T-Shirts From the Collection: Big and Weird

If a t-shirt is big enough and weird enough, I have to have it. Its meaning is irrelevant, save for this: some t-shirt designer climbed out beyond the world we know. And brought us a tee from the Other Side.

M.C. Escher Self-Portrait Andazia Tee 1

You’ve seen M.C. Escher t-shirts: hands drawing each other, staircases passing through the fourth dimension, interlocking lizards… You know the drill. This Escher shirt is different: it centers on a self-portrait of M.C. Escher himself, bundled with some other early Escher works, and all of it hovering above a Dutch cityscape: by Escher or not, I’m unsure.

And it’s a wrap-around. Cool, or what?

M.C. Escher Self-Portrait Andazia Tee 2

I’m from Santa Cruz; this tee was printed down here 30 years ago by a t-shirt imprinter called Andazia. Andazia licensed interesting artwork from various sources, printed the art on tees, and distributed the tees through bookstores, museums, and galleries.

For a time in the ‘80s and early ‘90s, Santa Cruz was the national font of M.C. Escher t-shirts. I even met the Andazia people once nearly 30 years ago at a t-shirt surplus sale in their parking lot. I picked up a couple of things, but nothing this cool.

Andazia’s been gone since 2003. But the tee was waiting for me at Goodwill.

Outer Limits License-Wear 90s Tee 1

Now as far as big and weird t-shirts come, they don’t come much bigger and weirder than this. The design spills across the shoulders, down the arms, and all the way to your crotch. And it stares at you. Oh my, it certainly does.

Outer Limits License-Wear 90s Tee 1You’re looking at another licensed t-shirt, this one for the reboot of the classic sci-fi television show “The Outer Limits” in the mid-90s. But the design is from an episode of the original series, “The Zanti Misfits.” Said misfits were ant-like criminals with grotesque human faces, exiled to earth by their home planet. And you’re looking at them.

Some of the design is silk-screen, and some is hand-applied. It’s some kind of masterpiece of over-the-top men’s wear. If I were to walk downtown in this t-shirt, every eye would be on me — perhaps in shock, but nevertheless on me. I’m not going to.

This tee was designed and manufactured by an outfit called Littlefield, Adams, and Company, which placed tees with licensed designs in discount department stores. Can you see this tee hanging with pride in the “Boy’s and Men’s Clothing” section of a Bay Area K-Mart, circa 1996? And it’s Blue Light Special Time…

I’ve got many cool tees, but few where the design so absolutely dominates the entire shirt. Here are some lesser but still excessive tees:

AlfaHanne Bird Skeleton Death Metal Tee

I’m no big fan of Swedish black metal bands, but I had to take this shirt home. Sure it’s all bones and skulls like so many metal shirts. But it has that special Gothic zing of the fur-clad headbangers from northern Europe and Scandinavia. A black griffin skeleton that nearly covers the whole tee? Gimme.

Hokusai Waves Carmel Surf Contest Tee

Now, I am a big fan of Hokusai waves, and this Carmel surf contest tee well rips off the Japanese woodblock print master with an elegant and over-the-top full-width design. And pelicans. The pelicans make it.

Big Dick Choppers 1

I’ve got nothing to say about this one. Nothing.

Airbrush Marilyn by Domingo Vasquez

We’ll end with an airbrush Marilyn. Nothing says excess like a crazed portrait of a relentless ‘50s sex goddess, executed by a local artist over Salinas way.

I love this job; even though I don’t get paid for it.


9 thoughts on “T-Shirts From the Collection: Big and Weird

  1. lk

    It’s not a t-shirt, but a few years back an unusual children’s book publisher put out a version of “Alice in Wonderland” with illustrations that combined the graphics of John Tenniel (the original illustrator) with M. C. Escher. The result you can imagine. I really wish I’d kept that one. If they did a promotional t-shirt for the book, I sincerely hope you come across it one of these days.

      1. lk

        No, not the same kind of illustration style. The book I’m talking about had illustrations that were literally a joining of Tenniel’s and Escher’s styles. The Mad Hatter is pictured walking up stairs that are going every which way (upside-down and sideways) like Escher. It was well done, so I kinda wish I’d hung onto that one.

  2. Tyler Schirmer

    Yo! Amazing tees. I know some people trying to collect all the MC Escher Andazia printed tees. I collect crazy t-shirts myself! I’d love to check out your collection if ever possible. Maybe we could do some tradinf as well. E-mail me to set something up! & thanns for the awesome posts

    1. admin Post author

      Tyler, thanks for your interest but I’m keeping a low-profile right now. Stay turned for my online t-shirt museum, however.

    1. admin Post author


      Sorry for the delay. I have no clue at all. But you’re not the first person who’s asked me about this, and I’ve looked into this a bit with no luck at all. All I can say is that it’s probably licensed.

      1. Kris

        Do you know any of the Andazia people or how to reach out to them? I also live in the Bay Area, and have been looking for their shirts or the artist behind it for over a decade. Your blog is the warmest the trail has ever gotten for me, and I found a few images of the shirt (including my personal favorite, the Cheshire Cat drumming!).

        1. admin Post author

          Andazia operated out of Santa Cruz, California, where I live. I actually met “them” — a woman, perhaps the owner — at a parking lot t-shirt clearance they were having in the mid-90s. They were moving across town to different quarters. Nothing cool in the selection, mainly past event shirts (sporting, yachting, etc.) that they still had a stock of. Though I picked up a couple of safety-orange BIOHAZARD tees — both the word and the symbol — that made me the envy of my friends.

          Now if you want to torture yourself, go to the California digitized newspaper archive — https://cdnc.ucr.edu –and do a search on “Andazia” from the newspaper “Santa Cruz Sentinel” from 1990 through 2000 or so. The digital archive is amazingly valuable and absolutely the clumsiest user interface I have seen in my time. You’ll be… frustrated. But the information is there, including this story from 1994 in the Santa Cruz Sentinel. There are a number of stories mentioning Andazia in the Sentinel, but the only one I’ve looked at is this one from July 1994 which mentions that the owner’s name is Linda Terrell and talks a lot about the history of the company. If you look at online “people finder” sites using her name and “Santa Cruz” you may come up with something. But note that she was in her 40s or early 50s when I ran into her, and that was nearly 30 years ago.

          Here’s the text of the article, crudely lifted from the site across two different page files. Good luck.

          By GUY LASNIER Switinel business editor LIVE OAK In the silk-screen printing business they are known as the people who do the Kscher shirts. Locally, Andazia International isn’t widely known at all. A recent coup in capturing a licensing deal with the 19!W Olympic Gaines could brinu widespread ex
          posure to the growing company. “Moving into the Olympics puts us in a whole new realm,” said Linda Terrell, Andazia founder and
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          Andes and Asia and is in
          herited from an importing business Terrell owned. She started printing T-shirts in Santa Cruz under the Andazia label in 1987 and broke into the big time two years later with shirts using designs from M.C. Kscher woodcuts. The company expanded in May when it moved into the former headquarters of West Marine on 17th Avenue near Soquel Avenue. It is a printer and wholesaler with shirts in more than 4,000 college stores, museum gift shops, resorts and catalogs. “Because of Kscher we have a very diverse market,” said Terrell,
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          M.C. Escher
          “from the guy in Birkenstorks to the corporate executive.” Andazia has licensed and prints designs from Alice in Wonderland, Miles Davis and the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory at Florida State University. Those shirts feature magnified images taken from the molecular structures of various substances such as UNA, Vitamin C, estrogen and testosterone. The designs are popular with the college and scientific crowd and prompt Andazia to promote its work as “Smart Art on T-shirts.” Its most popular is a grinning Cheshire cat. “The name of the game in the silk-screen business is licensing,” says Terrell. “Who ever has the hottest licenses is best.” One of the hottest now is the Olympics set for Atlanta. Andazia is a sublicensee to I lanes Corp. to print shirts with Olympic themes, llanos is a subsidiary of Sara Lee Corp. which with another subsidiary, Champion, will blanket the U.S with Olympic T-shirts. Andazia fills a niche in which Manes is not strong, said Mike Hughes, assistant marketing manager for Olympics with Hanes. “They are kind of the cutting edge we haven’t got to yet,” said Hughes, from Hanes headquarters in Winston-Salem, N.C. “It’s a little out there and breaks through the clutter,” he said of Andazia’s line-up of designs. Andazia is one of only six companies to get national distribution rights for the Olympic shirts and is
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          Printed T-shirt is pulled from dryer belt at ‘;” Andazia International’s Live Oak plant.
          Dan CovroSentinel
          the smallest. Another half dozen will get regional marketing rights. In selling the shirts it prints, Andazia will be going up against both Hanes and Champion, two of the largest producers. Terrell is ready. “I love going up against the big boys.” she said. The company has 100 sales reps around the county who will be working to get the shirts into better department stores, said Donna Wilson, Andazia’s vice president of marketing. Prices will be between
          $14 and $20 retail. Karly response has been good, said Hughes. Andazia is producing designs with Olympic logos for which royalties will be paid to the United States Olympic Organizing Committee. Other designs will use the name Atlanta and result in royalties to the organizing group in Atlanta, which is hosting the quadrennial athletic festival. The deal is a “windfall,” said Crain Mousen, editor of The Press,
          a Denver-based trade magazine that covers the textile screen printing industry. He said the Olympics will mean in estimated $100 million to the na:ion’s T-shirt printers. “We are a nation that likes to wear messages on our backs,” he said. “It’s part of our national dress code.” In 1990, 1 billion printed T-shirts were sold in the U.S., Housen said, resulting in $10 billion to $12 billion of business.
          Terrell said she saw an trade, magazine announcement calling for proposals for the Olympics pro-‘ ject. Hanes was encouraging worn-” en- and minority-owned businesses to apply. She and marketing vice president Wilson put together an package, including photographs of the company’s many female employees. “It seems that more women come in the door,” said Terrell ofher’ workforce. She said she doesn’t think about it much until she visits other companies and realizes the difference. “It seems normal to me,” she said. Terrell, who was used to running every aspect of her business, has begun to delegate duties. “When you’re going by the seat of your pants you don’t have to time to worry about problems,” she said. The company has benefited from the shutdown of a regional Reebok office in Aptos. Wilson came from Reebok as did Terrell’s warehouse manager. “All of a sudden there was this wealth of talent,” Terrell said. ; The recent move to Live Oak from the Westside was complicated and fraught with problems but is now complete. Andazia’s $250,000 belt printer, which allows printing on an entire shirt front, back and sleeves at once, required a Crane and partial disassembly to get into the building. Andazia is one of only four companies in Northern California with a belt printer. i Terrell spends most of her time jn the road at trade shows, as many as 50 a year. The company has built enough of a reputation that she doesn’t need to prospect for designs anymore, people approach her with idea, hoping Andazia will print shirts. I “They bring something really creative,” said Hughes of Hanes. I’lt’s not only their designs but their printing expertise,” he said. ‘They have a rare ability to take n extra step, execute it, ship it and deliver it.”


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