Etna Print Circus Wants You to Rethink Your Wardrobe & Self-Expression

We have a holiday tradition of buying matching tee shirts in lieu of ugly sweaters. And we try to buy them from local vendors at events like I Made It! Market or Handmade Arcade. This year, I saw the ‘Yinz is a Gender Neutral Pronoun’ shirts online and immediately purchased two. Then I reached out to the folks at Etna Print Circus to learn more about their business.

I’m excited that they are queer owned, that they work hard to have large sizes (which is important to me), and their work with artists. We *might* be talking about a PghLesbian blogging art shirt. Read on for more details about Etna Print Circus and a special discount for blog readers.

Your Name: Allison Butka

Your Age: 29

How do you describe your identity? Half owner of Etna Print Circus (with my partner, Joyce Swope,) your friendly local really gay t-shirt screen printing business.

Why did you launch Etna Print Circus? We were looking for ways to utilize both our skills. Joyce is a cartoonist and I enjoy printmaking, and we wanted something that could combine a service with the ability to create our own products. Our business is a balance of printing custom t-shirts for other people and printing our own designs, which is a great way to keep things varied and provides constant opportunities to experiment with new techniques and effects.

My partner and I bought some of your shirts last Pride at an event hosted by Assemble. We love them. They’ve both held up in the laundry really well. What products do you use to make such excellent shirts? Thank you! That’s great to hear. First and foremost, we don’t print on anything we wouldn’t wear ourselves. We are constantly pulling samples of different brands and styles and fabrics to evaluate. We seek out blank shirts available in as wide a range of sizes and colors as possible–most of our designs are available in sizes S-4X, and whenever possible we go from XS-5X. We primarily use plastisol inks which are super vibrant and opaque. And we wash test extensively–that’s the most important part. The best way to keep screen printed t-shirts looking fresh is to turn them inside out and wash in cold water on a gentle cycle and hang dry. We do our test washing under much harsher conditions to monitor wear and tear. We look for fabric that stays comfortable, seams that hold up, and of course, a print that stays bright and colorful.

The shirt that caught my eye reads ‘Yinz is a gender neutral pronoun’ which I immediately ordered. Where did that shirt come from and has it been popular? It’s definitely our most popular shirt. The statement comes from the idea that inclusive language can be simple and sometimes surprisingly familiar, even if we don’t immediately recognize that. It’s a reminder that words matter, pronouns matter, people matter. And that Yinz includes everybody!

You are a queer-owned, women-owned business. How can local folks do some holiday shopping with you? You can visit our web store at http://www.etnaprintcircus.com (use code “PGHLESBIAN” for 15% off orders placed for the rest of December!) or catch us at our next pair of holiday markets on December 16th. One of us will be at Spirit in Lawrenceville for Second Shift Crafters’ Procrastinator’s Ball and the other will be at the I Made It! Holiday Market at Cranberry Commons. Follow us on Instagram @EtnaPrintCircus to get the latest on new designs, behind the scenes shots, and info on where to find us.

Tell us about your personal all-time favorite tee shirt. Do you still have it? It’s a long-sleeved shirt I got from a Cirque du Soleil show when I was in middle school. Each sleeve is a different print, and I wore it as often as I could. I actually do still have it, and if it still fit, I would still wear it all the time!

What’s coming up next for the Etna Print Circus? We’re pretty excited for the next shirt in our featured artist series. From the artist: “The design, created by Sam Thorp, is based off the classical tarot card of “The Lovers”; where in the man looks to the woman, the woman looks up to the angelic higher being. It’s some lighthearted fun subverting the expectations of the status quo. Sam Thorp is a Queer Yinzer Artmaker who has done many art projects for various LGBTQ groups including some work for #AMPLIFY in the past.”

Can a tee shirt change the world? Maybe so! I think t-shirts, especially hand printed ones like ours, can be a really neat way to connect consumer directly to creator. A t-shirt is a functional object that most people can use and wear and enjoy, but it can also be a way to carry an affordable piece of art around with you on your body, or make a statement that can allow you to connect with other people. Getting into the t-shirt business has made me totally rethink my wardrobe as a means of self expression. I usually choose clothing for fit and function over appearance, but I’ve also never had a huge selection of options that reflect anything I might want to communicate with a shirt. Having a print shop is a ridiculously amazing opportunity to create things I could only wish existed before. It brings me so much joy when a stranger is delighted enough by something we made to want to wear it on their chest for the whole world to see!

Thank you, Allison!

Don’t forget to visit their web store at http://www.etnaprintcircus.com & use code “PGHLESBIAN” for 15% off orders placed for the rest of December!

Here are the shirts that Ledcat & I bought last summer during the alt-Pride event in Garfield.

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