One of the most recent companies to enter the fray has been Salt City Clothing, a two-man operation making shirts, hats and accessories -- quality merchandise with low and reasonable prices. Today, I chat with the two men behind it, Travis Evans and James Lamb, about their business and designs, as well as thoughts on local art.
James Lamb & Travis Evans
Gavin: Hey, James and Trevor. First thing, tell us a little bit about yourselves.
James: I am a regular Utah boy. Went to Granger high then Woods Cross. I joined the military at a young age -- Navy Corpsman. Got out of the military after four years of distinguished service and decided I wanted to be my own boss and start my own company. I have an amazing wife and child. I also have a very strong group of friends that I consider family.
Travis: I am a biotechnology major, with a degree in computer science. I have a passion for art and design. I worked in the tech industry programming for two years and ended up hating it. I decided to go into biotech and also pursue my passion for art by going into business with James. I have been all over the country and the world and will always consider Salt Lake home. I will always come back. I love our city and the diverse culture that you find here. It is my dream to infect the world with the art and style of Salt Lake.
Gavin: What got you interested in art and design, and what were some early influences on you?
James: I grew up in the household of a very artistic father: an author, sculptor, and all-around-amazing artist. He always taught me to express my thoughts and feelings through pen and paper. He instilled a passion in me through art that helped me find a healthy and productive outlet to deal with the the horrors of war and the challenges of life. For example, Travis and I are in a debate right now about the most bad-ass military personnel. My only response to him is, "Motherfucker, I have an artistic way to insert this chair up your ass if you mention top gun and say fighter pilots one more time. I'll Marine Corps this chair leg right up your ass." Needless to say, James is a tad one-sided with his military experience.
Travis: I have had an interest for art and designs from a young age. I have been drawing, writing, and painting since I was young. I started programming in the mid '90s on my first computer, a Commodore 64. Haven't stopped or slowed down yet. I got into graphic design the moment my parents FINALLY got the Internet when I was 12. I've been going strong ever since. Art is in my blood.
Gavin: Did either of you take any college courses for art, or were you mainly self-taught?
James: I am a strictly self-taught artist. I have taken an interest in many art programs. I gain a lot of knowledge through mentors who are well-versed in these programs. I have gained experience from my mentors and have diversified my knowledge base in many formats and media.
Travis: I have spent eight years in college in different capacities. I wrote a lot of code for art programs, so I have an intimate knowledge of their use. As far as graphic-design courses are concerned, I only took classes on graphic design that were geared toward programming. College has been an interesting experience, to say the least. I think I will be a perpetual student. I eat up knowledge and feel that I can never learn enough. One of my favorite quotes is, "An educated world is a better world." That is a philosophy I truly believe.
Gavin: What drew each of you toward graphic design, and what was it like for you learning the craft?
James: It was a very difficult process, filled with a lot of laptop throwing and CPU hammering. This is why I don't have a computer.
Travis: Graphic design was a compelling and interesting field to jump into. It was a welcome challenge. I took to it like a fat boy to Twinkies. It has been a lot of fun to learn all the programs and be able to visually express myself. Making my friends look like idiots in Photoshop is my favorite guilty pleasure.
Gavin: When did the two of you first meet each other and become friends?
James: We first met about five years ago, right after James had ended his military service. We had some mutual friends that Travis was always hanging out with, who James ended up living with. We all became drinking buddies. Our friendship took off from there after a great deal of stupidity and drunken adventure.
Gavin: How did the idea come about to start up a clothing line, and why Salt City Clothing for the name?
Travis: Honestly, we spent so much time going through department stores with our girls and not seeing a single thing that we liked or would ever wear. We are not Fubu guys, we are not Nike guys, we are NOT Obey guys. And we found that we are not alone. We got sick of seeing people wearing trendy crap with absolutely no artistic talent in the design. Although we are not what we wear, what we wear should be an expression of who we are. There was nothing out there to express who we are. We made it a point to produce clothing that we liked, that we would wear, that expressed how we felt. We are not one person, we are not two people; we are a collective. We are a group of people who are sick of the norm. We are individuals and we are proud of it. We will never hide behind the norm or the status quo. We are proud to express ourselves through what we wear.
Gavin: What was it like putting the business together, and what made you decide to find funding via Kickstarter?
James: Putting the business together was a challenge. Banks don't fund dreams. Kickstarter was a natural solution to the problem of funding. The people of Kickstarter seem to have a more open mind to new ideas, ideas that may be outside the norm. We found success through Kickstarter and social media. We chose Kickstarter because we thought we would appeal to a much broader audience. We wanted PEOPLE to invest in our company -- not millionaires, not banks -- people.
Gavin: Why did you decide to stick to an online shop rather than find a physical location?
Travis: When we started out, we had two or three designs. Although we have grown, we still don't feel that we are competitive enough to survive in a retail market. At the point we are at right now, a retail spot would force us to compromise our artistic integrity. However, if any like-minded retail stores were willing to hit us up to carry our product, we are definitely open to the idea. We want to represent our art and our artists as much as possible, so we are always open to any avenue.
Gavin: What's the process like for you in making a new shirt design, from initial concept to the final shirt?
James: We have a storyboard process. One of us has an idea. We pass it on to the other. We then collaborate and work the design together until we have the end product. We then submit it to the public for feedback. Any feedback we receive we take into thoughtful consideration and make adjustments to the design accordingly. All of this is done with no compromise to our ideals, beliefs and integrity.
Gavin: How much do you play with your creations before you make them final, and how much decision work is done between you both?
Travis: On average, it is a back-and-forth process that takes anywhere between three weeks to months, depending on the complexity of the design. Our process is a 100% collaboration between us, our artists and our followers. It is designed to represent all of our ideas, our ideals and our beliefs.
Gavin: You also work with other artists to create new shirts. What made you decide to work with others, and who has worked with you to date?
James: Our original plan was to represent the art and style of Salt Lake City. We approach many local artists about possible collaboration. We take applications from any local artist who wants to be heard and have their artwork seen by the masses. We love the art and lifestyle of our city and strive to promote it any way we can. Up to this point, all of our artwork has been done in-house. We are looking forward to promote any local artist and are currently collaborating with select, young, local talent. We have numerous designs in the works from our newest artists. We are excited to release them early next year.
Gavin: As of now, your clothing isn't in any local shops. Are you looking to branch out and have your line displayed in physical locations, or sticking to just online?
Travis: We are in negotiations with a few local shops to stock our products. We are always looking to branch out and have our clothing carried by as many local businesses as possible.
Gavin: Are there any plans to expand the business, or are things good as they are?
James: As far as expansion goes, we are constantly looking for new avenues to promote our artists, artwork and product.
Gavin: Going local, what are your thoughts on the local art scene and the work coming from it?
Travis: The local art scene is vibrant, diverse and amazing. There is a vast amount of talent concentrated in the valley. Salt Lake City is a melting pot of talent. There is so much diversity and creativity here. We are influenced from the East and West; we are on the forefront of creativity. The talent here is constantly evolving and growing. This is the place to be. Pun intended.
Gavin: Is there anything you believe could be done to make things more prominent?
James: No. At this point, our growth is tantamount to public demand. When the demand exceeds what we are producing, we will produce more. We are not in the business of volume, we are in the business of giving our followers what they want and deserve. We will never sacrifice quality for quantity.
Gavin: Who are some other people doing screenprinting and graphic works in SLC whom you've enjoyed checking out?
Travis: The only people who come to mind truly thinking outside the box are our mentors at White Room Printing and The Levitation Project. This group of talented people are consistently putting out amazing designs and products, while being some of the most helpful, talented, and down-to-earth people we have encountered. They are on the forefront of their market, and we hope and have faith they will bring Burton down. We specifically want to mention Andrew Miller for being a guiding light, for being a true artist and a true friend to a start-up clothing company. What he learned in three years he taught us in a month. We hope we can pay his service forward.
Gavin: What can we expect from both of you and SCC over the rest of this new year?
James: Expect to see multiple new designs in limited release, exclusive and mass production. SCC will be attending many music festivals and concerts over the next year. We are looking forward to becoming a staple at the downtown farmers markets in 2013. If things go well, we will be getting a kiosk or stand-alone retail space at one of the malls downtown, as well. We are excited to have our product displayed at numerous local shops over the next year.
Gavin: Is there anything you'd like to promote or plug?
Travis: Keep an eye out for us all over downtown; we plan on taking over. We want to put notice out to local artists: If you have something you want the world to see, we want to help you showcase it. Also, check out the I Am Salt Lake Podcast for the best of the local scene.
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