T Shirt Shop Transactions

Posted on February 16, 2013


One of the ideas I’ve thought about regularly these past few years has been a T-shirt collection. It doesn’t get much simpler than that for a budding entrepreneur. It wouldn’t require a lot of money to start with and selling the stuff online couldn’t be too difficult I always figured. Now, having more free time than I’ve ever had, I’m trying to put the T-shirt fantasy into practice.

The T-shirts I have in mind feature large bug pictures on the front and dictionary definitions on the back (whether the front would be called a logo, a picture, a print, a stencil, I don’t know).  I did a search on Google for “designing t-shirts in Seattle” and examined the first few sites that popped up. Most of them were not local and the websites which encouraged you to create your own design online were clunky and user un-friendly. I quit in the middle of one design because it was so cumbersome but not before leaving my contact information. A few days after that aborted effort, an employee of the company lazily sent me an email questioning whether I needed any help and told me to contact him if I did. His “whatever” approach to following up w a potential customer made me laugh. It also ensured that I would only contact him if I couldn’t get find anyone else to work with.

I decided to go see  a custom design place in person. The store is in an industrial part of Seattle, hidden from the road. I walked in and the two workers seemed surprised by my presence. The store was a cavernous loft, w lots of clothes stacked high everywhere and a few print screens. I told them of my plan for T-shirts and they passed me off to their boss, a goth looking chick, about my age. She had me follow her upstairs to talk further and look at T-shirts (I had asked to see some). Upstairs, her pit bull (which was taller than most other pits) came over to me and stuck his nose in my crotch. “He only gets weird when he senses fear,” she said. The dog then started jumping on me so I wasn’t sure what he was sensing. I picked out a T-shirt type and she went over some company guidelines (minimum orders, picture resolutions, etc.). Once she received the pictures I wanted to use, we’d be ready to start designing.

The initial visit was about a month ago. Since then, we’ve gone back and forth with picture suggestions. I think they give up too easily. They tell me to “stop by” whenever I have a detailed suggestion for the shirts. My hunch is because my initial order is small, they’re only willing to give a minimal effort. I stopped by again last week and sat down with a designer to view a “mock-up” (how the finished shirt might look). He stopped what he was working on in Photoshop (a demon’s face with the words “Choose Hate”) to pull up the images I had sent him. He said two of the images would be pricey to replicate because they’d involve tracing and blotting out the background color. I don’t know who most of the store’s customers are but if they’re going through the trouble to design a T-shirt, then I would expect them to have a very specific vision for how they’re supposed to look. Why put money and time into something only to wing it at the end? I asked for the cost of the extra editing and can now think about whether I want to do as he suggested. My wife thinks she can help me trace an outline of the bugs which I could send them, omitting the additional work. I left the shop with one shirt that was ready to go. We only have to finish hashing out the lettering on the front. If the prices aren’t too high, then I would most likely use this store again; they know me by face and name which is huge. It also helps that a truck in their small parking lot had a Ron Paul bumper sticker (a rarity in Seattle).


Posted in: art, Seattle, work