Global Looking Glass first met the owner of The Mighty Squirm, Thea Saks during Magic Market Week in Spring 2014 and quickly became one of our favorite brands that embodies uniqueness and quality in each and every design. The Mighty Squirm is more than just a company creating amazing shirts. Each shirt created gives customers the artists take on a small moment in history. For example our two favorite must have shirts “Sarah Bernhardt lying in a coffin” and Smoking Skeletons” which gets complements all the time. We couldn’t help but want to learn more about The Mighty Squirm.
Thea Saks was kind enough to answer some of our questions about her company.
The Mighty Squirm specializes in “apparel and art with romance and a slight chill”—original designs inspired partly by history and partly by gothic horror stories. We started out with gothic horror designs, and then we began to see that our gothic horror designs contained historical elements, such as horse-drawn hearses and Tudor-era execution scenes, and we thought, “Why not branch out into history as well?”
Who designs your shirts?
I do the illustrations for our shirts. My husband, Daniel, helps me with design ideas and cleaning up designs in Photoshop and Illustrator. He also designed our elaborate antique-style booth furniture.
How does your company go about selecting a specific historical figure or scene in history?
We love the Victorian and Edwardian eras and the Middle Ages/Renaissance, so our historical designs so far have been inspired by those time periods. Sometimes we select a historical figure we happen to like, such as Oscar Wilde or Sarah Bernhardt, or get ideas from art of the past, like medieval illustrations of the Danse Macabre. At other times we can’t help being influenced by current trends; my decision to make Abe Lincoln into a T-shirt and a print came out of the popularity of the movie Lincoln. But making that choice and doing research about Lincoln led us to Frederick Douglass, and now we have two T-shirts and a print of Douglass. So sometimes researching one subject can lead us to another.
How is the fabric and the cut of the shirt selected?
The style, material, and color of a shirt are chosen for how well we think they compliment a specific design. For example, we printed Isadora Duncan on a flowy white dolman top because Duncan often danced in flowy, airy fabric, and we chose a form-fitting scoop neck for our Danse Macabre tee because we wanted women to be able to wear the tee under a corset (a staple article of clothing for both dark subculture fans and Renaissance fans). By the way, we now have the Danse Macabre shirt in a looser cut for women who prefer that. We try to buy organic and Made in the USA as much as possible, while still choosing shirts that work with whatever designs we’re working on. The shirts we choose aren’t all made by the same blank shirt manufacturer (we want the freedom to choose exactly what we want), so sometimes our shirts feel different and fit slightly differently; but we prefer the small problems of variety to, well, not enough variety.
Usually several days’ worth. I do all my own original drawing, and I don’t directly copy any person or scene from a single photograph. I always look at multiple photos of each of my subjects, and I do other picture research and reading to decide what the subject will be doing in my drawing and how to create a background (if any) around the subject.
To date what is your most popular design?
The Danse Macabre. It’s unusual among T-shirt designs in that it really has two designs, one high around the neckline and the other high up on the back, and can be worn with a corset. And I think the “dance of death” theme is fun and universally appealing even though it’s dark.
What is your favorite design and why?
My personal favorite is Sarah Bernhardt lying in a coffin. That was something Bernhardt actually did from time to time, allowing the press to photograph her; and she said it helped her get into the proper mood for her tragic roles on the stage. I like the shaft of light running diagonally across the shirt. The light is coming from a stained-glass window; I wanted the figure in the window to be Bernhardt too, if possible, and then I found a photo of her as Hamlet holding a skull! What better figure for a dark design like this one! It worked out perfectly.
Is there a story of one particular shirt that you are most drawn to?
In addition to the Sarah Bernhardt story, I like the story of the two men in our 1892 Boxers shirt, “Gentleman Jim” Corbett and John L. Sullivan. The shirt tells the story of Corbett challenging Sullivan for the heavyweight boxing championship…and winning. (The shirt has a small drawing on the back showing the winning knockout punch!) It really happened; it was a famous match. There was even a movie made about it in the 1940s called Gentleman Jim, and it starred Errol Flynn.
What is in store for the future?
So far I’ve been following two roads simultaneously: designing T-shirts and showing drawings and paintings in galleries. I’d like to keep doing both. I don’t really think of myself as an apparel designer; a T-shirt is just one type of “canvas” I use for my work.
Courtesy Image The Mighty Squirm
The shirts featured in this article where provided by The Mighty Squirm for an honest unbiased review. Global Looking Glass has never and will never accept payment for any reviews.