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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Interview with Jeremy Kalgreen of Amorphia Apperal

Jeremy Kalgreen's designs are just amazing, thought provoking, and purely entertaining. If there is one person to be admired for his genius and imagination he is it.

What inspired you to start designing tee shirts?

It was quite by accident. Once upon a time, years ago, for reasons I don’t clearly remember, I decided I didn’t want to wear any clothing with any messages on it that I didn’t put there myself. I’m not one of those zealous ‘Adbusters’ anti-capitalist types, it just seemed like the thing to do. So for fun I started printing single copy silk-screened shirts for my own personal usage. Well, despite the fact I found it enjoyable, I was bloody terrible at it and eventually I decided to try out one of these custom shirt websites I had been hearing about. Originally the plan was just to upload some images and make a single copy of each shirt for my own personal use and then forget about it. I took some of my existing silkscreen designs and vectorized and uploaded them.

As it turns out a few days before when I planned to place my order I had some car troubles that robbed me of the extra cash to splurge on custom shirts. Since I had already put the effort into uploading my designs it seemed like a shame to abandon the project altogether. So I set my shop to public, and in the back of my head I figured I might sell a shirt every once in a blue moon and that would be totally flattering and whatnot. I didn’t imagine selling more then one or two a month, and I certainly didn’t imagine it would become a real source of income. As it turns out even before I made a ‘real’ shop front there seemed to be a bit of interest in my designs, and I decided “What the hell, I might as well try and make it look like a real store” but I still didn’t think I’d get more then $20-30 a month.

Turns out I was wrong, and now T-shirts are my primary source of income.

How long have you been in the industry?
Since February '06 if I recall correctly.

What advice would you give someine just starting out?
Well my goal was to try and make a shirt shop I felt proud of, and that represented me as a person. So I say forget about trying to pander to your audience, make shirts you would like then try to find people like you. Develop your own style, instead of looking at what other people have been successful at and trying to ape that. Of course if your goal is to make the big bucks, *and* you have the capital to horn your way into the market directly then you should probably do the exact opposite of that.

Oh, and learn to do web programming. Learn HTML/CSS and at least a little Javascript/PHP/MySQL. I just taught myself one little bit at a time via my local library as I went, and being able to do these things for yourself makes a huge difference. With every new project I work on I learn so much it makes me ashamed to even look at the source code of my previous projects. Seriously, it's not particularly hard if you take it one step at a time, get cracking folks!

What style has worked best for you as a designer?
Keeping it simple, amusing and hopefully a tab surreal or oblique. Communicate a concept as elegantly as possible. The trend in recent years has been to 'busy up' your designs. "Add more distressing! More lines, more visual jibber jabber" seems to be the watchwords apparently designers feel that makes things look more artsy. But the market is now flooded with that style, and while obviously there is a market for it I get people e-mailing me all the time saying what a relief it is to see simple, clean designs. Of course the fact it also lets me use the Spreadshirt plot printing method instead of having to rely on Silk screening / Digital Transfers or DTG printing is a very significant bonus to working this way.

Where do you see your company in 5 years?
Hopefully pretty much the same, but with 5 new Sub-sites a-la 'Teach the Controversy' and 'Science!'. I just want to keep having ideas that make me smile and hopefully people will continue to respond to them.

What is your favorite design?
Oh my, I can't even start to decide on a favorite, but I do get a really warm feeling whenever I see someone has bought my KISSinger tee.
I think it's the kind of shirt that really says a lot about my shop, my target audience and what I find funny/interesting.

Who has been your biggest influence in your designs?
You know, I seriously try to avoid looking at other shirt-smiths work. Mostly to avoid poisoning my idea-well, but also I always just get annoyed at the good ideas I see because I didn't see them first. So I studiously avoid looking at Threadless and what have you because I think there is a lot of great work out there, but I think I work best isolated from everything else. Early on though I'd have to say I was really impressed and encouraged by how much I enjoyed my then fellow Spreadshirter Barry of Barry's Farm ( It doesn't appear he does the shirt thing anymore, but I loved his old designs and wanted my work to be as good as his.
What is your favorite design by another artist?
I don't know if I can pick a favorite, but recently I discovered the work of Glenn Jones ( from a post on and it reminded me why I hate looking at other people's stuff. It was all very fantastic!

3 of my best designs.
Roach Celebration:
Rock Robot:
Devil Bones: