Lincoln Apparel display at the Hickox Building at the 3rd Thursday Art Show, September 15, 2011

Lincoln Apparel’s display at the 3rd Thursday Art Show in the library of the Hickox Building, a Lincoln-era building at 518 E. Capitol on September 15, 2011.

This past June, I stopped in Andiamo! on 6th Street once while wearing my shiny new "Hair Metal Lincoln" T-shirt. The people working there that day complimented me on my shirt, and I told them that I designed it (and other Lincoln shirts) like I often do when someone says they like my shirt (I make it a point to always wear one of my shirts). They told me that on third Thursdays, there’s an art show at Andiamo! where I might be able to sell them. I handed them my card, had a nice discussion about art, and then left to go find out more about the show (the person in charge of it was not working at that time).

I later went back and Mandy (one of the people that helps run it) told me about the show and about the website, which is at www.thirdthursdayartshow.com. (They also have a Facebook page.) I looked over the website to find out how to get in, what it cost, etc. It turns out that it’s free and anyone of any talent level can bring in their work (not to mention – there’s great live music), so I figured I didn’t have anything to lose by trying it. Since it was past the third Thursday in June, I decided to try going there on the third Thursday in July.

I brought the 4 designs I feel are my best – "Hair Metal Lincoln", "80s Abe", "Young Mr. Lincoln", and "Back to Springfield" (those are my 4 favorites in no particular order). The nice people there helped set me up with a table in the back. I wasn’t getting a whole lot of traffic back there, so about halfway through the show a couple people helped me move the table with my shirts to a more visible spot behind the band. I sold 3 shirts after that. A woman by the name of Mandy (a different Mandy than the one who helps with the show) even put on the "Hair Metal Lincoln" shirt she bought right after she bought it. I asked her if it was OK for me to take a picture for my "Wearing Lincoln Apparel" section on my site and I did.

Mandy wearing Lincoln Apparel's "Hair Metal Lincoln" shirt at the 3rd Thursday Art Show on July 21, 2011

Mandy wearing Lincoln Apparel’s "Hair Metal Lincoln" shirt at the 3rd Thursday Art Show at Andiamo! on July 21, 2011. She looks great in that shirt, doesn’t she?

Even though it was slow at times (not many people know about this show) I enjoyed the experience. The people there were friendly, the music was great and it was fun talking to the other artists who were there and looking at the other art that was there. It was a much different atmosphere than the Old Capitol Farmer’s Market artisan area, where you more or less just sit in your booth and people come and look and if they want something, they’ll buy it. (Not saying I don’t enjoy being there either, I’ve met some great people at the market, just that Third Thursday is a different experience).

I was happy with the show, so I decided that I’d keep coming back and see how things unfold. Yesterday was my 3rd 3rd Thursday show, this time I was in the Hickox Building (a Lincoln-era home at 518 E. Capitol Avenue in downtown Springfield that contains Norb Andy’s in the basement). They added this location (in addition to Andiamo!) due to the number of artists. There is live music present at both locations.

Even though I only sold 2 shirts this past Thursday, I enjoyed being there. My shirts were in the library – it seemed like the perfect place for them. I got a lot of great comments on the shirts, and it seemed like a lot of people looked at them. It was fun to be in a Lincoln-era building I’ve never been in before. I explored the building and looked at the other art (I also went over to Andiamo! for a bit just to see what was there).

Kenzie wearing Lincoln Apparel's "80s Abe" shirt at the 3rd Thursday Art Show on September 15, 2011

Kenzie looking awesome in her new black "80s Abe" shirt at the 3rd Thursday Art Show in the Hickox Building on September 15, 2011.

One of the highlights of the evening for me was when a girl named Kenzie got one of my "80s Abe" shirts (her mother bought it for her, allowing her to pick which one she liked the best). I asked her if she’d be willing to pose in it for me and she did, and wore it around the rest of the show. She really seemed to love the shirt! I think it looks awesome on her, don’t you? (This picture is also in my "Wearing Lincoln Apparel" section now).

I also had a lot of fun talking to the other artists and people who were there again. I’m slowly getting to know them and maybe I’ll make some new friends there!

In any case, I’ll also likely be at the next Third Thursday on October 20th. I’ll probably be in the Hickox Building again. I’m glad I know about this now, I think it’s a great thing for artists in Springfield.

I’ve added the show to my Lincoln Apparel Local page now. Hope to see you there!

I will also be coming out with another new design – "Awesome Abraham Lincoln" – soon!

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"Hair Metal Lincoln" design by Lincoln Apparel

Lincoln Apparel’s shiny new "Hair Metal Lincoln" design. Rock on Lincoln! Copyright © 2011 Lincoln Apparel.

It’s summer and it’s time for a cool new Lincoln Apparel T-shirt – this time, one that features shiny blue metallic ink. It’s a fun T-shirt called "Hair Metal Lincoln", one that continues my style of creating colorful, modern, 80s-influenced Lincoln designs. I’ve already had a number of great comments on this shirt and I think it’ll do well!

The idea for this shirt came in February when I was celebrating Lincoln’s Birthday. I have a big Lincoln bust in my living room that I had decorated for the occasion with colorful ribbons. I looked at it and thought to myself, "this would make an awesome T-shirt". I hadn’t decided what to call it yet or how the theme of the design would work.

I thought that since the bust is bronze, that it’d be fun to make a T-shirt that had metallic foil on it for Lincoln’s face, so that it resembled a statue as opposed to a portrait. I hadn’t done that before and I wanted to try it. Shiny ink and colorful ribbons certainly fit with the style of T-shirts that I like to create.

I didn’t think of a name for the design until I brainstormed a bit after I started working on it. "Hair Metal Lincoln" just kind of came to me while I was thinking of names, since the ribbons reminded me of the "hair metal" bands from the late 80s. It certainly sounded clever and fit with the theme of my work, so I kept it.

I also initially played with different colors of foil for Lincoln’s face. Bronze felt way too neutral for the design, so I had to make it something else that would fit. I settled on blue, thinking it would look cool with bluish highlights in the background (reflecting off of Lincoln’s face) to fit with the "hair metal" theme (as if Lincoln was part of a rock band performing live on stage). It went along well with all the other colors, so I decided to use blue, and I think it turned out awesome!

Closeup of "Hair Metal Lincoln" design by Lincoln Apparel

A closeup shot of the "Hair Metal Lincoln" design. Copyright © 2011 Lincoln Apparel.

"Hair Metal Lincoln" is my first Lincoln design that is based on a 3D object (a bust) rather than a 2D image (like a portrait of Lincoln). To convert everything to 2D so that I could use it as a design, I took a photo of the bust and worked off of that. Because metallic foil can only be one single color and cannot contain gradients, I had to take Lincoln’s face and convert it down to one color, with large, clear areas of solid color. I had to do this without destroying the detail in Lincoln’s face. In the end I had to redraw much of Lincoln’s face by hand so that it looked correct, since simply reducing a photo to one color typically leaves lots of “residue” or destroys the detail (or both).

I spent a lot of time on this design and as one of my most colorful, shiny designs to date, I think people will love it. Like my other designs, it fills the front of the shirt ("Hair Metal Lincoln" is 17×22 inches, about the same size as "Young Mr. Lincoln"). The shiny ink is fun, it gives the design an added "punch" and it looks different under different lighting conditions. "Hair Metal Lincoln" is already available at Springfield Novelties and Gifts (near 6th and Monroe in historic downtown Springfield) and at the Old Capitol Farmer’s Market artisan area on days when I’m there, so come check it out!

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Lincoln Apparel 2010 Springfield Farmer's Market Display

Me, last year at the artisan area at the Old Capitol Farmer’s Market, showing my Lincoln T-shirts. That’s me wearing the blue "Back to Springfield" T-shirt – there’s still a few of those shirts left if you like them!

Last year, I was at the artisan area at the Old Capitol Farmer’s Market and, despite some incredibly hot days, it was a lot of fun, so I’ll be doing it again this year!

This year, I plan to be at the artisan area at the market (which is located at the southeast corner of 4th and Adams Streets in historic downtown Springfield) every Saturday in June, the first, third, and last Saturday of every month from July to September, and the first and third Saturdays in October. Here’s the full schedule (you can find it on the Local page on the Lincoln Apparel website too):

  • Saturday, June 4, 2011, from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, June 11, 2011, from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, June 18, 2011, from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, June 25, 2011, from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, July 2, 2011, from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, July 16, 2011, from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, July 30, 2011, from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, August 6, 2011, from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, August 20, 2011, from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, August 27, 2011, from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, September 3, 2011, from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, September 17, 2011, from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, September 24, 2011, from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, October 1, 2011, from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, October 15, 2011, from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

This year, I hope to have a tent so that I’m not sitting out in the sun all the time like last year, and so that I can make a better display with my T-shirts. I’d love to hang some from the sides and/or the roof so that people can truly get a feel for my awesomely huge, colorful, and artistic designs. I plan to make up some neat signs, too, that detail how my shirts are designed locally and are American made, a blog review or two of my shirts, and that have Lincoln Apparel’s new slogan, “T-shirts Lincoln would believe in” (I thought of it myself).

Of course, I plan to have my little CD player and portable speakers set up so I can play some cool 80s tunes again – I love it, it’s lots of fun and goes along well with my shirts – and speaking of shirts, I’ll have some new designs this year, in addition to old favorites like "80s Abe" and "Purpose". I’m working on getting my next design, “Hair Metal Lincoln”, printed as I write this, and hopefully it’ll be done by the end of May. It’s going to be the first Lincoln Apparel shirt to have shiny metallic ink – and it will look awesome! I’ll make a post about them when they’re done.

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"Young Mr. Lincoln" design by Lincoln Apparel, with the Original 80s Colors color scheme

Lincoln Apparel’s latest T-shirt, "Young Mr. Lincoln", features bright colors and lines and a vibrant portrait of Abraham Lincoln – perfect for celebrating Lincoln’s Birthday. Copyright © 2010 Lincoln Apparel.

Saturday is Lincoln’s Birthday, so be sure to celebrate it! Here is a list of all of the events I can find in Springfield for Lincoln’s 202nd Birthday. Note that all of these are free, unless otherwise noted. Be sure to check out my Lincoln T-shirts at Springfield Novelties and Gifts, 229 S. 6th St. (near Monroe Street) in historic downtown Springfield while you’re attending, they’d be perfect for this (or any) occasion!

Thursday, February 10th, 2011:

  • 7 pm – "Tad Lincoln’s Father", a one-woman performance, will be showing at the Vachel Lindsay Home at 5th and Edwards. A light dessert will precede it at 6:30.

Friday, February 11th, 2011:

  • 9 am – "Lincoln’s Emotional Life" discussion with Lincoln author Michael Burlingame at Lincoln Land Community College Trutter Center.
  • 9 am – The kickoff to the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s inaugural trip in 1861 begins at Grace Lutheran Church at 7th and Capitol (near the Lincoln Home Visitor Center); Springfield Lincoln re-enactor Fritz Klein will be portraying Abraham Lincoln.
  • 10:30 am – Lincoln (portrayed by Fritz Klein) will depart from his home at 8th and Jackson to head for the Great Western Railroad depot at 10th and Monroe, where he will leave his hometown of Springfield for his inaugural journey to Washington, DC.
  • 11 am – A simultaneous reading of Lincoln’s Farewell Address (one of his most beautiful speeches, in my opinion) will occur at the Great Western Depot (now known as the Lincoln Depot). There will be an attempt to break the world record for the most people reading the same document aloud simultaneously, so people across the country are being asked to recite it, too. (The world record is 223,363 participants reading aloud from "Charlotte’s Web" in 2006.) You can participate here: http://www.state.il.us/streaming/hpa/hpa-live.asx or on the Springfield State Journal-Register’s website here: http://extras.sj-r.com/r/depot

    A similar attempt was made in 2009 with the Gettysburg Address, but it fell short. Note that since the Farewell Address is even shorter than the Gettysburg Address, the document will be read multiple times, because the Guinness Book of World Records requires the reading to be at least 5 minutes long.

  • 12:00 noon – "Jameson Jenkins: The Man Lincoln Knew", a presentation at the Lincoln Land Community College East Campus near 15th and Cook, will show Abraham Lincoln and Jameson Jenkins, a conductor on the Underground Railroad who lived in Lincoln’s neighborhood, helped slaves escape to freedom. Jason Boyd will be portraying Jameson Jenkins.
  • 1 pm – "Women’s 1860s Clothing", a presentation on the clothing styles and fashion of the 1860s, will occur at the Lincoln Home Visitor’s Center at 7th and Jackson.
  • 1 pm – "Children’s Toys of the 1860s" – also at the Lincoln Home Visitor’s Center, a presentation and demonstration of toys kids played with in Lincoln’s time (including toys the Lincolns played with).
  • 2 pm – Mary Lincoln re-enactor Pam Brown will reminisce about her life in Springfield at the Lincoln Home Visitor’s Center in a program entitled "Mary Lincoln’s Memories".
  • 3 pm – "Never Lose Sight of Freedom", a short film about the Civil Rights movement, will be shown at the Lincoln Home Visitor’s Center.
  • 6:30 pm – The Abraham Lincoln Association’s keynote speaker, Michael Holt, will discuss "Lincoln’s Mistakes as President Elect" at Brookens Auditorium at UIS.
Lincoln Apparel "Back to Springfield" T-shirt - Red

A few of my colorful "Back to Springfield" Lincoln T-shirts, originally done for the Lincoln Bicentennial, are still left – and they’re perfect for Lincoln’s Birthday. Copyright © 2008 Lincoln Apparel.

Saturday, February 12th, 2011 – Lincoln’s 202nd Birthday:

  • 8:30 am – the annual Painter Lectures at the Lincoln Home. This year, Lincoln’s relationship with three central Illinois communities – Bloomington, Pittsfield, and Charleston – will be discussed by Guy Fraker, Wayne Temple, and the staff of the Lincoln Log Cabin State Historic Site, respectively. The Springfield African American History Foundation will be discussed by Douglas King.
  • 8:30 to 11:30 – Robert Bray will sign copies of his book "Reading with Lincoln" at the Lincoln Home Visitor’s Center
  • 10 am to 3 pm – Abraham Lincoln Birthday Party at the National Museum of Surveying, which opened late last year on the north side of the Old State Capitol square on the 500 block of East Washington Street.
  • 11 am – Annual American Legion pilgrimage to the Lincoln Tomb
  • 11 am – Annual Abraham Lincoln Association Symposium at the Old State Capitol. This year, "Lincoln and the Election of 1860" will be discussed by Jonathan Earle, and "Lincoln, Civil Liberties and Dissent" will be discussed by Jonathan White.
  • 1 pm – Abraham Lincoln Association luncheon. Russell McClintock will discuss "Lincoln and the Coming of the War". This is sold out.
  • 2 pm – Valentine Open House at the Vachel Lindsay Home hosted by Mary Lincoln’s sister, Ann (portrayed by Kathy Reed); period refreshments will be served. At 2:45, Ann will reminisce about her relationship with Mary and her family.
  • 2:30 pm – Abraham Lincoln Symposium Roundtable at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library featuring speakers Jonathan Earle, Michael Holt, Russell McClintock, and Jonathan White (with Brooks Simpson as moderator).
  • 2:30 pm – Annual VFW pilgrimage to the Lincoln Tomb
  • 5 pm – Reception to benefit the endowment for the Abraham Lincoln Association at the Crowne Plaza Hotel ($75)
  • 6:30 pm – The annual Abraham Lincoln Association Banquet at the Crowne Plaza Hotel featuring Allen Guelzo, author of "Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation" (a book I have – I believe it won the Lincoln Prize) and "Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President". The State Journal Register says this costs $85, a few tickets are still available, and I’m not sure if the $85 includes the $75 for the reception or not. The ALA website (via the above link) makes it look as if the $75 is for the whole thing. I’m also not sure why they don’t hold it at the President Abraham Lincoln Hotel downtown like they used to.

Sunday, February 13th, 2011:

  • 8:30 am – Lincoln’s Birthday Worship Service at the First Presbyterian Church (the church the Lincolns attended, at 7th and Capitol)

That’s all the events that I know of. I’ll likely be at many of them, including the Painter Lectures, the Symposium and the simultaneous reading of the Farewell Address. In fact, I would’ve come out with a Farewell Address Lincoln T-shirt design but over the holidays I forgot about it and now it’s a little late. I’ll probably still do one anyway because I like that speech. Right now I’m working on getting the "Purpose" design reprinted – there will be new colors added to the design this time – I’ll let you know about that and other plans for Lincoln Apparel this year after the holiday weekend. Have fun on Lincoln’s Birthday this year and be sure to check out – and wear – my Lincoln Apparel T-shirts!

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"Young Mr. Lincoln" design by Lincoln Apparel, with the Original 80s Colors color scheme

The new "Young Mr. Lincoln" T-shirt with the "Original 80s Colors" color scheme. Copyright © 2010 Lincoln Apparel.

As I promised before, by the holiday season I’d have my new "Young Mr. Lincoln" T-shirts available for purchase. The day before Thanksgiving, I updated the Lincoln Apparel website with the new shirts, so take a look at them!

The T-shirts feature the rockin’ bright colors and complex artwork I am known for and come in two color combinations – “Original 80s Colors” (the first color scheme I thought of for the design) and “Illinois Colors” (featuring blue and orange, colors that represent Lincoln’s home state). More color schemes may be available in the future. I may actually limit the amount of shirts made with each color scheme, to make each “Young Mr. Lincoln” T-shirt more unique.

“Young Mr. Lincoln” is my biggest design yet – at 17×22 inches, it fills up the entire front of an adult small T-shirt, and looks awesome on bigger sizes, too. The design features colorful, vibrant artwork that I created, and is based on the earliest known photo of Lincoln, taken in 1846. The design is meant to bring out the energy of Lincoln’s Springfield years, as these were some of the best years of his life. I used lots of different colored lines to create the picture of Lincoln that is on the shirt. The lines in the background are areas where the original 1846 negative was scratched. Rather than remove the scratches, I decided to keep them and make them into colored lines to make the design feel more energetic.

"Young Mr. Lincoln" design by Lincoln Apparel, with the Illinois Colors color scheme

The new "Young Mr. Lincoln" T-shirt with the "Illinois Colors" color scheme. Copyright © 2010 Lincoln Apparel.

Finishing up the design is Lincoln’s signature, and the text “The Young Springfieldian”, to state who and where Lincoln was at this point in his life. All variants of the design are screen printed onto 100% cotton, black American Apparel T-shirts. Like my other T-shirts, these T-shirts are made in the U.S.A. and sweatshop free, the way Lincoln would want them.

You can read more about the creation of this shirt in my previous post. In addition to my website, the new “Young Mr. Lincoln” shirts (along with all of my other T-shirts) should be available at Springfield Novelties and Gifts located at 229 S. 6th Street (near Monroe Street) in historic downtown Springfield very soon.

Happy holidays, everyone, and I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving, too. Enjoy the new shirts, and I hope you all thanked Abraham Lincoln for providing us with a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!

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"Young Mr. Lincoln" design by Lincoln Apparel, featuring an 80s color scheme

The new"Young Mr. Lincoln" design by Lincoln Apparel, featuring a 1980s color scheme. (Note that this is just a mockup – I plan to have the shirts printed by Thanksgiving.)

"Young Mr. Lincoln" design by Lincoln Apparel, featuring an Illinois color scheme

A version of the "Young Mr. Lincoln" design featuring Illinois colors. This design will likely end up being printed in several different color schemes.

Now that it’s fall and the busy summer season has winded down, I’ve had more time to work on new Lincoln Apparel designs. I’ve been wanting to make more designs for awhile; my last new design was “Wide Awake Club” which I created in March and finally had printed in July.

I recently completed my “Young Mr. Lincoln” design, which is in the process of being printed right now. The design is a return to the bright colors and complex artwork that has defined Lincoln Apparel since the beginning, and that has become one of the most beloved qualities of my work. While I like what I did with “Wide Awake Club” I feel looking back it at it that the colors are kind of bland compared to the rest of my work (though necessarily so, since it’s supposed to resemble a campaign T-shirt).

I thought of the Young Mr. Lincoln design one day in the summer while looking at a poster I have that shows Lincoln at various ages in his life. The first picture on the poster is of Lincoln from 1846 – the earliest known photo of Lincoln; and the last is the famous “cracked plate” Alexander Gardner portrait of Lincoln from 1865 – the last known photo of Lincoln and the photo on which my “Back to Springfield” design is based. I wanted to make a brightly colored, vibrant, energetic shirt based on that early photo of Lincoln, which was taken when Lincoln was only 37, during his Springfield years which were probably the best years of his life.

When that photo was taken, Lincoln had been married for about 4 years, and their first two sons, Robert, and Eddie, had been born. They had bought their house at Eighth and Jackson Streets here in Springfield and had been living in it for 2 years. Lincoln was practicing law, and was running for a U.S. House seat at the time (which he would later win), which was likely the impetus for the photo (since portraits were rarely taken of people in the mid-19th century unless they were somehow important). Lincoln had escaped the poverty of his youth by this time, but he did not yet have to deal with the later deaths of his sons Eddie and Willie or the constant stress and sorrow of the Civil War.

Abraham Lincoln in 1846

Abraham Lincoln in 1846. This is the earliest known photo of Abraham Lincoln, taken when he was 37 years old, during his Springfield years which were likely the best years of his life.

I wanted to make a shirt that captured the energy of those good years in Lincoln’s life. I did this by using the bright, youthful, energetic 80s-inspired colors that I love and that strongly influence my work (after all, those were the best years of my life) and by creating a “hand-drawn” effect using thick lines of different colors to create the picture. Instead of removing the scratches from the picture (there are a lot of them if you look at that photo of Lincoln from 1846), I decided instead to make them part of the design – that’s where all those extra colored lines in the background come from (some of them also run into parts of Lincoln’s face). They make the design even more complex and energetic, resembling the fireworks in “Back to Springfield” in some ways. A lot of work was put into this design hand-drawing all of the lines that are in it.

Once I completed the design, I thought it would be neat to create multiple color combinations out of it. I created 4 different color combinations; however, only 2 will be printed at first. The first color combination features 80s colors – electric blue, neon red, and light bright green. The second one features orange and blue, the state colors of Illinois. I may create even more color combinations in the future. Like most of my other designs, this is a design that fills the entire front of the shirt, turning it into a big work of art. I hope to have the shirts printed and up on my site by Thanksgiving. Enjoy!

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Bill Nash, owner of AbesBlogCabin.org, wearing Lincoln Apparel's black "Back to Springfield" T-shirt

Bill Nash, owner of AbesBlogCabin.org, wearing Lincoln Apparel’s black "Back to Springfield" T-shirt.

In late August somebody then unknown to me purchased one of my black "Back to Springfield" Lincoln T-shirts. At first I just thought it was a "regular" sale until I sent him an email acknowledging his order (which I do for every sale). In this email I thank people for their order and politely ask (unless it’s someone that’s ordered from me before) how they found out about my T-shirts.

Not everybody responds, but this time it led to a friendly email exchange with Bill Nash, who hails from Michigan and runs Abe’s Blog Cabin, a Lincoln blog I did not know about yet. He offered to review the T-shirt on his blog. I looked at his blog and I liked what I saw. He is passionate and knowledgeable about Lincoln and writes about him in an easy to understand manner, with a goal to "provide interesting material, mostly gleaned from my experiences of years learning about Lincoln". He seems to touch on subjects that just aren’t discussed on other Lincoln blogs, in fact, he states on his "about" page that he blogs "with the intention of not creating another Lincoln site filled with facts and data." He often has guest posters ask questions about Lincoln. Like me, he’s involved with Lincoln organizations like the Abraham Lincoln Association (which is based here in Springfield).

I feel he does an excellent job blogging about Lincoln and his memory, so I felt I’d give him a shout-out here on my blog. I’ve added a link to his blog in my list of Lincoln blogs in my blog’s sidebar.

Be sure to read his review of my black "Back to Springfield" T-shirt (he’s wearing it in the picture). I think he looks great in the shirt, don’t you? He also posted a great photo of the shirt to my "Wearing Lincoln Apparel" page (if you have one of my T-shirts, I’d encourage you to do the same if you haven’t already).

Anyways, I’d encourage you to read his blog at AbesBlogCabin.org, and thanks, Bill, for helping spread Lincoln and his legacy, both through your new Lincoln Apparel T-shirt and your blog!

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Lincoln Apparel "Equality" T-shirt

"Equality", the first Lincoln Apparel T-shirt. Copyright © 2009 Lincoln Apparel.

In September of last year, I officially registered Lincoln Apparel as a business. I had finally decided that after my success earlier that year with my “Back to Springfield” and “Equality” designs, that I’d take my artistic Lincoln T-shirts seriously and turn them into a clothing line. I had always loved creating Lincoln T-shirts; I feel they are a great way to spread Lincoln and his legacy, and their large canvas size makes them perfect for creating large, colorful, complex wearable art.

The month prior, I had set up an Etsy store, and later, my own website, with the one design I had printed to sell on line at the time – “Equality”. It wasn’t long until I made my own run of “Back to Springfield” shirts (my most popular design in 2009) to sell on my own website and elsewhere.

"Back to Springfield" T-shirt (Black) by Lincoln Apparel

"Back to Springfield" is the second Lincoln Apparel T-shirt, and is when I started to have all of my shirts made in the USA. Copyright © 2008 Lincoln Apparel.

That run of shirts is when I decided to have all of my shirts be American made, and printed as close to Springfield as possible. I didn’t like how so many of the shirts for sale in Springfield are cheaply made in China or other third world countries (likely with sweatshop labor), nor did I like how so many of them are poorly designed by large companies who probably have never even been to Springfield. I wanted my shirts to be high quality, something that would still look and feel great after many washings. And with the economy being the way it was (and still is) I thought it was time to focus on our own prosperity, so with all of these factors in mind, I decided I’d make my T-shirts right here in the USA, in ways in which Lincoln would approve of – no sweatshop labor or anything. I wanted my Lincoln T-shirt line to be something Lincoln would be proud of, something that respects his legacy, something people would wear and that he would want to see other people wearing – and NOT something that Lincoln would have a moral problem with. I just don’t think Lincoln would sleep well at night knowing that T-shirts with his image on it are being produced with the very thing he fought so hard against – slavery.

Lincoln Apparel "Immortal Words at Gettysburg" T-shirt

"Immortal Words at Gettysburg", the third Lincoln Apparel T-shirt. This is the second and current version of the shirt, which features a printthat fills the front of the shirt. Copyright © 2009 Lincoln Apparel.

So, I eagerly posted the new run of made-in-the-USA “Back to Springfield” shirts to my website (after taking out the extra shirts I ordered for myself to wear, something I always do with each design), and gradually posted them to my Etsy store (since I read on the Etsy forums that it’s not a good idea to post everything at once). I did the same in late October of last year for my 3rd design, “Immortal Words at Gettysburg”.

It’s hard to believe that at this time last year I was only selling two designs through my website and Etsy. Lincoln Apparel has now grown to 6 designs, and my shirts are available locally now as well. Some highlights from the past year:

  • Mid-November 2009: My shirts begin to be carried by Springfield Novelties and Gifts on 6th Street, near Monroe Street, in historic downtown Springfield, on a special order basis. This included all three of the designs I had at the time – “Equality”, “Back to Springfield” (in all 3 color variants), and “Immortal Words at Gettysburg”.
  • Late November 2009: I sell my first shirt under the Lincoln Apparel name, an “Immortal Words at Gettysburg” T-shirt to someone from Ireland. The sale was made on my Etsy store. I was ecstatic when it happened. It still gives me a great sense of pride and excitement to this day whenever I sell one of my T-shirts. It makes me feel like I’m furthering my mission to spread Lincoln and his legacy, through my artistic T-shirts.
  • "80s Abe" Lincoln T-shirt

    "80s Abe", the fourth Lincoln Apparel T-shirt, and the most popular. I feel this shirt, and "Back to Springfield", are the best representations of the Lincoln Apparel style. Copyright © 2009 Lincoln Apparel.

  • December 2009: I come up with my “80s Abe” design. The design was literally something I thought of after looking at that “crew cut” portrait of Lincoln in one of my Lincoln books as I was falling asleep. I remembered it after I woke up the following morning, and felt that it would be cool to make an 80s-style “full front print” Lincoln design out of it. Over the following days I spent many hours (and a lot of fun) working on the design, combining my Lincoln interest with my 80s interest. Due to the Christmas holiday it was not printed until January, and it became my first design of 2010. It is now my most popular design, and one of the designs that (along with “Back to Springfield”) I am the most proud of. “80s Abe” and “Back to Springfield” both share the bright colors and large, complex, detailed artwork that typify my designs, and I feel they represent my work the best.
  • March 2010: My 5th design, “Purpose”, is created. Like “80s Abe”, it’s a full front print shirt, as are all of my designs from “80s Abe” and this design onward. I was going through a rough couple of weeks and decided to create an inspiring Lincoln T-shirt. It also became my first women’s T-shirt. The original design featured pink highlights in Lincoln’s face and hair, so I created a turquoise version for guys after the original one was finished. The shirt remains more popular amongst women than men (my other designs I sell about equally to both men and women). Also this month, my main site’s traffic and sales surpass Etsy, which suffers a traffic nosedive this month.
  • "Purpose" Lincoln T-shirt

    "Purpose", the fifth Lincoln Apparel T-shirt. Shown is the original design, using pink colors, made into a women’s T-shirt. A men’s version, using turquoise, was also made. Copyright © 2010 Lincoln Apparel.

  • April 2010: I apply to become an artisan in the artisan area of the Old Capitol Farmer’s Market. I find out later that month that I am accepted. I’m excited (and nervous) to do my first craft fairs.
  • June 2010: Springfield Novelties and Gifts begins stocking my T-shirts (all 5 of my designs, and all the color variants). No longer are they only on special order. They begin to sell rather well there, and at the market which begins this month. In fact, due to selling locally my sales explode by 10-fold. I also have “Immortal Words at Gettysburg” reprinted as a full front print design, the way it was originally intended. (Most of the original shirts had sold out by this point). Due to my presence at the Old Captiol Farmer’s Market I also get noticed by the Abraham Lincoln Observer, a Springfield blog at the State Journal Register newspaper, who interviews me about my Lincoln T-shirts (though he does not have one yet – tsk tsk).
  • July 2010: I come out with my 6th design, “Wide Awake Club”. I designed it in the spring to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s election in 1860. I just didn’t have the money to print it until now.
  • Lincoln Apparel "Wide Awake Club" T-shirt

    "Wide Awake Club", the sixth and latest Lincoln Apparel design. Copyright © 2010 Lincoln Apparel.

  • August 2010: “80s Abe” sells so well that I get it reprinted and add a new color – yellow.

And finally, some observations and things I’ve learned in the past year:

  • All of my designs so far have sold well overall. I have yet to have one that turned out to be a dud.
  • While my T-shirts remain the most popular amongst people who are relatively young (in their 20s or 30s), I’ve sold to people of all ages. You’re never too old to love a good artistic Lincoln T-shirt.
  • Different designs sell well in different places. I have some that sell well at the market, some that do well at Springfield Novelties, and some that do well on my site. What sells well at one venue won’t at another, and vice versa. It’s helped me greatly to diversify selling venues.
  • Selling locally generates lots of exposure and sales and doing shows allows you to see how people react to your designs. It’s also very much helped legitimize Lincoln Apparel and make people realize it is a serious T-shirt line created by a serious T-shirt artist. I’ve even had other shops contact me due to my local presence – maybe some of them will start carrying my shirts in the future. I can’t imagine how much I’d still be struggling if I only sold online.
  • Lincoln Apparel at the Old Capitol Farmer's Market in June.

    Lincoln Apparel at the Old Capitol Farmer’s Market in June.

  • Generating attention online is very difficult. I didn’t sell in significant amounts until I started to sell locally. One of my biggest mistakes was spending 100 hours or so on Facebook and Twitter earlier this year (and late last year) talking about Lincoln and trying to get the right people to notice my Lincoln T-shirts. I learned that those sites are mostly a (very frustrating) waste of time, filled with chit chat and white noise. “Social networking” (in the modern sense of the term) is an oxymoron. It’s hard to get replies to anything you say, and everybody writes stuff (often the most mundane things), but nobody reads anything. So much for the much hyped “ineraction” in “social media”. This is in stark contrast to forums and message boards I’ve participated in, and blogs I’ve commented on and read. I maintain a minimal presence on Twitter now (I’ve got a few Lincoln friends there), and I quit Facebook in February. I absolutely love to spend the time I’ve saved by not using “social” sites on new designs and other Lincoln related creative projects, or on fun activities out in the city, not to mention I feel better too, since I don’t have to care about how many online “friends” I have, or wonder why somebody’s post about what they had for dinner gets more attention than my post about Lincoln. As Lincoln said, "This habit of uselessly wasting time, is the whole difficulty; and it is vastly important to you [...] that you should break this habit." I wish the whole “social networking is free, it only takes time, you gotta be there or else” proponents would listen to Lincoln and realize that time is the most important resource.
  • Etsy never worked out for me. My main site, lincolnapparel.com, does the vast majority of my online traffic and sales now (over 90% of it). I thought that Etsy would take off first and that my main site would take longer, but that wasn’t the case – it took all of two weeks after my first sale on Etsy to get my first sale on my main site (and that was for two shirts, not just one). I started to realize after my traffic crashed in March there that it might not work out, and during the busy summer tourist season I pretty much quit doing anything on Etsy (unless I got a sale). I was never able to get my shop to take off, but my main site always had steadily increasing traffic and sales. I started to realize Etsy was more expensive than my main site, with a lot less control – 20 cents to list something for 4 months plus 3.5% commission if it sells. And there’s no size dropdowns for T-shirts, so that makes listing things there a pain. To list my entire inventory over there (all the size and color variants) now would be over $15 for only 4 months, and if a shirt sells, I have to pay about $1 extra for the 3.5% commission. I’m not selling anywhere near $15 worth of listings every 4 months on Etsy so most of that is wasted. To top it all off, Etsy doesn’t properly advertise, and as a result a lot of people don’t know about Etsy and are confused about what it is or how to spell it, so my main site is trusted more. I can list as much as I want on my main site for $10/month, and only pay PayPal fees when I sell something, and as my site has become more well known, that cost has more than paid for itself.
  • It’s one of the greatest feelings to see people in your shirts. It’s part of why I made a “Wearing Lincoln Apparel” page – so that people can show off their purchases. If you have one of my shirts I’d love it if you added your picture to the page!
The Wearing Lincoln Apparel page.

The Wearing Lincoln Apparel page as it looked on October 4, 2010

So, what’s the next year going to be like? I hope it’s even better than the last one! I plan to release my next design, tentatively titled “Young Abe Lincoln”, sometime this month, which will be the first design that includes long-sleeve shirts. "Equality" and "Back to Springfield" will eventually get replaced by new designs, once they start to sell out. I’m not sure what will happen to my Etsy shop, but my main site at lincolnapparel.com will always be there, and contain my full selection of T-shirts. I think I might list a few popular shirts on Etsy for the Christmas season, then close it, or maybe just keep a minimal amount of shirts there “just in case” somebody finds me there. I also plan to look for other shows in Springfield, particularly towards Christmas time, where I can sell my shirts, and at other shops here that might be interested in my shirts also. Hopefully next year, you’ll be able to find my shirts in more places!

And, lastly, thanks to all of my customers, both local and online, in the past year who have purchased Lincoln Apparel T-shirts and helped make Lincoln Apparel a success. I appreciate every one of you. You’re supporting a small, local artist who lives in Mr. Lincoln’s Hometown who is dedicated to keeping Lincoln and his memory, and his legacy, alive. Thank you!

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Lincoln Apparel "Wide Awake Club" T-shirt

Lincoln Apparel’s new "Wide Awake Club" T-shirt, intended to look like how a Lincoln campaign T-shirt might have in 1860. Copyright © 2010 Lincoln Apparel.

This has been a busy summer so far for Lincoln Apparel, and I’m enjoying it. I’ve released two new designs – "Wide Awake Club", which was created for the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s election this year, and a yellow version of my popular "80s Abe" T-shirt, which has also been reprinted and restocked in its three original colors as well (no longer are any of the sizes "temporarily out of stock"). All of these shirts are now available on the Lincoln Apparel website, as well as locally at Springfield Novelties and Gifts on 6th Street and at the Old Capitol Farmer’s Market artisan area each Saturday.

The “Wide Awake Club” T-shirt has a lot of history behind it, and it was designed to resemble an 1860 Lincoln campaign banner or poster. In fact, during the creation of the shirt, I researched what many of these looked like, and incorporated their design style or elements into the design.

Before you ask, the "Wide Awakes" were localized, grassroots groups of young Lincoln supporters during the 1860 presidential campaign, thus the name of the T-shirt (and the reason why it says "Wide Awake Club"). I’ve already gotten asked this quite a bit, and I enjoy educating people about this (and other bits) of Lincoln history (my T-shirts do make great conversational pieces!). In fact, the "Wide Awakes" themselves had their own banners, with each club having a different design that was specific to their locality. One such banner is on display in the Old State Capitol, near the governor’s office. (It reads "LINCOLN, 3rd Ward, Mind Your Eye, WIDE AWAKES", and there is a picture of this Wide Awakes banner here.)

Now, obviously, with one T-shirt design it wouldn’t be possible to create a T-shirt for each specific locality (since I’d need to create a different design for each locality), so I had to settle for making a non-localized design. I based the design off of a picture of Lincoln often used during his 1860 Presidential campaign – the famous "Cooper Union" portrait, taken in February of 1860 in New York City, during a trip where he gave a famous speech that helped convince Easterners, and the nation, that he was a serious contender for President.

Closeup of the "Wide Awake Club" design

Closeup of the new "Wide Awake Club" Lincoln T-shirt by Lincoln Apparel. Copyright © 2010 Lincoln Apparel.

Now, in 1860, the process of "halftoning" – using dots of different sizes to print photographs and other images with gradients – had not been invented yet. So instead of using a photograph and having it printed with halftones on the shirt, I used a lithograph instead, which is what would have been printed in newspapers and on posters and the like in 1860. I artistically divided it into red and blue colors, since I knew I was going to use those patriotic colors for my design. I then focused on other common elements used in Lincoln election propoganda in 1860 – slogans like "Honest Old Abe" and "Railsplitter of the West", and imagery related to Lincoln’s frontier roots and his "Railsplitter" moniker, which I added into the lower portion of the design, under the lower half of the oval-shaped portrait of Lincoln.

Finishing up the design, I added 33 stars above the portrait of Lincoln – one for each state in the Union in 1860. (In fact, the flag that flies above the Old State Capitol is a 33 star flag – otherwise, it wouldn’t be fully restored to its 1860 appearance.) Finally, I added the text, "ABRAHAM LINCOLN for President 1860", below all of the artwork. I used fonts that were in common use on posters and banners 1860 for this and the other textual elements of the design.

All of these design elements come together to create a new original design, that resembles an 1860 Lincoln campaign poster or banner, and translates to the T-shirt medium well. Not that wearing something to support your candidate was necessarily new back then – people wore ribbons, typically emblazoned with their candidate’s picture, to support their candidate, just how nowadays, people wear T-shirts and buttons. So, in a lot of ways, the campaign T-shirt is the descendant of the campaign ribbon, except it’s bigger, like a banner. I can easily see Lincoln supporters wearing this T-shirt in 1860 if T-shirts existed then. (You can read more about the 1860 election in this post).

However, now you can show your support for Lincoln today (don’t you wish he could be president sometimes?) by wearing this T-shirt. It’s a cream colored T-shirt, instead of a white one, to make it feel old and authentic. Cool, isn’t it?

Yellow "80s Abe" Lincoln T-shirt by Lincoln Apparel

The new yellow "80s Abe" Lincoln T-shirt. The other three colors have been reprinted too, and are now in stock again. Copyright ©2009 Lincoln Apparel.

And speaking of cool stuff, my popular "80s Abe" T-shirt, representing a Lincoln for a different past era, one I love and that I grew up in, has been reprinted and is now in stock again. (You can read more about the creation of the "80s Abe" T-shirt here.) This time, I added a new color – yellow – in addition to the black, blue, and green colors, and the sizes now start at small instead of medium, since I’ve had people ask me why I don’t have any small. (I originally thought the design would be too big for that size, that’s why, but it really isn’t – the new shirts have the same 17×20 inch print as the old ones).

Interestingly, "80s Abe" has sold well and enjoyed a great reception amongst people of all generations, not just my own. I’ve sold that shirt to younger people, and older people as well. The 1980s were a time of great creativity amongst many different types of art and creative work; this goes to show that great art and creative work is timeless and appeals to any generation, much like Lincoln.

Another interesting thing is that "80s Abe" actually has no words (unless you want to count Lincoln’s signature). I think this sums up how I feel about T-shirts in general – the great ones need no words, just great artwork. I’ve never been one to wear simple funny text T-shirts; rather, I’ve always enjoyed making the world a brighter place by wearing cool artistic T-shirts. I love the T-shirt as an art medium since it’s wearable, so other people can see the artistic message, and spread it, instead of it just being something to hang on your wall, and because T-shirts provide a rather large "canvas" on which to "paint" your design.

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The new "Wearing Lincoln Apparel" page on lincolnapparel.com allows you to submit a photo of you or your friends wearing a Lincoln Apparel T-shirt!

The new "Wearing Lincoln Apparel" page on lincolnapparel.com allows you to submit a photo of you or your friends wearing a Lincoln Apparel T-shirt!

The past month I’ve been busy selling my Lincoln Apparel T-shirts at the Old Capitol Farmer’s Market, at Springfield Novelties and Gifts, and dealing with website orders (I had an order of 8 T-shirts just a few days ago!). The response to Lincoln Apparel has been overwhelmingly positive, and even though it can be a lot of work at times, it’s a lot of fun and I enjoy doing it – I finally feel like Lincoln Apparel and the message of Lincoln and his legacy is getting out there through my artistic Lincoln T-shirts. And that of course, is what I want to happen – for people to see my colorful Lincoln art on somebody’s T-shirt and get reminded of Lincoln and his legacy.

One of the things I’ve done in the past month is add, and code in, some new features on the Lincoln Apparel website. Much of this was done around late June/early July. I’ve added:

  • a newsletter where you can sign up to receive updates on new Lincoln Apparel designs, find shows and retail venues Lincoln Apparel will be at, and more;
  • a Wearing Lincoln Apparel page where you can show off your cool new Lincoln Apparel T-shirt, or Lincoln Apparel T-shirts your friends/family/other people you know may be wearing – I’ve got a couple photos on that page already that Lincoln Apparel fans have sent me;
  • a Lincoln Apparel Local page, where you can find information on physical retail stores our T-shirts are available in, as well as shows we’re going to be at;
  • a Lincoln Apparel product RSS feed, that will get updated whenever I post new shirts.
Black "80s Abe" Lincoln T-shirt by Lincoln Apparel

"80s Abe" has been the most popular Lincoln Apparel T-shirt so far this year.

Be sure to check out the new features on my website! I’ll be at the artisan area in the Old Capitol Farmer’s Market again this Saturday, July 24th, from 8 to 12:30, so be sure to stop by. The artisan area is located at the southeast corner of 4th and Adams, in historic downtown Springfield. I’ll be in the shadow by the building on the east side of the artisan area, where it’s cool in the morning, with some cool 80s music playing on some little portable speakers I got a couple weeks ago, that I can hook up to my portable CD/MP3 player (I’m still working on the tent).

I’ll also be coming out with my new “Wide Awake Club” Campaign 1860 Lincoln T-shirt soon. All I have to do is take pictures of it and put it up on my website. I’ll make another post about about the T-shirt and the story behind it (it involves a lot of Lincoln history) when it’s up!

I’m also going to get "80s Abe" reprinted, since it’s been a very popular design and I’m sold out of a lot of them. In addition, my Lincoln Bicentennial shirts – the poignant, serious "Equality" and the fun, colorful "Back to Springfield" – are beginning to sell out. No more of these designs will be printed – so if you love them, be sure to pick them up soon, as eventually they will be replaced by new designs!

Lincoln Bicentennial "Equality" T-shirt by Lincoln Apparel Lincoln Bicentennial "Back to Springfield" T-shirt by Lincoln Apparel

"Equality" (left) and "Back to Springfield" (right) are both starting to sell out. These Lincoln Apparel designs will not be reprinted, so if you like them, be sure to pick them up soon!

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