweat locker” (the pet name of Plastisol Beach’s first humble workshop) until the wee hours of the morning, Sally put her foot down. “It got to a point where something needed to change,” she says.
“I was in a good job but knew our business needed to grow, so I kept telling Christian to hire me until he finally listened!”

“She was perfect for the job,” adds Christian. “Especially with her design and people skills, she
really looks after our customers. And we have incredible customers! Some of them even come
in to photograph the process.”

While Christian enjoys their hands-on manual carousel, he expects to be automated one day.

As Christian and Sally walk me through the detailed seven-step process from file to garment, I can see why people come in with their cameras — it’s fascinating. “The kit we have now is awesome
— it’s basically the macdaddy Rolls Royce of the manual carousel world,” Christian explains. “I enjoy being able to keep an eye on the process while doing it by hand, but eventually we’d like to get to
the automatic level.”

Plastisol Beach is a firm favourite with locals and has also become the go-to for businesses wanting to dabble in new techniques and materials, from glitters to puff inks. “We still print a lot of uniforms, but luckily for us, there are heaps of tradies keen to do cool prints, says Sally. “The Pipemasters [plumbing] team almost has a clothing line it drops every few months. Uniforms don’t need to
be stuffy,” says Sally.

“We both love seeing people’s projects develop,” adds Christian. “One day it would be cool to train someone up and have them become part of our little family, like the way I learned the ropes.”

Story published in issue 19 of Our Place magazine.

Story by Laura Tuck