Friday, December 23, 2011

Screenprinting 101: A DIY Guide for Starting Your Own Apparel Line

Ever wanted to design your own images and print them on a shirt or bag? This can be great for commemorating a friend's birthday, creating merchandise for a local band, or creating branding yourself with a repeatable image that can be applied to virtually anything.

I'll start with a list of supplies needed to establish your screenprinting studio, followed by a step-by-step guide to burning an image on a screen, and then the process of printing an image on fabric, which is actually the easier and least labor intensive part.

Materials: (Estimated total cost $165)

Photo emulsion: If your buying a retail brand like Speedball, purchase a larger size is the best bang for your buck - 32oz $25
Photo emulsion sensitizer: 2oz $7
Cubic yard of 1/2" plywood, one side spraypainted matte black: $10
Cubic yard of 1/4" glass: $10
Squeegie at least as wide as the biggest image you intend to print, 70 durometer: $25
Transparencies to draw or print your image on: $3
Opaque markers or Sharpie paint pens extra fine: $5
Light fixture with ceramic socket and reflector: $10
Atleast a 250 Watt specialized photodevelopment bulb: $10
Surge protector/extension cord with switch (optional): $10
Black contractor trashbags (The bigger and more opaque the better): $10
2" brush or a handful of dinky foam brushes: $5
Framed Silk Screen: $20 used.
Bleach/Photoemulsion remover: $15

Overview: How exactly am I burning a screen? Is this dangerous? No lighter or extinguisher needed. You are going to burn a positive image (as opposed to a negative or background image) onto a screen by using multiple transparencies printed in a high contrast so that the image is opaque, alternatively reaching the same effect by coloring in a single transparency with an opaque/paint marker. Its simpler than it sounds.

The Screen: A framed stretched piece of mesh silk.

If you can find a used screen with someone else's image burned into it, this is much cheaper than buying a screen new. Check used art supply stores or recycled hardware stores. You can find screens that go for $250 new for under $30 if you're lucky. When buying a screen you want to look for the finest woven silk mesh as possible that is stretched as taut as possible, without any holes or tears. Alternatively you can make your own screen using a staple gun and a picture frame; Results will be much more professional with a factory made screen.

Prepping the Screen: Bleach and Photo Emulsion Remover

If you are using a used screen, you are going to clean the photo emulsion, paint, screen filler, and drips on the screen. You are going to need a spray hose - the higher powered the better - but not something as powerful as a pressure sprayer. A restaurant dish faucet works but so will a home faucet. You can use photo emulsion remover if you want, but bleach works just as well if you take the necessary precautions.
Paint the used screen with bleach or photo emulsion remover

Thursday, December 22, 2011

How to Get Tied Up: Six Reasons to Wear a Tie + Six Ties to Bring in 2012

2012's right around the corner, so there's little excuse to not modernize your wardrobe with a few interesting accents. Male fashion accessories are limited - your stereotypical murse, A&F leather armban, annoying hipster knockaround shades, and the cufflinks hiding in your top dresser drawer that haven't seen the light of day since your cousin's wedding (who has since been divorced). The tie remains one of the few accents to show that you awareness of 2012, not 1912. Check'it.

Pick a knot, any knot.

If you can tie your shoes, then you can tie your tie. If you floss your laces to match your kicks or tie your shoes according to the hi-top lo-top mentality, then you understand using a knot that fits the characteristics of the lapel. There's no correct knot for a given shirt; Just use common sense. Rule of thumb: The length of the lapel and the space between the lapels should correlate with the size of the knot.

Equation functions with style if input values of 1,2, or 3 are used.
L= Length of the lapel
D=Distance between the lapels
T=Thickness of the tie
K=output, Size of the knot

If K < 4 use a small knot. If K > 4 use a large knot

Generally, if you have a significantly sized lapel and large space between them, use an obnoxiously large knot like a double windsor or the less symmetrical Pratt knot. Another two factors to consider when choosing a knot is the thickness of the tie and the desired length of the tie. A thicker tie means a bulkier knot and larger knots will mean a shorter length on the finished tie.

How should it hang?
So you don't look like a clown - centered on the knot and not twisted or wrinkled. Traditionalists hold that a tie should hang below the top of your fly or bottom of your belt. Modernists insist that a tie shouldn't touch your trousers, even when sitting. I like to wear my tie so it hangs a few inches above the bottom of my belt, but that's because I obsess over spilling food if it hangs on my trousers when I eat. (Maybe this is why businessmen stand and eat.) Do not flip it over your shoulder when you are eating unless you're alone. When you courageously dribble mustard all over it, spot clean it yourself in the sink, starch it, and let it hang dry. Starching will let you get more use out of the tie before you have to iron the wrinkles out. Or hit up the dry cleaners. To each their own.

The Knots: In increasing size and tying difficulty.

(Note: I'm left handed and so I tend to wrap things opposite the way the rest of the world riggs them. I've chosen to use videos instead of describing folds and weaves or using confusing pictures. Video courtesy of which also includes step-by-step instructions and more style tips.)

The Four-in-Hands:
This is the knot your pop showed you how to loop for prom. Simple, small, round, asymmetrical.

The Half Windsor:
Flat, triangular, small, and symmetrical knot. Wider than the four-in-hands.

The Pratt: 
Also known as the Shelby. Asymmetrical, beefier, older brother of the four-in-hands.

The Double Windsor:
Veteran of job interviews and court appearances. Fat, triangular, symmetrical, the boss knot.

The Bow:
The tuxedo standard. Horizontally diverge from all your vertically inclined co-workers. If you get bored tying the other knots, the one takes some practice. Works well with suspenders. Use at your own discretion; Peewee Herman's favorite knot.

Six Reasons to Wear A Tie:

I. You will never look overdressed.
If you are sensible. Whether its an office holiday gathering or a concert, the formality of a tie is only as significant as the shirt on which its hung and the blazer draped around it. If you think a tie is too formal for an occasion, tone down the other elements. Instead of a starched silk shirt and cardigan wear a something more casual. Substitute slacks for a pair of jeans. Drop the penny-loafers for sneakers, boots, or hi-tops. or I rarely see anyone match a solid colored tie and plaid or striped shirt. Instead of wearing a pinstripe shirt, business blazer, and peacoat, alternatively don a sweater. Your wardrobe should include more than your prom outfit or your wedding apparel. Don't shop for an entire outfit with a single exclusive function in mind. Instead, imagine different outfits and diversity between elements of clothing. Still self-conscious about tying it up on the scene? Distinguish between formal wear and non-formal wear with the premise of a suit or at least a shirt and tie, much as in the same way you partition work clothes and play clothes. Don't be afraid to break the rules.

II. The tie is an extension of your soul.
Want to know someone's favorite color without asking? Look at the color of their most frequently worn clothes. Not only do multiples ties and shirts provide a cheap alternative to masking the appearance of changing your clothes every week, they provide insight into your tastes and the way you identify yourself. Get deeper than black and brown. Try stripes and other patterns. Distinguish between the width of a tie and sharpness of its descending point. While you're at it make sure to you've got a belt or two that compliments the tie. Learn to express yourself in a manner that makes it look like you wanted to wear a suit or that you actually like the way you look. Although the black and brown matter and anti-matter rules still applies, don't feel that the color of your pants has to match your tie, your blazer, and socks. Diversify. Then, on casual Friday or hung-over Saturday morning, you'll really knock 'em out with that collegian beer logo hoodie and sweatpants. Congratulations, you are a dynamic and hopefully colorful person.

III. It's a simple self-image booster.
In the media we see lots of scrutiny over the way women appear. Why do women wear makeup, eyeshadow, mascara, short skirts, stockings, or heels? One answer is that is the way advertisers establish an ideal image for women as a depiction of beauty, icon of sexuality, or image of professionalism. Another perspective is that all these elements of appearance boost confidence and make women feel better about themselves. However you lean, wearing a tie and the act of tying it in the mirror makes me feel more motivated and socially magnetic in the morning regarding the rest of my day. I tend to be more productive and positive in my upcoming interactions. With this in mind, it makes sense to wear a tie not just casually but when I have to give a presentation to my peers or I'm nervous about an upcoming social event - even if its not on the day I choose to wear a tie. No only is it a imager booster to some, but wearing a tie makes me strive to more attentive and interactive with others. I'm not suggesting acting like an asshole when you decide to dress up. I'm hinting that on a day when I have to bike five miles to school in the sleet and snow to school, at least I can dry my hands off with my tie when I sit down in class. On the other side of the coin, you might look like you fell out of an Esquire or GQ catalog. Just don't act like it.

IV. You will unintentionally break established socio-economic class boundaries.
And this is a good thing. Throughout my college career I've noticed that if I wore a tie to class, I get called on more than if I didn't, assuming equal frequency in hand raising here. My classmates are more social and approachable if they notice a slight shift in apparel choices. Its a fun thing to out-dress your professor or boss every once in a while. It makes you look like you cared about what you put on this morning and didn't just roll out of bed and run out the door. You might even get a table quicker at a restaurant. You might also be scoffed at for not overtipping. However, overdressing with a competitive intention is vain and if you continue to out-dress a particular person, you will look like you're going to a graduation, wedding, or funeral. Wear a tie at functions that are not the previous three listed. Wearing a tie out of the blue might get people to ask why you why you are wearing a tie. My favorite answer is that it's my dog's birthday. You don't need a reason to wear one. (You can still pretend you do if it makes you feel awkward. I don't own a dog, but I'd like one.)

V. Wear a tie because you can.
Regardless of where you identify on the sexuality/gender spectrum wearing a tie can be a fun way to dress yourself in the morning. Women look just as good in ties as men do. Also, you'll probably have to wear a tie at some point in your life, so why not dive in? The only thing worse than not having a tie and needing one for some ridiculous required function is not knowing how to tye a tie when you acquire one. Regardless of your sense of fashion ties are a way to embrace a change or something new. One of my favorite tie spottings was a punk friend with a "scissor cut" tie that hung four or five inches below the knot. He wore it as an anti-mod/working class fashion statement and said it was the much easier to tye before he cut it off. If someone ever gives you beef over wearing a tie, you can always let them try it on and then strangle them with it. On another note, avoid being strangled wearing a tie. This especially applies to Wall Street bankers and Congressmen.

VI. Your significant other looks better in your tie than you do.
If vertical lines and stripes give the visual illusion of making someone look slimmer and taller, then why does my spouse look better in my tie and shirt than I do? Because hopefully that's the only thing they're wearing. Ties are sexy and will stay sexy. Just like there is nothing wrong with wearing a tie to casual social functions, wearing a tie on a date is no different than wearing a tie to a coffeeshop to read a book or catch up with a friend. There is nothing like a man in uniform and unless you're a military person, this is standard issue homefront class B apparel. (Class A refers to tuxedos in case you're curious.)

6 Ties You Might See People Wearing in 2012.

The Skinny Tie

The Box Tie

The Stout Tie
Fashion columnists may say wide ties are out, but they function very well when tied exceptionally short with a slim shirt. You may have to cut the shorter end of the tie for this to work. Take risks.

Modernized Bow Ties
Made of materials like wood, plastic, and vinyl.

 Pixelated 8Bit Flashback Ties

Vintage Ties
Standard issue thrift shop wear. These patterns will not be repeated anytime soon, with fabrics like rayon and metallic weave.

Look good this next year. Whatever the occasion.

This goes out to all my underdone and undertongued, long-longed frontmen.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Blake Mycoskie Start Something that Matters

Start Something that Matters, a new book by Blake Mycoskie, founder of TOMS shoes, is a wonderfully woven imaginary piece of fiction. The general gist of the book is a short, large font, enterpenteurial self-help guide that uses the bogo (“buy one, get one”) model to appeal to a socially-minded consumer movement - ideas such as sustainability, environmental integrity, reducing outsourcing, using recycled materials, and paying workers a fair wage. The book seemed great for the first twenty or so pages until I noticed a discrepancy between Mycoskie’s advice on starting a for-profit corporation with conscientious marketing and the altruistic people who have started non-profits and other charities that sell products or services. Constructed like every other DIY-altruistic-corporation self-help guide, Start Something that Matters opens with several chapters of sympathy-evoking stories involving third world poverty and concludes with examples featuring corporate PR “green” campaigns spliced in with a few stories of people who started non-profits that actually combat poverty in the developing world.
While quoting emphatic playboys who saved the world, told all their friends on facebook, and started their own companies marketing that story back home, Mycoskie fails to acknowledge any difference between non-profits that actively market products sustainably, environmentally friendly, domestically, and financially soundly (where all sales beyond breaking even annually go to charities or other non-profits) and corporate PR campaigns, where little of the movement consumers partake in actually changes conditions in the real world. Mycoskie has a few examples of individuals marketing legitimate social movements through non-profits, such as a student from ASU that started selling meningitis shots two at a time, one for the college freshman consumer and another for someone in need in Africa. However, Mycoskie almost instantaneously juxtaposes these examples of individuals who started something that matters, with corporations who started movements like corporate donations to the developing world or any other bogus cause that’s trendy - also known as a tax write-off. So what if Pepsi makes a twenty million dollar donation to providing clean water somewhere far away instead of buying a prime Superbowl commercial spot for the same price? This does not make them a part of any social movement; It’s a twenty million dollar tax write off. With or without that donation, they deny water to indigenous cultures in South America with bottling plants and are still one of the world’s largest producers of non-recyclable plastic waste.
Despite the inconsistencies in Mycoskie’s choice regarding exactly which people and corporations helped transform TOMS from a business ran out of an apartment to a multi-million dollar corporation, if we take the socially conscientious values found in Start Something that Matters and apply it to TOMS Shoes, the company. From finding a pair at V. DePaul’s and tearing the hell out of them, here’s what I can say about them. They’re manufactured cheaply in China using materials that use unsustainable farming, in an industry that frequently takes advantage of low wages and long hours, not to mention increased fuel costs to ship the two pairs of shoes you just bought internationally to two locations for 55 bucks a pair. Even if production costs are doubled because your consumer is buying two products instead of just one, TOMS shoes can’t cost more than $5 to make a pair. With that 55 bucks you could have bought shoes for a at least a handful of kids - and myself. The damn things don’t last longer than a few months anyway. Consumer beware: the BOGO model (Buy-One-Get-One) corporate ‘socially minded’ profit model is bullshit. What does a kid from the third world want more: a pair of shoes that cost 5 bucks to make in their own country, or the 50 dollars extra you just threw in Blake Mycoskie’s lap?

Justice: Audio, Video, Disco

Justice’s new album Audio, Video, Disco has a progressive Americana feel compared to previous releases, which feature a distinct French electro-house feel. The howling guitars in “Horsepower” bring to mind Queen’s “Bicycle Race,” while the euphoric vocals in “Ohio” sound like they might be pulled from Kansas, The Eagles, or The Cars. The album features guests Vincent Vendetta of Midnight Juggernauts and Morgan Phalen of Diamond Knights, who add a distinct glam rock feel the duo’s second full Length studio album. Compared to album Cross, Audio, Video, Disco has less vocal distortion, funkier bass lines, and screaming progressive guitar that give it a light, electro-rock/pop feel and overall brighter tone. I wouldn’t be surprised if Cross is rereleased in the future with Audio, Video, Disco in some sort of two disk compilation remixes set. Consider it essential Justice: what you wish you had listened to this summer.

Monday, August 1, 2011

M83: Hurry Up, We're Dreaming

M83’s new two disk EP, Hurry Up, We're Dreaming, marks an evolution in M83’s ambient sound. From dialogues of children exchanging fears on the run to acoustic guitar and saxophone samples, its hard to pin a single genre down on the two disk set - but the mood feels like the 1980’s. The emotional vibe of the album ranges from the peaks of nostalgic high school bliss, to the bellows of anxiety discerning between reality and dreams. The ambient tracks and childlike euphoria found on the first disk are set opposed from the tones of the second disk, which contains more electro-pop percussive songs and shorter bridging tracks. Anthony Gonzales has said that the two disks are meant to have a brother and sister vibe. Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming marks a departure from M83’s albums of the past because of the overwhelming array of new tones, vocal samples, and instruments included in the set. The album was recorded in Los Angeles; Gonzales has said that the inspiration for putting the album together came from trips to Joshua Tree National Park. If you haven’t listened to M83, listen to this album first to get a feel for M83’s distinct signature sound.