Carrie in GunSho
I met James Quigley at the AS220 Anarchist Bookfair in Providence, Rhode Island. I drove up to share a table with my friends at Paranoia magazine and hand out a few copies of Electrifying Times. I was also going around showing t-shirt exhibitors one of the shirts Rehance made for Tai Robinson's Intergalactic Hydrogen. What makes the Rehance shirts so different is its printing process. Instead of silk-screening a layer of plastic ink, Rehance dyes the design right into the fabric of the shirt, making for a smooth feel, and a much more environmentally friendly production.
What I didn't realize until I met James, is that a similar process is also being used by artists like James, but in an artisanal way, to produce as little as five shirts at a time. I think James and I were both surprised to discover each shirt arriving at exactly the same result from such opposite creative directions: Rehance being a large and successful corporation, while James having come up with this printing style all on his own.
I contacted Rehance and spoke to its president, Eric Henry: "REHANCE is a registered trademark, we have 4 patents on the technology, keeping in mind we invested over $250K to develop it so we can not just give it away. With our process we print then dye, what it sound like James is using is discharge printing which removed the color from the shirt. We discontinued using this technology about ten years ago, involves hazardous chemicals. We are working with companies to move this technology to a digital environment, direct imaging on t-shirts. The biggest cost of doing small runs is the initial set up, film, screens, press set up which makes short runs very expensive. We use a low impact reactive dye which only dyes cellulose materials, i.e. cotton, our labels are polyester which will not absorb the dye. Most tie dyers use a cold reactive, and it can stain a polyester label."
First and foremost, James is a poster printer, and shares space with Lucky Bunny, a poster-printing business, which in turn rents space from a large t-shirt shop. His role in Lucky Bunny is minimal, he just helps out here and there with bigger jobs. Mainly he just shares the space in order to produce his own GunSho artwork, like the shirt Carrie is wearing above. Again what makes these T-shirts so new and different, and therefore Lü worthy, is the fact the art work gets imbedded directly into the shirt fabric itself, as if the fabric was printed with the design in it, not on it. Though it would seem James is using harsh chemicals while Rehance now achieves the same result in a much more environmentally benign way, both techniques result in a similar look and feel on the finished shirt.
James writes: "The process I used for the Cthulhu shirts is indeed discharge printing. Most t-shirts are printed using Plastisol inks. Discharge ink is basically about as toxic as most other inks. The reason why some countries, like the UK, don't want Plasticsol ink shirts is because they incinerate their waste there and it's toxic. A discharge print does what Eric Henry said, it basically lifts the original dye out of the t-shirt, so essentially there is no ink on the shirt, so the toxic residue from incineration doesn't exist. There are many environmentally-friendly options for printing shirts. Lots of water-based inks that are much less toxic. Also apparel options, one day at the shop, they were test printing on t-shirts for some client and the fabric was made out of corn and not cotton. Discharge printing has been around for a long time, most shirts prior to the 80's were discharge printed. In the printing world there's a term called a "soft hand", that's when a print feels smooth as if it's part of the shirt and not sitting on top of the shirt. Rehance's printing provides a "soft hand" much in the way that a discharge print does but it seems that the process is much more environmentally friendly which is definitely in line with Lü philosophy."
What we are witnessing here is the birth of a whole new way of making t-shirts, which as we all know, is a multi-billion dollar industry all over world. Like Tai's Intergalactic Hydrogen t-shirt, the blank shirts James uses are fair trade, sweatshop-free American Apparel. While they are not the organic cotton kind, they certainly are the next best thing. Organic cotton is still a little prohibitive unless addressing an upscale boutique clientele. Consider Bono is selling his plain Edun t-shirts for $55 a pop, while James will sell you his for notably less than that.
James was kind enough to give me one of his shirts in exchange for a couple copies of Electrifying Times, so I figured I owned him one. Last week walking into a deli in Norwalk, Connecticut, a few yards away from my favorite comic book store, I met Carrie who works there. I was star struck by how vivacious she is, so I asked her to pose for a few pictures. She's only 16, so her mom came along, only to discover Carrie had a secret, a new piercing.
I also called Marianne T. Horvath, an old friend of mine who I had not seen in many years to do make-up. We worked on a very, very low budget science fiction film together once, which screened during an 8 &16mm film festival at the SoNo Cinema. All this was a long, long time ago. Carrie, it seems, is allergic to something, we don't know quite what yet, and had broken out all over... Might be berries, might be she needs a heavy dose of pro-biotics. She'll be fine in a few weeks... Carrie doesn't have a website, but at the rate she's going, I'm sure it won't be long. She's 5'8 (and a half.) She'll have a fan club in no time.
The pictures turned out great. I'm proud of them. It was the first time I used a pro-format digital camera, a Fuji, which in fact makes digital cameras for Nikon. You can barely tell them apart. It was donated to the Environmental Library Fund by Elliott Maynard, director of the Arcos Cielos Research Centeriin Sedona, Arizona. I promised I would put it to good use. Elliott's comment was: "You captured Carrie's special "look," made her look her best!" Elliott's gift is a far cry from the tiny Sony CyberShot I've been using the past 3 years to shoot pictures for my websites.
Stay tuned to this page as this text isn't set in stone, and as I find out more about all these new t-shirt printing techniques, I will include them here.