Seth Simmons of Fresh Prints of Evanston in the workshop where he prints t-shirts for his customers Submitted photo

Seth Simmons grew up watching his father make art and making it himself. “He’s been an artist my whole life, doing woodwork and carving. So, I started doing art at a young age and have always been a pen and pencil kind of guy, then matured into graphic art on the computer, and that led to what I do now.” While Mr. Simmons studied criminal justice as an undergraduate, he eventually found his way back to art, becoming a graphic artist and now a new small business owner in Evanston.

“Since everything is touchscreen now, I get to parlay what I did with a pen and pencil. I started just doing the graphic part but ended up putting the graphics on t-shirts and realized that it made people a lot happier.

Mr. Simmons had been working around Chicago and Evanston in almost every aspect of the screen printing industry. He said that while he had enjoyed working for other business, but had grown tired of working for other people. “So I just figured I’d do it for myself. I was a graphic artist before, and I had a friend who was a local screen printer. I parlayed that into making designs for them and ended up being a screen printer, which led to having my own business.”

Having had the nickname Fresh in high school he decided to call his t-shirt printing business Fresh Prints of Evanston, and said that the name is also a play on the title of the popular 1990s sitcom, “Fresh Prince of Bel Air.”

Fresh Prints of Evanston offers a full line of apparel, printing on a number of different types of things, including hoodies, pants, winter hats, tote bags and others.

He said that having Safety Town, a local summer day camp, as a client and making shirts for all the kids participating. in the camp has been very rewarding. “I got to work with them when I worked for a local screen printer here in Evanston. It was like coming full circle, working for a company and their client and then being an owner and working for that same client . . . being appreciated, being remembered and having them come back to support me. It was nice in that respect.”

Asked what he enjoys about art, he said “I love drawing people – faces are most important. I like capturing the feelings and emotions and the essence of someone in that drawing. It’s awesome to me. I started doing portraits in about 3rd grade – my mom still has some of those.”

Mr. Simmons said that he often puts his own artwork on shirts and is working on a collection of shirts that he will be selling from the Fresh Prints website beginning next month. The business is solely online at this point, but he said that he would “like to bring the business to a physical location here in Evanston to start. I want to get a lot of contracts to do artwork for schools and local business and then eventually be able to branch out into Chicago.” He said he is open to a full spectrum of clients, “from school camps to businesses.”

Asked what made his work stand out, he said, “I do very high-quality work, and my niche is having the fastest turnaround in Chicagoland. It’s usually about a four-day turn-around, which is unbeatable. It’s usually about a week and a half to two weeks. Also, I do deliveries all over the city.”

Mr. Simmons said that the biggest challenges right now are getting the word out and getting repeat customers, so that there is momentum and a regular flow of business. “I’ll probably have to bring on another person to screen print with me, definitely. I already have a couple of people in mind who have offered their services, because they’re interested in working with me. That’s part of what’s so great about working in this industry. You have a lot of contact with local artists that are involved in this work.”

He said that he is very happy doing this work and owning a business, that he “finally found my niche, it clicked for me and it makes me wake up with a smile every day . . . I like being the person in charge and doing the work, and what I earn is the sweat off my own brow. That means something to me – that you earn what you make.”

Ned Schaub is a feature story writer for the RoundTable. He has served as reporter, content developer and communications manager across his career in the field of nonprofit communications. Ned studied...