CREAM Design & Print

Submitted by: Marissa Johnson Co-Owner, Operations Manager CREAM Design & Print

CREAM Design & Print is a local Tucson shop that works with it’s partners and customers to create beautiful hand done screen prints with their environmentally friendly, soy-based ink.

Since the presence of COVID, they have partnered with Tumamoc’s Desert Laboratory to create a mask inspired by the biodiversity of Tumamoc.

The CREAM Design & Print team was kind enough to share more about the story behind these amazing masks with us!

The Art of Covid- CREAM Design & Print

CREAM’s Mission:

“Our goal is always to work with our partners to conceptualize, design, and create products and experiences. We are committed to elevating our local community and supporting creatives while offering a stable and empowering workplace for our employees through good business practices.”

Desert Laboratory info:

“A unique combination of ecology and culture, the Desert Laboratory on Tumamoc Hill is an 860-acre ecological preserve in the heart of Tucson. Its innovative, sustained, long-term environmental studies have made it a US National Historical Landmark. A 2,500-year-old village sits atop Tumamoc Hill and the rich cultural context of four millennia of human society lie at its feet. Our name derives from the Tohono O’odham place name Chemamagi Do’ag—Hill of the Horned Lizard— which signifies the profound cultural importance of this site.

Tumamoc’s Desert Laboratory (1903) gave birth to the sciences of plant physiology, ecology, and arid land studies. Its permanent study plots include the world’s longest continuously monitored vegetation plots, active since 1906. It is also the world’s first and oldest restoration ecology project: cattle were excluded from the site in 1907. Today, researchers continue to track these changes as well as delve deeper into the functioning, origin, and future of the Sonoran Desert.”

The Collaboration:

CREAM and the Desert Laboratory on Tumamoc collaborated on a biodiversity mask project to celebrate the reopening of Tumamoc Hill for Memorial Day, raise funds for their community outreach efforts, and help keep Tucson safe by making a mask that people would be excited to wear. 

Director of the Desert Laboratory, Ben Wilder, reached out to CREAM with the goal of a comfortable and breathable mask for exercising and a design to celebrate the unique flora and fauna of Tumamoc Hill and the Sonoran Desert. The goal was to produce something that people would be excited to wear ‘on and off’ the hill. 

After the pre-sale Round 1 of the masks – which included the light weight ‘exercise’ face coverings and the patterned Tumamoc Biodiversity masks – we were able to donate over $1,500 to the community outreach efforts of the lab. For rounds 2 and 3 we chose to focus solely on the Biodiversity custom-sewn masks. These limited edition masks are available now on the CREAM online store

“Getting the opportunity to collaborate on a creative project with the scientists at The Desert Laboratory and medical-equipment manufacturers at Bio-Concepts to produce a product that makes people a little happier to “mask up” was extremely fulfilling. We are really proud of how the masks turned out and really grateful so many people came forward to support the project which allowed us to donate back over $1,500 for community outreach. This blend of conceptualizing, designing and printing is our greatest passion at CREAM.”

If you are interested in working on a custom design or printing project please reach out to us at -Marissa Johnson & Patrick Foley (co-owners)

The Art of Covid- CREAM Design & Print

The Design Process:

The team at the Desert Laboratory sent us photographs of flora and fauna endemic to the Tumamoc Hill including the Tumamoca leaf, saguaros, road runners, horned lizards, deer and hummingbirds. Our designer sketched them and converted them into printable files. The team at Tumamoc helped create the catchy names for the light-weight exercise face coverings that highlighted the selfless nature of wearing masks, helping to protect other people and our community – ‘Responsible Roadrunner’, ‘Caring Colibri’ (Hummingbird) and ‘Horned Lizard Hero’.

The Art of Covid- CREAM Design & Print

The Printing Process:

When selecting the masks we wanted to print on, we considered material type, size and shape, and printability. We ordered samples, wore them around to test their breathability and fit and selected 2 options to print samples on. The winning option was a cotton blend face covering that proved to be comfortable and breathable and easily took the ink in our printing process. For the custom-sewn masks we approached the Phoenix-based medical supply and compression garment company Bio-Concepts, who’s president Frank Reichenbacher, had a personal connection to the Desert Laboratory and was interested in helping with the process. Once the pandemic began, Bio-Concepts turned their production facility into a mask-making factory with the goal to put their team to work and donate over 10,000 masks to people and facilities who needed them most. Bio-Concepts co-owner Lari-Ann Reichenbacher helped facilitate the sample making and production process with us. Bio-Concepts sent us a fabric sample, we printed the films, burned thes screens and did test prints using two types of inks and sent them back to Phoenix to be sewn into masks. We did wash tests to determine the best ink to use, tweaked a few details to get the look just right, and began to print the final fabric to be turned into masks. We then fulfilled the pre-sale orders and shipped them out across Arizona and the rest of the country. 

The current print run of masks is online now (while supplies last). 

The Art of Covid- CREAM Design & Print

More about the mask fabric:

Masks are made of 2 layers of BioSmart Material manufactured and tested by Milliken Textiles (who make medical-grade hospital garments). BioSmart Material is a patented technology that binds chlorine bleach to fabric. Each wash with an EPA-registered bleach renews BioSmart’s disinfecting chlorine charge, so masks retain their antimicrobial properties wash after wash. Although not a surgical mask or tested against COVID-19 the anti-microbial nature of the cloth is assured.”

To learn more about this incredible business, or to see all of the services they offer, visit their website at: