I take pride in the DIY nature of Sotare. From creating designs, packaging, resin casts, sewing tags, and now screen printing all done in house. It’s fun to create things and have a hand in as much of the process as possible.
Take a look at the process used to print shirts like Zombie Joey, The Chief, and Dead Republic. Below you will see my friend Jeff printing up a batch of shirts. I’m not quite as quick as Jeff, but with each new batch of shirts being printed up, I’m learning, growing, and leaping forward.
Want some more behind the scenes? Check out my post about “Five Manufacturing Tips for Your Art Brand.“
Dazzling colors… flashing lights… glitz and glam… California- the land of dreams.
But what good is a dream if you’re dead inside?
It’s nothing more than a temporary goal.
Like a sandcastle on the beach… awaiting the impending tide to wash it away. You were created for more than this. There is a life beyond your eyes that awaits you.
Wake up and come alive.
This new version of the “Dead Republic” tee is printed using the spilt-fountain technique. This process creates a unique fade from blue to pink, guaranteeing that no two shirts are exactly the same. Your clothing should be as one-of-a-kind as you are.
The “Dead Republic: Split-Fountain” was designed, manufactured, printed, and sold in the USA.
Artist // Designer // Owner
They say California is the land of dreams… but what good is a dream if you’re dead inside?
You were created for more than a temporary dream or goal. You were created for more than just appeasing your own desires.
Wake up and come alive. It’s time to live for something more.
This jet-black, ring-spun cotton American Apparel shirt was crafted in America; hand screened in Maryland; and ships to your door.
Finished with a Sotare hem tag.
Over the past few years of running Sotare, my art/lifestyle brand, I’ve learned quite a few things along the way. There are a lot of people starting clothing brands and the market is saturated. If you’re looking to develop your company into a full lifestyle brand you will need to step outside of producing only shirts. I’m sharing a few things that have helped me develop not only my shirts, but other products in a cost-effective and efficient way.
Remember there’s a big difference in making art, making art to sell, and making art as a brand. This post features some tricks that I’ve learned about manufacturing products so that you can duplicate your work and sell quality art.
1. Be Smart About Printing Posters
Posters are a great addition to turning a clothing company into a lifestyle brand. If you are looking for a printer, Overnight Prints is my first choice in getting poster prints made. You can order a variety of popular poster sizes from them, upload the art, and receive them in a timely manner.
I started off selling 11 x 17 posters but have since decided against it. For one, the posters are larger than the bags I use at live vending events. I put each poster in an envelope for my customers, but it still is not a secure way to carry it. Although I’m still pushing my remaining stock, I have switched to printing 8 x 10 posters. They’re a little smaller and they fit perfectly into the bag along with some shirts. You can get 8 X 10s printed at your local office supply store… or you can do something a little bit smarter to save on some cash. Here’s my secret- I like to put four 8 x 10 prints and two 5 x 7s on a single 19 x 27 uncut sheet.
For $50 you can get 25 of these made and shipped right to your door. All you have to do is spend some time cutting out and trimming your posters, which will give you six posters per sheet. This means you’re getting 150 posters for $50. You can turn around and sell these posters for $5 or $10 each giving you a 14,000% – 29,000% profit margin.
You can also include posters as giveaways in your online orders or use them as an incentive at live vending events. For example, if someone spends $30 I give them a free poster. It helps encourage my fans to buy additional merchandise so they can get a nice poster. It mostly costs me the time of creating content and cutting posters. Not a bad trade off for the cash I save in printing and the cash I make in sales.
2. Slap a Sticker On It
Everybody loves stickers! If you have not produced stickers, this is a must for your brand. I have used a few different companies over the years and all the stickers have turned out pretty well, but I would definitely recommend StickerApp over any other.
Sticker App is my favorite place to get stickers printed. I enjoy the simplistic user interface of the website. One nice feature is that the site allows you to adjust the size of the stroke (white outline) you wish to add to your sticker. You can also adjust the size of your sticker little by little and watch the price calculator change. This all comes in handy when ordering stickers on a budget.
The stickers themselves are great quality and appear to be very durable. I’ve put them on my skateboard and the only signs of deterioration comes from doing boardslides. I’ve also slapped quite a few around town and the ones that haven’t been removed by authorities have lasted almost a year without signs of degradation.
Getting well designed stickers printed is fairly cost effective and you will always sell them. People LOVE stickers. I sell my stickers for $1 each in person, or a pack of 6 for $5. On my personal Etsy, I sell stickers for $2.
3. Find a Manufacturer for Unique Products
Making a variety of different products will really help your brand to stand out. It also gives you a way to sell different types products at different price points, offering more variety for shoppers. I cannot give you too much information on this because depending on what you wish to create you will have to scour the internet for a manufacturer that meets your needs. I found a PVC manufacturer on Alibaba that would create custom key chains.
Creating PVC key chains was a lot of fun. Getting a bag filled with over 100 key chains felt like Christmas. However, there was also a lot of emailing back and forth with a company in China.
4. Hem Tags
When re-starting Sotare in 2013, I wanted to increase the quality of my art and the quality of my products. For each Sotare shirt, I chose to have them hand-finished with a hem tag.
After searching through many websites and Google pages I came across Kiki Kreations. Looking through their gallery I could see that the tags were of excellent quality. I also recognized some of the tags from other indie clothing brands which made me feel comfortable with my initial order. I was not disappointed!
The hem tags are reasonably priced and add value to the shirts. I frequently get compliments from customers and passer-bys about the hem tags on Sotare shirts. Many remark about the style and how cool it makes the shirt look. Others talk about the professionalism it adds to the shirt.
5. Always Look for Creative Solutions
When it comes to manufacturing products always seek creative solutions to your problems. Whether this is finding a creative way to design a product or a creative way to execute the production- be continually searching for a way to get the most out of your manufacturing and design. For me, a lot of the focus is on the design and printing of my shirts.
My friend Jeff printed Sotare shirts for about two years and allowed me to purchase smaller runs. This was an amazing advantage. It allows me to test out shirt designs without having to purchase a high quantity right out of the gate. The only hitch? His personal set up only allowed him to print one color shirts. This means that I had to create designs that will look good in one color ink… or look for the creative solution.
This is how my most popular shirt has come about- the split-fountain Zombie Joey.
The split-fountain screen printing technique involves putting two colors of ink on one screen at the same time. As shirts are printed the ink will bleed together, fading the colors together. We chose to go from blue to pink, creating a sweet purple fade in the middle.
Let’s be honest- it’s freakin’ awesome. These shirts look sick and are my top seller. The design of the shirt was simple. It only took 5 minutes because I already had the artwork done from the Zombie Joey sticker. It was just a matter of being creative with the printing process. Jeff has printed three runs of these shirts, and I’m going to be printing a fourth. We also used the split-fountain technique on The Chief. I’m hoping to be able to do some more split-fountain prints in the future!
Whether it’s stickers, posters, shirts, or a novelty item- be creative about the way you get your art manufactured. You just might be surprised with how it turns out!
So there you go! Five tips and tricks you can use for your art as you create an art brand. Now it’s up to you to challenge yourself to take the leap of faith in turning your dream into reality. You can do it- and I’m here to help.
Do you have any tips to share? Do you have any questions? Comment, email, or DM me and I’ll answer them in a follow-up post down the road.
Artist // Designer // Owner
Akumu, our lovable, cute, yet dark and creepy monster is now available in a new Death to Life colorway.
Akumu is a small, smiling, lovable looking monster. But don’t be fooled by his outward appearance. When angered, Akumu will attack in the most surprising of ways.
This resin figure is hand cast, hand painted, and hand finished. This plastic figure is approximately 2.5 inches tall and 2 inches wide.
DEATH [to] LIFE centers around our journey of spiritual and personal awakening. We were all created for something great, for a purpose, for a specific reason. Too often we get sidetracked, depressed, overwhelmed, busy, or lost. We put our heads into our phones, stare at our own reflections, and cut off our peripheral vision.
We must look up and look outside of ourselves if we want to become truly alive and awake. It’s time to come to LIFE!
Check out the short film we made for the Death to Life project here:
Artist // Designer // Owner
The next part of our elaborate “Death to Life” project is here!
Now you can spice up your button collection with the four different Joeys!
The Death to Life collectible button pack includes:
Check out our “Death to Life” short film!
Artist // Designer // Owner
December 16, 2013 we launched Sotare.
Technically, it was a re-launch and a re-birth of the brand. The idea for Sotare actually came about in 2008. I designed a few shirts, a website, and sold them at local band shows. Eventually the idea fizzled out and went on hold. I thought of it from time to time wondering what could happen if Sotare was done the right way. In February of 2013 I begin plotting away. By fall of 2013, I had shirts, stickers, buttons, and more all ready to launch. We put up the website, announced it Matt’s 12,000 Instagram followers, and went about on this crazy journey.
In three years, I’ve experienced quite a lot with Sotare. Some positive, some negative. During this time I’ve seen many other indie brands rise and fall. I’ve watched styles change, social media change, and the brand itself evolve.
We’ve had quite a few high points in the past three years. It’s the good stuff that keeps the brand running of course! Making the initial online sale was exciting and memorable. Prepping for the first live vendor market was weeks of exciting, and sometimes tedious, work. We got to plan out the booth, package the products. And then selling shirts, belts, posters, and a painting that first day was awesome.
One of the biggest highlights has been UpriseFest in Shippensburg, PA. It has been an incredible experience both times we’ve gone. It was a big risk the first year, putting so much money on the line with no guarantee that we would make a profit or even make any back. We took the leap of faith and went.
I was not disappointed!
We’ve met so many awesome people and sold a ton of shirts. I’m already looking forward to going to Uprise later this year. I think it’ll be a blast!
The biggest highlight over these three years has been the sheer amount of content we’ve been able to put out. I’m an artist, so I love to create. Sotare is basically run by myself, with the assistance of my brothers Aaron and Matt. In the past few years we’ve released 14 shirts, 20 buttons, 10 stickers, 7 poster prints, 2 resin toys- with one being released in 3 colorways, 3 paper toys, a key chain, a belt, and more framed art that I can count.
It’s a dream come true. I wish we sold more stuff so that I could create more shirts, posters, stickers, and toys. It’s a childhood dream come to life.
It hasn’t all been pizza parties and sunshine with Sotare either. With the extreme highs come the lows. I recall one time at Fenton Street Market in 2014 that was especially discouraging. Matt and I went to set up for the day to find out the market was hosting politicians that weekend. The place was arrayed with signs from different candidates- local and state level. Needless to say, this meant not many people were shopping, especially not for what type of product we create. We sold a few buttons that day… making $2.50.
Yep… not even five bucks.
It was heartbreaking. I sat there and wondered if we should even continue with Sotare. Yet at the same time, sitting there feeling down and trying to pass the time, I wound up drawing what would become Zombie Joey.
AwesomeCon this past summer was also a bit of a bummer in some respects. We got all of the 2016 shirts printed by May so we could tag and bag them for AwesomeCon. There were supposed to be 40,000-60,000 people. I figured we’d make a killing. Only problem? No one wanted to buy shirts! We sold three shirts the entire weekend. Yep, three shirts. If it wasn’t for our framed art and sticker sales, we’d have never made our money back.
WHAT I’VE LEARNED ALONG THE WAY
I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned with Sotare has been consistency. The brand is always evolving, from our colors to the aesthetics to the places we chose to sell. Yet, we haven’t quit. We’ve had some low, rough, discouraging points. Times where I just wanted to quit and give up.
Yet we persist.
The lows come with the highs. You gotta push through these dips sometimes in order to make your goals work. You also have to figure out when to stick and when to quit. I’m glad we didn’t quit.
I have put in countless hours designing products, writing blogs, taking and editing photos. I’ve grinded away at vendor markets, traveled to conventions all around DC, PA, and Maryland, and dropped lots of dough to get spots at UpriseFest and Skatefest. I’ve gone months without online orders. I’ve mailed out dozens of free stickers. I’ve submitted to blogs more times than I can count and have been rejected by half of them.
Three years later, Sotare is still kicking. I’m proud to say that we are slowly picking up steam. People have been buying more things online. Some people who shop in person at events have been shopping online for more. Our following is small, but it’s filled with the most awesome people on earth. Check out some of the messages I’ve received over the past few months:
“ I just got your package yesterday, yay!! Thank you for the extra stuff I really love them!<3 You have such a artistic gift in you and I am really looking forward to seeing more stuff you will make in the future! :-3 “
“I got your package and WOW it was amazing!!!! Thank you so much!!!”
“Love your artwork on every piece of product you have on your site and wishing to buy more stuff in the future. Thanks for making these lovely creations and bringing them out to the world so others can love them too!”
“I’ll be sure to keep buying! Thank you so much!”
It’s worth it. If you’re starting an art brand or indie brand- keep at it. You have to be consistent. Consistency is so important to success. Just keep figuring out what works for your brand. Keep producing shirts and accessories. Keep going to vendor events. Keep selling. Keep promoting. Keep making friends. Keep being generous. Keep at it! Over time you never know what could happen.
Thank you for three awesome years of Sotare… Here’s to three more!
Artist // Designer // Owner
The next installment of “Death to Life” is here. Get some new art on your walls with this 7 piece framed art print pack.
These bad boys arrive ready to go on your wall, desk, or bookshelf. With seven framed prints you’ll be able to redecorate your whole room, or give some away as a gift to a friend.
This framed art print includes:
*Art is Not a Crime
*I am Alive
*Death to Life
*Please note, your frame will be black but the style may vary slightly from those pictured.
Have you checked out our “Death to Life” short film yet?
Also, in honor of our Three Year Anniversary, we’ve added a few Birthday Packs to the site. These include three of our early shirts- all for $50. Pick one up with your upcoming Christmas cash!
Artist // Owner // Designer
This month I am excited to release another shirt and give you some free threads! For November we are going BROWN!
First off, there’s a new colorway for our Coat of Arms shirt.
“Strength. Courage. Endurance. Sotare.” This is our Coat of Arms. A mix of kangaroos, Greek, and great design.
Want a free shirt?
From now until November 31st you can get a free chocolate Sotare shirt with each purchase off our webstore- while supplies last. Shirts designs will be random… you will be surprised!
No coupon code necessary!
We still have more artwork coming from our Death to Life series. Stay tuned for some framed art, a button pack, and more.
Artist // Owner // Designer
Where is your life going?
In a world in turmoil… a life of chaos…
We live like zombies, dead souls wandering earth searching for meaning.
Lost and alone in the war between heaven and hell.
It’s time to break free.
It’s time to escape the grave and experience new life.
“Heaven and Hell“ is the second shirt in the Death to Life series. This series takes an artistic look at our transformation from spiritual death to spiritual life.
“Heaven and Hell” is hand-screened in Maryland on a 100% cotton, ring-spun, American Apparel tee.
The opportunity to break free from death, hell, and the grave is yours. Will you ascend to new heights? Or are you going to continue to be a zombie?
Your new life awaits.
Artist // Designer // Owner