Tuesday, November 16, 2021

T-Shirts With My Face On Them.

 I like t-shirts. I like t-shirts a lot. Obviously I’ve made t-shirts with myself as the main focus. I’ve done this twice. Michael M. and I made some Nostrils shirts year ago. He screen-printed them in his kitchen. I also had a design that read “I Learned Nothing From Jon Foster.” It came from a real student evaluation. Those looked really good, multiple colors and printed by Jon and James. I sold around 20 of those at cost. The problem with getting them done professionally is the time and cost. I never want to make money on these sorts of things, but I don’t want to lose a lot of money. Anticipating what folks want or what size they need isn’t in the equation. Clearly people need t-shirts with my face on them.

I was sitting on my couch when it hit me, “I can use fabric ink with rubber stamps and make all the shirts I want.” I put the word out there that I was looking for someone to carve rubber stamps for me. I needed others to do it since that whole process looks super difficult to me. Maybe I’ll try my hand at carving in the future, but until then, let the professionals do it. People need to see every dip and valley in my face, I owe it to them. Valerie P. took the bait. I bought her a few blocks and in less than a week she’d carved three amazing images for me. I don’t know how she did them so fast. More importantly, I was impressed by her talent. I loved them.

Projects that feed my thrift store addiction tend to grow. Having a real reason to go to a thrift store and pick out stuff is a dream. With the rubber stamps, I needed t-shirts to complete my project. I had to go through every shirt in the rack. In just a couple visits I nabbed a big stack at only two dollars apiece. I bought ones that we’re blank and I bought ones that had stuff already on them. The idea of a “collaged t-shirt” was rather exciting to me. You know, use the pre-existing information to make something new.

The first round looked awful. I didn’t know how to regulate the amount of ink so they ended up looking like I had finger-painted them. Even worse, most of the ink washed off when I put them I the washing machine the next day. The information on the can of ink said they only needed one day to dry…that was a lie. Out of those first six I only salvaged one. 

The first round...not so good.
The second round I did simple research on. You know research…looking at things on the internet. I watched almost three whole videos on the subject. They said I should let them dry for about a week, but I didn’t need to “heat-set” them. I did both. I pressed out my designs in the basement and then laid them on tables. After I did the whole pile, I held the hair-dryer over every design for a cumulative amount of three minutes. They didn’t look bad. They looked simple, they looked punk which is what I was going for. I wanted them to look like a CrimethInk band shirt from the 90’s. You know, like a design someone in Zegota would have come up with after dumpster diving all night long. Simple, effective, and most importantly, cheap.

Giving away the shirts wasn’t as easy as I thought. I put it out there and only a few folks raised their hand. Whenever people are trying to avoid saying they’re not interested in something on social media, you get less and less “likes.” It’s like when you ask a question to a classroom and all of the students look at their desks. No biggie, I’ll get rid of them over time. I mostly made smaller sizes because I thought that’s what people would need. I didn’t realize that my people were as fleshy as I am. I should have bought more larges and x-larges instead of mediums and smalls.

For most of the week, while the second round was drying in the basement, I was thinking about how to improve them. The second round was acceptable, but too simple. The more I thought about them the more I hated them. They were too boring, not worth giving to people. I decided to redo the whole second round. At first I thought I could use a stencil to roll on the ink but this didn’t work because the roller never touched the shirt. A paintbrush worked. I dabbed as much silkscreen ink inside the stencil as I could, giving a darker layer of ink than the rubber stamps could. The shirts that came out the best were the ones that had preexisting words and designs on them. In effect, I was making collages with t-shirts. The process went so quickly that I ran out of room in the basement. I might have squeezed in another table in there but I wouldn’t have had any place to walk. I’ve got about ten shirts I think are worthy of giving away to people. This week I need to buy bigger shirts, wash them, and then lay down some ink on Saturday. The only thing I don’t like about this process is having to wait for them to dry. I can only do so many at one time. 

The third round might work.


1 comment:

SirBradford said...

Great concept! I love it. Collage T-shirts extend the concept of Mail Art in a much more populous way.

Plus, anything that supports thrift store visits/purchases is to everyone's benefit.