Do you guys remember the story of The Little Red Hen
? I didn't, but a woman I met at a craft fair last weekend told it to me. I was browsing the lovely ceramic hens she had for sale when she peeked out at me from behind her shelf and said, "When she wanted to make some bread, the little red hen asked, 'Who will help me plant the wheat?'
"'Not I,' said the little black dog.
"'Not I,' said the big orange cat.
"'Not I,' said the little yellow goose.
"'Then I will do it myself,' said the little red hen," said the lady. The same thing happened when the hen wanted someone to help her cut the wheat, grind it into flour, and so on. But when she needed help eating the bread, suddenly everyone was very helpful. To this the hen said, again, "Nope. I'll do it myself."
"Women should be proud of their work!" the lady continued, and I was like, Okay, I get it. I'd just woken up and was still a little crusty. But I brought one of the red-painted hens home and now it's sitting cheerfully on my kitchen counter, reminding me every time I go in there to Do It Myself.
But I don't want to get too off-topic here. What I really wanted to talk about is t-shirts.
There are some really clever, subversive ones out there in the do-it-yourself universe, and ? if you ask me ? they're ushering in the long-overdue obsolescence of the bumper sticker dialogue. After all, how many self-respecting punk rock kids have cars? (Oh, how awesome to have just contributed to the what-is-real-punk dialogue. Bring on the angry responses!)
To wit, Microcosm has a nice selection, some of them sweet and some a bit aggrieved: "Thank God I'm an Atheist"; "I heart my bike"; "How Many Dead Iraqis does Your Car Take to the Gallon?"; and my personal favorite, the Zen-riddle-like "Hate driving in traffic? YOU are traffic." (See? Bikes, not cars.)
Slogan t-shirts bring people together. I met a funny librarian this summer who I knew I was destined to like because she was wearing a t-shirt that said "The Internet: A series of tubes" underneath a nice sketch of a uterus and fallopian tubes, made by the good people at the Prometheus Radio Project. Once I fell in love with a cute goth boy I spotted in the park because he was wearing a homemade t-shirt with a tombstone bearing the word "you." I'm pretty sure he didn't mean me. And here's the holy grail of t-shirt making: in 2004 April, the girl behind the zine Cartography for Beginners, designed and screened t-shirts that said "Jon Stewart for President." Then she met Morrissey on his "You Are the Quarry" tour, gave him one, took a picture of him wearing it, and put the picture on the cover of her next issue. Do you think her head exploded, or what?
Oh, I almost forgot about buttons. Buttons are a big thing in the DIY world. At a zine festival-related concert a couple of years ago some wiseacre stood there with his button maker while the band was playing and produced "this sucks" badges on the spot. Rude, but funny. The other day on the online craft store My My I found ones that say "I Love my big ass!" and "I eat from my garden." I thought of getting both for my best friend's Christmas stocking, but I only ordered the garden one. Just to be on the safe side.
The point is, funny t-shirts and buttons = love. The more I think about it, they're not like bumper stickers at all, but like little, tiny, wearable pieces of self-published narrative nonfiction. Hee. I think I need a t-shirt that says "Bullshit artist/mistress of spin."
Katie lives outside of Philadelphia where she writes and makes zines. Address love letters to firstname.lastname@example.org.