What’s the name of your shop? Your name? Your role?
My name’s Dave and my shop is GritFX. My role encompasses the work of illustrator, graphic designer, coffee-maker and general punching bag.
How did you come up with the name GritFX? What does it mean?
It was one of those things. You’re sitting around throwing out ideas, most of which stink, and then you somehow arrive at something that seems to relate to what you’re doing or trying to achieve. We like the vintage/aged look of t-shirts. I’m sure we’ve all held onto at least one beloved t-shirt or piece of clothing until it was nothing more than a few loose threads. So, for some of our t-shirt designs, we wanted to create this ‘vintage/aged’ appearance – the way a tee graphic looks after a few good years of wear. We call it ‘grit’. And adding a ‘grit effect’ to a t-shirt design eventually became our name. We create our own ‘grit fx’ by taking photographs of dirt, stone, wood etc, to achieve an organic layer to mask the design so it looks ‘faded’. That’s the meaning behind our name.
Are you a very busy person? Keeping up with a T-shirt shop and producing an online magazine seems like a lot of work. Your site is like a pop culture garden of nirvanic (made that word up…I think) delights. Would you agree? Is that what you set out to create?
Thanks. Now we have a new tagline: “A Pop Culture Garden of Nirvanic Delights”. Awesome. I guess I’d agree. Honestly, the magazine has been a little neglected this year, as my partner Amanda and I have been busy working on a Kickstarter campaign for a new range of t-shirts we’d like to produce independently. It’s called Captain Feline. So yes, I have been busy, but I wouldn’t say that generally I am a busy person. I’ve been a proud procrastinator since about the age of nine.
The magazine began as an outlet for myself and some of my good friends, riding on the back of the t-shirts. We enjoy writing about the things that influence our tee designs, so it was just a natural extension, I suppose. Balancing both the t-shirt design and the writing is difficult at times, especially when you also have a day job. But it’s what we live for. Art, writing, movies, music – all the good stuff. We didn’t really set out to create a garden of delights. It just so happens that these things are delicious all by themselves.
It looks like you have quite a few contributors to the site. How long did it take you to grow into the unstoppable machine that GritFX is today?
We had a slow start to selling t-shirts, but we really didn’t know what we were doing. But once we became more involved in social media, and understood what it was we wanted to do with our store, things began to take off. It took some time to get a readership for the magazine too – let’s face it, we were just another bunch of dudes/dudettes writing on the internet, joining the millions already doing so. I’d like to think we have something in our writing that might set us apart from the rest, but that’s really for the reader to decide.
All our contributors to the magazine are writing about things that interest them. There’s no direction from Amanda or myself – our writers just submit whatever the hell they want. We’ve never rejected anything that’s been submitted to us, because that’s not what it’s about. As soon as we asked people to be involved, they came on board because of the freedom to do what they wanted. So that aspect took no time at all to get rolling. And even though we had a readership of perhaps ten people (including ourselves) in our early days, all the early work is archived to be discovered now. Building up the content helped us in the future, if you know what I mean.
When did GritFX launch?
It was 2008. Somehow Amanda and I stumbled upon Cafepress, and then Zazzle and Skreend, and it just went from there. The ole “let’s just give it a go” kinda thing.
How did your love of animals develop?
Certainly from when I was a kid. My brother used to eat snails, straight out of the garden. He had no love for the creatures of the Earth (but obviously an early appreciation for French cuisine). I, on the other hand, used to sit on the concrete driveway and watch the ants doing their He-Man thing (this was before the internet, kids). My family always had animals, and my mother instilled in me a respect for them from an early age. We had wild birds we’d hand feed; always a dog or cat in the house. It was similar for Amanda.
When did you start taking photographs? What attracts you to photography?
I’ve always loved film and photography. My friend Adam and I made amateur movies when we teenagers. Amanda has been taking photographs since about the same age, from when her father first gave her a film camera. In those days (late 80s/early90s), it was photo processing labs for the film or the dark room at high school. No digital transfers to your laptop. The attraction for both of us lies in the art. Capturing the world and freezing a moment in time. We’d both still love to shoot with film – you can’t beat that true aesthetic – but unfortunately it’s not really feasible anymore.
Where are you from/live now?
Amanda and I were both born and raised in Australia. I grew up in the sweaty suburbs west of Sydney; Amanda spent her formative years near the beach north of Sydney. That’s where we both live now – by the river, near the beach.
What was the inspiration for launching the t-shirt part of the business?
When I was a teen, I’d make my own t-shirts by drawing directly onto the tee with fabric pens. I’ll tell ya, from what I remember, no sane man would have worn them. In other words, they were very poorly done. But hey, I didn’t have my own screen-pinting machine or even a computer with Illustrator or Photoshop. Anyways, as I got older and began using PS and Illustrator, it was probably only a matter of time before I attempted it properly. When Amanda and I discovered print-on-demand suppliers (PODs) like Zazzle, we saw it as another outlet for our art – something we thought would be fun and provide a passive income (hopefully).
We’re in the red. No, seriously – the good thing about PODs is that there is no outlay, only potential profit. They’re great for indie artists looking to display and sell their work.
How important is social media to your business? You seem to be very active on Twitter (like 20 tweets a day active).
In this day and age, social media is very important. As much as I personally don’t use Facebook, Twitter is a great way to connect and share content – not just content associated with GritFX, but other people’s content. We’re big believers in supporting indie artists. Amanda (among others) has currently been testing the BETA of a new social media tool called smqueue that is going to completely revolutionise Twitter. Keep your eyes peeled and your ears out (or however the saying goes).
What’s the weirdest picture of someone wearing one of your tees that you have seen? And/or have you run into a stranger out in the wild wearing one of your products? And/or celebrity sightings?
Unfortunately, the good majority of our sales are overseas, so we’ve never met anyone in the wild wearing one of our t-shirts (but then, we don’t do out on safari much either). No celebrity sightings, although we once had a Heroes-inspired tee with simple type saying: “Nathan Petrelli For President”. Adrian Pasdar (anyone remember Near Dark…? Yay!), the actor who played Nathan Petrelli on the show, bought one; unless of course it happened to be someone who shared the name Adrian Pasdar… It was the only one of that design we sold.
And no weird pictures. What gives? Someone send us a weird picture! Amanda did take a photo of me falling into the river. I was wearing one of our tees, but you can’t see it in the photo.
What type of person is a prime candidate to be a customer of GritFx?
We haven’t had any orders from the afterlife, so I guess anyone who’s alive. I suppose if you are interested in movies and pop culture, you might like our stuff.
Where do you get your designs?
Amanda has a method by which she attaches electrodes to my exposed brain, and then records my thoughts on a spectrometer. From there, we sort the indecent thoughts from the truly creative and the designs are born. Sure, it’s unorthodox and perhaps unethical, but you gotta do something different these days to stand out from the crowd. And I’m not complaining. Thoughts…my…clear…are…still.
What kind of shirt stock do you use? Why?
With the PODs there are a multitude of different fabrics and styles that customers can choose. Personally, we like the American Apparel tees. Amanda especially loves the tri-blend, because it feels like a second skin. The AA tees are what we are offering in our Kickstarter campaign. They are light and soft, and well constructed.
Where do you see your business in a year?
We’d like to start shipping to Mars, so hopefully Curiosity finds a customer base up there. In all seriousness, we’d love to be independently producing mountains of Captain Feline designs in a years’ time.
What’s your favorite design currently?
I still like the “Namaste” design Amanda pretty much put together solo for our LOST range, inspired by the classic TV show. It was one of five winners in a LOST design competition run by Cafepress. I’m still proud of that, and it’s a really cool design, I think. Works well on the tee.
What sells more – men or women’s shirts?
I’d have to say men’s, although it is somewhat balanced. A good proportion of our designs are possibly more masculine, so it figures men’s tees would sell more.
Is there a specific subject matter that you sell most of?
Popcorn Classics – our movie and TV range – sell the most. Movie tees are popular on the net.
What are the top three selling designs at GritFX?
Now, please talk about this new brand you are starting: Captain Feline. I’m so blown away with the look of these designs.
Wow, thank you very much – that’s flattering to hear. Captain Feline basically blends pop culture with cats. Our first range is movie-inspired, featuring classic and cult movie characters. Even if you don’t get the reference, you might like the aesthetic of a cat head on a human body. It’s kinda funny, right? The hardest thing was creating the right expression on each cat head that would reflect the human character. So, if we are funded on Kickstarter (I should say, ‘when we are funded’) we’ll increase the range in the future to feature other pop culture icons.
How did the concept develop?
It developed rather quickly. I drew a picture of the body of Elvis Presley, with a cat head. I showed it to Amanda and she flipped. I then started drawing more and eventually we decided to put them on t-shirts. But not everything I drew worked, so we had to identify what we wanted to do and start from there. Frankly, my hand was like a claw at the end of all the illustrating.
Where are you getting the designs?
The inspiration for each simply comes from my/our love of both cats and movies. Any cat owner is aware of the human traits cats display…or maybe we display cat traits….? Whatever – the point is, the anthropomorphism is something we find amusing, and hopefully other people do too.
Would you advise people to get in on this thing early, because it’s going to be huge, and they should want to tell posterity they owned one of the first Captain Feline T-shirts?
You bet. There’s nothing better than sneering at a friend and saying, “Suck it, I got an original Captain Feline tee and you didn’t!” Nothing better than that. We’re also offering a bunch of limited edition perks that are only available by pledging towards our Kickstarter project. These will never be produced again, so you can repeat the above sentence to your friends, just substitute the word ‘tee’ with ‘perk’. Again, I’m flattered that you think it’s going to be huge.
When does the Kickstarter campaign launch?
It’s just started. There are 30 days to go and we are at 41% funded. We hope the momentum continues and we reach our goal. I’ll dance a jig, for sure.
Anything else you want to add?
Yes. Thanks for giving me questions to answer. Oh, and love your brother.
Where can people find you? Website, Twitter, Facebook, etc.
People can find me personally on Twitter at @gritfx, or read my stuff at the GritFX Magazine. I don’t use Facebook personally, but Amanda does and we have a GritFX page. If anyone wishes to contact me directly for, I don’t know, abuse or whatnot, they can email me at: dave @ gritfx.com.