"I have always succeeded in printing something that was judged to be impossible," says Michel Caza

As he divulges his love for India and screen printing to Shripad Bhat, editor, Grafica News

25 Oct 2011 | By Samir Lukka

What is the reason that you love India so much?
Two very different points and stories. India? Let us say "philosophical reasons". During 1968 / 69, I was involved in the creation of Auroville – The City of the Dawn – a huge and ambitious project initiated by the mother of Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry (now Puducherry). I spent two months there at the very beginning of 1970, working on different parts of the project of "Auromodel", the starting point of the city which included engineering, organisation, agricultural projects and designing a screen printing semi-automatic press. I had been a screen printer since 1954 (in Sweden and then in France)... So i thought, why not? Screen printing could be an opportunity in the 'industrial activities' of Auroville and that is what happened a few years later.

Back to France and my company, I kept a tight contact with the association we had built at that time to help Auroville develop itself. I must confess that I immediately loved India, the behaviour of the people, their tolerance and acceptance of the varied philosophies, religions, and way of life. I was fond of the history, religion, philosophy of the country. Now, my wife is an India-specialist. This is because of her involvement and knowledge about the Vedas, the Upanishads and the Bhaghavad Gita. She is a Hatha Yoga teacher in France.

And how did Indian screen-printing come into the picture?
Life and destiny can be strange sometimes! Of course, I was curious about how screen-printing was used in India. And, the little of screen-printing I saw in South India then, was extremely primitive. Few years later, a young lady from Auroville told me that she wished to start a small screen printing plant in Auroville and if I could extend her a helping hand. She came to France and spent a month at my plant to learn, came back and started her own screen printing unit. Her little screen plant still exists and if I remember well, she has received various awards for her screen printing jobs in India. From then on, I had the opportunity to meet Indian printers in Fespa and SGIA (Speciality Graphic Imaging Association), to see and understand what happened in India with our technology.

At the beginning of the year 2000, I met Cosmos Noronha from Classic Stripes and he told me his plans of him and his chief of the screen department to spend a few days in my plant in France to improve their technology. They are now a huge company! Then came Bhargav... We met; spent some time in France both, at home and the firm. We became more than friends, a special link such as the one between a pupil and his Guru and mostly between a pita and a beta. I could see the industrial possibilities of Grafica, tried to help him to improve his products and machines, form contacts, eventual partners and customers around the world. All this, simply because I believed in him, his imagination, his technical capacities. When he started DMI (Dhirubhai Mistry Institute), for me the best screen-printing school in the world, I pushed and promoted it as much as possible and with the help of Fespa, conducted the first workshop there. The rest of the story belongs to the history of Indian screen printing.

During 2004, I announced the first Fespa India exhibition for 2005 and together with Kurt Sperisen, insisted that SPAI (Screen Printer’s Association of India) become the first 'associated member' of Fespa.

What is your belief in Indian spirituality?
Here, my wife is certainly a better judge than I am. I am a 'Deist-agnostic', which means that I like Jesus, Buddha, Shiva and Lord Ganesha, Yahweh and Allah! I cannot accept a fanatic approach towards any religion. I like the Indian philosophy and sense of universal harmony. In the past, I learned a lot from Sri Aurobindo and his concept of universal osmosis of beliefs and in the advent of the new man – the "homo-gestalt" - may be in a few thousand years to follow the "sapiens-sapiens" we are.

Please share your old memories from the India visit that took place prior to India’s (SPAI) alliance with FESPA 2005.
For me, it was fascinating! Firstly, I had to convince my Indian friends, Bhargav, Doshi and many others that it would be a good idea for the growing SPAI to become a member of Fespa and reach an international scale instead of remaining purely India. This was followed by my attempts to convince the Fespa board for the Fespa India exhibition initiative. This, at the condition to have a good Indian partner. Kurt Sperisen, our FESPA ambassador for East and Far East countries was a great help. I precisely remember the day I announced this, it was August 2004, during the Devang Sheth’s (Aditya Expositions) exhibition of Mumbai – 6th Screen Print India 2004.
Why is that you are still passionate about screen printing, what drives you? There must be some hidden secret?
No secret at all, except a huge concentration on what I do or have to do. May be also, as my wife says, a certain 'monomania', mostly for screen but by extension, for many printing technologies, digital included. A perpetual curiosity about what can be printed and the negation of the word 'impossible'. Until I by myself prove that it is 'really' impossible. My preference is always screen-printing for marking, decoration, image, fabrication of industrial product, etc.

How and why did you enter screen printing? Did you have any other ambition in life before that during your youth life?
I remember that when I was in Sweden, finishing my studies at the University, I was a student of psycho-sociology and journalism. As a matter of fact, I took up screen printing for a student job (I needed to make some money to live in Stockholm) Eventually, I thought that screen printing was much more fun than sociology and I decided to keep going in that field when coming back to France for my military obligations.

How do you keep yourself fit to spearhead your Terascreen-Grafica venture involving huge task of marketing Grafica's Nano in Europe?
I love new adventures and new challenges. To do something both for my peers and to help screen printing expand in the world. That is exactly the kind of challenge I love both for my partners and me and helping Bhargav to expand Grafica and build a company at the world scale! And I am not too old! Your real age depends if you are young at heart or not. I know all the respect you Indians and the Chinese's have for their ancestors, ye-ye or dada. Very sorry if I don't feel that old.  

So, your health and fitness tips to printers in India:
Read carefully the safety sheet that the manufacturers have the obligation to supply you. Don’t use solvent inks any more. Take care of the good practices recommendations given by our Fespa book, Planet Friendly in all the parts of your work flow. Try to produce in a clean and sustainable way and take care (through medical controls) of the health of your employees.

What are your hobbies and interests other than printing?
Reading books and magazines.I have several thousands of books about science, science-fiction, philosophy, novels and Harry Potter;  Jazz and Bossa-nova (Brazilian) music; art in general, MacIntosh and software; rowing; culture and history of different countries and civilizations.

How do you define success? From the numerous awards your company has won, which one is dear to you?
To reach the top, the 'yoga of yogas', Sri Aurobindo used to say, 'be successful in your work' (free translation of my understanding). That is simply what I tried to do; to do the best possible for being the best possible! That’s why we, not only my company but also the companies of my best pupils won so many Awards. I remember some years when we called ourselves the 'Caza’s Gang' – received 25% of all the awards given at SGIA competitions. This simply means that none of those awards is specially dear to me. In this perpetual challenge where we had to be the best and then better and better each year because our competitors were progressing too. And this progression, one of our competitors was dear to me, because in a certain manner I obliged the screen printers to prove that screen was capable of high quality and this was good for the whole community.

What has been the most memorable moment in your career/life?
I had thousands of memorable moments. Each time I succeed in printing something that was judged to be impossible, and it stills happens quite often. My company alone, Graficaza, received 350 Awards in 20 years of competition and each year it was a memorable moment.

Your observation on the quality of Indian screen printers so far?
I was lucky enough to quite often have the privilege to see (and sometimes share) the evolution of screen printing technology in the Indian companies, both being in the juries of those competitions or even chairing them or simply as a viewer in the Fespa, Indian or SGIA competitions. Let us say, this began for me ten years ago and I must recognise the progression in terms of quality and fineness and it has been fantastic. And this is also true in textile (garment) printing and industrial (electronic) fields. It means that now the quality of the images or other screen printed items made in India can easily support the comparison with most prints from Europe, USA or Far East countries. I am happy to see many of the Indian printers approaching the quality of images made by my best pupils in Switzerland (Atelier Für Siebdruck), Russia (MidiPrint), Canada (CIB), Japan (Kumazawa), China (Standard Chan), Ukraine (S.G.S.L.), Turkey (ETF), France (Kokolo) and Bulgaria (Top-Print Sofia).

What should they do to improve?
Simply keep going the same way. Simply listen to the good Gurus !

The guru's message to printers in India?
Keep getting better each day. Take advice from a Guru, not especially me, but a good one. Reach out to the yoga in your acts; personal, social and technical. Take care of the details and remember you must produce green products in a green manner.

This Feature is an online special on the PrintWeek India website. The interview was published online in October 2011