Trying Screen Printing on for Size

Today Darren introduced me to a whole new world: the business of screen printing, otherwise known as silk screening. He learned the craft as a Graphic Design major in college and has designed and printed hundreds of his own t-shirts by hand. During my last visit in August, he designed a shirt for my grandpa’s birthday (see photos below) and demystified the process for me. Now when I see just about any t-shirt, I think, “I could make that!” I’ve never done crafty things like making jewelry or knitting, so I feel empowered knowing how to produce something useful.

I’d known that Darren had made a neat profit selling t-shirts at local festivals and a design shop he ran for about a year, but I hadn’t experienced it firsthand until now. Last night we stayed up late printing a few dozen shirts, mostly with his new “Buy Local” design, in advance of tonight’s Fondren Unwrapped event (see photo #53). At this annual festival in Jackson’s Fondren neighborhood, locals tour small businesses, sample food and wine, and buy arts and crafts. We set up an outdoor table and arranged our t-shirts and tote bags, as well as buttons and postcards made by Darren’s friends.

When I saw how quickly the t-shirts sold, and how much people appreciated their originality, my mind began to whir through the grand possibilities, as it usually does. We could screen print on anything — hoodies, picture frames, wooden boxes — and maybe I could actually use my silly turns of phrase for something other than Twitter updates. We made a couple hundred bucks in just a few hours and got several special order requests, and I know that we could do even better if we put in the effort.

Tonight’s lesson was not only that I could design t-shirts for a living, but rather that I don’t have to choose just one thing to do with myself. At different times in my life, I’ve pigeonholed myself as a journalist, an educator, and a nonprofiteer. I thought that I’d disappoint people if I didn’t devote myself to service, so I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else. In the past few months I’ve returned to square one, where I can see myself doing many things. Perhaps I’ll continue writing about education, while consulting for small businesses and doing screen printing on the side. Perhaps I’ll do only one of these things, do them each at some point in my life, or do none at all. Or maybe, as I say half-jokingly all the time, I’ll get a job at a hot dog stand and enjoy hanging out in the park all day. I have options. And I’m grateful to have the privilege of trying them on for size.



Your Two Cents: Leave a Comment!

What experience has inspired you to consider a new career option? Have any of these options challenged the way you think of yourself?

Comments (6)

  1. Gretchen

    I love the idea of doing multiple projects to make my living! I remember when I lived in India, I was impressed with how many streams of income my host family had. Now that I’ve designed my own product — the MuseCubes — I’m inspired by the idea of having an actual product to sell. Now I don’t always have to give away my time! So I love your insight about t-shirts…I can’t wait to see what designs you come up with. 🙂

  2. Melia

    Diversifying income streams has always appealed to me, because if one dries up, you can still depend on the others. You also have much more control over the projects you take on. On the other hand, it can be challenge to divide your focus and energy. As an all-or-nothing sort of person, I tend to dive in head first to whatever I choose to do.

    The MuseCubes rock, by the way. They seem like a great tool to get the creative energy flowing.

  3. sage

    This is like the true definition of “funemployment.” And it really was a good night to see how much the community appreciates stuff like a shirt made locally, supporting local businesses. People dig it. We need more.

  4. Casandra

    Ok, but the REAL QUESTION IS: when can I order my Reschool Yourself hoodie????

    Also, those Buy Local t’s are SWEET. Is there a website I can go to order shirts?

  5. Melia

    I was actually thinking about doing a Reschool Yourself hoodie and t-shirt. That’s definitely in the works. Also, Darren will be adding a PayPal button to his site soon, and in the meantime you can email him at and order one.

  6. Darren

    Everyone interested in the Buy Local shirts, I’ve added a store link to my site at: I have sizes small, medium and large currently, and am working on more size and color options soon.



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