Go get 'em. By Big Cartel.

Shop Talk Spotlight: Adam Porterfield

Looking at our speaker lineup, we knew January’s Shop Talk conference had a good thing going. And when the idea came up to have a live screen printing demo with Adam Porterfield, we were excited to add a hands-on activity to round off the day.

Adam runs a screen printing business called Golden Rule Design where they hand-produce everything from art prints to products for major brands. He shared his knowledge with Shop Talk attendees and even helped all of us print our own tote bag to take home. For the activity, Adam collaborated with Josh and Colby from Jolby and Friends, who created the Discover Something design for the print. Adam is as friendly as he is talented, so we couldn’t wait to get to know him a little better.

Discover Something design

You do all sorts of creative work: from design, to screen printing, to creating custom lighting pieces for your own home, and running an online shop. How do you strike the right balance between your projects?

I’m not sure I’ve every figured out how to balance everything that I like, love, and need to do. It’s a constantly rearranging list of priorities that we’re always trying to stay on top of. Golden Rule itself usually takes priority as it’s the breadwinner, but I’ve never been one to overrun my life with work. I’d love to be dedicating more of my life to reading books, playing music, cuddling animals, gardening and becoming a yogi. In my dreams, there’s a 50/50 balance of work and play. I don’t know many people in my income bracket who achieve this but it’s important to have goals!

What do you enjoy most about screen printing?

In the shop, I don’t actually do that much printing any more. That makes it all the more special to get out and do the events that we love doing. It’s one of a few things that I consider my self expert in, having logged well over 10,000 hours, so that in and of itself is enjoyable. I generally don’t have the attention span for expertise. The artform itself can feel slightly esoteric at times with such an amazing number of things that can go wrong. I love that the creative problem solving never stops and I love achieving what we refer to as “man-machine mode” when everything is printing beautifully and you can reach an almost meditative state.

Adam printing

Is there a specific type of project or craft that you’d like to try next?

I’d love to work on some seriously large format screen printing work. We’ve been collecting equipment here for a while and have almost acquired everything we need to start exploring the printing of wallpaper, fabric yardage, large format art work and signs. Now it’s just a matter of freeing up some time!

What’s been your favorite artistic collaboration? Or if that’s too hard to choose, what would your dream collaboration be?

Wow, hard question! I’ve spent my life collaborating with so many amazing people from my years as a musician to all of my years printing. It would be impossible to name one but the dream collaboration always feels the same way: It’s like getting caught up in a whirlwind of excitement and coming out the other side barely aware of what has transpired.

It’s not easy to make it as an artist! How do you do it?

I guess it depends on what one’s definition of making it entails! I’ve been lucky enough to surround myself with people that I love seeing every day, from my neighbors in our studio space, to my partner Emily who I share work and home space with, to our employees here at the studio. All of my clients are amazing, creative people who are deep in their own creative, entrepreneurial endeavors. It’s all pretty inspiring. All that said, the 401k and stock portfolios are sort of lacking at this point! It’s the creative compromise: sacrificing future financial security for living your dream (or close to it) for as much of life as possible. I don’t think it’s this way for everyone and I don’t believe it will be this way for ever, but in the meantime, I wouldn’t trade my life for anyone’s.

You mentioned that you’re making some sacrifices to live your dream. Do you ever get those moments of insecurity about your work? How do you push past them?

Oh, of course. I just remind myself that if everything falls apart, the life I lived as a 21-year-old was also pretty wonderful, and that those pizza guy skills haven’t faded. Once you’ve acknowledged that the worst case scenario isn’t that bad, it makes it easier to get over whatever’s in your way. When I was a teenager selling coupon books door to door, a cheesy sales guy told me that every no gets you closer to a yes.


If you need some screen printing done, or want a live demo at an event of your own, contact Golden Rule Design and tell ‘em Big Cartel sent you. Read more about Shop Talk in our recaps of Sonja Rasula, Emily Katz and Jolby and Friends. Photos by Gia Goodrich.