It’s always fun meeting new people, which is why we came up with the idea of The HTF Hot Seat – a regular post to introduce you to the creative dynamites behind some of your favourite hardtofind products. This week’s seller in the spotlight: Tracy James, designer, illustrator and T-shirt maker extraordinaire from Mimsy Design.
I’m known on hardtofind for my… quirky range of hand-illustrated T-shirts for men. Guys can be hard to shop for, so my goal for Mimsy is to make it easy to find gifts men will love. All the tees are screen printed with an eco-friendly process on quality cotton, and come in stylish cuts – so they have all the right ingredients to become top drawer favourites.
Right now I’m inspired by… graffiti scribbled on a wall, an overheard conversation, a silly cat meme – I like to keep my eyes and mind open and let inspiration find me. The more obscure the better! I’m always on the lookout for images or expressions that define a particular idea or moment in time. My range has references to cult TV and films, celebrity culture, hipsterism, the cycling craze… did I mention cats?
My favourite part of the making process is… coming up with the ideas. I see myself as part collector or curator and part designer. I keep my eye out for little fragments that are appealing to blokes, and try to present these in a fun, off-beat way. If I spot something that might be T-shirt worthy, I sketch a rough design and let it brew with a few of my of other half-cooked ideas. If it bubbles back to the top, it becomes a print! I also love the production stage when I can get my hands dirty and see the designs come to life.
I work from… a little studio in my home. I live in a lovely old Victorian terrace in Redfern, an inner city suburb of Sydney. It’s a very diverse, eclectic and creative suburb – an inspirational place to work. My screen print workshop is in St Peters, my little warehouse is in Waterloo and I’m a regular at Strawberry Hills post office getting my orders out! That’s the golden triangle I run around every day. I love that it’s all so local.
A typical day for me involves… satisfying my caffeine craving! Then, the first thing I do is print out my orders. I hate making customers wait. Next stop is the warehouse to pack the orders, then off to the post office. If I’ve got a print run happening, I’ll stop by at the screen-printing studio to check progress. Once I’m back at my desk, I’ll get admin out of the way, then clear as much quality time as I can to focus on design. I start with hand drawn sketches and translate them into digital artwork. Right now I’m working on my first collection of completely custom-made T-shirts, so I’m also doing a lot of running around to cutters and makers and fabric stores during the day. I love the fact that every day is different. I also love what I do, so if the business spills over into the evenings or weekends (as it inevitably does), I really don’t mind. It just sort of integrates with my life and family.
My proudest business moment has been… hearing stories from customers. Believe it or not, most men have a surprisingly deep affection for their favourite tees. They have T-shirts they treasure for years. T-shirts for special occasions. T-shirts that transport them back to glory days. Recently a lady told me that her son – a surgeon – insisted that he wanted nothing for Christmas, other than to spend time with his family. Of course, she still wanted to get him a gift so she chose an Eat Sleep Ride Repeat tee (he was a cycling fan). Turns out, he loves it so much that he wears it under his scrubs every day! It goes to show that the right T-shirt can be the perfect gift for the man with it all. Another huge highlight was seeing people break into smiles as they browsed my range at the Hard To Find Christmas Market. Seeing the response face-to-face validates what I do. It’s nice to add some humour to the world.
When I started my business, I wish I’d known… how much I’d love being my own boss. I’m a hard taskmaster though. Day off? Never! Holidays… what? It’s certainly not easy, but I enjoy the hard work. It’s satisfying to be pouring your energy and heart into your own venture. If I had known all this I probably would have made the leap a few years earlier.
I’d describe my personal style as… magpie. A little bit of vintage, a dash of upcoming designer and a Top Shop staple – perhaps layered with a traditional piece from a faraway land, discovered while travelling. I used to be a costume designer for film and theatre, so I’ll take any excuse to dress up, and appreciate clothing in all its forms. It’s such a great way of expressing yourself. Men don’t always get to express themselves through clothing in quite the same way as women do, which is a big part of my motivation to provide guys with at least some means of expression through my tees!
My last purchase was… a vintage, gold beaded dress for a friend’s Great Gatsby party. It’s an absolute statement piece and a real conversation starter! So much fun to wear! I love going all out for a special occasion, but I’m also very comfy in a T-shirt with sneakers and jeans.
The first thing I do when I wake up is… 1. Start coffee machine. 2. Drink coffee. 3. Wait for brain to show flickers of life. Sometimes I get really good, out-there ideas in my dreams, so I’ll always jot them down, too!
The motto I live by is… love what you do.
I’m hoping 2017 will bring… new styles to my men’s T-shirt range, and an extension into new products (I’m thinking caps and hoodies to start), plus more good stuff for the ladies and kids, too! I also want to continue to have more face-to-face time with customers at markets, pop-up shops and events.
Everything tastes better with a little… dollop of humour.
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