You've seen catchphrases and cartoon characters emblazoned on cotton tees. But ever wondered how to create your own?
Enter Montage Clothing -- a Farmingdale screen-printing shop that offers monthly T-shirt-making classes, from a fun night out with BYO wine to a hands-on, eight-hour workshop for serious hobbyists.
"Everybody owns a T-shirt and not everybody knows how to make it," says Montage owner Greg Greco. "When people get to see the secret -- this his how Ed Hardy makes a T-shirt . . . they become a part of something bigger."
A DAY IN CLASS
Last month, about 16 people gathered around Greco at his industrial-like studio for an all-day introduction to the art of inking designs onto shirts. The shop is home to the only screen-printing classes in the state that are offered in collaboration with Ryonet -- a Vancouver, Wash.-based screen-printing supplier -- so it attracts students near and far.
The class for beginners is interactive but heavy on the nuts and bolts of screen printing, with slideshows and instruction on everything from how to prepare a screen to producing a print with crisp edges. On this day, the class split into two groups to practice creating prints of two pre-made designs.
Kemi Adeyeye, 23, holds a squeegee -- a flat tool with a rubber blade -- over her shirt as Greco gently directs, standing near the press. He often tells first-timers to apply more pressure downward or lean into the squeegee before scraping it across the screen at a 75-degree angle to spread the color evenly. In this case, Adeyeye is using black ink and a template with a design of a faceless man with a bird on his shoulder.
"I did this for the very first time and it came out pretty well, so I think it's something that anyone can really do," Adeyeye, of upstate Patterson, says later. She took the class so she could get an idea of what it takes to launch her own T-shirt line, she says.
For Alex Perez, 40, the class was a means to learn a new hobby. "If you're just curious about how it's done, it's a good learning experience," says Perez, of the Bronx, adding that he plans to create T-shirts with his young kids at home for fun.
Less intense is Montage's monthly two-hour T-shirt party, which is more about fuss-free fun with music playing in the background and BYO wine or beer encouraged. The printing presses are set up in advance and two or three instructors are on hand to help students along. Patrons can bring up to 10 of their own shirts (or purchase tees at Montage for $5-$15). They can choose from 16 predesigned templates to work on during the party with inks in various colors -- or they can arrange with Greco in advance to have their own design transferred for screen-printing.
"It was really a cool experience. Everybody was really friendly and encouraging," says Michelle Barretta, 31, of Roslyn, who attended a recent party night with her boyfriend and made a T-shirt that depicted the Statue of Liberty. Still, the strength required to push the screen is "harder than it looks," she says. "It's not like a paint brush."
The party was encouragement for raw vegan chef Chandra Lee to start her own clothing line in February with "Raw Foods Rock" shirts.
"T-shirts will never go out of style," says Lee, of Queens Village. "When you go into Bloomingdale's and see a T-shirt for $50, you can say, 'Oh my gosh, I can do it myself . . . for pennies on the dollar.' "
565 Broad Hollow Road, Suite 7E, Farmingdale
INFO 631-270-4800, montageclothing.com
CLASSES $75 for two-hour class (next offered June 5, BYOB) or $100 for in-depth class (9 a.m.-5 p.m. May 17, breakfast and lunch included)