17 May 2010 ~ 8 Comments

Tee Curators and their Favorite Shirts

You’re probably already familiar with TeeFury, Shirt.Woot, Tilteed and RIPT Apparel– they’re each a site featuring new shirts for sale on a daily (or near-daily) basis. But they also have something else in common- each site uses curators to help determine which designs will be printed. So if you want to see your work at these sites, you’ll want to get to know the curators and what they like!

I asked curators from each of the four sites to write a bit about their favorite shirt design. It’s a valuable insight into how each views art, and into what kind of designs spark their interest.


Jimiyo‘s favorite shirt is Zobama by Pop Monkey
He is a curator for TeeFury and can be contacted at jimiyo@teefury.com

My most memorable design I have curated would have to be Zobama. At the time, Pop Monkey had sent me a different design. After seeing his craftsmanship but not being sold on the content, I checked out his portfolio. Zobama was there like a shiny diamond in a sifting dish waiting to be plucked.

At first, the powers were hesitant on publishing the design because some may view it as racist, or politically incorrect, but I was excited about it! I mean… it’s a Zombie, and it’s Obama! The rendering was perfect too!

It ended up being one of our first viral designs. Viral meaning it reached a vast audience online, and it was our first shirt to break 1000 shirts sold.

I was proud that I went with my gut rather than making a passive decision on the artwork that had already been presented.

It made me feel…

No… it made me Know that I knew what I was doing.

Julia Sonmi Heglund‘s favorite tee is The Mystical Seahorse Tee
She is a curator at TeeFury and can be contacted at julia@teefury.com
“Please list or attach specific pieces you’d like reviewed, instead of an entire portfolio. I will do my best to contact you within a week to let you know if we do or don’t accept your work, or if it’s still under review.”

Even though I love many different types of t-shirt design, minimal, conceptually abstract designs are what I personally find myself wearing and enjoying most. I love this mystical seahorse shirt because it creates a nice balance between a large print and a one-color process. Plus, I’m a sucker for anything that combines organic and angular shapes, which this design does so nicely with really interesting imagery. I wish this shirt was available in girl’s sizes!

MJ‘s favorite shirt is Apparation of the Grouchy God by Aphte
She is a curator at TeeFury and can be contacted at mj@teefury.com

For me, this design hits just about everything I love to see in a shirt. It tells a story, pitting this massive god character against a whole civilization of tiny doodles. It makes me laugh, using funny expressions throughout the scene and setting up great interactions (like the way the god vomits creatures). And of course the detail is just exquisite- there’s something interesting to discover in every square inch of the art. When a design does any one of those three things, I usually dig it. But when it does them all, I can’t resist.


Barbara Cliffe‘s favorite shirt is Wild Anatomy by Rachel Caldwell
She is a curator at Shirt.Woot and can be contacted at http://shirt.woot.com/artists/

One of my personal favorite shirts is the fairly recent “Wild Anatomy” design. I wear this shirt all the time, and there’s a lot that I love about it. First of all, Rachel Caldwell is an amazing artist. Her line work is gorgeous, her colors are vibrant, and her subjects are whimsical and a little surreal. Second, this is a design that works best as a shirt, which is something I seek out in the shirts I personally wear. The artwork would make a lovely poster or desktop background or fine art painting, but it really shines when it’s printed on fabric and actually worn on the human form. In this case, of course, the artwork is reflective of the form underneath, but that quality of shirt as ultimate expression of a particular idea is one that I enjoy.

Some of my other favorites are Rikki B’s “Stuff“, edgarrmcherly’s “Air“, Julia Sonmi Heglund’s “Who Wants to Live Forever?“, Alex Noriega’s “Breakdance“, and Gimetzco!’s “Kitty Gratis“. I’m also very excited about AJ Dimarucot’s “Nature’s Harmony” design, which is our first foray into simulated process printing. That opens up a whole new world for us in the kinds of artwork we can produce. I’m thrilled with the possibilities that creates.


‘s favorite shirt is Float On by Omnitarian
He is a curator for Tilteed and can be contacted at Adder@tilteed.com

While I’m still somewhat new to the curator world, I’ve already been granted some great opportunities. Some of the pieces I’ve curated have been “a personal favorite” of the artist that had simply gone unprinted; others were forgotten pieces, while still other times, I’ve had the honor of bringing a designer in for their first print. That’s the sort of stuff that I thrive on in my curations… I love being able to print work that is set apart from the standard. It’s not so easy as being different, of course: I can be a picky bastard, and I can be a regular bastard, but at the end of the day, you’re going to do worlds better suggesting a piece that you truly believe in artistically than marketing to me like an ad pitchman. I believe that the graphic tee has the potential to be an artistic canvas, not just a quick joke. Not that I don’t like jokes. You’re just going to have to make it really damn funny.

I like to think that my tastes are very diverse, if not overtly populist, so really, if it’s well done and creative, you’ve already got a foot in the door. If I had to sum things up generically: I love work that has a sense of playfulness without being immature, a sense of personal style, a sense that, even if it’s not 100% original, it brings something new to the dialogue. I think these are things embodied in a piece like the one I’m featuring, Omnitarian’s “Float On.” I loved it from the moment I saw it because it brought a fresh style to the table when I was feeling burnt out with the same old tees. It revels in classic cartooning while also letting the artist’s hand show through. The colors are smart and attractive and also refreshing, in a way (the whole scene reads like a perfect spring day). And it really doesn’t hurt that there’s a touch of the absurd to the piece. You can, of course, check my blog as well: 99% of everything there is something I’d be happy to consider curating. It’s probably the most comprehensive way to get inside my mind if you’re looking to get printed.

Bo Mekavibul aka dunz0’s favorite shirt is Get a Job by rawroutloud
She is a curator at Tilteed and can be contacted at dunz0@tilteed.com (*Note: the 0 in dunz0 is a zero)

“Get A Job” is one of my favorite t-shirts of all time. Not only is it a fun design on a bright blue tee, but it’s also a little snapshot of my personal experiences. When this t-shirt was released at Tilteed, I was spending my summer on campus with a full-time research position. Although I did have a job, I still felt like I identified with the ramen-eating character. My research position was unpaid, so the majority of my meal preparations involved me pouring hot water into a styrofoam cup and waiting three minutes. Despite having to eat these non-nutritional 25-cent meals on a regular basis, I still ended up having the best summer of my life. Whenever I see “Get A Job” in my closet, I am reminded of the two incredible months that I had.

Nostalgia aside, I love “Get A Job” because it’s truly refreshing. This shirt makes for a fantastic summer tee because it’s super bright and completely unique. I’m definitely a sucker for bright shirts with large prints. I also love how the design combines a solid character with doodles. I usually only see one or the other, so this earns bonus points from me. Yay for awesome tees!

JadenKale‘s favorite shirt is Mouthface by Hands_On_Fire
She is a curator at Tilteed and can be contacted at JadenKale@Tilteed.com

While I could pick any number of pieces, I feel MouthFace by Hands_on_Fire deserves a second look. I can honestly say, I’ve never seen anything even remotely like it and I definitely wanted something new to bring to the table (both from the standpoint of art and artist). I know a few people see it as creepy, but it also has a sweet, innocent charm to it that I find endearing. And I’m able to relate to this piece; I used to doodle all over the covers of my books like this while in school. So it was a sure print for me. My relating to the artwork or finding some nostalgia aspect in it will usually win me over on a design. Other things like clever puns and pieces with a similar sense of whimsy are high on the list. And there are intricate pieces of art I also enjoy, such as two artists I’ve curated: A.mar.illo and QuakerNinja. But even I have an Achilles’ heel: Ocean/sea life ( yay tentacles!) or very well thought out and unusual musical designs could likely be my downfall. However, I don’t want to see the same boring thing from those two specific themes. I love the rare, the unique, and I strive to find new concepts I’ve yet to see elsewhere. But never be too shy to ask. You might be surprised what will receive the green light for printing.


‘s favorite shirt is Collossus by MrRoboto
He is a curator for RIPT Apparel and can be contacted at the_jcw@hotmail.com with a link to the art

Most of the time I am a glass half full kind of guy. When it comes to shirt designs, I realize that pop-culture sells, but I like to believe (in my happyland on gumdrop lane) that original free-thinking art will somehow make a higher-selling comeback.

There are far to many shirt designs that I am amazed with and could easily mention, and I am such a bit fan of so many shirt artists out there that picking one is like asking me to only ever eat one flavor of ice cream, so I am going to mention one more unexpected. The shirt I would like to mention isn’t necessarily the type of design that is my favorite or my top above other curated designs (“what about __”, “what about__”), but a clean solid example of a (fairly) recently curated and printed shirt. Whenever I wear it, it makes people smile, it’s simple enough to see what is going on at a glance and it makes great use of the color of the shirt (negative space) as well as a limited color palette. A fun original piece of art that didn’t need a dharma symbol, a storm trooper, or spock to get attention as a shirt.

‘s favorite shirt is Zombie Bert and Ernie by Killer Napkins
He is a curator for RIPT Apparel and can be contacted at dcaydesign@gmail.com

First off, I’m already a zombie fan. Not only that, I love it when pop culture meets the zombie world… so when you perfectly execute a mash up of the living dead with the Muppet characters, it’s a recipe for T-shirt awesomeness! “Zombie Bert & Ernie” was a limited edition print from Ript Apparel, created by the artist Killer Napkins. KN is best known for the scary forms he creates for shirts and paints on canvas. In this tee, Naps does a great job of turning these classically ambiguous Muppet friends into deteriorating, brain eating zombies. The realism of this image is, well… scary, and that’s what makes this tee awesome to me! It’s amazing how KN can take something as clean and safe like the Muppets, and make it as creepy as a Romero film. So if you’re a fellow zombie lover, do yourself a favor and check out this kid’s portfolio. You’re sure to find some tees and paintings that spark your interest, and creep you out at the same time!

Every curator on this list is actively on the look out for rad art- make their job a little easier by emailing them with your designs!

8 Responses to “Tee Curators and their Favorite Shirts”

  1. Matt 17 May 2010 at 12:16 pm Permalink

    I’m in LOVE with that seahorse shirt! buying it right now!

  2. Paul - RIPT Tees 17 May 2010 at 2:55 pm Permalink

    It’s nice to see everyone’s similarities and differences in what they look for and what they hope to do with their curator abilities. Thanks for the well written article compete-tee-tion!

  3. Adder 18 May 2010 at 1:09 am Permalink

    That seahorse tee really is sweet. And since it’s a triblend, it is impossible to get it off my body once I put it on.

    You will love it, Matt. And you will love PaperRoot. They are nothing but quality.

  4. bgtobe 18 May 2010 at 9:00 am Permalink

    Great article. I really enjoyed reading about the tee industry from the other side instead just from a consumers end. Thanks.

  5. David FuzzyLogic 18 May 2010 at 9:37 am Permalink

    Nicely Done, MJ.
    What was a fun read and quick peek into the minds of some of the best curators out there.

  6. digsy 18 May 2010 at 10:34 am Permalink

    really helpful and interesting info this – I’ll be sure to start annoying them all with emails in the near future!

  7. Jestik 19 May 2010 at 4:37 am Permalink

    great post!!

    I was pleased to see that some of the curators favorites are MY favorites! Apparition of the Grouchy God and Mouthface are two of my all-time faves.

    I’d love to see more posts like this.

  8. plbishop 19 May 2010 at 5:46 am Permalink

    Great info MJ!!!

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