Interviewed by Rumplo!
So last week I got an email from the dude that runs T-Shirt Magazine regarding an interview he had hosted with the founders of Rumplo (a tshirt reviewing website). Rumplo's been good to me by sending me a lot of traffic through featuring my shirts, which other people seem to be uploading. Anyways, in the interview, Rumplo is asked to name their favorite tee brands. Somehow, someway, I was in their top 4...?! Weird, but cool.
Anyways, I was pretty stoked about getting all kinds of traffic from the interview and then randomly I got an email from Rumplo asking for an interview with me. Anyways, here's a peek at the transcript: (the pic up top will be included in the article)
R: So the word on the street is that you've got about a dozen designers working on some unbelievable T-shirts over there at Linty Fresh -- is this true?
ET: That's what I keep hearing too! But actually it's still just me doing all the design work. In fact, the entire operation here at Linty Fresh is a one-man show. See, for me, LF has always been more of a personal project and less of a boutique showcasing a bunch of artists. As time has passed it's really become a reflection of me as an artist, so the style is constantly mutating, although I hope there's an underlying vibe to keep them all together.
But yeah, I'm pretty stubborn with keeping it all in house. From time to time I get emails from other artists interested in contributing designs to my site, but as good as their work often is, I always turn them down. Sometimes it's really tough to do because their stuff is so awesome, but keeping that same focus has really forced me to grow artistically (since I'm not relying on someone else's talent), so it's a good thing in the end. The one exception to this is a collaboration tee that's coming out next month. But for the most part, it's just me. Keeping closely connected with the other parts of the process (fulfilling orders, communicating with customers, and managing the storefront, to name a few), has also always been really important (and enjoyable) to me.
R: How'd you get started making T-shirts?
ET: Back when I was in middle school I was commissioned for the first tee I'd ever done. It was for a construction company that belonged to a family friend. Unsurprisingly, it sucked and he had to get someone else to do it. A few years later I (successfully) did a tee for a band I knew, and later on I found Threadless. You'd think I would've totally quit on tshirt designing altogether though, because even after 20 submissions, I never won! (Although looking back a lot of those were crap too!)
But even though I never snagged a win, I learned a ton about using a limited color palette, designing with vectors for print, and other techniques that would eventually pay off. Plus some of my submissions there eventually became prints for Linty Fresh. The first of these was "Once Upon A War". To drum up sales I emailed practically everyone I knew and took preorders. It actually sold really well, and it got me thinking about printing more and more and going solo. That was back in February of 2006, and it's just crazy to think that I've done about 15 tees and lately even some belts in that time!
R: If you were to start out all over again what would you do differently?
ET: More research! I have a bad habit of getting into things impulsively without working out all the details, and this was a prime example. In the beginning I made things really difficult for myself and for my printers because I didn't understand the screenprinting process at all. In my head, it was "I'll make some cool vector art and keep the color count low, and they'll do the rest". That system worked ok for awhile, but being naive to the process meant being naive to the possibilities, and in the end that meant I was limiting myself. I also would have shopped around more for a printer. The first 9 tees for Linty Fresh were done with major imprinting companies, and although I give them top marks in quality and consistency and speed, they charged a lot and they weren't willing to experiment with me, which ended up becoming more and more desirable as time went on. The printer I'm using now is not only much cheaper than those big guys, but he's creative and loves pushing the boundaries, so it's a good match for me. Networking, too, has been an essential aspect to this experience that I definitely didn't appreciate in the beginning. Joining forums, asking advice from other guys in the business, and just talking to more people in general would've been a smart thing to start with. Learning from my own mistakes has been effective, but not ideal.
R: It seems like you spend most of your energy on your own shop -- why don't you submit your designs to places like Threadless or Oddica?
ET: To keep it special! I want the relationship between myself and Linty Fresh to be as exclusive as possible. If I were to design for other brands, or let other designers design for my brand, it kind of takes away from that aspect of it. Plus, when I work really hard on a design, I'd prefer to put it in my shop instead of selling it off to someone else, especially since I'm putting out multiple products on the first of each month, which means there's a big need to constantly come up with fresh and new ideas.
R: Can you tell us a bit about your T-shirt making process? How long does it take you to make a T-shirt, from designing it to shipping it? What are your favorite and least favorite parts of the process?
ET: Most designs take 5-8 hours to do, but that's never done in a single stretch. Usually the first part is the concept, which is mostly done away from the computer - thinking about it while doing something else, making little sketches, or collecting pictures and other scraps. Then I go digital and start the graphic work, which always starts with picking out colors and an overriding style of lines and shapes. Then I start the drawing (still all by mouse, because I'm a caveman like that). The design work usually wraps up after a couple of days and then I'll prepare the file for my printer, separate the colors, get the exact pantones picked out, and send that off to him. Usually it takes him three weeks to get the tees back to me. So the whole process takes a month or so.
I guess my least favorite part is waiting for the shirts to come, because it's out of my control. If you haven't noticed, I'm kind of a micro-manager... ;) The other steps are awesome, though, and all for different and specific reasons. Designing is cool because I get in my own little world and I've got my music going and it's just a very visceral and connected feeling for me. During this period, the concept is still evolving, and often a narrative even forms for it, which goes up on the product page when the tee is released. But even the more mechanical stuff like fulfilling and shipping the orders is really cool to me. I don't think I'll ever quite get over that feeling of getting an order from someone - that acknowledgment that someone digs my stuff enough to drop their cash for it and wait patiently for it to be delivered. That's just so awesome to me!
R: How does your (awesome) blog tie into all of this?
ET: The LF Blog (www.linty-fresh.blogspot.com) keeps people informed of the latest happenings of Linty Fresh. I've worked hard to dispel any illusions of LF being bigger than it is, and that definitely comes across in the stuff I write about. Even if it's something as small as getting a couple of new shelves to store my expanding inventory, I'll write about it, because that's something that's exciting to me, and it means I'm growing. (To this day I'm still running the entire operation out of a single room in my house!) I also write about upcoming releases, designs in progress, and my thoughts on being an entrepreneur. To me, the blog serves as a second layer of involvement that people can have with me and with Linty Fresh. It allows them to get a glimpse of what's to come, and often I ask for feedback on future releases, so that's been helpful.
R: What's next for you? And what's next for Linty Fresh?
ET: Quitting my day job! For awhile it was the means through which I could afford to print tees, but as Linty Fresh grows, it's become less and less necessary to hang on to. It's a little intimidating to think of not having it there as a safety net, but at this point it's taking up more time than it's worth and LF is showing no signs of slowing down, so I think it's time. The next thing is a show I'm going to on June 7th here in Atlanta called the Indie Craft Experience (http://www.ice-atlanta.com). I'm honored to be among the 100 vendors chosen for the show, and since it's my first, I'm getting pretty anxious about it, but hopefully it'll all go smoothly.
As far as future plans, I've gotten a lot of requests for hoodies so I'll be releasing some of those towards the end of the year, and new belts should continue to trickle out as the months pass. I definitely want to expand into new products too. Although the staple of LF will always be graphic tshirts, it's somewhat of a saturated market right now and I'm itching to find something completely new to explore!
So that's that. It was crazy getting back into town with all the orders that had piled up. Woot featured me again and this time the sales were excellent, so all those orders had to go out, plus a few orders for the two new tees. But even with that out of the way I've been busy getting back into the normal pace of things now that Eli's gone. We had an awesome time for sure though. NY was awesome!
posted by Mr. Linty @ 8:19 PM,
- At 8:41 PM, Elisabeth said...
And besides the spiffy t-shirts you like The Decemberists and Kate Nash. What a combination and what taste :)
- At 10:28 PM, Eric J Terry said...
You bet! I just noticed Collin Meloy has a solo album out. Haven't listened to it. How is it?