Friday, October 31, 2008

The Great Update: Entry 1

To say this has been a solid week at Design By Humans would be understatement... all five designs have been quite wearable and worthy prints. What is less safe to say, however, but will be said anyway, is that they have apparently been reading my blog, as I just recently commented on the excitement of someday seeing one of my contest watch choices finally print. Just days later, we see Ellsswhere's "Ekadanta" print. Whether DBH is consciously toying with me or not, consider this the first in what I hope to be a lengthy series of print updates. It makes me wonder if DBH plans to print more of their 10K bottom-five, as they did with the original top-five. I don't really have a lot to say that I didn't when I first reviewed it, except that it looks gorgeous in real life, and as late I have heard nothing but good things about DBH's discharge printing, so I'm stoked to have this in my cart.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Contest Watch: Week of October 23

While you're all prepping the last touches on your costumes for tomorrow, here are a couple pieces that may someday make a good addition to your more legitimate wardrobe:

We'll start with a new addition to the Contest watch, an apparently totally new site called Chimpogo. The site seems to have no affiliation with monkeys or bouncing, and their current offerings are rather slim, but they do offer a contest to change that, and among the people expressing early interest is one a.mar.illo, contest entrant extraordinaire. El Pulpo is featured above, and what can really be said about it that isn't obvious? It's an octopus in a luchador mask shooting lightning and wearing cowboy boots, while a bird perches on its head and sings of fire. All this, with only two colors. I should not have to convince you that this is awesome. Then again, with a.mar.illo's distinctive style at the helm of the design, most of you probably knew it was awesome to start with.

Pushing the bar higher with lower, Threadless has been running one of their unofficial Alumni contests lately: a one-color wonderland dubbed "I've Got Mono." The early entries have been extremely solid, but I'm really loving ISABOA's entry, Monocosmic. With one color at your disposal, often it's a matter of bringing the detail, and this one delivers, with plenty of sketchy style offset by some well placed planetary patches of solid color, which give a bold contrast to the finer lines of the piece. The alien, or space traveler, or whoever/whatever this is is well-rendered, and I feel he's set well against that space backdrop, helping give him even more of an otherworldly feel... as if the elongated torso, shrunken-looking head or octopus buddies aren't enough to prove this guy is a little left of ordinary. The sketch provides plenty of intrigue in its details, and the size of the print makes sure you'll be able to see every last one of them. Not only that, but its coverage of the canvas draws the eye in easily, meaning that you won't even really need any color to make a bold statement.

To end the unintentional tentacle-fetish portion of this review, we bring out "You're off the edge of the map, here be monsters!" by Demented, who apparently loves FREAKING HUGE TITLES! That's fine, though, because he also loves freaking huge sea-beasts. I love the bold colors here, with the green and the tans and the grays all popping off the bright, warm blue of the sea/shirt. I dig the placement of the sea serpent and the giant octo, just off the edge of the map... the octopus even looks to be rolling it up as the ship departs, signaling that there is no return... it speaks well for a designer when even secondary characters can be so well planned. The true focal point, however, is the ship heading toward the massive whalemonster, which I find a very nice idea. Not only is he posing innocently as an island, but his mouth opens up as if to lead the ship into a grotto... it's a small but important detail, since the ship's going blissfully straight into it, and it looks ever so nice.

But what if you were more drawn to El Pulpo's bird buddy than Pulpy himself? For the bird faction, especially those who love birds-on-heads, enjoy some ginetteginette. "Hey, I'm sorry but I'm not impressed at all" is a sarcastic tell-off to critics, one of a couple of designs she created based off actual comments she'd received. In fairness, her work is much more avant-garde than most. She loves the weird, and is unafraid to dabble in themes that are far from family-friendly. This particular piece combines many of her more charming themes... cats with three eyes, simulated process, and of course, a party hat made out of a bird. I think this is probably one of her most accessible pieces, for sure, and outside of just appreciating her work to start with, I like the ironic text and the colors and love the bird-hat. But mostly, I love the designer's willingness to push the envelope of shirt design. For me, there are many ways you can impress me artistically, and while I love any designer putting out undeniable quality work, the ones I find myself being most excited about are the ones that don't hold their ideas back... I am always excited to see more from Ginette, no matter what it is, because I know I won't have seen anything quite like it before.

Of course, maybe you like your cats a little less friendly toward their normal enemies. If so, we go to Design By Humans, where herdofbirds' "Clockwork Cat and Battery Mouse" delivers just that. No letting the little guy perch on his head here... clockwork cat puts the kibbosh on BM. Clearly he wasn't sporting Energizers. I like the concept and the colors, and vicariously the cut-away. It reminds me of a book I had as a child. The whole thing is probably the most whimsical take on killing something that I've ever seen, and that disturbs and elates me.

And with that, I hope you all have a disturbing and elating Halloween. That's the whole point, ain't it?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Probable Consequences

As any critic must, I have begun wondering what happens once the critique filters out. We're a somewhat egotistical breed after all, presuming our tastes are worth reading... one wonders what Gene Siskel or Roger Ebert thought the first time their praise adorned a film poster, or their panning led to a financial flop. I'm personally biting my nails for the Holiday Season, the earliest I expect to see my recommendations pan out. A new blogger cannot expect to wield mass influence, but the chance to see how my tastes match up with the big boys is still exciting... it's a bit like a child at Christmas, excited to see what they got on their list.

I was already excited when Design by Humans printed one of my first reviewed designs, but the circumstances were such that I didn't get that glow of predicting it correctly. Yesterday's DBH, however, did excite me... it was one I voted for long before I began blogging: Wotto's "The Seasons of My Life." It's exactly the sort of piece I look for in my searches, and would almost assuredly have gotten a write-up. This one is largely about the colors, which are bold and season-appropriate. Spring is abloom with life, summer a tribute to the beach and lazy days, with autumn and winter reveling in their respective beautiful decays. No season seems under-represented, which means fans of any season will have plenty to appreciate. I'm drawn to the back half of the year, with their colors popping bold against the black shirt, but a fan of spring or summer would surely have their eyes drawn to the details there first without feeling the other seasons got more effort. It's really the ultimate seasonal shirt, and while it is a stylistic departure from much of the designer's other work, it's one that will garner fans from all over... it's a totally inclusive design that just about anyone could enjoy.

As if to blow my mind, Threadless countered with a print of their own... one I'd forgotten all about until seeing it again, but know I'd have blogged had I been blogging: The Northern Black-capped Gumchewer, by Laser Bread. Threadless is kind enough to let you know what you scored their prints way back when, and this one registered a much-deserved 5. My enjoyment of this one is pretty basic. I love the style of the illustration. The sketch is clean and crisp and looks like it belongs in a nature journal. I almost wish there was a "Fig. 2" underneath the illustration, with the title following. It's that brilliant title that creates the second layer... the layer of bizarre. The "Gumchewer" title still sounds like it could be an honest-to-goodness species... a woodpecker of gum-trees, perhaps... but we get a more literal take. The gum looks perfect, though... just the right shade of pink, a great translucency to the bubble, and a realistic, humorous pop... really, what else can you expect with a pointy beak? It also adds a needed splash of color to the proceedings. A definite addition to my ever-growing shopping cart.

As exciting as this all was, though, it brings up another thought, too... there may come a time when I will have seen an entire week's worth of prints in scoring. It's a little frightening, in all honesty. Nevertheless, I cannot wait until the day when I can announce a success... I'm not overly easy to please, so for a design to warrant a write-up, I feel the designer quite deserves the recognition of a print. Rest assured I'll let you all know ASAP.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Short Just Like Your Temper

A quickie tonight about Teefury, which is featuring a shirt by the name of Octocable. It's designed by piratesvscowboys, who named himself after what he's hoping is the next epic meme battle. It's a solid shirt, definitely a good buy for any audiophiles. The X is a little odd, but all the elements fall together nicely, and I like how the colors work against each other. It reminds me Jelly Tape, a favorite by KookyLove currently in post-score limbo at Threadless, but the shirts are distinct enough that I'd easily consider both, and to be honest, this is gonna tug at me all day. If it's tugging at you, and with all those arms who'd be shocked, you better scoop one up quick... I have no clue if Teefury shirts still sell out or not, but they certainly only last 24 hours, so by 12AM EST tomorrow it will be gone forever, at least at the Teefury price.

Contest watch: Week of October 16

Blogger is playing havoc today, so I'm not wasting time in getting into the contest watch this week.

Shirt.woot's derby this week had the topic "Shirt as Costume," which means I'm not discussing them. Seriously, woot, as a fan and consumer, I have to ask: why would you go with a theme that your print location limits cannot do justice? Thankfully, Uneetee came to the rescue with Artulo's "Not Your Average Seahorse," appropriate since Artulo, like said print limits, is something woot ignores, a homegrown shirt designer who has since found more success elsewhere while going unprinted where he started. He's got a knack for ornate animal life and one color designs, and in a lot of ways this really sums that part of him up... the linework is gorgeous and the seahorse almost looks jeweled. The deep blue-purple ink looks great against the white of the shirt as well... a definite purchase if Uneetee picks it.

Threadless, as always, failed to disappoint, which is to be expected from not only the biggest shirt contest, but one of the most respected. Starting off we have "Rollertoaster," by The Boy Fitz Hammond, one of the most sublimely silly puns I've seen recently from the shirt world. I like how the bread slices look blissfully innocent and cheerfully drowsy on their way along the track, which fills the shirt well with a gentle, bright framework. It's a very simple design that works with its simplicity and whimsy. I also love the proposed specialty inks: the flocked crusts especially, which will give the little bread guys some welcome texture. The silver foil toaster should look wonderful as well, but I do worry just a bit about the representation on the mockup... I'm unsure if the designer meant for the crumpled texture to simply imply the foil, or wanted that look on his shirt... I feel a flatter foil will look more toaster and less packet cooking. Either way though, I am certain Threadless will do it justice.

Probably my favorite this week from Threadless is "Death and Colors" by thiagob. It's very un-Threadless. There's no punchline. The art is much more clinical than cartoony. The size is bigger than the average Threadless print. It's also not something I would normally go for, but I am inexplicably drawn to it. The color, what little there is, blares out at you from the pale shirt, but is used wisely enough that it doesn't overpower the manuscript feel of the shirt, but instead adds just a little bit of life to the very dead bird. The design proper really feels like a page out of an aging nature journal, with the imperfections of the page added in, and I think the text really makes this piece special as well, becoming a piece of the art, not something that needs reading, as well as helping hammer home the concept. I've found that when you like something you'd normally dislike, it makes the appreciation stronger, because it is something fresh and different to you. I think this is certainly the case with this shirt, because it has me rooting for it, almost begging to throw money at it.

Then again, there is the VERY Threadless "Happy Boarding." This BLXMAN77 joint is an almost surefire print... the style is bread-and-butter for Threadless, with a smart color palette, and of course a solid concept. It doubles up on the travel contest theme, with the spacemen not only making the ultimate travel to the moon, but traveling on their sweet boards. While the action is heaviest up top, I quite appreciate that there is more boarding going on elsewhere on the satellite, keeping the eye moving around, and the starscape in the background really helps frame the piece so it's more than just a massive orb on your chest. I don't skate, but this is a tribute to the sport that anyone could appreciate. It not only captures the imagination, but it speaks its own language... the boombox, for example, is a great touch that shows the artist is IN touch, and seriously, what could be more fun, or more extreme, than catching some air on the freakin' moon?

And to close this week, I want to look at a Design By Humans piece that caught my eye last week, enough to even comment, but brought me back for a vote this week as I tossed it around in my mind: "I Want To Dance Too!" by recycledwax. Like "Death and Colors," it may not be standard fare for the site, but it has some charming characters... you can feel the warmth between the gentleman champagne flute and his classy ladydrink. It feels like a scene out of a cocktail Cinderella. The messy, outside-the-lines, watercolored look of the color splashes is a technique I've seen many times before, but is notable here because of how well it seems to work to represent the free-form motion of liquid, as well as contrasting with the clean lines and proper personas, and combined with the bright, warm colors, helping convey the romance and passion between the two items. The title comes from the back of the shirt... the baby shotglass wants to be part of the action. I'm sure anyone can remember being put to bed and hearing their parents having fun downstairs, whether it was a party with friends or just some time alone with the television, and can remember that jealousy. Unfortunately, I'm not entirely convinced by the little guy adding anything, especially as he kills the fairytale romantic quality, but I don't want that to get in the way of my opinion. All it will take is a buttondown shirt, a jaunty cape or a lengthy coiffe of hair to eliminate the issue, if it becomes one.

The next week is looking pretty favorable as well, so I'm looking forward to it. I'm also hoping to get some fun stuff between now and then... we can pretend I'm efficient and await it, can't we?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Random Musings

The internet is absolutely chock full of great shirts and shirt sites... it's entirely possible that one may never end up owning everything they like. Yet, with so many options to choose from, I feel it odd that the one thing I'm always willing to save cash for is a random grab bag. Uneetee has long offered mystery shirts on random Mondays, and there are rumblings at TeeFury that similar may happen there, which is exciting to me. The industry leader, however, is definitely shirt.woot, which sees a random bag appear about once every two months. It's a sensible move from woot, since their main site has long been known to offer "bags of crap," precious gems that are the ultimate consumer lottery, containing anything from flat screen TVs to the more common and apt broken junk. In the case of the shirts, the worst case scenario is a sleep shirt, a work-out shirt, or a shirt for painting. Maybe you could even make gifts out of them.

Woot's latest random sale was Thursday, and the early bags are featuring any number of shirts from throughout their summer months (we're talking around mid-May to mid-September). The shirts are long since sold out, but come tomorrow, and the rest of the week that follows, people will start getting their bags in. Some will be ecstatic as they unearth the shirt they've always wanted but missed, or shirts they never thought they'd like, but fall in love with upon opening their bags. But others will be left very unsatisfied. This post is for you.

You see, some of you may not know yet, but there's a great site named TeeTrade which was created especially for these sales. You can use your shirts as currency for newer or better shirts, such as Road Closed, PB & Jellyfish, or Swordfish Fencing (shown above). TeeTrade makes it easy to make contact with other shirt owners and arrange trades privately. As you might expect, all trades are at your own risk, but there is a trade feedback area for each user to help you trade with confidence. And since it's all contained to one site, you end up getting a lot more response for a lot less effort.

Of course, if there's more to it for you than just improving your lot, you can always use the search function to find specific shirts you may have wanted and missed. A couple such shirts I scored last time were Iceberg A Head, Decibliterated, and Monkey Play. Furthermore, you can post shirts as "Wanted," which means a user with your desired shirt could find you instead. It's like a dating site for shirt wearers, except in this case, you WANT to find people totally unlike you.

But let's say you have a shirt that doesn't fit anymore, and you don't want another shirt. You could always trade it for money, as represented above by It's Going Out Faster Than It's Coming In (which I did trade through the site as well). In the same fashion, let's say you got up too late and your size sold out, or you've otherwise found a shirt you need, but have nothing to trade... there is nothing holding you back from offering green for a shirt you want. I snagged It Might Have Been a Giant, which was nine months reckoned by the time I got my copy. It drives home an important reason to check the site out: the shirts available are only limited to what shirts the users want to let go of.

I seriously believe this is a site that any shirt fan should check out, no matter where they shop, and above is possibly the best evidence: The Clockwork Menagerie. This is a shirt from Threadless's "12 Club," which offers one exclusive but totally random shirt a month. Regular Threadless users couldn't buy this shirt unless they had already become members of the 12 Club before it printed. Yet I got one from TeeTrade. Brag brag brag. Seriously, though, I highly recommend the site to ANY shirt fan, no matter what site they favor. Even if you don't woot, you could find a shirt that makes you wish you had that one day. Even if you won't risk a random bag, you might have a shirt you've grown away from and want to sell off or trade. There are shirts from all manner of sites up for trade, although woot is certainly the biggest draw, and many people have even submit non website shirts to try their luck. It's an incredible resource for all shirt fans, and if you've been looking to change up your wardrobe, it could be just what you needed.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Halloween Roundup: Trick or Tees!

With Halloween fast approaching, there is a lot on the minds of many Americans. Some are worried about what candy to get, or whether they or their spouse will take the kids out. Others are busy fighting their yearly fight against paganism. Still others are too concerned with the election to notice Halloween, but those dudes are totally no fun. The fun dudes, by comparison, are planning costumes. But what if you have no party to go to? What if you can't afford one, or don't know how to sew? You could always buy a shirt, and I've got quite the lineup for y'all to check out, with time to spare to get one before the big day.

To start, we should really take note of Design By Humans, which is not only just at the end of what they call Halloweek, but is holding a pretty solid sale from now until Sunday at Midnight. All the prints this week are worth checking out, but for my money, the clear winner is Evil Halloween, by Miss Monster (above left), possibly the most appropriately named designer they could option for Halloweek, and her winner came out gorgeously creepy. It's a much brighter print than it looks, plenty of colors, and a conglomerate of all manner of ghoulish things. Seriously, it is a severely ultimate Halloween shirt.

I have to presume the contest is now over, but there's still time before Halloween, and they certainly could print something else with a creepy flair, so definitely keep checking in just in case. Outside of that chance, some others worth checking out: Agent Skully, by Jimiyo (above center), which is a great pun but also a very attractive all-over skull print, and Voodoo by LucaT (above right), which is a rather older print but one I've recently fallen in love with the bold colors of.

If you dig the DBH style but need something a bit more, it's worth checking out Enclothe. A lot of their stock is sold down down down due to their moving sale, but if you need a quick costume idea, you should be able to access a copy of their Cthulhu shirt (right). It's not everything you'd want in absolute evil... looking at the photo does not strike fear into my heart, nor does it even have Medusa-like qualities and make me turn to stone, but the discharge print makes for an interesting effect and a unique design. I've always seen this design as very striking, the way the tentacles "hang" from the collar area (one might say I "Love" the "Craft"smanship) and far be it from me to upset the elder gods by ignoring them at what must be their favorite time of year.

On the other side of the world is Threadless, which is not to be outdone by their more "artistic" competition. They've got some serious spooky threads to toss out as well, and they don't skimp on the artful side either. Starting off is this week's select, By The Moonlight (above left), which is one of the best selects I've seen from Threadless in a while, if not very clear what makes it "selecty". It melds the idea of beauty and macabre in one compelling image. Vampire (above center) is less compelling artistically, but is incredibly compelling as a shirt anyway. It makes stellar use of what I often see as gimmicky techniques: UV ink and glow ink. Threadless uses ink that makes things glow like you would not believe, and their UV inks are equally impressive. This is a shirt that apparently needs to be experienced, and I have many friends that swear that it is beyond a doubt the coolest thing they've bought since ice for their last kegger. And then there's The Last F*ckin' Unicorn (above right), an homage of sorts to everything ridiculously over-indulgently metal. It's completely over-the-top imagery that you cannot help but love, and it's designed by someone known as Dick Firestorm, which is in and of itself plenty reason enough to love it. Completely epic, and perfect for casual fright-fests.

Of course, the heavy hitters aren't the only thing out there. If you're looking for something less popular to sport on your chest, Akumu Ink has got a selection of shirts that may just fit the bill. My top recommendation (left) is Death's Embrace. It's a huge print, a dramatic print, a stark print, even a bit gory. I think that that's why I'm drawn to it, despite it having as much of a post-hardcore/screamo flair as Threadless's "Unicorn" does power-metal majesty. The character is simply evocative, dressed in his black and white garb, with flowing coat and jaunty top hat, classy as can be, yet with a skull head. And clearly a bout of depression. If you can get past the slight gore, though, it's a solid, "edgy" addition to your dark soul's wardrobe.

Now, some of you might be antsy at this point... we've gone straight from the big names to a virtual unknown without mention of shirt.woot? It's intentional... we probably won't be seeing any Halloween content from them until their Costume derby ends next weekend, and I'd hate to stall the Hallowatch further... you guys want your shirts now! However, outside of watching woot for the next few weeks, I might be able to quell some hungers anyway.

If you're hungry for brains, I present Splitreason's Zombie Day at the Mall (above), which I hope will also sate some of the wooters out there. The design is uncredited at Splitreason, but longtime wooters will recognize it as being an old derby entry from former woot designer and zombie aficionado PenSketch. Halloween is simply made for zombie invasion shirts, and this one shouldn't disappoint the legions. Plus, it's always nice to see some old designs find a home.

Zombie fans should also check out Seibei, which has a customizable Intramural Zombie Hunter shirt that might actually make a better option for Christmas than for Halloween, as it's a perfect gift for your favorite Zombie fan (and also probably won't come in in time for Halloween if you ordered now, due to customization). In fact, most of the Seibei storefront is a celebration of monsters, mostly of the surprisingly-adorable sort. I personally recommend going the simpler route, though, with the slogan shirt to your right. I'm more of a water fan, myself, but one cannot deny the otherworldly allure of the taco, even if you are dead. Or undead. If you prefer to be playful with your spooking, Seibei's the place for you.

No less playful is Squidfire, which doesn't boast a lot of shirts perfect for the holiday, but has recently put out a charming shirt on Cryptozoology (left). It's a bit of a classic style, almost a flash-card on a shirt of many popular critters that likely don't exist. It's the sort of thing Threadless does a lot of, really (shirts like "Things That Glow" come to mind) , but while I dislike many of these sorts of shirts, Crypto does well by actually using a theme that isn't pulled out of nowhere, and avoiding the inevitable cheesy joke listing... the intent is to make a shirt, not make a funny (for the record, I hate myself for using the phrase "make a funny," and I blame shirts like this). It's a simple two-color print that sits well on the shirt, but the thing that really sets it apart is the style. Each cryptid, monster and creature of folklore has a very sparse illustration, almost like stick figures who have been beefing up a little, yet contains its distinctive traits. It helps characterize the things by not really making them very characteristic... each piece holds back just enough detail and precision, which works perfectly because who is ever precise about the creatures they insist they've sighted? It leads to some of the most whimsical creepsters ever.

Some people, however, need more detail. They need clothing that could be art. As that goes, Oddica has a vampire shirt that could indeed be art. The Bite captures the romance of vampirism, if there's much romance in being killed without fully dying. Count Crazy-ears is embracing his prey in what could almost be seen as a kiss. That correlation is what makes the shirt... it's an attractive, modern looking art piece, making it perfect for people who appreciate both fine art and fine horror. Its familiarity allows for a subtle joke, one that goes quite a bit deeper for some than just vampire romance. Of course, if you're still unsure why this is worth your attention, it should also perfect for your weird aunt who buys Laurell K Hamilton books by the truckload.

All this talk of art, though, and no mention of film? No art style truly has embraced horror quite like the silver screen has, and what Halloween season would be complete without at least one good B-movie night? Of course, with today's busy schedules, who can guarantee your friends can all make the time to pop over for The Wasp Woman? Best to have a way to show the world that you know how much dynamite it takes to destroy huge lizards by sporting a shirt that glorifies the atomic age! One of my favorites is above: a one-color homage to the Attack of the Giant Cicada. It holds that classic nostalgic feel in the one color print and the abject '50s terror. It's sold by Headstone City, which has a number of other cool shirts that should fit the bill for the holiday as well, such as the simple Cigarette Jones, or Oculus Ciliaris, a presumably Residents inspired design currently on sale and ready for your consumption.

In the spirit of such epics comes Fantastic Bonanza's Conezor Attacks! (left), which is a movie I truly wish existed... an evil milkman, sick of the modern supermarket, unleashes a terror that leaves the city truly chilled. With ideas like this, it's about characterization, and Conezor looks big, bad, and, er, blue-ish? I suppose the most evil ice cream is one you wouldn't want to eat, eh? This tribute is probably one of the most classic of the FB designs, but there's always more fun stuff to check out, especially their own blog, which is much fancier than mine. No envy. Honestly.

But if you're seriously in love with your horror, you would do very well to check Fright Rags, a site that seems to deal near-exclusively in horrorflick chic. They get pretty bad-ass about "crappy horror shirts," and they have every right to... it's a topic they seem to live and breathe. They have some great horror-based content, such as Zombie vs. Shark (below, right), a concept likely culled not only from Italian horror film "Zombie", but from the depths of total awesomeness. It's big, it's in your face, its a little cheesy, and that is what B-horror is all about.

Not only does Fright Rags have original shirt content, but they also have a vast array of Print-on-Demand options, showcasing actual posters from classic films. There are heavy hitters like the infamous Plan 9 From Outer Space, Mystery Science Theater stand-bys such as The Brain That Wouldn't Die, and plenty of more obscure content as well, including the evocatively titled Eyeball. They run a bit pricier, as Direct to Garment is wont to do, but they're also custom printed, which comes with a longer shipping time, but also allows you to grab your design in a variety of shirt styles, design options, and color options, meaning your shirt is tailored right to you... be sure to play around with their custom shirt designer on any DTG product page to get a real-time mock up of what your shirt will look like. All this and sizes up to 5X makes Fright-Rags a pretty much one stop shop for ANY horror fan.

Direct to garment printing, as Fright Rags employs, is sure to make many of you a little uneasy with thoughts of CafePress, but with proper care, a good DTG print should last as long as any other shirt. So in closing, to drive home that point, we'll look at a piece from Amorphia Apparel, a Spreadshirt based clothing operation, and easily one of the biggest Print-on-Demand lines out there. They're great for a quick jab of a joke with a dab of bizarre topping it off, and That's Ghostist is no different. The topicality makes it perfect for the season, and since Amorphia implements Spreadshirt's "flock printing" capabilities, you won't be lacking on quality.

And if you still find election season just as scary as Halloween itself, I've got something for you to round the season out with, as well. But seriously, take a night to have fun. Obama and McCain aren't going to have their campaigns unravel because you went out drinking dressed as a vampire.

Unex-Spook-Ted DBH Sale

Color us surprised! Along with announcing a fifth Halloweek print tonight (our apologies to blog-favorite H-Week designs by Spires and Jublin), Design By Humans is letting us scare up some savings just in time for the big holiday. Everything's priced $15-20, which makes it a great time to grab one or two. Be on the lookout for more DBH in our Halloween picks later today, but for those who can't wait, perhaps you need less of a costume substitute, and more of an homage to costuming? Jimiyo's "Create" is perfect for you! It's an absolutely stunning celebration of nature, growth, and art... the art of creating with your own hands and coming up with something perfect. Or ghoulish, this time of year. You know you're a whiz at that sewing machine... rock your costume this month, but pick one of these up so you can flaunt those madd skillz all year. Or just buy it because you love amazing linework, crisp graphics, and gold foil. But act fast, because the sale is a brief one... it will end Sunday at midnight.

::::UPDATED:::: Turns out, this whole sale is to celebrate a partnership with TeeFury, which is all fine and good as far as I'm concerned. More to come, I'm sure.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Contest Watch: Week of October 9

Another zero-update week this week, but I am working on a Halloween post that took longer than I anticipated (check that out tomorrow), as well as something fun for any Wooters who grabbed their latest random offer this morning, so I plead innocence. For today, some prize pumpkins I'd love to see succeed at the fair.

One of my favorite designers, if not most successful, is one Mr. Edgar R. McHerly. His brain is an amazing, intriguing place, and I quite want more people to get well acquainted with it. Needless to say, I was excited this week when I noticed he was opening the floodgates, submitting all manner of new work to Design By Humans, Threadless, Uneetee... pretty much anywhere with a contest got an influx of Edgar, and I am all for it. The true standout, though, was submit to a young site I just recently found out about, Bad As Hell Clothing, who contrary to their name have some very solid work already, as well as a number of entries in the running that look very sweet. One of which is an Edgar... "...Excuse Me." The colors work ideally, especially the stark white of the egg and shell, while also allowing the shirt itself to do a lot of lifting, and the linework on the body is quite well-done, and contrasts well with the simpler, imaginative elements in the head. The gem in this one, though, is the banana peel, begging the eggman's pardon for being in his way. It's a quick jab of a morbid joke, and a smart addition to an already quality shirt-to-be. I wish it luck, and hope the site moves plenty of product if they print it.

While I got to stumble on a new site with Edgar, I put much more effort into perusing Design by Humans, as it came up short last week. I decided to scan through the entries right down past the beginning of Halloweek, to make sure I didn't miss anything. I stumbled on a couple nice ones, but was struck by a fairly simple piece: "Constellations and Mountains," by Minnow. I've long found constellations intriguing, from the invisible lines of stars to the shapes these lines allegedly evoke. As such, I love how this is rendered, with subtle colors against a far darker background shirt, the representation of the shine of the stars and clearly hand-drawn shading. I enjoy the vignette feel of each square... the imperfect photo-frames, the way the mountains flow between frames, yet allow each piece to stand alone. The filigree behind the squares is admittedly useless, but subtle enough that it is not harmful. I feel this is a victim of placement, though... the chest placement suggested just isn't ideal. I think lower, offcenter with just a slight bit of wrap-around, this could be much better. The designer claims to be working on a resub, but I don't know that it needs it... if enough people like it how it is, placement is no difficult change. I'm hoping to bring those people to it... there's always room for a subtle, tasteful shirt.

Another winner (to me) from the DBH is "Back and To the Left" by ninthWHEEL. The concept is a good one... air traffic control for birds... but the details really rock my world. Once again, it's a muted palette, something I apparently am quite fond of. The bird is great alone, but the helmet and tubes modifying it capture the imagination... it's as if this is a small part of a much larger alternate world, and if it looks this cool, I want to know more. The branch itself has some great texture, and almost looks more like an antler, which is a little odd, yet quite pleasing to my eye. Even the size is perfect. There are plenty of proponents of smaller prints, but this one truly inhabits the shirt at its size. I think the number of different elements, along with the thin yet canvas-sweeping shape of the branch, keep it from being overpowering.

Threadless kept the huge-prints going strong for me, as well, though this next one doesn't hold back on its colors. "HEART ATTACK!" is a collaborative effort by FRICKINAWESOME and Kooky Love, and the most appropriate shirt I could possibly review while eating delicious brownies. It's a perfect mix of B-grade Sci-Fi and outlandish war comics, and the graphic looks right at home on the pulps, but it looks stellar on a shirt as well. The colors, as mentioned before, are bold and often bright, and every last element is placed perfectly... the heart is hanging around about where the heart would be in one's own body, its robotic claw arteries are writhing about everywhere they should be, and the war elements are all so spot-on parodied, you could swear you've seen the illustration before (right down to the one army dude in the corner, facing the viewer. There always seems to be one, doesn't there?). For someone who sports at least one X on his shirt tag (brand depending), it may leave you open to barbs, but nevertheless I would totally wear this one with pride, whether or not I was gorging on a bloomin' onion at the time. Definitely a design that I've grown more and more attached to as I've come back to it planning this post.

We close this week with more Threadless work, and a design that in words may seem trite based on my other reviews. Yet again, it's a big print. Yet again there's a subdued palette. That's not all there is to phillydesigner's "The Mouse Tamer," though. It is also about incredible charm and layers of concept. The image of the ringmaster taming the elephant is a common one. Making the ringmaster a mouse is adorable... like, serious aww-time style, playing off the old wives tale that elephants are afraid of mice. Making the elephant itself made of mice though? A final level of brilliance. It's hard to tell if the mice are but acrobats, like Pilobolus, or if there is some darker undertone, but the sheer artistic composition is undeniable, and who cares about undertone with a design clearly meant to be innocuous? I haven't bothered checking to see if all the mice are individually drawn, but there are plenty enough clearly unique ones to satisfy me enough to not care if all of them were. Seriously, that's a lot of mice... I think I can cut the designer some slack (though whatever the case, I'd be vastly intrigued to see the process on this one). I'd expect this one to go on sale, and then proceed to sell out speedily.

So there we have it for the week. Definitely check back throughout the weekend... I've got some hopefully interesting pieces planned that'll make the dearth of posts this week less of a tragedy.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Contest Watch: Week of October 2

October has started with a bang, my friends... there was enough quality work that there's not enough room to stuff more than two sites into this here update. That said, lets get to it.

Starting off, a glimmer of hope from shirt.woot's rather dismal "Art as Text" week. While most pieces this week come across as little more than glorified slogan shirts (and rather nonsensical one-word slogans at that), there were a few that really shone through, one being Radiomode's "Curiosity Kills." Part of the charm is that he eschewed words, going for a single character, yet the design is able to convey that character perfectly. Which is to say, the design works whether you get that it's a question mark or not, yet the "?" shape enhances the design, as opposed to constricting it. To me, this is what the theme could have been... it tells a quick story, and refers back to a well-known maxim, all in one keystroke. I love the kiddie-book whimsy in the imperfect lines, as well, not to mention the bold color choices.

Also worth noting, though not pictured: "Ski" by the appropriately named skirochester, a subtle and skillful take on the theme that works perfectly as an illustration, and lets the text sneak up on you. It's something I'd almost certainly have written up in-depth if I cared a whit about skiing.

What I apparently do care more about than skiing is the letter X, and nikkyt's "X" has that in spades. In fact, it has little else BUT X-y goodness. I think there might be some sort of message hidden in the milieu behind it... it's full of stock-looking images of consumerism, of frivolity, of symbols that have lost their meaning. It might be trying to say we should cross the importance off such things. It might be a pun on excess (heh, Xcess... I make myself giggle). Whatever meaning might be deeper in there, though, I am simply big on the colors of the background with a big ol' oppressive X of negative space atop them. Not overly surprisingly, the overpowering presence of the letter is a turnoff for many of the voters, but I like the enigmatic nature of it. X is a perplexing letter, and a rarely used one at that. It holds a certain allure to me for that very reason. Of course, it's hard to really deeply explain why you love something when it just hits you in the right way, and this certainly does. At the end of the day, it feels good to love something that you know won't print, even if printing would make the love all the sweeter. So good luck, dear X. May the rest of the world see what I see in you.

Even when not appeasing very specific tastes, Threadless was dominating this week, and the rest of the post will continue stating why. "Roundup" by TGWA is next on the list, and while I'm no Threadless exec, I can't help but see their entire bread and butter base summed up on this design. It's got solid art with a solid joke taken further with the more subtle background elements. The palette is tasteful and earthy, which goes along well with the western flavor of the concept... and as a concept, it's something that feels incredibly fresh, not only with the centaur cowboy (an image I'm shocked hasn't been done to death already) but with the secondary hook of a herd of minotaurs, taking the mythological reference to the next level. Really, it only makes sense that a human/animal hybrid would end up corralling a hybrid leaning toward the beast side of the coin.

Another favorite of the week, and one I'm liking more and more and more the more I see it, is "Incurable Collector" by igo2cairo. It works perfectly as a shirt, nice and big but not huge, and with a shape that makes the size more comfortable. It's also incredibly visually rewarding, even with so much gray going on. The swirling lines and dust of the twister look great, for starters. I also love the eyes, more for how they're set against the "body" of the storm than how they greedily eye that airplane up by the shoulder. Sure, that airplane looks like quite the prize, but the real prize in the design is the array of items already swooped up. When you've already got a UFO and a Pyramid, do you really need some measly plane? I can't help but speculate further on the fiction... what's in the deeper recesses of the spiral? The Colosseum? Big Ben? Jimmy Hoffa? The questions of our ages could be answered! Or I could just enjoy the shirt, which I am certain I will. It's simply solid work. Solid work with great humor, great details, all summed up into a fully wearable product. Surely, Threadless, that should be enough for a print!

And we end this week with yet another must print... valorandvellum's "Last of the Buffalo." One of the most important pieces of the design spectrum is style, and v&v delivers in spades with every submission. The linework here is flawless and detailed and beautiful in every shaggy buffalo head. The skyscrapers ooze southwestern flair, as if the old towns of New Mexico built up not in the modern way, but in their own distinctive building style. The way the buffalo backs are built up with small housing settlements not only helps the idea that the buffalo are blending into the scenery, but evokes the idea that simpler living is hanging by a thread, like the buffaloes once were. The finished product inhabits a shirt well, and also takes the designer's ornate hand, and turns out something which is truly unisex, in contrast to some other printed work of hers which leans more deeply to the feminine side.

What worries me is that both of the last two entries are from the most recent "Threadless Loves" contest. The big contests always confuse me: with so much top quality work submit for them, one has to presume other shirts get printed, not just the grand prize winner, right? While I've found no certain answer to this in my travels, I can honestly say that if a contest shirt dies with the contest's winner announced, this week alone should be reason enough to change the rules. Hopefully next week will be equally solid, and DBH will regain their entry mojo. We'll see you then to find out.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Girls Just Wanna Wear Shirts

Threadless has decided to have a Girly Tee sale this week, and I could not be happier. True, my figure is a bit stocky for the smaller shirts. Sure, the sleeves seem way too small. But the true brilliance is this: girly tees are the tees that sell out slowest. It's a sale I cannot take advantage of, but one that may well benefit me anyway... the lower the ladies stock dwindles, the more chance of me garnering a reprint on a shirt that long since sold out in mens.

With this in mind, the temptation is to recklessly link to shirts I rather would like a reprint on, but I'd rather go a different route and praise something I would totally rock the everloving Casbah out of if my Y chromosome had held back a letter: Foxy, by Lixin Wang, a recent reprint. I have a soft spot for orange... it's bold and bright and sunny like I'm not, so that alone would be a total win, but I also love the fox, and how its body is fully unrepresented against the orange shirt, yet the proportions and flashes of black and white make that body shape fully visible without needing extra lines. It's a simple but thoughtful shirt, but sadly one I feel I'm a bit too masculine for.

Foxes not your thing? Want to stock up on some other shirts while you're at it? There are always good shirts to be found while browsing at Threadless, but a couple more recs that might be more lady-friendly would be Sweet Creep, It's Just a Summer Job, Fake Pandas Have More Fun, and PiƱata, none of which I can guarantee in your size.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Sirius Business

Today, we're introducing a new feature to the blog: the MultipliciTee. It is what it says... a blog on multiple tees. It may feature a theme, or a store, or whatever whim I have at the time. Hoorah whim! There will be new tags accordingly filtering through the blog, and will not effect the Contest Watches. Not that all that is too important to you the reader, but there you have it.

The format is one that allows for coverage of some total specialty retailers that may have very small or specific stocks. Sure, I love browsing woot daily, checking Threadless every Monday, etc, but to find some of the real fun items out there, it's the tiny retailers that really hit the quirky button juuust right. As such, welcome to Skeledog.

Skeledog embodies one of the best reasons to have a tiny shop... total.niche.marketing. If you love dogs, you may have found your new favorite shirt. If you love bones, you're probably just weird enough that a Skeledog shirt is perfect for you. If you happen to have an aunt in the medical field who owns a dachshund, her Christmas gift might just be pictured at the left. Every shirt is basically the same concept: an outline of a dog breed with it's skeletal system drawn out. It's a stylistic choice I've praised elsewhere... I love the contrast between the simplicity of outline and the complexity of bone structure. I am no anatomic whiz, so I cannot state the accuracy of the dog skeletons, but they're still fun and simple designs for the more avant-garde of dog people.

Skeledog offers twelve breed options thusfar, including the above Dachshund, probably my favorite of the designs, and while they don't compromise on color combos (what you see is what you get) they -are- willing to take suggestions for their next breed. It's uncertain as to just how expansive such a niche shop can get, but if you simply must have a shirt featuring the internal workings of your shih-tzu, it cannot hurt to ask. Most of the dogs are shown in a standing pose, but others are in breed-related action shots: the Greyhound is shown running, while the Jack Russell Terrier (right) is shown being jumpy and annoying. The graphics are simplicity itself, with one color prints meant to pop against the shirt canvas. As for the shirts themselves, they're American Apparel, so they're soft as hell. Skeledog admits what most won't... AA shirts run prettydamnsmall. Probably due to this, they don't offer their shirts in tiny sizes (men get to choose from M-XL... women don't even get the medium option). They also suffer from a bit of a steep going price at $25 a pop, one of the drawbacks to running a specialty operation. But then, when you find a shirt that is specifically tailored to you, or the perfect fun gift for someone in your life, spending a little extra isn't necessarily an issue. Let's face it, there are plenty of totally un-hip ways to love your dog... instead of stuffing him in a sweater, why not wear him on your body instead? He'll bite you less for it, and even when he's at home, you can show the world you love him... inside and out.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Contest Watch: Week of September 25

It's the weekend. That means paychecks have likely been distributed, and you're probably itching to spend some of that hard earned moolah on something frivolous like a shirt. I can relate! Which is why I am featuring the best stuff I came across last week that hasn't been printed yet. Honestly, pay your rent first.

We'll start this week's sojourn at shirt.woot, with a shirt that probably will never see the light of day: rglee129's "!!!!!" (pronounced chk chk chk chk chk, for you pretensionistas). It's not that it's a bad shirt... I'm trying not to feature such things 'round here. However, woot rejected this guy, so his chance of printing is low. As such, it has a dubious honor of being mentioned here without my voting on it. It's not something I intend to do often, or even planned to do at all. But here we are. You simply cannot plan for panicking punctuation. Simple design, simple concept, but a strong punchline and a striking color contrast. Even if it didn't quite hit the thematic mark, it deserves a little love.

There's a lot I like about Threadless allowing designers to submit Flash-based submission slideshows, but one thing I hate about it is I cannot screen-cap the full-sized art of "The Apparition of the Grouchy God" by Aphte for you. It's fun and weird and big and bold and really everything you could want in a totally unique shirt. Every creature is dissimilar to the last. Every building was clearly built by a different architect. The entire lower scene is a candy dreamscape. Above, however, is the angry, vomiting god of the title. I love the southwestern native feel the god evokes, and I love that he's spewing even more odd creatures down onto the original ones. Really, every bit of this has new details to fall in love with, and I would spend all day looking at my chest if I owned this shirt. Not that I could help it with the bright colors drawing my eye and enhancing the surreal occurrence illustrated therein. This is made for a huge print, too, since there's so much greatness going on... I love how it sits on my presumed chest, and think it's perfect for a right down to the seam print. It's not destined to be the biggest seller, perhaps, but I think that those in its niche will absolutely fall for it, and I am one in that niche.

I'm still a little ticked at Uneetee since my last review there, what with their vote archives being chock full of designs past the vote period and pretty empty of designs still up for voting, but at least this time I've figured out how one tells you've voted or not. And this time, I've definitively voted for "Sorry?" by Sokowa, a past woot design reworked for Uneetee's 4-colour limit. I actually like the muted palate better than the original, and feel the circle contains the design well, while the carrot top keeps it from being too rigid. What really makes this more than your average joke shirt, though, is the expression on the carrot... the designer packs huge amounts of character into an item that normally has none. Then again, should one expect a carrot to have great eyes?

Over at Design By Humans, the final voting is going on for Halloweek, with submissions having ended Wednesday. I've already chatted up one piece from the contest, and today, I bring you another: "You Just Can't Kill the Beast" by jublin. I like it firstly because it's not as overblown with the cartoon-creepshow stylings that so many other entries have been for the contest. It's actually not very Halloween at all to me, which is great because I like my shirts to have a larger shelf life than a week or month. It's even a little cute... look at that dead smiling face. Aww. The style is the winning element for me, though. I really enjoy the abstract tentacle placement, but especially the almost chalkboard-art vibe I get from the piece. It's simple but has scads of nuance, and the details all enhance without taking over.

Which leaves us with a second DBHer to close. As the comp states, it's "Went Lookin'" by iQuitt, who I feel as though I just talked about recently, probably because he's the first designer I've discussed in two separate Contest Watch segments. I really am digging his style. This particular design is one I don't fully get... so the moon is going bar hopping?... but it's a very evocative image. It looks great huge, and the splash of color on the moon itself makes for a great focal point among the detailwork of the old city. It really is instilled with a sense of meaning that comes across rather well, even without certainty of what that meaning is. If art can do that, you know it must be good.

And with that writeup on iQuitt, I quit for the night too. I'm feeling there will be more to come rather shortly, though, so stay tuned.