Students design shirts with style

Michelangelo painted. Shakespeare wrote. Seniors Austin Lew and Alice Burns design shirts.

Burns began learning how to design in her graphic arts class. Then she learned how to put her designs on shirts by screen printing. As a sophomore, she began to buy shirts, create her own designs and sell them to her friends. Fortunately, her designs proved popular and before she knew it, her skills paid off.

“It’s something I really like doing and I want to do it for a long time,” Burns said. “My teacher really inspired me to do it.” Burns finds her art as a way to express herself, so money is just a bonus. “I only charge five to ten dollars a shirt depending on how hard it was to make.” Burns admits she likes to see people wearing her designed shirts. It makes her feel proud of having her distinct way of standing apart from the crowd.

But Burns isn’t the only one with an ambition to splash Decatur with creativity. Austin Lew designs T-shirts using stencil paper and spray paint instead of screen printing. “It will never fade, that’s what’s so good about it,” Lew said. “I’ve gotten pretty good. I come from a family of artists, so I grew up around art.”

Austin Lew designs his shirts using stencil paper. After drawing his designs on pieces of normal paper, he draws his shirts on the stencil paper with various designs on them, then cuts them out. When he’s done with that, he gets his spray paint and gets to work.

Like Burns, Lew sells his T-shirts. “I don’t make the shirts to sell them but I have sold them. I just really like seeing people wearing my art,” Lew said. “When you wear a shirt, your shirt represents you for that given day,” Lew continued. “I like it that people are willing to wear my shirt and have it represent them for a day.”

He started making shirts his freshman year. As he starts describing his first shirt in detail, his voice rises. “It was very simple [to make]. I did this pattern all over the front of the shirt and repeated it.” Lew still makes his designed shirts, not to sell, but for the sheer enjoyment he gets from doing what he likes. Lew plans on making this a business, but not in the near future.

“I’m just building up my skills right now. I might be an entrepreneur someday,” Lew admitted. “Alice’s designs inspire me to get better at screen printing. I think we could both learn things from each other.”

By Safia Mohamud