Vital Industries, the forum for the creativity and artistic imagination of Brett Childs and Crystal Hank Childs, has grown from a small screen-printing business into a growing outlet for new techniques and art forms.
The business at 806 N. Stevens St. in Rhinelander is appropriately housed in a space fashioned out of a former automotive business. The front of the business features a bank of windows perfect for featuring the items for which it’s known: screen-printed clothing and glassware as well as its promotional products.
glassware as well as its promotional products. When the duo took their first screen printing class in 2005, little did they know they would create Vital Industries just a year later, but the couple discovered a passion in screen printing and began creating their craft. They created the business in 2005 and launched their first collection on Etsy in 2007.
school for culinary arts and worked in restaurants and Crystal was an interior designer,” Brett said. “We just really loved the screen-printing process and started working at a studio out of our house and things just grew from there. We just kind of happened into it.”
a 6,500-square-foot facility in Denver, and while they moved their family to Rhinelander in late 2015, the business continued to operate in Denver for a few more years with Childs commuting back and forth every four to six weeks. In mid-2017, they purchased their Rhinelander building and renovated it and moved the entire operation from Denver to the Northwoods in January 2018.
“We knew we wanted our family in the Northwoods,” Brett said.
The entire operation includes being makers of glassware, home goods, apparel and accessories. He said many of the designs are inspired by the family’s adventures as makers as well as their explorations of the Northwoods. Establishing the company in the heart of the Northwoods, which has such vibrant outdoor opportunities, has brought Vital Industries full circle in the sense of being a perfect fit for the premise of the company and even its name.
he two meanings of vital in relation to our business: one being necessary or meaningful and the other referring to energy and life,” Brett said. “We liked the duality of that.” The items the business produces seem to have a life of their own as well, featuring vivid colors and bold, modern designs including the long-established bicycle design that’s often associated with the company.
arning new techniques and art forms,” he said. The items the business produces may include the screen printing for which it is known but also fashion design, crocheting, quilting, candle making, embroidery, painting, dyeing and photography, all of which have “shown up” in the business’s work.
The best known of their work may be the company’s glassware as well as its textiles. Glassware is the company’s biggest segment, but they also do a lot of textiles as well as custom work. Printing on glassware is quite uncommon in the screen-printing world but is something they are proud of as they worked hard to learn and turn it into a great growth driver for the business.
One of the things that has changed since our move to Rhinelander is offering custom work — custom printing of a T-shirt or promotional item, for example — and that’s been a rapidly growing part of our business here. —Brett Childs, co-owner, Vital Industries, Rhinelander
Today, the business includes work for catalogs and boutiques (they work with about 350 independent retailers) as well as straight-toconsumer sales both via online forums including the company’s website and Etsy and instore, a growing part of the business.
“Our growth has been a very natural growth in our own line for a number years,” Brett said, “but one of the things that has changed since our move to Rhinelander is offering custom work — custom printing of a T-shirt or promotional item, for example — and that’s been a rapidly growing part of our business here. It’s been rewarding to take the knowledge we’ve gained over the past 12 years and apply it to helping other people.”
finalize drawings and offer a bigger showroom to showcase both their work and the work of other makers, both local and people they’re connected to across the country.
The showroom also would offer more samples of promotional products, garments and such for customers. “There’s something about being able to touch and feel things,” Brett said. “There’s a big benefit to choosing high-quality garments that are responsibly sourced and then pairing that with good design and high-quality processes. We can provide something that people use and that takes their marketing/advertising dollar further.”
Childs considers Vital Industries’ work as a combination of craft and technology. Staff includes artists who can take people’s conceptual ideas and take what they convey and meld it into a finished product. Regardless of what they’re making, Brett and Crystal and their five-member team is focused on producing items that people love and can incorporate into their everyday life.
They thrive on keeping pace with current trends, attending and displaying at trade shows, traveling, trying new technologies such as new inks, and creating products that reflect what they see that’s hot and current in the market.
process-driven and interested in advancing our skills,” Brett said. “Whether that’s trying new technologies in screen printing or working with a big variety of crafts such as leather or wood, we thrive on incorporating aspects into our work.”
dustries’ work is available, it’s no surprise that their creations ship to locations throughout the U.S. and even to several other countries, but Brett points to the Northwoods as being the right place to build the business even further; adding custom printing, adding custom processes, securing a larger facility and adding “fantastic people” to the Vital Industries team.
“We just like making great stuff and we look forward to doing even more of it,” he said.