The future is a strong, honest community

Maroš Obšivan and Jana Obšivanová founded the yax studio in 2009, where they wanted to combine design, art, illustration and screen printing. They wanted to revive this natural collaboration and take it to a new and more contemporary level. They started with flat screen printing, foil and textile printing and eventually expanded their work to small and large format prints. Their view of printing not only through the eyes of a printer but also through the eyes of an artist has from the outset placed their studio among the most unconventional companies of Košice’s creative industries.

Tell us something about your beginnings.

The company that is still operating today was officially founded in 2012. Its activity at that time was textile screen printing and the production of badges. In those days we were one of the few companies that produced badges in Slovakia. Badges helped us to build screen printing, which became a more significant activity in the company. However, I have had experience with “business” since 1998, when I started doing my first painted commissions for companies and businesses. Since 2008, I have been running the business together with my wife. The most recent changes came in 2019, when we expanded our screen printing services to include flatbed printing of art serigraphs up to B0 format. In the future, we want to focus specifically on serigraph services for artists and print high quality art serigraphs, using our years of experience. This is also why we have been adding the attribute “studio” to our company name yax for some time now, but also because my wife and I are both trained artists and feel more like a studio than an agency.

Your motto is that you are a studio with added value. What is the added value for you in your work?

I see the added value in my own nature, which does not allow me to “knock off” commissions, but to do my best in the execution of the commission, often at the cost of increased expenditure and time spent in the execution. We try to guide customers to the best possible solution. We keep an eye on new trends in the sector which we test and, if it makes sense, we try to implement many of them in production.

Do you feel that your creative work is driven by and heavily influenced by technology?

Screen printing has been the dominant technology in textile printing for a long time, but this is starting to change significantly. Digital technology is starting to replace screen printing. These changes are influencing us and we are thinking about how to specialise in the future. You could say that we are going through the “third” transformation of our company. We never wanted to go down the route of a commercial advertising agency or a print shop, so we are reluctant to invest in that direction, but it is currently having a major impact on the future of the company. For us, technology is more about facilitating pre-press work, but we can see big changes in the form of data coming to us from clients. Tablets and creative apps are changing not only the way creators prepare data, but also the visuals of the output. Zooming and drawing details on analogue paper with a pencil is not possible “unless under a magnifying glass”. However, the data is often of insufficient resolution. In this respect, interdisciplinary education is clearly needed. We have plans for this, and have developed a blog on our website for just this kind of education. It will make our work easier and it will technically help the creators.

I assume you care about skills in the job market and as a business strive to be efficient, creative and sustainable. How do you perceive the situation on the Slovak market in that sense?

Without skills we wouldn’t be moving forward and our work wouldn’t be of sufficient quality. Without skills and improving them, we wouldn’t be able to offer the maximum possible quality to our customers. Our sector is over-aged and companies that cannot make a generational change are starting to struggle and are closing down or transforming. New generations of screen printers are not really flocking to this sector, it’s not like you can buy an iMac and some software and you’re already in business. Screen printing is an “endurance” sector where, in addition to know-how, significant entry costs are involved. For large companies, these are large sums. Although screen printing is starting to become popular again, it is more of a hobby. Doing it professionally is very difficult.

Our company is part of the creative industry but also of classic industrial production. As far as the printing part is concerned, the educational activities are continuously covered by the supplier companies in the sector, in cooperation with the manufacturers for our industry. There is also a Slovak screen-printing association, which is part of the European association and a partner of national associations of neighbouring countries. The association organises events and educates both professionals and students. Coincidentally, this year I was invited as one of the guests to give a talk on art serigraphy at the annual seminar. We received the invitation specifically because of our interesting interconnection between art and industry. As far as the creative industries are concerned, our paths in education have not yet crossed with specific artists or organisations. Maybe in time some interesting project will emerge in which we could participate. 

There is a lot of debate about sustainability and slow fashion in the global context. How do you perceive such trends? Do they also influence your work?

Until recently, sustainability was only talked about, but it’s slowly changing. We even had an order from a customer whose sustainability and eco-friendliness is the very essence of their identity and they didn’t pay attention to the outcome, which I found absurd. Slowly the orders are coming in where clients have sustainability as their main requirement. For many years we have preferred eco-friendly solutions in textile printing. We also try to offer certified fair-trade textiles, but many times the price is the deciding factor. From inside the sector, I see the slogan of sustainability as a good selling-point on the outside, but often not carried out in practice. Textiles that are produced for the print sector are usually much more fairly produced than retail clothing. Even regular promotional textiles have more certifications than what you would buy in a shop. Being a very small company, we do everything we can to make printing as environmentally friendly as possible, just out of our own determination and conviction. For such a small company there is nothing else left, because to meet and pay for expensive certifications is not possible. However, we use inks that meet these certificates beyond measure and the textiles are chosen by the customer. To give you an idea of how difficult it is to achieve a certification, there is only one printing company in Slovakia that has, for example, a strict GOTS certificate. However, many companies in the sector in Slovakia are not doing as much as they could. From my point of view, Europe is still behind the US in this but the reason is probably the larger and more integrated market. Using eco-friendly paints in our company to the extent that we do is still exotic in Slovakia. However, apart from our stubbornness, it may also be because we are a smaller and therefore more flexible production. Whether we will be able to meet the challenge of printing 100% only with eco-friendly inks is questionable, given the changes we want to make in the future, which is to move to flat printing of art serigraphy.

How do you perceive the environment in Košice and Slovakia in the context of your work? Has anything changed in the last 10 years, since being named the European Capital of Culture?

A lot has changed in the creative industry in Košice and in Slovakia in the last few years. It has grown into a real sector of the economy. We had orders from the period of Košice’s candidacy as well as during the ECoC, so we clearly perceive the changes in Košice. Before the ECoC there were individuals, today there is a community. The support for the creative industry comes to us only secondarily in the form of commissions from this sector. Because the creative individuals have more suitable conditions for their work and their services are in greater demand, the orders from them are also coming to us. We have never received any grants or been advised in this regard, so it has not been a directly supportive environment for us. I see the future as more “challenging”, it will be increasingly difficult for artists and graphic designers to gain a foothold, so it is important to support more than just the creative industries. Growing a business from scratch will not be easy at all, due to increasingly expensive technology and also to keep up with progress and demand. We took a small non-repayable grant from the Job Centre at the start of the business and we have used it one hundred per cent and it has pushed us forward a lot. On the other hand, there is more and more competition in the creative sector, with artificial intelligence subtly entering the field and fostering experimentation with creative work in addition to routine work. In the future, more than ever, interpersonal togetherness will be important, a sacrifice in the form of a preference for human work over ‘probably high-quality’ AI solutions.

Invisible Mag is supported using public funding by Slovak Arts Council. The Slovak Arts Council is the main partner of the project.

Share us on social networks:

You might be interested in