My name is Anika Erickson. I run a clothing company called Home Free Tees. We screenprint original outdoor-oriented designs on secondhand clothing.
Why screen printing specifically? And not any other type of T-shirt printing?
I taught myself how to screen print off YouTube. I was paying a screen printer before but figured I could save money and learn to do it myself. It also just kinda made sense for the style of art I do to use screen printing. I would love to learn more ways to print, but right now I’m really focused on the design and business sides of things.
If you could put any famous person on a T-shirt and relate it to the great outdoors who would it be?
For some reason, Abraham Lincoln comes to mind. Then maybe sketch the Tetons on the rim of his hat or something.
Do you have plans to expand beyond T-shirt’s?
Yes, I have so many plans. I am a dreamer and schemer at heart. I’m just trying to get selling tee shirts off the ground, but I would love to find a way to continue to recycle tee shirts in different ways. Chalk bags for rock climbers made out of old shirts, or bags and purses. Maybe find a way to recycle old trucker hats. The thing about expanding is everything has to be aligned with the idea of upcycling used tee shirts. It has to be creative and innovative, so it takes a little more work to get forward movement on new ideas.
I also am a diehard coffee drinker and would love to come up with some designs to support my love of coffee and learn to print on old mugs.
Where do you find your inspiration from?
I was born and raised in Bozeman, Montana - a very outdoor-oriented mountain town. A lot of my designs are based on local mountain ranges, the hobbies we enjoy in the outdoors here, or the wildlife here. The style of art I enjoy creating is combining two different ideas into one. Like hiding words into part of a design or turning part of a lion's mane into a floral arrangement - creating something a little bit ironic.
The sayings just kinda come from life: people say something and you think “ that would make a good tee shirt.” Or they are jokes between my friends and I. I love never letting a joke die and the best way to never let a joke die is to bring as many people into it as possible and wear it on your shirt. That’s kinda how the Too Damn Durable shirts came about.
What is your favorite outdoor quote?
I don't know who said it but “Throw me to the wolves and I will return leading the pack.” I have this weird obsession with wolves. They have just become a theme in my life. If spirit animals are real, I hope mine is a wolf. I love getting people on board with new ideas and seeing what a group of people can accomplish with them all see the vision. Weirdly, I think this goes well with the kind of business I am starting because it's a new idea - people really have to see why reusing what we already have is so important.
What are your favorite kinds of fabric to use when screen printing?
I have primarily stuck to screen printing on tee shirts. I would love to branch out as I learn more about different textiles.
Where do you create the shirts?
I am currently screen printing out of my bedroom in my apartment. I’m still operating on a very small scale. I have a drying rack for my screens that my dad build me in the corner. I set up an old ironing board to dry the shirts on. It’s a pretty makeshift set up, but it works for now.
Who inspires you?
I am obsessed with podcasts. All the motivation I have had to get started and keep going has come from listening to business entrepreneurs podcasts. Listening to people who have done something similar to your idea and are living the life you want to live is vital to finding the courage to believe in your dreams.
A few of my favorite voices for this are:
What advice do you have for starting out entrepreneurs?
The two things I am constantly reminding myself are
One: maybe this dream/ idea was given to me for a reason. This idea belongs to me and I need to believe in it and it’s potential.
Two: if this idea fails, I did not really fail and I did not really lose anything. I will have gained too much knowledge about so many things in the process of building it. I have learned how to start a business, how to screen print, how to build a website, learned about social media. I have found out that I am very passionate about the fashion industry and the damage it causes to the earth and the people who work in it.
So failing is not really part of it. Maybe just moving on, if need be.
If you were stuck on an abandoned island what five items would you want with you?
Coffee and mug for sure. My sleeping bag. I hate sleeping when I’m cold. A sketch pad and pen. Maybe with all the free time, I could draw some really great art. Things to cook with. Seems practical. I feel like I would want a really good book that I don’t mind reading over and over.
What are you watching on Netflix right now?
I’m currently re-watching Parenthood. And FRIENDS is my go to/always on repeat show.