Women in Wide Format

Industry recognizes female leaders at Printing United.

This article was co-written by Adrienne Palmer, Mark Kissling, and Grant Freking


On the second day of Printing United in Dallas, women in the digital print industry were recognized for their talent, leadership, and forward thinking. Attendees gathered to learn from successful women in the industry before the show floor even opened all the way to last call, with some deeming it “Women in Print Day.” 

SGIA’s Women in Print Alliance Annual Breakfast

The day began with the third-annual Women in Print Alliance Breakfast, sponsored by Stahls’ and Konica Minolta, and hosted by the SGIA Women in Print Alliance. WIP breakfastThe alliance’s mission is to attract, connect, and empower women of all ages in the print community. Who better to encapsulate this than a teenage girl who has been in the digital print industry half her life?

The sold-out breakfast featured a keynote interview of teenaged, Miami-based fashion designer Ariel Swedroe by Adrienne Palmer, editor-in-chief of Big Picture and Screen Printing magazines, and a Women in Print Alliance board member. The two discussed Swedroe’s remarkable journey thus far, despite her youth. A brief film encapsulated her introduction to fashion and highlighted just some of the 800-plus designs and prints she uses from her grandfather’s art collection. “I was always surrounded by art,” Swedroe said.

swedroeSwedroe got her start in digital printing at 7 years old and is now a junior at Design and Architecture Senior High School, where she maintains a 4.0 GPA. Once her school is finished, she heads to DesignLab Miami where she works on her fashion line, Swedroe: Art to Wear by Ariel in which she holds the title of principal. “My model is my best friend,” she said as she acknowledged her social life is limited. Her “passion for fashion” also is exemplified in her philanthropic work. Swedroe has taught pregnant teens in Cartagena, Columbia, to sew, works with CODeLLA and Pearl Girlz to teach coding, and plans to go to Africa in June 2020 for more of the same. She feels she has had more setbacks due to her young age than her gender. She recalls moments when designers have told her she can’t design women because she is a teenager. But as she astutely pointed out, “Men design for women,” with many of them having started out young, as well.

She has used 3D printers, laser cutters, and sublimation printers for her fashion line, all supplied by DesignLab. She is looking into recycled materials for upcoming designs and feels they’re vitally important to the future of the planet.“Fashion is the second most polluting industry,” she said. Swedroe credits her mentor, Angie Cohen, founder and creative director, DesignLab, for aiding in her success thus far, and hopes to continue her work at the London School of Fashion after graduating high school. 

Members of the Women in Print Alliance continued the event by highlighting important issues in the workforce.WIPA

Kristin Lanzarone-Scribner, WrapStar Pro, spoke about surviving crises and thriving thereafter. She offered five “key ingredients” to help anyone get through a crisis:

  1. Self love
  2. Leading a healthy lifestyle
  3. Separating personal from business
  4. Setting goals and achieving them
  5. Surround yourself with influential people.

Michelle White of Vycom Plastics discussed speaking with confidence. She offered these six pointers to become a more confident speaker:

  1. Take your time
  2. Don’t qualify statements; be direct
  3. Avoid apologizing
  4. Avoid question statements (non-questions that have the inflection of a question)
  5. Don’t discount your opinion
  6. Be yourself – the most important of the six tips.

Tiffany Rader Spitzer of Roeder Industries and RedHeaded Step Shirt Consulting Company offered myths about millennials (she is one). Though some have not figured out what they want, many like structure and transparency and are open to teaching. They are the future of the workforce, she said.

Zund America’s Heather Roden talked about knowing your value. Noting that women still make only 77-90 cents on the dollar compared to men, she offered this advice:

  1. Accept a lesser role and work your tail off – though this is becoming dated
  2. Get out of your own way
  3. Speak up aggressively

The presentation concluded with questions from the audience and a “plea” by Palmer for companies to stop the practice of hiring “booth babes” at tradeshows. “If your machine needs a scantily clad or body-painted woman to attract attention to it,” Palmer said, “then it’s probably not good enough on its own.”

WIP winnersBig Picture Women in Print Panel

After the breakfast, Palmer hosted a panel with three of the 2019 Women in Print Award winners: Tracy Hiner of Black Crow Studios (Long Beach, California), Tanya McNab of McNab Visual Strategies (Belize City, Belize), and Susan Otterson from ABL Imaging Group (Calgary, Alberta, Canada).

Here are some notable quotes on a range of topics discussed, including the winners’ entry into digital printing, training employees, mentoring, how to deal with sexism, and more.

  • “I took a bizarre path… I didn’t even know this industry existed.” — Hiner, who started her business with $2000 to her name
  • On the topic of decision-making: “Don’t ever tell me we can’t do it. Always have a solution.” — McNab 
  • “Someone told me the best thing to do is to make a decision.” — Otterson
  • “Everyone can afford an entry-level printer. People are pushing innovative ways to use these machines.” — Hiner
  • “The biggest change is fabric. It’s changing the face of the industry.” — Otterson
  • “It helps motivate you and keep you on your game.” — McNab, on doubters of her business based on her gender.

Women in Print Awards Ceremony

To cap off the female-centric day, Big Picture magazine hosted the fourth-annual Women in Print Awards ceremony at ST Media Group’s booth. Palmer recognized the three winners in attendance, and industry leaders, previous Women in Print Award winners, vendors, press, and analysts enjoyed celebratory cocktails and discussed women in print courtesy of the awards sponsors: SGIA, SAi, HP, Agfa Graphics, and Arlon.