Textile Designer, Fashion Designer, Graphic Designer, Storyteller, Photographer, and Creative Director
Conducted by Maura Tangum on April 6, 2023 at New York, New York and Savannah, Georgia by phone
In this interview, Blake Baylor discusses her background, experience, inspiration, and recent work. This interview encompasses a broad range of topics, from textile and fashion design to popular culture and the significance of music-related ephemera. Baylor channels her personal experiences and moments of inspiration through a variety of mediums, all of which evoke her trademark playfulness and energy.
Interview duration: 1 hour.
Blake Baylor (BB): Yes. So, I'm from central Pennsylvania in the middle of Amish country. And I think I always gravitated towards, you know, craft and decorative arts because of my Pennsylvania Dutch heritage within my family. My uncle was really into ceramics and my other uncle did a lot of welding and sculpture projects. And I always felt like there was kind of this craft element or talent within my family. It always kind of felt like second nature that, like, when I was in high school, I was always doing these projects. I was kind of like, what's the next step? And I felt like I wanted to explore that within college. So, in undergrad, I don't know if you remember this, but I studied advertising and art.
MT: Oh. I didn't know there was an advertising component.
BB: Yes. So, there's an advertising background because I was kind of interested in branding and storytelling within the creative side, but then there was the kind of more fine arts side. So, within my art degree, it was actually called integrative arts, which was like create your own art major. And that's where I explored all different types of art mediums, like sculpture. I took some history of fashion classes and then printmaking was something that I was really passionate about. Through printmaking, I really found kind of the spark with screen printing and pattern making within fine art compositions. And that's when I started to learn about textile design, like print pattern and graphics. And my uncle who does ceramics, he was familiar with the textile design industry and was like, I think this is something that you could be really good at. Before I had no idea what textile design was. I was like, people design like textiles that we interact with every day? Like, I, like didn't even think about it. And so with my uncle kind of, you know, telling me more about textile design and experimenting with it in undergrad and printmaking, I decided to take a class at RISD [Rhode Island School of Design] over the summer in textile design, print, and pattern. And then I interned at a swimwear line. So that was kind of a good experience to, you know, see prints being designed for product and then kind of getting this fine art education through RISD. And then that's kind of what just launched my obsession with textile design. I was like, this is what I need to do. So then after graduating from Penn State with advertising and art, I was like, I know I definitely want to be a professor one day and I'm really intrigued about the field of textile design, and I know I want to work within the field. So that's when I did some research and I was like, SCAD [Savannah College of Art and Design] has a really good textile program called Fibers where it's really exploratory within all different mediums within textiles. And that's when I decided to go into that and graduate with my MFA. But yeah, That's kind of a short synopsis. But basically, always since I was little I was really creative and into making things and just having some artistic relatives, I felt kind of inspired to go on this creative journey and as you know, it's an unknown world.
Holiday-inspired silkscreen composition designed by Blake Baylor in winter 2020. Source: Blake Baylor.
BB: Yeah, it was mostly through graphics and print. But yeah, another thing about my family is that, you know, from my Pennsylvania, Dutch, German heritage growing up in the middle of PA [Pennsylvania] my grandmother makes quilts, my great-grandmother made quilts, my great-great-grandmother made quilts. So, there's always been this quilting background in my family. There's always been this maker, textile element.
MT: Yeah. Can you speak a little bit more about this Pennsylvania Dutch kind of ancestry? I just don't know much about that, but I think that's a really interesting angle.
BB: Yeah. So, it's basically German heritage from Pennsylvania. And, actually, this is more about just my family and kind of like Pennsylvania Dutch background, but my great-grandfather started a farmer's market and then restaurant.
MT: Oh right. Okay, we've talked about that, yeah.
BB: Yes. And so, my family owned that for fifty years. It was a three-generation family business. And so that was kind of like the heritage of, you know, the middle of Pennsylvania, a lot of home-cooked, German meals, a lot of Pennsylvania Dutch food and produce. So, it's always kind of been an element for me growing up, just being surrounded by this family business. That was, I don't even know how to describe it. Very, very Pennsylvanian. [laughs.]
MT: Yeah, the restaurant, food, element is really interesting to me as well. I feel like we're touching on so many aspects. I wasn't expecting this in terms of thinking about textile design.
BB: Yeah. So, there's a lot of entrepreneurial aspects within my family. So maybe that's also another element of why I wanted to do textiles and I might want to have my own thing one day and doing this, the SCAD artist residency, really helped start something. So yeah. [laughs.]
MT: That's really interesting. Okay, well, that kind of gets us into some of our other questions actually. Maybe you can talk a little bit more about your experience at SCAD specifically. How do you think that your graduate studies and training kind of helped you expand in the field of textile design and launch your career?
BB: Yeah, so at SCAD I got exposed to all different areas of textile mediums. Knitwear, machine knitting, jacquard weaving, repeat print design, fabric sublimation, dying. So, it was kind of a good exploratory graduate degree and all different areas of textile design. And then that's something I kind of took with me to my thesis work, and I really wanted to explore different graphics through different mediums of textiles. So, I did a whole swatch collection with my own knitwear patterning on the machine to card weaving and then fabric sublimation and screen printing. And through my thesis and the whole backstory, I found that what I was really passionate about was storytelling. And that's kind of what I like to say, like in your question when you ask, are you a textile designer or an artist?
A knit textile swatch from Blake Baylor’s “Comeback Kid” Collection from 2021. Source: Blake Baylor.
BB: And I feel like I'm a storyteller.
MT: Oh, that's great.
BB: Because I like to tell stories through textiles and really that's kind of the history of textiles. There's so many stories told through graphics and textiles since the beginning of time. But that's something that I've always liked to say. Yeah. That I'm a storyteller through graphics.
MT: That's awesome. Yeah, that gets into that question too. That's really interesting. Do you think too, that this aspect of building collections helps you tell these stories?
BB: Yeah, totally. It's almost like world-building. Yeah. And I feel like that relates to branding and my advertising background. I like to look at things kind of from the start very conceptually, but it's like you're building a world in which then you communicate your product or ideas.
MT: Yeah. And when I think of your work, it's really fun and playful and colorful with kind of this retro appeal. But how would you describe your own work?
BB: I mean, I feel like all of those were kind of spot on [laughs], but you mentioned with my thesis, it was kind of interesting. Recently, when I was back at SCAD, there was a visiting artist and I talked to her about my work and she was like, there's, with especially my thesis, my thesis was called Electric Young Dreamers. I don't know if you recently have looked at it on my website, but—
MT: Yes, I did.
BB: This visiting artist told me, you know, it's interesting, I can't pinpoint when your work was made. I don't know if it was in the past or the present. It's almost like this undefined time. There's something nostalgic about it, but I can't quite place it. And so, I feel like I approach it kind of with this old soul quality of myself, but also a young heart. Yeah. It's kind of like this young and old energy within my stuff, but I do feel like it's kind of nostalgic. I love all different decades. I love the seventies and the eighties. But in regard to the themes of my work in my thesis, it was a whole coming-of-age narrative. It was a whole yearbook theme and I explored graphics and prints through identity and storytelling through different characters in this high school setting. But my work in general, I feel like is very playful and energetic. Yeah. I feel, and there's a nostalgia quality to it.
MT: Yeah. I was going to say nostalgia was on the tip of my tongue because that's also what I think about when I look at your work. And it's interesting, I remember seeing, kind of flipping through that, the yearbook book in your apartment, a while back and yes. Yeah, [laughs], that was super cool to me too because it was another whole medium. And did you design the book as well?
Sample from Blake Baylor’s Yearbook-style lookbook featuring a medal-inspired knit textile swatch paired with a printed textile swatch. Source: Blake Baylor.
MT: I love that. That’s really fun. So, in that way, you're wearing a lot of different hats. You're a textile designer, you're a graphic designer, you're a book designer, in this case you're a photographer. How do you balance all of these roles? Do you enjoy it or are you hoping that, you know, in your career you can just limit yourself to one of these aspects instead of doing everything?
BB: You know, it definitely was a lot, but I think since I have such a strong visual identity, I knew what I wanted in the photography and the location, so it almost was like a creative director-type role. But when I did my artist residency and we did a photoshoot for our t-shirt collection, we actually had a friend of ours take the photos and that was really nice to have more of a collaboration with someone who, you know, who was taking the photos and, you know, I could have my input and how I want them to look like, but also collaborate with other people and you know, how they saw the vision. So, I definitely think it's hard for one person to do all the different elements, but I definitely feel like I do have a passion for so many different realms within design. And so, I'm kind of looking forward to exploring all of those. But I think that's where branding keeps coming into play. It's this world-building and how you present yourself. And I think that all comes together through, you know, what I did at SCAD and my thesis, it was creating this whole world and storytelling, but then thinking of how I do the book and how I photograph it is all part of how you present your work and how you promote yourself as a brand.
MT: I love that. I mean, that's so interesting too. I also want to explore this aspect of COVID. I mean, I know people are, a lot of people are like, I don't want to talk about COVID. I'm sick of it. But I think it's important at this point to consider kind of what strategies were used, like your yearbook idea to kind of build this sense of community when it was lacking at that time. And I think that kind of gets into your postcards a little bit. I thought that your postcards were such a cool way of reaching out to people during the Pandemic. Like, I know I was always so excited to get one of your postcards because it was just like a breath of fresh air, getting one of your postcards with the really cool designs on them. It just reminded me of your work. And you also included playlists on the back that you curated yourself. And it was just a really interesting way to me for you to brand yourself and kind of show off your new collections. And it was inspiring to receive those in the mail, honestly. I thought they were cool. I still have them. And I think you sent, didn't you send stickers and tattoos?
MT: So much fun. So, I'm wondering if you can speak a little bit about that. How did you come up with that idea and then, you know, how influenced were you by COVID to do that? Like, would you have sent out postcards if we weren't all kind of in this lockdown situation? Or was it this really good, you know, strategy at the time?
BB: I think it was a little bit of both. So, I'm always inspired by music. It might be one of my most influential, you know, mediums. Like, I love music. And so, I really think that helps me get into the mindset of the feeling of what I'm making and the colors and the patterning and the collection. And so, the postcards that I sent out during COVID, I sent out three different postcards related to the three different characters within my thesis, along with coordinating stickers for each one of them. And when I was creating each of these postcards, the playlist really coordinated with each of the mini collections or characters within my thesis and kind of like the personality or the mindset of each collection and in a way kind of was sparked because of COVID because it was like, okay, I really want to share about my collection and music, and people are inside. This is, you know, a great medium. But also, I think it always was innate in me to have music coordinate to playlists. And I've always been really interested in postcards as you know, I collected so many postcards when we were abroad. And I think they’re such a good little memento of, you know, of a memory or a time or place. And I've always just been interested in like ephemera in general, like just, you know, pieces of paper, anything that, you know, is special and like represents something. So, I decided to create these postcards and playlists as an extension of my graduate work at SCAD to basically have people kind of join in on the journey or the story of my collection. And it's also been something that's been a theme in my work ever since. So, what I'm doing now is my t-shirt collection with my friend Daniel [Basore]. He's really inspired by K-Pop [Korean popular music] and within K-Pop they do these trading cards, photo cards of all the K-pop singers, and each, you know, person in the K-pop band has their own, it's almost kind of like a baseball card of themselves. And we were like, wouldn't that be kind of cool if we had our own kind of K-pop inspired cards with our faces on it or photo cards as tags on our shirts? And we attached each of our versions of the playlist on the tag and it kind of relates back to my playlist postcards and then turning the playlist into a tag on my shirt. So, all of our shirts that we sell come with kind of like our, you know, K-pop music-inspired photo ID cards. And each side of the card is our face. One side is Daniel, one side's me, and then we have a QR code on each side of the card to our different playlists that really personify the collection from our different perspectives. Yeah, so playlists are always going to be part of my work [laughs], it’ll either be a postcard, a tag, a QR code, and some sort of like memento takeaway as well, stickers. So, I also still make stickers that are in my t-shirt collections now that come with each t-shirt. It's all part of, you know, the packaging.
MT: Yeah, part of your brand, the story. Yeah. Well, I think that gets back to this aspect of nostalgia. I mean, there's kind of this idea that once you're an adult, once you pass a certain age, like, you know, fun stuff like stickers aren't for you. So, it kind of, I don't know, it kind of connects with your inner child a little bit to receive those kinds of things in the mail. So, in that way, yes. It's nostalgic I think for the people who receive these things too. And I was going to say too, I think it's really interesting that the postcards are nostalgic in another way too, because I think during COVID, people were seeing technology as kind of the only way to connect with people, but you were kind of pushing back against that a little bit and saying, you know, maybe we should bring back snail-mail. I mean, it's just such a different thing to receive something in the mail versus, you know, get on a Zoom call with someone or text someone or message someone on social media during the Pandemic. I think those seem to be kind of the only options. So, I think it was an interesting choice for you to, you know, look backward instead of forward a little bit and say, well, how can we kind of use these more nostalgic, kind of, like you said, ephemera objects like postcards to make connections?
BB: I definitely feel like it's such a more intimate way to receive something in the mail.
MT: Yes, for sure. It's more personal.
BB: Yeah, it's just more special. And when you receive something that's handwritten or made and actually touching it rather than getting an email or a text message, you have a more intimate, special bond with it.
MT: Yeah. For sure. Can you talk a little bit more briefly about your postcard collection and kind of what you look for when you're, you know, looking for postcards to add to your collection and how this inspires your work?
BB: Yeah, so I've really started such a massive collection, but I think the bulk of it started when we studied abroad in Ireland in Dublin. And each place I went, I collected a postcard. I really am drawn in by color and photography on postcards and through collecting a lot of them, I think sometimes it really is just the color or the graphic style of the postcard that I'm drawn to. Then other times they represent a specific memory. I remember I was in a museum in Amsterdam and there's this one painting that really stood out to me and I started this conversation with this random guy next to me while we were looking at this one painting in Amsterdam. And then I was like, I need to get a postcard of this, of this painting as a memory. It's like so important to me […] and I might even have some pictures of my postcards, on my bookshelf in my New York apartment. I could […] send to you.
MT: That would be great, because I mean, just generally, do you think that kind of these colors and these graphic schemes that you're collecting through these postcards, do you see those kind of manifesting within your own work as you create new textile pieces and collections?
BB: Yeah, I find them very inspiring and they really are a huge part of my decor in my apartment, if you remember. I have them all lined up, yeah, on my bookshelf. I look at them as their own mini piece of art, even though some people wouldn't consider postcards art. I feel like they are all inspiring. I have ones from all over the world. My most recent ones obviously are from my time in France, but then in the summer I also went to Portugal with my mom and collected a lot of postcards that were old photographs from Portugal. So, I'm also really drawn into postcards that are, you know, photography. They were from, you know, 1980s Portugal. Or 1920s Portugal. And I just think those are really interesting to collect. You know, different time periods of different cultures and places too.
MT: Yeah, for sure. Can you talk a little bit at this point, I guess, about your experience in France? Because I know you were just there for an extended amount of time. So, I know travel inspires a lot of your work and Scandinavian design as well, but I'm wondering kind of how your recent experience in France inspired your upcoming work or might have changed any processes or, you know, inspiration in your work.
BB: Yeah, so I was in a village called Lacoste which was in the south of France. It was an hour away from Marseilles, so it was very, very remote. It was a medieval village, and our studio was a cave and we lived in this little French chateau. And there was like one restaurant in this town. So, there was nothing there. It was so remote. So, we were in the south of France in the middle of winter and so it felt like we were almost hibernating in a way.
BB: But I feel like going in the wintertime and being in such a remote place in France really made us find different sources of inspiration and then sparked our imagination. And we felt like we had a lot of stories to tell because we weren't really doing that much [laughs] in a way. It really made us imagine. But really all in one week we were in France, my friend Daniel and I did this collaboration together. We went to the French grocery store and just that trip alone, we found so much inspiration for our prints and graphics. We got this cool gum and just in the packaging of the gum wrapper, we were like, there's so much to this. Like, I'm so inspired by this brand of gum. Then there was this sweet almond-scented body wash and body products at the grocery store everywhere we went. And we were just obsessed with the scent of sweet almond. And we were like, that needs to be a graphic.
MT: Oh my gosh, wow.
BB: So, we find little things to be inspired, yeah, from where we are and it's kind of conceptual. But then we hone it in to make it more, you know, for graphics specifically. But it was all these just random little souvenirs in a way, that we were collecting and scanning in and using as kind of our spec, a sketchbook in a way. We had this pastry, and then it came with this really cool silver crown and I was like, I love this idea of a crown being used as a graphic or a stripe on a shirt. And so that kind of was an inspiration for a graphic.
MT: Oh, cool.
BB: All These random elements through, you know, food, grocery stores, tickets, just random little collections of souvenirs in a way that led to our mark-making and sketchbook and in a way our graphics and kind of this story and the world-building behind our collection was kind of this whole nighttime-inspired collection because, you know, in this village at night, there's no lights. It was so dark except a few neon lights from our studio. There was a neon light display in our studio, and it was just the dark nighttime, the stars and a light neon glow. So, we decided to call our collection Starry Neon Nights because where [Vincent] Van Gogh was was not too far away from where we were in Lacoste.
MT: Yeah, that sounds right.
BB: I think Van Gogh, he was, I forget what village it is in the south of France, but it was not far away. And we were like, we understand why Van Gogh is losing his mind [laughs] in the south of France. We're like, we're losing our minds out here [laughs], we're in the middle of nowhere. And it was kind of just like this starry, neon-night kind of energy through the landscape and the village. Yeah. And we were just imagining, oh, what would it be like if there actually was a dance party going on right now? If there is some sort of underground club or rave that people were wearing our graphic t-shirts to in this remote village of France, and that just sparked it and we kind of just ran with it. And that became our whole entire story of our collection, this one, starry neon nights we called it, and this underground kind of club rave in France. And that kind of led to the energy of the colors and the landmark and the graphics and the collection and this kind of like, this rave, French nightclub vibe. And so, we did all the designing in France, but then we did the making part in Savannah, which was very interesting to be making and ideating like in a different place. And so, we had to bring, you know, our whole French France village, you know, inspired collection to Savannah to make our shirts. And so, we have some photos in France, but then we did a lot of the photo shoot in Savannah which was kind of interesting. But we did it inside this apartment that kind of felt like a nineties loft. And we kind of created that as kind of like our club, nighttime scene, but kind of like earlier when we were talking about my work, like I feel like it's very nostalgic and I always kind of look to past decades. And for this one specifically, Daniel and I felt like our collection was very nineties. So, we like to call it kind of like this nineties French skater vibe.
MT: Yeah, but that's so interesting. There's so many things there. Like, this is fascinating, the fact that, well I think I see food like coming back in and kind of, you know, when you're talking about your experience and, and the French grocery stores, food is totally like a continuous theme throughout. I feel like your inspiration and then the thought of being inspired by the scent of almond and then translating that into a design is so interesting. And then I think you bring up another really good point about, you know, the implications of being inspired in one place and then kind of implementing that inspiration in a completely different place. Savannah, you know, and rural France. I mean, that's just like two entirely different environments. So, what were the challenges of kind of, you know, having this experience and then taking your inspiration and kind of, implementing it within this t-shirt collection in a completely different place?
BB: Yeah. So, I feel like if we could have, you know, done the photo shoot in France, we would've absolutely loved to have done that. But just because we had to do the making in Savannah, we had to kind of brainstorm or problem-solve. And so that's why when we found this one apartment space to do the photo shoot. A lot of the props and stuff in the background we sourced from our own collection of souvenirs in France. So, in the party scene, I laid out some euros and some postcards or the French gum, almond candies, and we also brought in other little props and stuff from our time inspired in France. We made these button pins and we pinned them on some of our shirts and our shoes as accessories. But we made these buttons out of paper and packaging and like postcards from our time in France, we cut out different pieces of paper to make these buttons. They were almost kind of like these badges of our time in France. So that's another way of bringing these little mini, intimate touches through accessories and props that related to our time in France.
MT: Yeah. So, you are kind of a creative director in this way especially. When you're bringing different elements of your experience together and constructing these new environments with them.
BB: Yeah, yeah. It definitely is, almost like I was doing set design too.
MT: I could totally see you doing something within the world of film, like a short film or something. Because when I think about your choices to stage these kinds of scenes, it is very kind of filmic and photographic and it's really interesting to me in that way.
BB: We might be doing that for our next collection.
MT: Oh great. Can you talk a little bit about that?
BB: Yeah. So in the program at SCAD, this artist residency that we did, we met with so many amazing other people and one of them we met was our friend Taylor, and he graduated with the film degree from SCAD and he did some freelancing work. But he made a short film in his time at the residency and we just connected so well with him and he even helped us out on our photo shoot for our next collection. And we're all in the same area. We want him to kind of shoot a little, almost kind of like, music video of our collection. Yeah, just because I really think film is another way to really communicate visuals and a backstory. And I think it also helps with branding. I think anytime that someone really understands the story or connects to something that really, you know, obviously makes people want to buy your product or really buy into who you are. And I think, you know, just this small little t-shirt thing that Daniel and I are doing, we hope each time we make a collection, we do one more thing to kind of elevate the way we're communicating each collection. And so, we would love to do like a little mini, music video and collaborate with our friend Taylor on kind of the whole entire backstory. Like I mentioned, we go so far into conceptualizing the whole entire feel, yeah, of our collection and we have the vision to make a music video, so we want to do something, even if it's just short little mini videos. I think it could be really fun and playful to put on Instagram and for people to kind of like get excited.
BB: Yeah, so I designed my website myself and I use Squarespace. And one thing that I'm not really good at is building a website or being really tech savvy with, you know, building anything web-based. I had to be kind of creative and be like, what could I do to make something really fun and intriguing? And I love collaging elements. I love playing around with mood boards and I love movement. And I was like, how can I translate that into my website? So I have, you know, one tab that is my whole book layout of the yearbook. And then I have three other sections related to my thesis project that are more collage-like or a gallery of my different motifs and graphics with little GIFs [graphics interchange formats] that I made in animation. So, I made all those animations on Photoshop with my graphics. I was like, how can I make graphics that are normally just so still have so much energy and are more intriguing to look at and that are playful? So I made gifts on Photoshop and incorporated them on my website and my Instagram. And that's something I'm doing on my Instagram now with our friend Daniel for the Starry Neon Nights collection. I've always been really interested in making animated gifts of motifs and graphics. I don't really know why I've always loved to do it, but it's just something so neat. I'm like, I just need to have some sort of animated element of my graphic.
MT: Well, I think it's helpful too to have this animation, especially getting back to, you know, your interest in fashion design and textile design and wearable design. I think it's nice to have this element of animism or animated elements because I think it's cooler. It's more effective to kind of see how these materials might move or to imagine them kind of on a human body or being worn. I think it gives it a really nice sense of life that's oftentimes kind of absent from the way in which fashion and textiles are advertised online.
BB: Yeah. I think you're so right. It, I don't know, personifies or animates the textile in a digital age.
MT: Yeah, for sure. Yeah, you seem to be working hand in hand with the opportunities that technology presents to us. I think rather than working against it or not taking advantage of how to use technology, I think you seem to be kind of combining this old-world element of, you know, textile design and even t-shirts with these kinds of newer innovations, you know, in terms of visuals and technology that I think is really effective. And I really like to see that kind of stuff on your social media and on your website. I think it's really engaging.
BB: Oh, awesome. Well, thank you. Yeah, I mean, I hope it's engaging to people who look at it. I think we are in a digital age and you have to kind of be a little bit creative and think outside the box when you're posting. So yeah, it's just another element into the whole branding.
MT: Yeah. I love that. That's so exciting. So that kind of gets into my last question in terms of the future, but before we get to that, I'm wondering if we can, you know, take a step back for a second and if you can take me into more of the technicalities of your design process when it comes to creating a textile, or actually also when it comes to creating this t-shirt line, I'm just wondering kind of, what techniques or software or things like that, or strategies do you use when you're thinking about physically creating a t-shirt or a textile, whether on your own or with your collaborator, Daniel?
BB: Yeah, so as you know, the world of textiles is so expansive. There's so much you can do. And with SCAD, I really had such a technical foundation with, you know, physically making textiles such as weaving and using a knitting machine. But then when I translated to corporate fashion, I worked as a concept and color designer. So I had this technical, you know, base foundation and then going to corporate fashion, I was more in the conceptual, researching thematic design, color palette. And then kind of using both those experiences, having a technical foundation and experience in concept and color, they kind of were both good, you know, backgrounds to then translate into doing this t-shirt collection with my friend Daniel. So, with our shirts we did a mixture of screen printing and hand embellishment and the different hand embellishment we did was metallic foiling, hand embroidery, handset, rhinestones and dip-dye. And so all of the t-shirts had a screen-printed element that we all did by hand. And so the screen printing process, you know, you do it in a dark room by coding a screen with emulsion, and then, you translate your designs, which we design, you know, everything's kind of mixed hand and digital. But in the end, we make digital files on Photoshop that then we print out on clear acetate paper that are then kind of like a photo negative in a way that we then burn our designs on the screen that then essentially become what you focus screen ink through. So, that's kind of the technical process through screen printing. We design it on Photoshop and then burn our designs on a screen through a UV [ultraviolet] light and a vacuum and seal. And then we have our screen with our designs or a huge stencil to then play and print with on a shirt. But then from that step kind of the hands-on element is we assess, you know, do we want to have some sort of, you know, ink color, do we also want to like, you know, hand-dye the shirts? Do we want to add some sort of hand element like embroidery or rhinestones to the shirt? So, it's kind of like a mixture of all different decorative elements combined with screen printing. But everything kind of came from a place that was, you know, Photoshop. We design on Photoshop and then translated to the hand element.
MT: Yeah, that's so interesting. Well this makes me wonder too, just generally, why the t-shirt? Like, why does the t-shirt seem to be this medium that you gravitate towards in your new, upcoming collection? But I know you've also been interested in t-shirt design and screen printing for a little while, so can you explain that?
BB: I think it kind of sparked during COVID, again. I was thinking of my collection or my thesis and graphics and I was like, these would really translate onto a graphic t-shirt. And I really feel like within my thesis I realized, wow, graphic t-shirts are such a, you know, medium of translating or expressing identity or interest. You know, showcasing a memory. Thinking about like merch design for musicians, like buying a graphic t-shirt.
MT: Yeah. It connects so well to music. Band t-shirts—there’s a long history.
BB: Yeah, So I think I've always been interested in, you know, merch design t-shirts. In a way, getting a graphic t-shirt from a special memory or event is almost the same as a post card. So, I think I'm drawn into the t-shirt because of this quality that it's accessible to a lot of people and you can really play around with expression in a t-shirt and that it could also like be associated with memory or an event. So, I think it relates to so many things, but I think the main inspiration was from my thesis project and COVID. And I've always been interested in merch design. So, when my friend Daniel and I wanted to do a collaboration, we were like, what is something that we could see ourselves working on together? And we're like, you know, it has to be t-shirts just because of the way that we think, textile design-wise. You know, how can we translate print and pattern into something that, you know, is accessible to most people and that people will be a little bit more inclined to buy something that's a little bit more, you know, different. It's hard to create textiles for the home. It’s so different than creating textiles in fashion. Yeah, and I think there's kind of like this less serious, playfulness with a t-shirt, which is something that's really exciting when designing. And you know, it's so cool to think that people could wear your t-shirt, you know, out somewhere dancing or going to a party or even just during the day, you know, it could be in so many different environments, so many different places. MT: Yeah. That's such a good point. You can really wear them doing so many activities. Yeah, and I think it's also so universal, you know, everybody has t-shirts, everyone loves t-shirts, everyone wears t-shirts all the time, so it's really yeah, a universal medium. BB: Yeah. And now what we're doing, we have our collections being sold at Shop SCAD in Savannah.
A selection of limited-edition t-shirts designed by Blake Baylor and her collaborator to be sold at Shop SCAD in Savannah, Georgia. Baylor was inspired to expand upon her interest in t-shirt design after her experience at an artist residency in the south of France in spring 2023. Source: Blake Baylor.
BB: Yeah, so now people can buy them in-store. But another thing that we're doing for, you know, friends who want like a custom shirt, we kind of have this whole document where people can pick and choose their graphics and motifs and colors, and then we'll make the shirt for you. So, it's almost like translating, like combining like Daniel and I's inspiration and memories and then creating new memories from our designs. In a way, they're creating their own, you know, mini postcard basically as a shirt [laughs].
MT: Yeah. That's so interesting. I mean, that shirt's going to become a memory in the same way that you said you collect postcards, kind of based off of your own memories and experiences. I had never thought about t-shirts and postcards being that similar, but this is actually really fascinating.
BB: I know. Look at this. We're just tying it all together. [laughs.]
MT: I know. I was going to say, so many aspects of this interview have been so cyclical. I can really see so many parts of your trajectory really go hand in hand like nostalgia and storytelling. I love how you described yourself as a storyteller because it's really evident in your work that that's your main interest. So, I think that's really awesome, yeah, and this aspect of ephemera and experience. This is awesome. To sum it up, I know you touched on this a little bit, but I know you have this new collection coming out, Starry Neon Nights, and then you're also thinking about getting involved in film. But just generally, kind of, where do you see your work heading in the future and what aspects or avenues of design and, you know, maybe technology as well, are you excited to explore further? BB: Yeah, I kind of touched on a little bit, but so you know, I worked in concept and color in fashion. It's something that I'm still interested in. But I think ultimately I see myself, you know, working in concept design, but in more of like a branding sense because I really think just this experience with my artist residency, I really am looking to kind of like expand areas of design that I want to work in. And within corporate fashion, you know, color is kind of a very specific field. And so, I'm kind of interested more in taking my undergraduate degree of advertising and art and kind of blending that within textiles and storytelling and ultimately see myself working in branding. But I will continue this t-shirt collection business with my friend Daniel. And we hope to create four collections a year with each season. And each season is going to be a totally different, you know, place that we're inspired by and we're going to have a different playlist for each collection. So, we're going to continue with these little mini seasonal collections that are inspired by music and places and we're going to hope to continue to sell them at shop SCAD. And then, from there, ultimately it would be really cool to see if this t-shirt business kind of expands and making custom t-shirts for people. You know, ultimately the dream really would be making custom t-shirts for musicians. Yeah. Or making merch design and it all kind of going together really.
MT: Yeah. That's awesome.
BB: So, this is kind of just like, just a starting block. And you know what it's like in the creative industry. It's like, you can go anywhere and you never know who you're going to meet and what you're going to do and what's going to lead to something next.
MT: Yeah, definitely.
BB: But I'm really excited for the future of this little side hustle and what Daniel and I can make of it and the connections we can make, and hopefully making like a little mini music video with our friend Taylor would be such a cool collaboration. So yeah, that's kind of what I see for the future as of now.
MT: That's awesome. Well, I'm excited too. Thank you so much for doing this with me today and I loved getting to hear about everything and catching up a little, and everything was so interesting and thought-provoking like I've said. Okay, great. Well, thank you, Blake. It was so good to talk.
BB: Oh my gosh. No worries. This was so much fun.
MT: I know it was, I really enjoyed it. Yeah, thank you.
[End of interview]