That’s how I survived 18 Years of D.I.Y. independent T-Shirt screen printing production
For people like me who have been around for a while it was not always so easy so now I’m here to tell you about some experiments I’ve made in the past more or less successfully during my long career as a punk rocker. My experience let me know exactly what to wear to a concert to have a perfect D.I.Y. outfit!
1) Bleached T-shirts: (Band: Onoda / Year: 2014 / Sweaters Sold: ZERO)
I tried to cut down all the possible costs to get the lowest price possible for the Onoda’s t-shirt and to fix the sale price up to 5 €, so I bought some dark t-shirts following the Lantern Danez advice, I made one stencil with the inscription “Onoda”, I put the bleach in a spray bottle of glass cleaner I had at home and I tried to make a couple of D.I.Y. T-shirt in that way.
The result was quite creepy… a totally unsuccessful experiment.
2) Blood D.I.Y. T-shirts (Band: Hellbounds / Year: 2002 / sold Shirts: ZERO)
We never played live with Hellbounds, a brutal extreme grind project with nihilistic lyrics that I had thrown together with a bunch of friends of mine.
We were young, extreme, totally crazy and with a total dedication to “salvia divinorum” which was legal in Italy at that time and readily available at any smart-shop, so we were constantly super fucked up by drugs.
One evening some friends of us came to see us in our rehearsal room and we played kind of a private concert for them and I broke the microphone on my front head, taken by the drug raptus like GG Allin, I made myself a very deep wound and I used a white t-shirt to dab blood; at the end of the concert I wrote Hellbound with my blood-soaked finger on that shirt with a very rotten result, but we liked it so much that we decided to make a series of t-shirts with our blood, but (thankfully) after a couple of weeks we split up and we never developed this idea.
Editor’s note: please, please, please, don’t try this at home!
3) Felt Pen made D.I.Y. T-shirts (Band: Xoom / Year: 1997 / Sold T-Shirts: 20)
I made this kind of T-shirt for one of my very first bands. We were all fourteen years old and of course penniless – I think at first we used to scotch tape a microphone to a classic guitar and our first distortion pedal was stolen.
For our first concerts, we wanted to have some T-shirts of the band, but we didn’t know how or where to print them, so we decided to buy some of the cheapest white shirts we could find and wrote the name of the band in the front borrowing a marker from a budding artist friend… but since he was often drunk and/or on drugs he had drawn huge cocks on the backs of all the T-shirts which was very very punk, but he made them unsaleable.
Editor’s note: if you intend to make some T-shirts with a felt pen, make sure to buy the right t-shirt markers at least!
4) Iron made T-shirt (Band: Tsunami / Year: 1998 / Sold T-Shirts: maybe 10)
It was another band of wasted guys, but at least I had an electric guitar. At the mall I found iron-on transfer sheets; so with ‘word’ software I wrote the band name on these sheets and I added a Japanese character below which could remember a “T” letter (that is the first letter of the band).
We found some military green t-shirts to use as the base for the artwork. The idea might seem cool, but there was a problem: I didn’t know the iron-on transferred the graphic in reverse… I didn’t know that and it was a hard story to explain to a teenager!
What happened at the end of this story? Yeah, exactly what you are thinking: I printed all the t-shirt backward. I excused with others with my usual universal excuse: “I wanted to print them in a reverse way, cause it’s so much more punk!”.
In the end, this idea was not so great and the t-shirt was unsuccessfully unsold and (thankfully) nobody decided to reprint them.
5) Soccer T-shirts (Band: Spunk / Year: 2001 / sold Shirts: all those that I had, I think they have been a dozen)
I did a summer soccer tournament (actually I barely been on the field a minute but I was in the team) and once I finished it, I was left with all the team jerseys, knowing that the team would never play again.
I did not know what to do, and then I brought them to a Decathlon shop near my house and I made them write “Spunk” to all in front and I printed the number 82 on the back (the title of a song of the band) and then customised with the names of those who would later buy them.
The t-shirts were awful, but for some reason unknown to us, we sold them all.
6) Tie Dye effect D.I.Y. T-shirt: (Band: Onoda / Year: 2014 / Sweaters Sold: 50)
I hoped for a better success never come with the bleach T-shirts experiment, so I found myself in my house with four bottles of shitty bleach but I didn’t feel dumb enough to drink all of them and it doesn’t look like being healthy for my standards.
I watched a tutorial on youtube how to make t-shirts with the ‘tie dye effect“, it applied to me and the result was not so bad at the end! So I used a stencil to write the band name on the front with a dedicated t-shirts spray and unexpectedly the result was so awesome.
7) Homemade silk-screen T-Shirt (Band: Spunk / Year: 1999 / sold Shirts: over 100)
The Spunk was my first serious band, we played a lot and we had a great fan base at home, we picked up girls and we argued about our musical activity with basically with anyone who bought our merchandise… but as usual we didn’t have enough money to pay someone else to make the merch for us, so we decided to print the t-shirts by ourselves.
My drummer and my guitar player frequented an art institute and at that time they attended a screen printing course, so we thought we had the skills to do everything ourselves.
So one morning we decided to go to their school laboratory and during a break, we stole everything we needed to be able to print our t-shirts at home (inks, frames, screens etc…).
We adapted our rehearsal room as a screen printing laboratory and we spent the afternoons printing a bunch of t-shirts, the worst of them we kept for us or gave as a present to some friends; at the end the delivery was a resounding success and by the proceeds of sales we were able to pay us a decent recording studio for the second EP.
8) Decathlon made by D.I.Y. T-shirt(Band: The Bleeding Light / Year: 2006 / sold t-shirts: 20)
We were experiencing the Myspace age at that time, a Decathlon shop was built few steps far from my house and in the meantime, I knew a guy who printed the t-shirts there and he gave me some great discounts too.
So when I hadn’t had shit to do and I spent some afternoons at the Decathlon to make t-shirts for my band. Meanwhile, here and there I took some Gatorade and protein bars for ripped people and in short, I used Decathlon as a bar … I have beautiful memories of those afternoons.
So more or less they are the experiments I have personally tried to do, I don’t know if it can be useful to give someone a starting point to realize an idea or to dismiss it definitely, but at the end, I want to give you one advice overall:
LET’S TRY TO DO SOMETHING BY YOURSELF
and even if your idea may seem dumb and it could go wrong you could have an awesome or a terrible result, but you could laugh about it for some time.
Stay DIY or DIE.