It is quite fascinating how childhood playtime intuition can determine your future. As we grow, another interest may overshadow our true calling.
For years, Courtney Graham wanted to be a writer. But, visual arts remained a major part of her craft.
“I remember when I was very young, I would make up elaborate stories in my head,” Graham said. Instead of writing them down, I would draw my own ‘book covers’ depicting the story lines.”
While attending Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida, Graham’s focus on creative writing took a back seat to studying culture.
“I recognized how certain art forms transcended language barriers and spoke to everyone despite their cultural background,” Graham said. Music is perhaps the most pervasive, but visual art and fashion also have the power to tell a story without words. I think the more time I spent living in places where I didn’t understand the language, the more I relied on and thrived through the use of these two particular forms of self-expression.”
After years of studying in Florida and traveling overseas, she returned to her hometown to develop ‘ShockT’, pronounced SHOK-tee.
“The art for my line–the style of it, at least,–began just before I left for China, when I started a series of black-and-white drawings,” Graham said. Sharpies were my art tools. Desiring a canvas larger and more dynamic than paper, I started drawing on large, white cotton men’s undershirts.”
Six months later, the Maryland native turned her hand-drawn tees into an eco-friendly fashion business. With help from her mother, Graham searched for manufacturers in the United States to make T-shirts using sustainable materials. Once the ShockT creator found a team to create patterns from her drawings, she had to find a way to transfer her artwork onto fabric.
“Sharpies certainly wouldn’t suffice,” Graham said. I came across a method called “direct-to-garment,” which, as opposed to screen printing, is like using a printer with ink rather than paint through a screen. This method leaves a soft feel to the shirts–never stiff, never fading, cracking, or peeling. And the images retain all the fine details of my line drawings. It’s really remarkable.”
ShockT’s philosophy of “WEARable, STAREable Art” is consistently balanced with innovative hand-drawn abstract designs. Just like an art piece hanging on a wall, ShockT’s designs are fully appreciated when you take some time to stare at it and get the whole picture. With the honor of being Raw Baltimore’s Fashion Designer of the Year, Graham hopes to expand her line by offering shirts for men, experimenting with fabrics, color as well as texture and exploring other outlets for her artwork. When the ShockT creator isn’t focusing on her unique apparel, she enjoys learning yoga.
“Fellow yogis might recognize allusions to yoga and chakras in a few of my designs,” Graham said. A lot of challenges in life are often reflected and resolved through time spent on the yoga mat.”
Besides managing an emerging clothing line, she take cares of two parrots and on a quest to make healthy food taste delicious.
“I think if I could someday find a way to have a store/studio where I could teach yoga, do art, sell art, and host healthy cooking and wellness workshops. . . that’d be the dream,” Graham said.