Wednesday, June 4, 2008

T Shirt Challenge

Believe it or not, there are some annoying things about working with teenagers. Yuppers, I could name a few. There are times when I want to run screaming from my job and everything adolescent. But then there are times when I'm hanging out with kids and it feels like the most natural thing in the world and I wonder why on Earth someone pays me to do this job. In those moments, it doesn't take long until I remember how much I get in my paycheck and, well....the point is that there are definitely days when I love my job, even when kids are being total poo-heads.
One thing that I love about where I work is that we're a small school, so everyone knows everyone's business. Kids know what teachers like to do just as much as teachers understand what makes their kids tick. So my kids know that I knit, make some of my own clothes, sing (some even come to see me in shows), and have a very real life outside of the biology classroom. One day, I came into class wearing something I'd made and one of the girls (who totally is into designing her own fashions and can always peg when I'm wearing something that I've made) made a big deal about whatever it was I was wearing. Quite matter-of-factly, one of my male students challenged me to make him a t-shirt. It was this half-dare/half-demand that I design and make a shirt that he'd wear. If he'd just asked me to, I probably would have declined, but the fact that he made it into a bit of game had me hooked. So I told him to bring me a shirt and I'd do it.

Now, if there's one thing I've learned in 11 years of teaching, it's that the best way to get a kid to forget about something is to ask them to remember to do it. I left class that day knowing that I hadn't lost face - - hell, yeah I'd make a kick ass shirt! - - and that I'd never have to prove myself because he never would actually bring a shirt.

The next day, he came in with a plain, white shirt.

This was maybe at the midpoint of the year. I've hung out with this shirt quite a bit since then. Or I should say, it's sat on my dresser and mocked me. Why don't you take me up to the craft room, it's said. Are you afraid I'll get up there and you won't know what the frick to do with me??
The challenge for me was that I'm not so good at designing stuff for boys. I've made Andrew sweaters from patterns, but only on the rare occasions that I come across a really good boy pattern. I've made him ties and a bracelet once. He has some specific ideas for a necklace, though, and I don't want to touch that with a 10 foot pole. Andrew will wear just about anything, but I'd hate to make something really lame looking and then he'd wear it because, well, Andrew will wear just about anything, especially if I've made it for him. So I was worried that not only would I be making a shirt for a boy, but this boy would be a finicky teenager. The kind of boy who wears lots of intentionally-faded graphic tees. My one saving grace is that this is also a kid who has a tattoo artist for a father, so he's got to have more of a sense of art and design then most kids his age. Right?
Well, after much deliberation (ie, moving the shirt from here to there on my dresser whenever I put laundry away), here's the shirt:
The main images were gocco-printed, and the lines connecting the pencils with the central design were embroidered. I broke the embroidered lines up a bit so that they captured the faded look a bit, and then had them run into the design, as if the pencil had been coloring it.
I chose to stick some Decemberist's art on there, hoping that I'd get him to like the shirt because it's a band that he loves. Maybe I'm cheating, but whatever...I really want him to wear this shirt and not think it's totally idiotic, after all. And I was NOT going to be wasting a gocco screen to print something like "A & F". I used my old screen of my hand drawing with a pencil, but took out the doodles that the pencil is usually scribbling. It took a while to futz with that screen because it didn't want to print clearly, but I did know all along that I wanted to go for the old faded look, since I know that's what this student wears every day. So in it's own imperfect way, an old gocco screen worked out for me.

So I'm not sure what my student will think of this shirt. He's been asking a lot about it (mostly saying that he didn't ever think he'd get his shirt back). I'll give it to him tomorrow during his exam time and we'll see. Whether he likes it or not, I'm going to reburn a screen of the hand and find other things to put in the middle design because I really love the embroidered part of the shirt...maybe eventually they will pop up in the shop:) That is, if this one passes the teenage boy test!

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made. by k.d.