Taylor Landesman’s work life is anything but traditional. He’s a lawyer by trade, but he doesn’t work at a law firm. His company is based in St. Louis, but his office is in his apartment in West Logan Square. If you’re thinking he sounds like the perfect millennial archetype, you’re right—but there’s a twist.
Landesman specializes in screen printing, an art form that originated in China during the Song Dynasty (960-1279 AD). And he’s part of an arguably rare demographic—a third-generation member of a small family-owned business. Over drinks at eclectic Wyler Road, Landesman talked about his company, Chicago’s superiority over St. Louis and a mutual appreciation for quirky terriers.
What’s the name of your company?
We are Lawson Screen and Digital. We’re a family-run business. My grandfather started it, and my father and uncle run operations now. I’m the third generation to be involved. We are actually the oldest U.S. screen-printing equipment manufacturer. We’ve been in business since 1949.
Do you have a Chicago branch?
We have a warehouse for shipping purposes here, but we’re technically based in St. Louis. I’m personally based out of Logan Square. We don’t actually print T-shirts, we manufacture screen-printing equipment, so we don’t have a storefront.
What inspired your grandfather to get into the screen printing business?
My grandfather, Gene Landesman, was an inventor by trade. At some point, somebody commissioned him to come up with a new type of screen printing press. In that time most screen printing was done manually. They had automatic presses but they were very expensive to produce.
My grandfather invented an inexpensive and efficient automatic press. I guess he liked it, so he decided to start his own equipment manufacturing business.
What’s your role in the company?
I have a law degree, so I’m the general counsel for the company, but I also do sales, marketing, outreach and advertising, as well as handle contracts and insurance. We’re a pretty small company, so everyone kind of does everything. I love helping clients troubleshoot and seeing everyone shop. Everyone sets up their operations a little differently. I get to travel and meet a lot of interesting characters.
What’s the weirdest project your company has ever worked on?
At one point we had someone who wanted to print their brand name on a condom. That’s probably the weirdest.
Is that even possible?
It’s possible, but it’s cost-prohibitive. They didn’t end up doing it.
Do you screen print?
I do. I grew up around it. I make my own stuff, but just for fun.
Are you originally from St. Louis?
I am. My family has been there for a long time. My great-grandfather came there from Germany during the 1904 World’s Fair to help paint the German Pavilion. He liked it and settled down.
How does Chicago measure up to St. Louis?
Oh, I’m a huge fan of Chicago. I moved here not really knowing anyone just so I could live in a real city. You should visit St. Louis at some point, to see the City Museum and Forest Park, but only stay for like, one weekend.
What do you like about Logan Square?
I love the diverse mix of people. All the fantastic green space is excellent. I often take my dog, Eva, for walks around the neighborhood.
What kind of dog is Eva?
I think she’s a mix between a Manchester Terrier and a Whippet. Eva’s the best. She’s very long, and very, very fast. Unfortunately I haven’t met that many people walking her around here because she makes it difficult.
I had a Tibetan Terrier growing up who was a totally stubborn walker …
Eva basically refuses to walk in a straight line. Sometimes when we pass a random stranger she’ll just stop and sit and wait for them to catch up—they probably smell good or whatever. I guess that’d be a good opening to meet someone, but it’s a little awkward.
Anything you want Logan Squarists to know?
People should definitely visit our website, golawson.com. We’re on Instagram and on Facebook too. Obviously, if someone’s reading this and they’re interested they’re welcome to come visit me and talk about it.
Screen printing is way easier than people think. There’s definitely an artistic process to it, and it can be kind of technical, but it’s not very hard. Also, all of our customers get a screening coach to help them with the process and answer any questions they may have.
“Socializing the neighborhood” is at the core of the LoganSquarist mission, so we introduce readers to interesting and unique residents throughout Logan Square in our Know Your Neighbor column. If you know someone who would be ideal for to feature, let us know.