Textile Graphics: Creating flags for Canada 150

Cecilia (left) and Paul Burke (right) have carried on their family’s flag business.

An evolution in production
In 1985, shortly after Gordon passed away, the business expanded to Barrie with a 1,394-m2 (15,000-sf) facility on Highway 400 and added screenprinting to its production department. And in 1991, the process was automated, as the company moved on from silkscreening by hand on a table to installing a Zimmer textile printing machine.

“It was the first of its kind in Canada and needed its own building with access to municipal water,” Paul explains. “It could print in eight colours and up to 2 m (80 in.) wide, which was pretty standard in screenprinting. Meanwhile, the sewing continued at our Thornton location.”

In 1999, The Flag Store began the shift to digital printing. The company added four Mimaki dye sublimation printers, each about 1 m (40 in.) wide, and used water-soluble inks.

“There was no direct dye sub inkjet printing for textiles yet,” says Paul, “and transfer-based dye sub was not ideal for two-sided flags.”

Another brother, Ed, had moved on from flags and started up The Look Company in 1998 to focus on display stands, larger-scale corporate branding projects and special event graphics. That was followed by Paul establishing Flagsource in 2007 for long-run digital print jobs.

“We’re all sister companies that use the same printing platform and can support each other,” says Paul. “I’m mainly a wholesaler now, while Cecilia still sells at retail. She might get an order for 100 teardrop flags for a corporate client, for example, and pass the job along to me.”

“Or a yacht club might order a lot of flags at once from Paul, but need them to be appliqué, so the job comes to me,” Cecilia adds.

The Look Company, meanwhile, employs a creative design team and relies on UV-curing flatbed printers to produce graphics on a wide variety of both flexible and rigid substrates.

In this way, the original business has continued to thrive, even as the three siblings have split their expertise into three different ventures.

“There’s room for us all to earn a decent living in this industry,” says Paul.

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