Cryptid Expands Shirt-Making Process

James Kennedy

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Photo by Allie Felt

Cryptids are creatures with no scientific confirmation, shrouded in mystery. However, at Whitman Cryptid is a T-shirt design group of less than a dozen students lead by junior Jesus Chaparro and sophomore Cody Burchfield. The quality of their product has improved drastically over their last year of production, and it’s no mystery why.

“Registration-wise … we’ve improved substantially,” said Chaparro. “If you go back and look at our first shirts, they weren’t exactly perfectly aligned.”

Printmaking makes use of a process known as registration, in which emulsion is put on a transparent screen and stiffened when exposed to light. The printmaker uses stencils that block out the light, so only certain parts become hardened, creating the design. This process requires perfect alignment in order to yield a satisfactory result.

“If I have a triangle, and then I want a circle inside of the triangle, getting that circle to line up right can be really difficult if you don’t have a good setup,” said Burchfield.

Cryptid’s setup has drastically improved in the last year. Before, the team could really only do one screen at a time, and now the process is much faster and leaves less room for error.

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Photo by Allie Felt

“When everything goes smoothly and we have everything set up, a two-color shirt … we could probably do in five to six minutes,” said Burchfield.

The additional capital that Cryptid has earned has allowed them not only to improve their mechanical setup, but also to purchase more high-quality inks for production. Cryptid earns all their profit from a mix of client jobs, often from Whitman organizations such as ASWC, and personal designs sold primarily to Whitman students at on-campus events. Due to positive feedback from outside the Whitman community, Cryptid is planning on expanding their market.

Cryptid will launch their new website at  http://cryptidapparel.bigcartel.com/ on Sunday, Mar. 9 at 5 p.m. for easier distribution of shirts. Before, the group would only sell their own shirts if they had a table set up at a Whitman event. Now that process will be done through the internet, and T-shirts can be sold outside of Walla Walla.

Printmaking is half art and half craft. While Cryptid members have to engage in both, they believe they are artists first and manufacturers second. By focusing first on the shirt design and second on making the shirt itself, Cryptid will often produce many possible design options for their clients and then consistently work with and change the design throughout the shirt-making process.

“We strive to be designers before anything else … it teaches us how to work back and forth with a client,” said Chaparro.

The meetings with clients offer a constant feedback loop, where both parties discuss possible concepts and ideas and make sure the design is what the client wants and what is artistically stimulating for Cryptid.

“We always strive to be involved in the design process,” said Burchfield. “If someone just has a logo they want to slap on a shirt, we try to stay away from that, because then the only thing we’re doing is printing, which is the most tedious part.”

Cryptid makes sure to redirect these simple requests to the local business T Walla Walla. This allows Cryptid to focus on their personal endeavors.

The client projects, which end up funding Cryptid’s self-designed work, include shirts for ASWC, rush and the ski team.

Senior Patrick Finnegan, leader of the ski team, recently hired Cryptid for the team’s new shirts.

“I wanted to support a local company, and given the opportunity to also support my friends, I couldn’t resist” said Finnegan.

Finnegan noted Cryptid’s steady improvement over the past year, both in terms of organization as well as business sense. When given the price estimate for his order, Finnegan was shocked at how low the cost was, but believes that Cryptid has begun to change their financial structure in order to be more profitable.

“Initially they seemed more interested in getting their artwork on clothing and out in the community,” said Finnegan. “Now they can make some money for their great work.”

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Photo by Allie Felt

Profitable as they may be, Cryptid is looking to cut down on commissioned jobs in order to focus more on in-house designs.

“We’re trying to be more selective about our client projects, because we still haven’t printed any of our own designs this semester,” said Burchfield. We’ve probably done nine or 10 shirts of our own, and six client ones [since we formed].”

Cryptid typically sells their personal designs at Whitman events.

“We definitely try to take advantage of the opportunities Whitman offers us. This past crafts fair was our anniversary debut at the crafts fair, because that’s where we started,” said Chaparro. “On visiting weekends, when there are masses of parents, we also take advantage of that.”

Cryptid, originally named Jackelope, was conceived as an opportunity to gain work experience in the clothing industry without seeking out a difficult internship.

“I’m an economics and art double major, so I was trying to think of what I could do to get an internship, and I’ve always had a passion for clothing design,” said Chaparro. “I figured, ‘Why not start my own thing so I can get the experience by myself, out of my own accord?’ so I found a group of like-minded friends.”

Even as Cryptid continues to grow and improve, its members are looking to keep it a small enterprise.

“Although we want to reach a greater audience, I don’t think we are necessarily trying to expand,” said Burchfield. “I see us staying fairly selective with small runs, maybe 30 shirts of a design, putting it online, and then once it’s gone, it’s done.”

While its founders may grow older and graduate, Chaparro plans to leave Cryptid with new leaders so that it can remain a part of the Whitman community.

“We want to leave it as a legacy project for the Whitman community,” said Burchfield.

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