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fine art

Design

Fit to be Tied: Bethany Shorb’s Designer Drive

July 16, 2012

Bethany Shorb photo by Achille Bianchi, © Achille Bianchi

Bethany Shorb may be the founder, CEO, and principal designer at Cyberoptix TieLab, the fashion-forward brand that’s sold ties to all 7 continents (yes, even Antartica!), but despite her role as the woman in charge, she’s not afraid to get her hands dirty. Bethany still creates every single tie herself.

“To date, I’ve hand-screenprinted over 100,000 neckties, all by hand, with no automation, machines or even a press! I have to admit having quite a buff right arm to show for it,” she told us.

That’s an awful lot of ties since she launched her company in 2006, so how does she do it? She takes inspiration from everything around her, draws on her background in fine art, and has a little help from some, as she says, “studio bees,” who assist with shipping, customer service, website update, and keeping an ample supply of take out coming into the studio during busy times.

Bike Chain Tie photo by Luke Copping, © Luke Copping

This busy studio, a buzzing center producing artistic fashions admired all over the world, isn’t located in New York, Paris, or Milan. After receiving a BFA in sculpture, with a concurrent concentration in photography from Boston University (in the city where she was born) Bethany made the Motor City, Detroit, her home.

“I’ve been based in Detroit for thirteen years now,” she said. “I chose to move here to go to graduate school [receiving a MFA in sculpture, also with a concurrent concentration in photography, from Cranbrook Academy of Art ] and also chose to stay immediately after finishing. I realized there was vast opportunity here that diverged from the traditional New York gallery or art educator path. With the low overhead that basing a studio practice in Detroit affords, it also in turn enables one to take financial and aesthetic risks that one would not be able to take were money tight, student loans looming, distractions abound and space cramped. With access to a large amount of space, I was fortunate to be able to ramp up my production scale as soon as there was demand and in turn grow my business very quickly.”

Photographing and Screen Printing, Photos via Bethany Shorb

Bethany believes that customers are “tiring of disposable culture,” and finds that “increasingly people want to buy into a story, not just a product. They want to buy from real people making real things with real histories…” and Detroit doesn’t fall short when it comes to real people producing these memorable goods.

“Detroit’s makers provide that accessible story while also providing a product that fits the client’s needs,” Bethany explained. “Along with a great sense of community, Detroit is a wonderful home-base to make things.”

Perhaps Bethany’s love for Detroit will shine throughout her upcoming solo show at Metro-Detroit’s 323 East Gallery, which opens this October and uses reclaimed materials from the commodity that made Detroit famous. “Recently I’ve been exploring a series of screenprinted work on metal, paired with reclaimed automotive emblem text; and a series of sculptural pieces made from deployed airbag fabric,” she said.

Of course, the thriving art community in Bethany’s city isn’t her only source of inspiration. Her design ideas come from everything from current trends to the desire to reboot antiquated styles by giving them a modern flair.

Cyberoptix TieLab Studio in Detroit, Mich., Photos via Bethany Shorb

She described a few places where she finds those sparks for new designs: “While I can still sometimes get caught up with the immediacy of pop culture (running an internet-business means I’m plugged in, non-stop), I like to look toward objects and ideas not made in the last five minutes, including natural history, medical ephemera, and Victorian botanical drawings and architectural renderings. Some of my favorite days are spent in dusty museum cabinets of curiosities or looking back at retro-future projections of what people thought it may look like in a hyper-stylized year 2000.”

Once Bethany has a firm image of the design in her head, she doesn’t spend a great deal of time “ruminating on other versions.” Always thinking about how the vertical shape of the tie influences each pattern, she begins manipulating photos from her own camera or digitally assembling the pieces that will eventually be the basis for a unique illustration.

“Once I think it’s about done, I’m pretty old-school about printing it out on tabloid-sized paper and just holding up the finished design over a few different necktie sizes on a lightbox and then burning it right to screen once it’s the correct size, ” she said. “I’m not a fan of rulers.”

Her aversion to rulers certainly hasn’t stunted the quality of her work, and we’re thrilled to offer several Bethany’s latest creations. When asked which of these designs is her personal favorite, she was a little indecisive, but answered with two options that happen to be on our favorites list as well.

Beer! Hops Tie. Photo by Bethany Shorb

“I’m definitely guilty of being seduced by the new, so probably my most recent design, [the Bike Chain Tie] is my current favorite,” said Bethany. “I’m also particularly drawn to the more pattern-based designs, ones that look like a traditional necktie motif, but have a little something extra hidden within the pattern that you might not realize is there until up close to the wearer. The Beer design is a near second – ties proclaiming one’s affinity for the tasty beverage are not always the most elegant, so I enjoy being able to put a different spin on the often less-than-classy beer tie.”

Finally, after giving us a look into her creative and technical process and providing a little prompt to those who aren’t quite sure which stylish tie to purchase first, Bethany also left us with a bit of advice on seeking an education in art and aspiring to build a business in art, design, or even another seemingly unrelated field.

“I like to think that my schooling in art taught me how to design and see in a holistic manner, rather than the simple mastery of a particular craft, technique or tool,” she said. “I firmly believe a quality art education can be applied to any discipline.” She went on to explain, “I’m completely self-taught in screen printing aside from one messy afternoon session on my friend’s kitchen table.” Evidence that learning the basics, and keeping an open mind when looking at the big picture, can go a long way.

Maker Stories

Inside the Designer’s Studio with Dolan Geiman

June 4, 2012

With artists throughout the 50 states, being able to visit the studio of each designer is a valuable, but more often unlikely opportunity. However, sometimes an opportunity lends itself to step inside the mind of an artist without ever setting foot in their hometown. Dolan Geiman is a mixed media designer who marries found objects and iconic imagery in his pieces. He generously takes us on our first remote studio tour and shares his tools, tricks and inspirations through photos of his space and in his owns words.

What are your most essential tools for creating your art?
The tools I find most essential for creating my artwork are as follows, in this order:
apple pie, crisp warm days, cool nights, bluegrass and country music, a clear mind, and a vision of the finished project. Other tools are easier to obtain.

Where do you find inspiration within your workspace?
I keep artifacts around my studio that give me energy and creative power: a turtle shell, a cow skull, a box of fasteners my sister sent me from Prague, a collection of pine cones and bird nests, a box of civil war buttons and old watches. Things that have energy and I can plug into them like one might plug a Norelco into a bathroom socket.

Where does down time fit into a day in the studio?
Well, there is not a whole lot of downtime for me. I think it’s that way when you run your own business. A lot of peers tell me in in their wispy yoga voices “Ahh, you just have to make time for yourself.” Yeah, it ain’t that easy. So, I take time at the end of a few months of hard labor. I’m trying to eek out a few moments early in the morning to walk and look at birds. But for now, while the work is there, I will be there holding its hand or holding its head while it throws up.

What was the toughest lesson you learned as a young designer starting a business?
I never learned how to say “no” earlier in my career. It’s nice to say no. It helps you to stay sane. It’s hard if you are broke, but don’t ever let people take advantage of your creativity in that way.

What advice would you offer yourself 5 years ago?
Charge more for your services. And stop smoking cigarettes. And move to the country. And get a damn haircut.

How do you set goals for yourself?
I basically keep this little treasure chest in my head and on the front of the chest is a goal. When I complete the goal I get to open the treasure chest. It’s usually full of wine and beer and a few days of fly fishing in the mountains. I try to set goals that are attainable but very difficult. And I do weekly, monthly, and yearly goals.

How and when do you decide to celebrate a victory?
Well, I used to celebrate more but then I married my business partner and that put a damper on the celebrations… haha. I like to celebrate after I complete a successful project or a milestone in the business. I think I appreciate these things because I’m more of a stop-and-smell-the-roses kind of person. And it also helps mentally, and mental health is something I take very seriously. If you just keep doing these cool things and then don’t stop to look at what you’ve done and where you’ve been then five years goes by and you are just older and not any happier.

What quote keeps you motivated? What does that quote mean to you?
I have this quote that I say to myself which is like my mental tattoo – “make art or die” – because if I stop making art I will most likely die. Like a pancake without syrup. Useless and not making anyone happy.

What are some new skills you are trying to acquire to perfect your craft?
I am trying to learn more about woodworking and creating antiqued finishes. I rely on the spoken advice of my peers and colleagues for this. There are two nice woodworkers in the basement studio below my studio so I often pick their brains for advice.

How do you recharge your creativity?
I go fishing or hiking or camping or bird watching or anything in the woods for at least several days. I’m trying harder and harder to re-charge my creativity these days, since I feel like I am working harder and harder. I have had several mental breakdowns in the past five years, due mostly to the fact that I work way too much. But this is the burden of being a Libra blessed with creativity. It’s a blessing and a curse… and a curse. I find the best recharging happens when I am far from other people and just staring at something like a cloud or an ant or a cloud that is shaped like an ant. I often meditate in nature and will create an entire novel in my mind which I try to slowly erase until there is nothing but… nothing. Meditation is hard.

Where does collaboration come into play with your craft?
I am not really sure. I like to collaborate with other folks, but I think mostly the collaboration is more conversational. When I am around other artists that I enjoy, we often create nice mind energy conversations and the mood is good and so I feel like we are all collaborating on a conversation and it’s like we are pooling our positive energy into the physical space. It’s more of a Jungian thing. When you leave the space of being around good people, smart and interesting people, there is energy there and you can draw on that later. It’s a similar feeling to déjà-vu, perhaps a cousin of déjà-vu. But in reverse.


photos by Dolan Geiman, Eric Grimes, Chris Nightengale, David Schalliol, and Paul Zimmerman

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