A Publication of WTVP

Technicraft has built its reputation on high-quality printing, graphics, fine art and displays.

Peoria has long been proud of its rich arts scene and thriving industry. From the days of vaudeville to the international success of Caterpillar, expression and labor have been central Illinois traditions. With its artful design and creative print displays, Technicraft brings both elements together, offering a unique combination of art and craft—and a spirit that is distinctly Peorian.

A Dual Devotion
Peoria native Ted Kerrn had worked extensively in the printing industry prior to establishing his own business at Junction City in 1969. The small arts supply company was originally known as Graphic Arts Studio, but in 1972, Kerrn changed its name to Technicraft, signaling a devotion to both technology and craft that continues to this day.

By the end of the decade, Kerrn’s son-in-law, Thomas Whalen, the company’s current owner and president, had come aboard. “[He] came to work for the company in 1979 because he was dating my mom,” laughs his daughter, Colleen Kimball, Technicraft’s director of business development. “He came here in lieu of considering a degree, and learned a skill and a trade from my grandfather.”

About the same time, Technicraft moved from its original location at Junction City to a building out on Pioneer Parkway, where it further developed the graphics side of the business. “We were the first company in Peoria to offer large color printing,” Whalen recounts. “That’s when we really started to grow and do all kinds of large-format printing and digital reproductions.”

Eventually, Technicraft moved its art store, the T-Square, near the Metro Centre, while continuing to build the production side of the business on Pioneer Parkway. It was the early 1990s, and ad agencies—among the company’s biggest clients—were beginning to make the leap into the digital world. This seismic shift in technology imposed a pivotal decision on the future of the business. “We didn’t have any way to supply them with what they were working with, so we were forced to go into debt, purchasing digital equipment,” Whalen says. “That was a huge turning point for us. I look back and think: if we hadn’t done that, we probably wouldn’t still be around today.”

In 1999, the T-Square closed and a second production space opened in the current location on Elm Street, adjacent to Peoria’s Warehouse District. Five years later, Whalen bought the company from his father-in-law, and has since expanded its facilities to accommodate most printing and reproduction needs. With the addition of Kimball, Technicraft further developed its products and services, from large-format color printing and custom framing to specialty mounts and displays to art restoration work.

Art & Business
With a wide range of technologies and cutting-edge equipment at its disposal, Technicraft prides itself in offering a diverse array of services. “We’re very artisan for a print shop,” Kimball remarks. “Everything we make is handcrafted. We cut things by hand; we stretch canvases by hand; we’re putting everything together by hand.”

Behind the scenes, in addition to veteran printers like Thomas Whalen, Technicraft employs a number of degreed artists. “My designer, Annah, who runs the printing machines, has a fine art degree—she’s a painter and photographer,” says Kimball. “My guy who does all the canvas stretching has a degree in photography from Bradley University.

“We do everything to the highest quality possible,” she adds. “We can do a frame start to finish. We can scan your work, reproduce it, print it, mount it, frame it, or put it on a canvas.”

And Technicraft’s clientele is just as diverse as its services. “We do a lot of in-house corporate graphics and a lot of art,” Kimball explains. “We’re just all over the place.” Among its corporate clients are Caterpillar Inc., recently providing 3D cast-metal letters and eight 4′ x 6′ optimounts on heavy acrylic for its simulator room, and Midwest Food Bank, printing banners, posters and custom wall murals for its entryway. The company is also responsible for the large, historic mural of the Peoria skyline that sprawls across the shoe wall at Running Central on Water Street.

The image, which depicts an industrial Peoria from the early 1900s, was nearly lost forever, as the original photograph was destroyed in the tornado that decimated Tazewell County in 2013. Fortunately, Technicraft had scanned the image for a separate project and saved a digital copy. When Running Central owner Adam White approached Technicraft for design assistance, he selected the old photo for large-scale reproduction, but Kimball found its owner reluctant at first to allow its use. When she told him it would be used at the new Running Central location, however, he laughed and offered his permission: Adam White was his nephew.

Besides its corporate work, Technicraft works regularly with a cadre of noteworthy artists, from photographers Keith Cotton and Ann Conver to painters Sandy Fisher and Ken Tiessen. Not only does the company assist artists with displays in galleries, it also provides framing, digital editing and printing services. “I really love working one-on-one with artists… getting their work out to the public and making it look as perfect as possible,” Kimball says. “I believe so much in our community, and our community stands on our art… For me, it’s more of a community motivation than a business motivation.”

Print’s “Anti-Walmart”
As for its future direction, Technicraft continues to work with artists and businesses alike, always staying on the cutting edge of the industry. It recently completed large jobs for Excel Foundry and Keith Cotton’s Faces of the East Bluff, a large mural consisting of portraits of residents of Peoria’s East Bluff, and has jobs in the works for Beachler’s, among others.

Someday, Kimball says, she hopes to open a retail storefront. “I think there’s a huge ‘shop local’ movement, especially among the millennials,” she explains. “We would like to work that. We are the ‘anti-Walmart’ of the print industry.”

And as it approaches a half century in business, Technicraft remains attached to the city of its birth. “My dad’s family has been in Peoria since 1822,” Kimball smiles. “We know Peoria—this is our city. We have an emotional attachment and a historical attachment to it. And our work helps bring others together, so the community grows as a whole.” iBi

Technicraft is located at 419 Elm Street in Peoria. For more information, call (309) 495-5245 or visit