Wednesday, February 18, 2009

article on I Wear My Heart On My Tee 2

tee exhibition 2009 opening 001

The article below was in today's Beat Magazine on the current exhibition.

I Wear My Heart On My Tee 2
by LOU PARDI (featured in the Arts Section of Beat Magazine 18 February 2009)

“Whenever you see something you haven’t seen [before] or [it’s presented in] a new way of printing, it’s like, ‘Oh man, I wish I’d thought of that’. That spurs you on to rethink what you’re doing and change it up and keep it interesting for the people who are going to buy it, because if it’s got my attention then obviously it’s got other people’s attention as well,” shares Natalie Shields, creator of fashion label Maru. Shield’s had the chance to see a lot of new ideas whilst exhibiting in I Wear my Heart on my Tee 2 at Town Hall Gallery in Hawthorn.
The exhibition gathers t-shirts from over 20 designers for men, women and children and all t-shirts are available for sale.
Brainchild of curator and t-shirt lover Mardi Nowak, this is the second exhibition of its kind at the Town Hall Gallery. “The amount of interest from the last exhibition proves the popularity of the t-shirt within everyday culture. There are so many people making and printing t-shirts within Melbourne and it’s not just big fashion labels, but people making them in their own homes for family and friends too,” Nowak explains.
Shield’s business is fairly young. “I’ve got my own fashion label Maru, and the t-shirts that I put in the show are part of the range that I do. I’ve probably been doing this about two and a half, three years, and t-shirts have always been a really strong design element in what I do,” she says. Part of the attraction of being in the exhibition is meeting peers. “You see a lot of work around, but you don’t always get to meet everybody. It’s always fun to meet new designers and see what they’re doing and make the connections,” Shields says. While she speaks fondly of her peers, Natalie admits, “I guess anything that involves fashion is always really competitive. Everyone is always looking at what other people are doing and comparing what they do with other people’s work.” A hot issue in t-shirt design is the question of borrowing other people’s ideas. “It happens all the time. People go around saying, ’This is a completely original idea’. I’ve always been of the opinion that there isn’t really any original work anywhere, especially in digital arts, everyone’s sort of borrowing and copying and reassembling it in its own way.” says Shields, who admits she’s not afraid to see her own work borrowed. “As far as I’m concerned if people want to rip me off, great, that’s fantastic there’s nothing more flattering than someone who likes what you do and wants to assimilate it into another situation for their own work.”
Not everyone sees it this way though. “You can actually be sued. It seems to be more and more the case now, where more chain stores and big companies are taking people and suing them for breach of copyright on imagery. It’s hard to know what is a borrowing of ideas and reinterpretation and what is actually a stealing of ideas,” she says.
While many t-shirt designers might find a gallery space a foreign environment for their work, Natalie’s artwork background, some 40 – 50 shows as an artist, mean she’s quite at home in the gallery environment. “I did mainly installation artworks and I also tended to put work in public places and that kind of thing, I think that’s one of the reasons I got into fashion, I wanted to put my stuff out there, away from a gallery situation. Now I’ll go down Smith Street or wherever I’m going and see people wearing my stuff and think, ‘Great, this is an idea that I’ve had, now other people are enjoying it and wearing it and talking about it’,” she says. On a t-shirt, the work is appreciated by more people, for longer, “As an artist you have such a limited opportunity for people to see your work [when it’s only in a gallery] and this way (on a t-shirt) so many people get to see it and appreciate it, and buy it as well, because on the whole most people don’t buy artwork, but they buy clothes and t-shirts especially,” says Shields.
There’s nothing better than walking away from an exhibition with a piece of your very own, especially if you can hang it in your wardrobe. The exhibition is already open so get on down before my beloved favourite, Johnny Depp on sea green has sailed away, or sign up for the conversation on Saturday and speak tees with Curator Nowak and the designers.Celebrating the art of the t-shirt design, I Wear My Heart On My Tee 2 is on at the Town Hall Gallery, rear 358 Burwood Rd, Hawthorn until March 7. Visit for more details.

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