My four-year-old has a dresser drawer full of cute t-shirts with Valentine’s style hearts on them. What she needed was a shirt with an anatomically accurate drawing of a human heart on it. Thanks to artist Derrick Nau’s “Heartbeat Tee” and the folks at The Curated Tee*, she now has one. Actually, she has that one. Exactly that one – the one on the left.
The Curated Tee was founded by Vanessa (co-host of the Pop My Culture Podcast) and Mandy . They collaborate with artists to produce one t-shirt per month (available by subscription or individually the following month).
To be honest, they won me and my money* over with the “Heartbeat Tee”. It is not just the beauty of Derrick Nau’s illustration, which is considerable. The mature choice to recognize this piece of science art as both aesthetic, educational, and appropriate for young children makes me willing to trust The Curated Tee as curators:
His image is intricate and beautiful and encourages children to stop and think about what’s inside their bodies and what makes them tick.
So often our science-inspired art exists in its own niche. The merchandise can become kitschy and primarily signal our membership in the tribe of nerds/geeks/etc. Here, Derrick Nau’s anatomical heart illustration stands next to a lovely image of friends riding bikes – freeing us to appreciate both its beauty and the information it contains. Science is treated as a normal part of a complete life.
The Curated Tee is also collaborative with artists, placing the artists front and center. That includes giving them a percentage of sales (no, not everyone does) and not requiring submission of t-shirt ideas (link to PDF) in order to start a collaboration. No one loses by eagerly acknowledging the creative contributions of all involved in putting that shirt on your kid. It is also a great way to be introduced to a new artist and their inspirations.
While I’m not thrilled to bits that The Curated Tee uses American Apparel as a supplier of the base shirts, I am sympathetic to the decision on business grounds.
My primary disappointment is that the shirts currently only go up to size 4T, which is why my family only has a three month subscription (and why I don’t have an anatomical heart t-shirt for myself). I have been assured by Vanessa and Mandy that they intend to expand the shirt sizes offered after they get through this “start-up” period.
There is more, beyond the science art shirt and artistic collaboration, that I like about The Curated Tee. First, it does what it says on the tin. The shirts are very soft and comfortable. The shirt printing looks just as good as the one on the website. The image above might as well be a picture of the shirt I pulled out of the bag. My daughter was fascinated and curious about the image. Second, the shirts are gender neutral. I’m tired of having to go shopping in the “boys” section to get me daughter the cool dinosaur shirt she needs.
If you are going to call yourself The Curated Tee, you better go a good job of curation. Based on these initial offerings, they are living up to their name.
*Yup, not an advertisement. I paid for my subscription out of my own pocket.