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The Filament: Kathryn Sanders

Meet Myrna Gutierrez, “The Substrate Queen” of Digital Textile Printing

The Philadelphia creative lends her perspective on the state of the segment.

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WHEN I FIRST MET Myrna Gutierrez of Maen Studio I was immediately captivated by her infectious creativity and passion for digital printing technology. It was as if she embodied the industry – from its capabilities to its legacy of experimentation and innovation. She had me at, “We can’t print flowers for flowers’ sake.” She knows it’s our responsibility to push the boundaries and take prints – even if it’s as simple as flowers – as far as we can.

In our first conversation, I was hanging onto every word of her illustrious stories of walking through Home Depot in search of new substrates to experiment with. From wood to acrylic, Myrna does it all. In that moment, she became The Substrate Queen.

With a background in fashion and merchandising, textiles were a natural fit and source of inspiration for Myrna. But at the beginning of her career, she couldn’t help but conceptualize other printing capabilities and went so far to deconstruct lace from a wedding gown to make it printable. Myrna doesn’t just take a substrate for what it is but asks what it can be. Her projects have run the gamut and always have an edge. She’s even printing sublimation paper twice and layering the transfer to create original multi-dimensional art that we’ve truly never seen before.

An accomplished businesswoman, Myrna also sees the value of making digital printing technology accessible and putting control into designers’ hands. This hasn’t always been a welcomed perspective in this industry, but I couldn’t agree more with her! This is the future.

This technology allows us to take risks and is poised to be inclusive by embracing different cultures and individual styles. It even allows us to embrace the traditions we’ve lost. As Myrna so beautifully put it, “We can tell stories and emotion through this medium.”

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Myrna Gutierrez is the art director and owner of MA^EN Studio.

I recently sat down with Myrna to soak up her perspective and learn what she’s thinking about for 2023.

Kathryn Sanders: What is your favorite substrate to print on for interiors?

Myrna Gutierrez: I really like printing on poly blend fabrics. They’re wrinkle- and abrasion-resistant and are strong yet lightweight. They’re easy to print, easy to clean, and quick drying. Plus, there’s no need to laminate and you get a reliable quality.

Kathryn Sanders: Is there an aspect of digital printing you think is underutilized?

Myrna Gutierrez: Sublimation gets rid of most of the drawbacks of screen printing. The ink is essentially made a part of the fabric so your design will last as long as the garment does. The other main advantage of dye sublimation printing is its freedom. I’ve often thought about using the sublimation process with upcycling: heat transferring designs onto polyester garments or remnant polyester fabric.

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Kathryn Sanders: Why is digital printing a great tool for creative thinkers?

Myrna Gutierrez: Digital printing allows small brands to introduce new designs, test new markets, and execute tasks more frequently. They can improve the time it takes for a product to get to market while also reducing production costs.

Kathryn Sanders: What do you hope to see in 2023?

Myrna Gutierrez: There is an expanded interest in better ways to extend the life of existing textile and apparel items from reusing, recycling, and upcycling. I’m eager to see if this will be the next big thing for our industry and I’m curious how it will adapt. I wonder, could the digital printing industry find ways to extend the life of the garment by adding designs to existing garments or remnants to renew them?

Myrna Gutierrez is the art director and owner of MA^EN Studio in Philadelphia that creates unique beautiful textile and graphic print designs. Learn more about Myrna and MA^EN Studio at: maenstudio.work.

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Kathryn Sanders is the founder & CEO of Western Sensibility, a digital textile printing studio on a mission to redefine interior spaces. She’s passionate about growing the digital printing community and launched Digital Bias Consulting to help newcomers get started. Connect with her at kathryn@digitalbiasconsulting.com

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