Paul McCreery, in his Paulville Goods booth at Surtex.
Paul McCreery stood out while sitting down at his Paulville Goods illustration/licensing/tees exhibition booth at last week's Surtex art licensing trade show for designers, manufacturers, and retailers at New York's Javits Center.
His walls were lined with t-shirts, wall art, and embroidered patches for ball caps, all artwork falling into five categories reflecting his personal taste: music, robots, motorcycles, surfing, and what he calls "American Heritage," such as a Native American chief and a "Don't Tread on Me"-styled snake with arrows. As a fellow exhibitor observed, "You're one of the few here with male-oriented product. Everything's so femme, and you're so masculine!"
"Half-a-dozen people came by and said they were shopping for their husbands or grandsons and weren't finding anything good until they came to me," said McCreery, who lives in Austin but hails from the mountains of Southern California—"so the laid-back lifestyle is a part of me, and comes through in my illustrations: My clunky line meanders and flows like water, finding the route along the path of hills and plains."
His pen and ink drawings transfer easily to t-shirt design and screen printing, all of which he does himself.
"I think the common thread is nostalgia, whether it be retro toys, vintage arcade games, music or Americana," said McCreery. Now living in the "Live Music Capital of the World," his 32 Guitars Army t-shirt is particularly intricate: "These aren't just 32 random guitars that I thought looked pretty. Each one represents great guitar models, from Jimmy Page's double-neck Gibson to Bruce Springsteen's Fender Esquire to Johnny Cash's signature black Martin. It's the perfect shirt for music lovers and air guitar enthusiasts alike."
But McCreery has discovered that the simple Waves for Days surf design of horizontal wave lines, which took him less than a minute to draw, sells just as well.
"Robots, skateboards, motorcycles—I'm trying to figure out what part of the design world I fall into," said McCreery, who began designing his shirts after graduating art school in 2007.
"I did editorial illustrations for magazines and newspapers until the economy crashed, and then figured I might make money making shirts," he said. "I was making them for family and friends for fun, and they encouraged me to try selling them."
So he started small, trying to ascertain what consumers wanted.
"It's a small niche," said McCreery, "but it got to where I was selling more than I could really handle. So I came to Surtex hoping to start licensing, and sold a couple t-shirt designs to Target."
But he was surprised to find that show attendees seemed more interested in his wall art, with one of his wall art designs, ironically, being his one definite female-friendly piece.
"I started drawing sewing machines a long time ago," he said, and sure enough, he now has a wall art drawing consisting of 15 vintage sewing machines.
"My grandma was a big sewer and quilter," he explained. "I even did a video of her quilting and talking about it as a tribute to her before she passed."