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Computer Dead, who dis?

My Surface Book was almost too good to be true.

I finally had the piece of technology I had designed in my head twenty years ago- a fully capable laptop that you can flip inside out and draw on- right into Photoshop. Or Illustrator. On the bus. In the park. Wherever the hell you want.

Unfortunately, it was too good to be true- they didn’t anticipate that the damn things would heat up so much that the battery would expand to push your screen clear off. This thing is bubbling like witch’s brew.

In their defense, they’re letting me send it in for a replacement. I’m assuming they’ve been making them with a different battery. One would hope.

The box is on the way to ship it off. It will be 10-14 business days that I will be without my programs. No new designs, no new anything.

I think I used to use something called a sketchbook? Acrylic paint? Oh, wait, silkscreens? I’ll have to find some way to occupy the times my girls are napping that doesn’t involve a Nintendo Switch, Stardew Valley, or Skyrim. It’s hard to resist the temptation to Fus Ro Dah my way through my withdrawals.

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USA Shaolin Temple- Love Nico’s favorite clients.

Shifu Shi Yan Ming- USA Shaolin Temple- 2016

I’m not sure exactly what year it was when I started working with the USA Shaolin Temple on their annual retreat t-shirts. It was probably 2016. I only know that because of the creation date on a set of photos I took of Shifu Shi Yan Ming for reference and designs. It’s a bit hazy- because I’ve been haunting the Temple since 2011- twice since then, briefly, as a student (the moment the money comes in for a babysitter I’ll be considering taking that up again).

Every year my clothing company- Love Nico– is fortunate enough to make a run of shirts for the USA Shaolin Temple’s annual Memorial Day Retreat. It’s that time of year again.

Shifu Shi Yan Ming- USA Shaolin Temple- 2016. photo by Corinne Alexis Hall

Love Nico had its beginnings in larger sized orders for stores. I developed my silkscreen muscle memory around a in-house self run sweatshop assembly line of one- my average order size being roughly 120-200 pieces, about a dozen of each design and colorway. Believe it or not, working that way is faster than making one of a kinds. And it can be very satisfying.

Some of Shi Yan Ming's disciples lending me a hand in my Love Nico studio- 2016.
Some of Shi Yan Ming’s disciples lending me a hand in my Love Nico studio- 2016.

If you’re into Kung Fu movies, there’s quite a few old Shaw Brothers productions where a hero is looking for recruits, and finds new students in unlikely places- like behind the back of a restaurant- where they’ve developed their own style of training with their daily life of bags of rice and giant jugs of wine. Whenever I’ve had larger scale orders, these scenes run through my imagination. It keeps me sane through the more tedious parts of it all, such as looking at one finished pile of shirts and realize it’s only “finished” 1/8th of the way. I always pretend myself as one of those drunk unwashed cooks- and get lost in the flow and repetition of my personal wax on wax offs.

Over the years the fashion industry changed, and my work with a rep slowed. The store orders through buyers gave way to a focus on internet sales. The larger orders disappeared- and by 2015 I was only making one-of-a-kinds through Etsy sales. Now I’m not making much of anything by hand. I would be crazy to keep doing it, because the Print On Demand world can make it all on a lot more products. Instead I now get to sit and watch over my girls while I focus on designs. It’s still work, but in a way only once, since you “set it and forget it”- by putting the finished made to order products out there and just letting people know where it is.

I prefer it this way to making one-of each by hand.

But all in all, my favorite way of doing things is still the larger orders. The sweating next to my shirt conveyor dryer. The ink on my pants. The work flow and blasting great music.

And once a year I get to dive back into that for one of my favorite groups of people, and through a subject matter that will be a constant source of inspiration to me for the rest of my life. It really doesn’t get better.

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The Learnening

Sometimes your personal learning process can take months instead of days. Onward.

C

I was having issues recreating my Love Nico designs in Illustrator. I’m not beating myself up about that- I just learned how to use it a few months ago, finally caving into something I managed to avoid for almost two decades. This program is a beast- so much so that it has actually BENT my Surface Book 2 from the heat. I’m serious. This expensive piece of sh*t now has curves in all the wrong places.

My issues weren’t with the program, though- nor were they stemming from any lack of knowledge in it. I took an amazing course through LinkedIn Learning and the teacher made sure I was well equipped to know how to achieve what I wanted.

I had to find out the hard way that my design skills were left behind in the dust of the current talent out there. My eye needed updating. So I practiced, tried, and tried again. And I looked at a lot of other artists’ work- particularly t-shirt designs.

After attempting a remake on about 8 old Love Nico designs, I finally started nailing it.

In the meantime I’ve already developed a different style for my “art” art, and those pieces are coming out the way I want. But they live on a different label, and therefore on different websites and online markets.

There will be a lot more Love Nico to come. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to bother keeping her alive (which is very obvious according to previous blog entries). But she’s getting upgraded. If I can look at a screen of my goods without a to do list of corrections- which is what’s finally happening- then I know I’m on the right track.

I think this is the first time I’m actually excited to work on Love Nico in years… it’s high time.

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Carmen’s Yemaya

Carmen's Yemaya
Carmen's Yemaya
Carmen’s Yemaya

A few years ago I worked at a small little occult bookshop in the East Village. It’s the oldest on the East Coast- lots of these places don’t survive the test of time (magicians have a tendency to argue with other magicians). Because of its age and long-term success it has become a staple of Manhattan. It’s called Enchantments. And it was my home away from home.

This was my second stint there- I had done several years starting back in 2001. Both times I was employed there my desire to make art exploded, and hand to canvas, my all-time favorite pieces came to life.

This piece was originally a 16″x16″ acrylic on canvas which I sold to a co-worker in 2016. I’m not going to say I didn’t deliberately create the thing for her. But that’s only half true- the other truth is that it was made through inspired channeling, of Carmen’s soul’s “profile pic”. Channeling art was something I could claim with a degree of normalcy whenever I worked there.

I chose this piece to be the first design in this new incarnation of Love Nico, for quite a few reasons. Most important of them is that I knew I wouldn’t be tempted to cut corners or rush- I’m translating photos of original paintings into very detailed, high resolution digital pieces. It’s time-consuming- but I’m tired of rushing my Love Nico designs out of desperation to make a buck. In all my years of experience, that hasn’t once panned out.

Yemaya is the Yoruba Orisha (or Goddess) of the Ocean . She represents fertility and motherhood, among many other things. To me she represents strength tempered with calm under a beautiful visage. I find it fitting to make this the first new Love Nico design since having my twin daughters.

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K.I.S.S. (keep it stupid, simple)

The Pinktastic Paintstick that made all those "GUNNED" shirts.

(keep it stupid, simple)

I hope I don’t have any people that are still following my work at the moment, because if I do, I must seem like the world’s biggest flake.

But I swear I re-built and then tore down a brand new e-commerce website and exchanged it for a blog for a reason. Several reasons, in fact.

I’m now a first time mother, and I had TWO kids at once- identical twin girls- so my time (and my funds) are quite limited.

After about a year into momhood I thought to myself- “Okay me, everything is settling, I should make use of all of this art and fashion crap lying around and bring in some income while working from home to the soothing sounds of Sesame Street.” Picture a slightly overweight 30-something in black stretch pants “thinking” out loud at a couple of wide-eyed baby creatures while flashing flash cards of the ABC’s from a treadmill, audible.com in one ear. The poor things, what are these girls in for man?

I did some homework and looked at my options, trying to come up with a game plan that would fit all of these massive changes in my life.

First of all, making everything myself (t-shirts, hoodies, and whatever else Love Nico used to offer online), at home, is absolutely not an option– too time consuming, too much effort for nowhere near enough money. That was out the window right away.

But I had been keeping track of the fascinating growth in the POD (Print on Demand) industry, and I had a pretty good sense of how much more has become possible. The biggest drawback used to be a lack of ability to recreate my apparel. Love Nico has always been printed flat on a table and eyeballed instead of using a silkscreen machine- this expanded the printing area of my shirts to wherever I wanted. Then there was the look and feel of my bleach and color remover distressing techniques. Now things have changed and POD offers All Over Prints, some of them cut & sew, too. This means I can translate my originals exactly. For about a fraction of the cost as it stood in 2005, 2006.

So a couple of months ago I built a brand new e-commerce website through Shopify, and added the POD providers I’d chosen (Printify). But- no.

There were several factors that made it necessary for me to include extra apps, such as specific shipping integration and fraud scanners- which incurred extra cost. I didn’t realize exactly how much my monthly bill would come to until I woke up with my “account overdrawn at early am” notification text. Well, shit.

I sat on it for another day and then somehow, amidst everything else going on in this house, my brain managed to come up with a new format for all of this.

1- have a blog

2- sell on other websites that don’t cost you billions of dollars

3- put links on your blog

4- sit back and pray

And here we are.

LOVE NICO is still a brand.

It’s still out there. I’m designing like crazy right now, and there are a ton of products to come. They just won’t be on this website.

They’ll be on Etsy, Redbubble, Amazon, and a few others.

As soon as I made this decision and set this site up today, luxurious thoughts had the room to flood back into my mind again. Thoughts like, “I should take a shower”. You know. Nice things. So I know I made the right choice. It’s far less headache and I can get back to doing what’s important- focusing on the quality of the designs- rather than feeling like my website’s too empty so I should rush crap up there and expect people to pay for it. Naw bro.

Also, why am I so concerned with recreating Love Nico as it was? I’ve always been a painter, and an illustrator, and that’s where my real talent lies. Print on demand services ALL offer great wall art options- gallery wrap canvases, posters, matted and framed pieces- so do I have to keep making those repetitive guitar t-shirts first? Can’t I get back to my roots, and draw up some farting unicorns?

You know what, I can. And I will. So this is the first step. You’re reading it.

For those of you who have stuck with me all this time, I seriously thank the hell out of you. You’re beautiful. I promise it’ll be worth it. Farting unicorns here we come!