Archive | threadless

05 October 2007 ~ 4 Comments

Inspiration vs. Plagiarism

T-shirt contest sites are always plagued by unoriginal work, it can be a nasty side effect of the voting process (which asks the public to rate their favorites, sometimes leading to a mediocre focus group-style result). But it is worth the aggravation of seeing endless penguin, pirate and pun designs to see truly great, artistic works beat the odds and get printed.

So it’s a real shame when those original works turn out to be heavily based on the work of other artists.

Exhibit A in this debate is The Magical Zipper to Weiner Man Land by John Barthell. Soon after it was printed, a fan of artist Spencer Hibert realized that it was heavily based on a Hibert painting. Not only that, others soon noticed that the hand itself appeared to be traced directly from the painting:


Is borrowing a theme from a painting (and using a traced element of that painting) plagiarism? The debate rages on in the forums, as many believe that the styles of the art involved are divergent enough to qualify as independent works. Threadless, meanwhile, is taking no chances- The Magical Zipper to Weiner Man Land has been removed from the Threadless catalog.

Exhibit B in the debate is What’s Yo Flava? by Fabio Girardi (and a number of other illustrations by this artist). After his work was published in Ideafiza magazine, friends of artist Audrey Kawasaki noticed some very striking similarities:


As you can see, not only is the style modified from Kawasaki’s original paintings, there is a strong enough similarity between facial structures that many believe tracing was involved. Girardi denies tracing images, but admits to being inspired by Kawasaki. For her part, friends of Kawasaki have stated that she isn’t interested in pursuing legal action, as she feels the art is dissimilar enough. Perhaps motivated by Kawasaki’s attitude about the situation, What’s Yo Flava remains available for purchase at Camiseteria at this time.

In both examples A and B, some very talented artists created work that borrowed heavily from others in their field. Each person who looks at these examples will probably have a different take on what constitutes plagiarism and what is merely inspired by other works. The real tragedy is that two artists who are capable of some really amazing work will now always have people wondering how much is original and how much is borrowed.

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01 October 2007 ~ 0 Comments

New Shirt Monday at Threadless


The Select design this week, Away From Home by Ryan Lin (Kojima) is far and away the best of this batch of Threadless shirts. It’s a haunting image, depicting a cold, lonely city and an inviting view of earth looming behind it. To me, this shirt makes me think of the strangeness of space travel and what an odd feeling it must be to miss a place that you can still see outside your window. Gorgeous.


Allan Faustino’s Runnin’ Rhino was the winner of the PaRappa the Rapper Loves Threadless contest, in which designers came up with shirts that dealt with the theme “I gotta believe!” While this wasn’t one of my pet favorites, it is definitely a solid effort. It’s easy to feel sorry for the poor rhino, eternally running on the treadmill in the hope of becoming a unicorn one day. It’s easily recognizable as a Threadless shirt as well, due to the clean, cartoon-y style (this is the main reason the shirt didn’t stand out to me in the contest, so I guess that’s a bit of a double-edged sword).

Victor Manuel Moral’s Nonsense is a cute take on the idea of holes that go in unlikely directions. It’s definitely good work, but what keeps this from being a favorite of mine is the fact that I’ve seen so many variations on this (my personal favorite was an ostrich). That said, clean simplicity works well on this one, and it’ll probably be very popular.


Piggy Bank Heist by Jason LaRose is so classic that I kind of can’t believe that the concept hasn’t been done already. It just looks like a shirt that Threadless would have, you know? And, as with Nonsense and Runnin’ Rhino, it is so cutesy and so similar to the prevailing style of the Threadless catalog that it completely fails to catch my interest. It’s not a bad shirt, of course, it’s just part of a style that Threadless is over-saturated with.

Joel Cocks’ An Elephant Never Forgets… TO KILL! is a shirt that is, to me, completely in the shadow of its fantastic title. A great idea that fails to be a great shirt. Part of the problem here is that the style of the drawing overwhelms the detail work- you’d have to get pretty close to the shirt before you’d see that one character is capturing this image with a cell phone camera (and I think that is the funniest part). The other character’s hand isn’t rendered very clearly, so I’m just guessing that he’s pointing. The elephant looks great, but he’s the only visually interesting part of this for me- the man-eating theme of the shirt is just not that nice to look at in comparison, and I feel that the humor element isn’t strong enough to overcome that.


Time to Babysit by Scott Ferguson has a great concept. Kids and monsters, how can you go wrong with that? *cough* Well, the style doesn’t really appeal to me. The various figures seem lacking in character, and the piece as a whole seems like an attempt to pander to the voters (but hey, it worked!). A lot of people are going to love this one, but I’m not among them. It just feels unfinished somehow.


First reprint this week is Tim Sutcliffe’s War and Peas. It’s definitely one of Threadless’s more famous shirts, and if cutesy designs need to be sold I’d generally prefer that they were sold as reprints, so that more innovative work could be newly printed. Overall, the design is pretty solid- my only issue is that it’s a little cheesy to actually have the text “War and Peas” in the scene, particularly when the pun is so obvious.

I’m just going to be totally blunt about Tasty Table by Kenny Wheeler: I think it is a terrible, terrible shirt. Again, you have to get very close to the shirt to even figure out what the text says, and from far away it isn’t very good looking- periodic tables have a certain structure to them, and that structure was not built to be eye-pleasing. This would be a great poster, but it is a complete mis-match for the t-shirt medium.

Looking at the week as a whole, I have to say I found this batch to be fairly mediocre. The designs relied on common Threadless styles and concepts instead of stretching and innovating. It’s pretty disappointing that the only shirt I’d even consider buying this week is the Select design.

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29 September 2007 ~ 0 Comments

Iron & WIne Loves Threadless: My Top Three

The Iron and Wine Loves Threadless competition ended recently, and I was really glad. For me, this was probably the weakest theme I’ve seen in a Threadless contest (shirts were supposed to be based on the song Boy With a Coin), and it was definitely reflected in the designs that were submitted. But there was still some good work to be found, so here are my top three:

answer is - Threadless, Best T-shirts Ever

Radiomode’s Answer Is looks great- it’s an attractive scene with some decorative flourishes and a kickin color palette. The various elements work to reard the viewer for taking a closer look- the cord of the phone loops through the skull and the bird tweets politely into the tin can.

Boy in the weeds ! - Threadless, Best T-shirts Ever

Boy in the Weeds by stor is flat-out neat, and I fully expect it to be printed (whether as a contest winner or not I cannot say). The weeds are rendered in a way that is both organic and mechanical- despite their precision, they almost seem to sway in the breeze.

A Beard Of Waves - Threadless, Best T-shirts Ever

JoesephWilliamDesign’s A Beard of Waves is gorgeous. The beardiness compliments the band that this contest is for, and the character work is excellent. There is also a neat intertwining of styles between the linework in the beard, the halftoning of the skin and the floral pattern in the background.

There were other great shirts as well, but those three were far and away my favorites. It was a tough competition for me as a voter- I somehow managed to avoid giving a five to any of the entries in this one. Ouch! In my limited defense, I did give out plenty of fours. But still, it was definitely not a favorite theme for me.

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25 September 2007 ~ 0 Comments

Ferraby Lionheart Loves Threadless


Ferraby Lionheart Loves Threadless. And if you’re like me, you have never heard of this dude. It turns out that he’s a musician with a song titled Small Planet. That song is the theme of this contest, so design your shirts accordingly. I’m a little skeptical on this one- I think the recent Iron & Wine competition proved that a lot of people aren’t actually taking the time to listen to the song, they’re just reading the title. Hopefully I’m wrong.

Anyway, the prize is totally boss: the winner gets a custom Epiphone Les Paul Jr. guitar with their design on it! There’s also a Ferraby Lionheart CD, poster and EP in the mix, plus the customary Threadless prize of $2000 cash and a $500 Threadless gift certificate.

Enter before October 24th, 2007 to be eligible for the prize.

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24 September 2007 ~ 0 Comments

New Shirt Monday at Threadless


This week’s Select, A Tall Tale, is also my favorite of the new shirt batch at Threadless this week. Artist Chris Thornley (Raid71) has crafted a really charming scene that makes expert use of his drawing style. The dashed markings imply motion and transparency on the ghostly creature, volume and light on the cat, texture on the bird and shadow on the ground. Definitely a great piece.


Ping Pong Championships of ’82 by Michael B. Myers, Jr. has a seriously sweet concept- a ping pong pro goes up against the video game Pong paddle. The bright pink and green colors give this one the feeling of a vivid dream, and the shadow work is really nicely done.

Ryan Lin’s Northern Ice Pilot has some really nice line work, it expresses dimension and light perfectly. I especially love the way the clouds are rendered. According to the blogs, there may also be some Final Fantasy references in this one- I can’t verify that, because while I am a huge video game dork I’ve only played Final Fantasy 10 (and… not well).


I usually hate shirts that call out the organs like this. They tend to strike me as obvious, and kind of gross. But Treasure Map by Noor Azman Mohd Zain (Jemae) is a huge exception to what I thought was an iron-clad rule. The organs are abstract enough to be visually pleasing and the treatment of the map feels completely authentic. Even a shirt color that I usually dislike is used here to great effect.

Matheus Lopes Castro’s La Gran Reunion is another shirt that makes me like a shirt color that I never go for. The pinks and warm browns in this design actually manage to make a natural shirt look good. The concept is also a lot of fun: the image shows a reunion of gentlemen, with the stereotypes that they portray graffiti’d over their images.


Eric Pacenta’s Life on Gi’raph Paper is the shirt this week that I’m just not so crazy about. It’s well done, don’t get me wrong, but the whole composition just feels so cutesy. Still, it’s cool to see something that looks so different from the rest of the catalog being printed.

It has now been 273 days since Sink Yourself by Charley Schrader (fat pigeon) finished scoring. It is pretty rare to see a shirt printed after so much time, and I’m really glad that they took another look at this one. My second favorite of the week, there’s a lot to like about this design- some great texture in the sweater and boat, nice character work on the storm cloud, and a touch of humor in the lightning-paddle and the storming speech bubble.


The reprints this week are fun, but my general wish for some color variation for reprints still stands. I just think it would be cool if each printing of a shirt had a distinct look to it. And for slogans the type treatment could easily vary from printing to printing- it might even be cool to assign reprint slogans to alumni and have them work out a new look for the slogan.

Overall, though, it’s a nice bunch of shirts. Two of them are shirts that I’m highly likely to buy, and most of the rest are ones that I’d wear. There’s also a nice variety in style and content.

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22 September 2007 ~ 0 Comments

Threadless Increases Slogan Prize


Slogan writers whose work is printed by Threadless will now earn $200 cash and $100 in store credit. Additionally, reprints will earn writers an extra $100.

Sloganeers have long campaigned for a prize increase, and it’s definitely good to see that Threadless is listening.

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19 September 2007 ~ 0 Comments

Threadless: Top Three 33 1/3 Submissions

The 33 1/3 Loves Threadless contest deadline has passed, so it’s time to take a look at a few of the top contenders.

The ash grove we come to be... - Threadless, Best T-shirts Ever

The Ash Grove We Come to Be by thepaul is one of the most expressive textural pieces I’ve seen on Threadless. The woman’s face holds a lot of power, and as the eye is drawn in the viewer is rewarded with a cacophony of smooth tan and gold line. The well-chosen tee placement only enhances an already amazing work.

Zero BPM - Threadless, Best T-shirts Ever

Zero BPM by ejay is dark and whimsical at the same time. Death listens to his favorite sound, while wearing bunny slippers of course. Every detail is perfectly imagined, with subtle touches like the texture on the scythe handle raising the bar even further.

Natural music - Threadless, Best T-shirts Ever

nes-k’s Natural Music is probably the most fun grey design I’ve ever seen. Playful and clean, a figure chooses the bird he’d like to hear by tugging a vine. The restraint of the artist increased the imaginative appeal of this piece.

While those are undoubtedly my top three, there were many excellent submissions to this competition. In scoring, I awarded seven designs with a 5 (four of which were $5). Another nine received a 4.

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