Curating by Chris Kawagiwa

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Many may wonder how the designs are chosen here at the TeeFury labs. Some speculate that it’s a lab, a Castle court, a Jedi Council, or a group of geeky deities sitting on the lofty clouds of Olympus.

Well wonder no more, as I, your humble curator, shine a path through the cotton-woven pipeline we call the TeeFury curation process. (And by the way the answer is Castle. We work in a castle here.)

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The Submissions Enter

Every few days, the Art Director and I take a look at the submissions folder. Now, one may wonder a couple things:

  1. We receive a treasure trove of beautifully designed, thoughtful, unique, clever designs from which we are pained to choose a select few. Agonized to decide what to take aboard our ark of designs and hold up to the warm phosphor glow of a large web audience.
  2. The submissions queue is a wasteland from which we are dutifully charged to comb and salvage with resourcefulness in order to find the untainted bits within the nuclear apocalyptic landscape called an open submissions policy.

Truthfully, it’s both. We see some amazing designs that are aesthetic gems and design concepts that, as artists, we kick ourselves thinking, “Why didn’t I come up with that?”.

And then there are the submissions that make us question, “Did a human hand make that?” Much like a search for a certain Arkenstone, there are quite a few trinkets to sort through.

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And as much as we would love to sit and admire every shiny precious thing, the dragon we call a deadline looms ever present. Every treasure has a beholder, but our calendar with limited space requires the use of a discerning eye to satisfy a hungry audience.

The Gauntlet

Within the submissions folder (in which some have previously included a photo of a cat and a loaf of bread, true story), we set aside the notable few and then some decision factors come into play.

First, the obvious one: Is it well done?

  • Taking the approach of a casual viewer, is the message of the image immediately readable like this example? In the rare cases where the intent of the design is less apparent, is that punchline worth the effort of deduction? Even a masterful rendering or witty clean design may not find a home on a shirt because…

Does it have audience reach? Our audience. Yes you. We <3 you.

  • Will fans of this genre/property/character like this rendition? Enthusiasts of a property want to see an aspect of their beloved thing celebrated. If it comes across as disparaging or pandering to a trend, it’s likely not a hit. Here’s often where even as a viewer, you can subconsciously sense if the creator of the piece is a genuine fan of what is being referenced.

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Then there are the cases of designs with both fine execution and clever concept but yet, no dice. Why?

  • As consumer of media we’re inundated with tons of interesting images. But some of these fit snuggly into the social media sphere rather than your torso. These are the Facebook shares rather than a, “I would wear that!” Wearing something on your person says something when you’re out in the big wide world. Internet comments are easy to make. Thumbs up are easy to click. Wearing a shirt still acts as a very tactile vehicle for social interaction in RL. For proof, visit your local comic convention.

Yet still are other curve ball considerations.

  • There are some designs that resonate personally with one of us, but may not ring similarly with a broad base of eclectic tastes. When a design decides to balance precariously but persistently on the fence of decision, we gingerly hand her to the marketing bird who shines it on Facebook to hear what you all think.

The Design is Crowned. Now What?

After a design has successfully run the gauntlet, an acceptance message is sent.
We have the lucky artist send us the high-res art, from which one of us will create a web-ready version to appear on your beloved shirt models. (Affectionately named our “Arya” and “Lannister”).

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From here, there are two preflight checklist boxes to check off: Timing and Two-Fury.

Timing is an important aspect of planning out our lineup. Diversity being the spice of life, we do our best to create a range of fandoms to combat an oversaturation of a genre. Contrary to popular belief, blue boxes make fewer appearances than perceived– A view through our Gallery lets us scope out what our history has looked like. Taking note of movie releases and TV premieres and pop culture events of interest holds some sway as well.

Two-furies in times past used to be random, but now are more purposely slated. We stoke a friendly fire of competition among designs that speak to a fanbase, but offer different takes on both.

Take Heart, New Artists

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To aspiring artists, I would implore you not be discouraged. Many of our most popular artists today had submitted dozens of times before receiving an acceptance.

To fans, I would remind you that every thing you see on the site was made with human hands connected to a human heart connected to a drawing tablet. Be aware and thus, hopefully, kind and celebrate loving what you love.

A certain Simon Pegg said it well:
“Being a geek is all about being honest about what you enjoy and not being afraid to demonstrate that affection. It means never having to play it cool about how much you like something. [sic]”

We demonstrate that affection by selection from some of the freshest designs around and to share something amazing every day. So keep your eyes wide open to not miss a new favorite–

The case remains open and game is always on.