Shall I Keep Printing T-shirts?

Mistletoe Mart and tree glasses 015I may have figured out a rough plan for keeping hand-printed shirts part of my active art life.  In my June Newsletter, I said that I was going to try to figure out a way to phase out the shirts.  I said I might not be doing shows that featured the shirts after 2015.  But I’ve heard from a lot of you that I should not stop, because you would have to go without shirts on your backs, and that could land you in the slammer, I understand.

But, here is my predicament:  I am writing a book on Designing and Making an Off-Loom Rya Rug… I am currently the sole supplier of quality rya supplies in this country–that I know of.  (Tell me if you know of others, please!)  Many people want these supplies and want to know how to use them NOW.  And I have a burning desire to keep creating art in the little art world I have built around my life in the form of floorcloth creations, oil and acrylics paintings and, of course, woodcut and linocut carving.  I don’t know how to do all that without letting go of something.  Carving James Ranch lino 023

So since the shirts have a following, I have decided to keep making them and selling them, but to do it in a smarter way which will make my life easier and maybe easier for you too.

Here is what I have come up with. (Feel free to add your ideas and comments below.)

Shirts stacked1.  Instead of filling a shirt basket with a rainbow of various colors where each size is a different color (just because it was pretty) I will start filling the basket with one or two colors of that particular design and try to have one of every size in that color.  This would prevent major decision-making for you at shows where you have 30 designs to choose from and 20 different colors.  It makes your eyes glaze over.  I will continue to take orders for the designs in your choice of any color made by Comfort Colors.  The result of this action will be that I can answer, “Yes I have that design in your size.”  Rather than “No-but-I-could-print-one-for- you.”

2.   I’ll print shirts on a schedule about every other month and definitely right after my shows.  I will take orders whenever people place an order, but rather than planning an impromptu printing day just to get one shirt done, I will schedule the printing for the next print day even if it is a month away.  That’s just logical really.  Most of you are so kind when you place an order, saying, “No rush, Take your time.”  And I appreciate that.

fireflies blue3.  I will probably gradually phase out most of my silkscreened shirts. (Raven in Flight, Fireflies, Great Blue Heron, Brookie, dare I say Hops?) The storage bins are big and I need the room for yarn.  And besides, admit it, you all want the hand-done shirts anyway.

I love Art in the Park, and I can’t see selling rya rugs there…so I fully intend to be there again next year with shirts.  Hot August Blues at Oregon Ridge Park–Yes I’ll be there with full shirt baskets on August 15th (Counting Crows will be there!), and I will be at the Mistletoe Mart for three full days of shirts on November 12-14.Hot August Music Fest 2014

And if you still need shirts, come to Byrdcall Studio during the Carroll County Artists Studio Tour first weekend in December with your holiday lists in hand.  During the Studio Tour you’ll have a chance to see my rya supplies as well…but THAT is another story.

Thanks for talking me off the cliff.  I’ll still be your shirt person, but maybe a little smarter.

Comments welcome:

6 thoughts on “Shall I Keep Printing T-shirts?

  1. Hi Melinda,
    I just wanted to add my two cents….
    Instead of making t shirts make washable pillow covers….sizing issues would be eliminated.

    I hardly wear t shirts anymore, but love the feel of a soft t shirt and have several decorative pillows I just love. I look awful in t shirts, and have trouble getting them over my head.

    Go for the rya..t shirts nope. Save space. Mailable too…

    I sent you examples via gmail..

    Would love to see your

    • Hi Melinda, I’m all for the T-shirts and hope you will stock them for years to come. It only makes sense to consolidate the printing process and to have a lot of sizes in fewer colors. The trouble is what colors and designs to pick? I love the heather browns and greens as well as the brighter colors. I’m also looking for some long-sleeve ones for cooler weather. You would have to post a picture of the silk screened fireflies on the beautiful blue shirt. Have that in Ladies XL?


      • Thanks for the encouragement, Gabby,
        I already started a chart of every design I have and have selected the ladies color and the unisex color for that design. But it will take years for all the other colors to move, so no one will really notice the reorganization for a year or so. And I DO have a ladies XL fireflies in blue which I have put on your shirt pile. I printed the last shirt you ordered today, so they should all go out in a couple of days…should I add the fireflies to your order? You’ll be making a Byrd shirt quilt in no time! 😉

    • Thanks for the pillow idea, Noreen. I have been giving thought to printing on fabrics for people who want to make quilts with my designs. (Tim from Annapolis is retiring some of his Byrd shirts and his wife has promised to make him a t-shirt quilt…but that can take a lot of shirts to make a quilt, but we are working on that.) Prayer flags entered my mind–but then fabric fading would be a concern. I had not thought of pillow covers. I definitely don’t want to enter a whole new market at this point since I’m trying to reduce, and t-shirts have been so popular….still thinking of offering prints on fabric which people could have stitched into a pillow cover if they want or frame! I’ll keep the idea churning and see what happens. Thanks, Noreen!

  2. We met you at the Fiddler’s Convention and fell in love with your shirts. I know everyone has a comment but figured I’d throw in one more thing! Your designs are phenomenal – as a former arts administer, contemporary American crafts gallery owner and art mentor I have this great fear (based on attending various shows this year) that certain skills & techniques can be lost. What about picking up an intern from the college? You do the designs and cuts — they do the printing — eventually branch out to learn from your block print techniques. Could not only support the younger artist but also assist your time management. Just a thought!!!! Thanks for your work and passion!

    • Jenny,
      That is funny you mention an intern to do the printing. I have been giving a lot of thought to finding an intern to help with the rya business by preparing and adapting designs and making kits and helping with promoting and learning the whole process with hopes they will keep the art of rya alive. i hadn’t really thought about having an intern do the printing. It would be perfect to find someone interested in assisting with BOTH aspects of the art of Byrdcall Studio. And many thanks for you kind words about my work. i certainly do gravitate to things that no one else does! Thank you!!

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