I once had a friend, John Semmler, who told me to paint on t-shirts. I thought that was a good idea. He had a sporting goods store and was able to order the blank, Hanes Beefy, 100% cotton t-shirts for me wholesale. What a great idea he had and I followed through. Shortly thereafter I remember going into San Antonio to get my own wholesale tax number. The year was 1987 and soon I was ordering my own t-shirts and washing and drying each one before painting on them.
We lived in a small, wonderful old house which we had remodeled, but I wanted a new house which I had seen. My husband Bill told me if I wanted that house I would have to bring one hundred and thirty five dollars to the table each month.
When my friend John suggested I paint on t-shirts I realized that maybe I could find some customers to buy my hand painted t-shirts. It all seemed somewhat daunting. Each small step was a new beginning and an adventure to be entered into without fear.
I think ideas are my strong suit and I knew Bluebonnets were the love of every Texan so Bluebonnets would be my subject. I splattered my way through hundreds of t-shirts those first few years and was able to paint four dozen or so each day. If you were to line up the folded shirts you would have seen amazing consistency in the design, thus proving that muscle memory of a repeated task is a reality. I washed, dried, and painted each shirt, folded, and tagged it all myself. In those early days, it was just me doing sales, production, shipping, billing, advertising/PR, and often even delivery. After my husband, Bill, who never batted an eye at the mess I made in our home, my Mother, Betsy, was my staunchest advocate. She helped with my cash flow and traveled with me to all my sales calls. In those days I even hand delivered some of the big orders myself, especially when they were going to Fredericksburg, Texas.
My Mother and I always loved those car trips to Fredericksburg or where-ever my business would take us. We would feel so light when taking out early in the morning, a beautiful day, spread before us with infinite possibilities. We often said we wished we were headed to the airport to embark on a journey somewhere far away, but always happily settled for a beautiful drive to the hill country, stopping in Boerne, Texas for coffee and a sweet roll.
Growing up in a family that knew how to enjoy life, I learned early to savor small delicious moments. Taking in the smells and tastes of the journey, seeing the small pleasures along the way. For this training I am forever grateful. They taught me how to savor the things that make life rich and that are often ignored as we dash about. “Stop to smell the roses,” eat the sweet roll, drink the hot coffee with heavy cream and remember.
My first big customer for my hand painted t-shirts was Something Different in Fredericksburg, Texas. A beautiful lady was the owner and buyer who encouraged me and bought so many of my hand painted t-shirts. I sold to her for years and created other art pieces for her windows. Such a beautiful store that is long gone in Fredericksburg.
The first order of hand-painted t-shirts we delivered to Something Different in Fredericksburg. My Mother, Betsy and I would have delivered the shirts, shopped a little, eaten a delicious lunch at The Peach Tree restaurant, stopped at the Bakery for a German pretzel and more hot coffee for the road home and then headed home to pick up the two little girls from school.
Upon our arrival home I received a phone call from Something Different. It seems the entire order had sold out that very day and they needed to order more. Thus started my career in hand-painting t-shirts. Those paint splattered days were the best and as I look back I remember happy times at my painting table and often surrounded by a gallery of children watching me. What fun!