CC/24 - Spring, Sweat, and Tears

Jon Wheeler

Spring has well and truly perked it’s head up, and I thought I’d share a little behind the scenes to give you some context for what's to come. I’ve taken plenty of notes from the winter that’s just passed (read here), and I’m excited for what’s planned. As to be expected, there’s been many a speed bump so far, but I’m trying to steamroll over them as best as I can.

There’s two summer collections underway - one consisting of a handful of tees, and another with some tees, shorts, and caps. It’s always a stab in the dark when creating new types of garments for the first time, and more often than not, things don’t go according to plan.

One of the main problems I encountered was elastane. The shorts contain 4% of this stretchy material, and it was only after I had ordered them that I discovered they’re much more challenging to print on than cotton. Whilst I can print the tees myself, I had to find a print shop to take care of the shorts. Some places won’t touch elastane jobs under certain quantities due to the different process of printing, and others simply don’t have the means to do it. I was pretty annoyed with myself for not thinking to research this beforehand, but I guess that’s how things get taught sometimes. Another option was embroidering them, however it didn’t quite align with how I envisioned the original design concept. I considered ordering a new bunch of cotton shorts just to get the damn things printed with regular fabric ink, but I told myself to be patient  A little digging around eventually led me to a place that could do it without breaking the bank. Sometimes, it pays off to snoop around a little.

In an ideal world, I would have already finished the tees by now, but there were some issues with the blank supplier that forced me to wait a few weeks. I’m glad I started planning well in advance, taking into account all these damn hiccups. It’s frustrating, but there’s nothing that can be done, you just have to take it in your stride. Problems love to poke their heads around the corner when you least expect it, so leaving ample time is a non-negotiable principle.

When a garment is finished, next comes the shooting and content creation. It’s a lot of work but honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m really trying to tighten the screws with my time management, so this mammoth task is proving to be a very good exercise in discipline. It’s just tackling one task at a time and ticking it off when it's done. Breaking projects down into manageable chunks helps to create a sense of rhythm and flow. We often get caught up looking at the end goal, scratching our heads wondering how we’re going to get there, but it doesn’t do any good to overlook all the steps in between. Remember that the way you completed the previous task is the same way you’ll complete the next one. Lay each brick one after the other, but make sure each one is laid to the best of your ability. Stay focused, put your head down, and before you know it, your wall, or perhaps your city, will be finished.

On another note, I obtained a single-colour printing press, and it’s been a real life saver. It’s helped me streamline my process tenfold, and I’m so glad to have invested in such a beautiful piece of equipment. Not only are the prints cleaner, bolder, and more consistent, but my workflow has drastically improved. It was a lot of fun printing without it, but the time has come where the effort isn’t matching the payoff. There’s only so far you can go with table clamps, but I don’t regret any step of this journey. It’s nice to reminisce on how I made my first screens with picture frames and dress mesh (you can take a trip down memory lane here). All the trial and error makes me appreciate the true value of this new press.

The press completely eliminated the stencil issues plaguing me the last few months (you can read more about that here and here). White prints struggle to maintain their opacity on dark fabrics, so I experimented with creating thicker stencils on the screens in order to lay down more ink. I spent a lot of time trying to make it work but it just wasn’t happening. I couldn’t figure out a solution until I got the press and realised that I was barking up the wrong tree. The press gives you the ability to pull a first print on the fabric, hit it quickly with a hair dryer, then lay down a second, identical layer on top. The idea is that printing two thinner layers of ink, one on top of the other, is more effective than trying to put down one thick layer. Feels good to finally file that issue in the ‘fixed’ folder. Again, a bit of determination and patience will get you there.

The process is difficult, but that’s just how it goes. Learning to love the struggle is key, and I know I keep banging on about it, but it truly makes a difference. We are all conditioned to be averse to failure, and rightly so - it’s a self-defense mechanism. It’s the armour that protects us from pain, however, the irony of real satisfaction arises from constantly leaving your comfort zone. The feeling of emerging through the other side of a struggle is like no other. You must accept setbacks as a fact of life and make it your mission to overcome them. You’ll find yourself becoming more patient and resilient as a person. Small things that used to frustrate me no longer irk me as much. As you learn more, bigger problems always arise, but you’ll notice a flow on effect where smaller stuff just doesn’t bother you as much. If you begin embracing adversity, in six months time, I guarantee you won’t be getting mad about the things you get mad about now.

You have no choice in whether problems occur or not, but you do have a choice in how you respond to them. I remember a few months ago, I misprinted my only remaining orange tee, and had to inform the customer it would be two weeks until another arrived. Luckily, he was very understanding and patient - thank you brother, you know who you are! Despite feeling like I had been fly kicked in the chest, I forced myself to laugh at the situation instead. In that moment, I must have looked like a maniac, but it actually helped a lot. The irony of making such a messy mistake when I only had one blank shirt left is actually pretty funny. You can choose to let these problems overcome you, or you can choose to overcome them. The problem is never the issue, your attitude towards it is.

Whatever it is you’re doing, hang in there and keep pushing. Perseverance begets progress, even if it is slow. Running a clothing label (or any business, for that matter) means working like an absolute dog. No one told me about all the gruelling, mundane stuff you need to do every single day just to make the ship sail. You realise very quickly that playing around with vectors and posting pretty photos on Instagram is a mere fraction of the deal. Nothing can prepare you for the constant self-doubt, frustration, and headaches. But stick in there, grit your teeth, and keep at it. If you love it enough, you’ll find a way to make it work.

Once again, thank you for reading if you’ve made it this far. Keep an eye out, I’ll be teasing bits of this summer’s gear real soon. Thank you all for sticking around with Clouds & Cups, I really appreciate your support.

JW


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