With his meticulous hand-lettering, this Bay-bred designer and artist stays on script.

Kevin Slattery got a perfectly Floridian introduction to the art of t-shirt design.

“I used to skimboard a lot in high school. I did a shirt for one of the competitions when I was 16 or 17.”

That design may be lost to history, but luckily Kevin has come up with some great new ones for St. Pete Threads, including our mandala-inspired series of yoga shirts, and our logo. The elegant script for the logo was originally drawn by hand, a skill Kevin has been honing over the past couple of years.

Kevin first got interested in hand-scripting when he saw the trend for carefully crafted lettering blossom on sites like Pinterest, where art and design buffs are bucking digital trends by getting hands-on. He finally decided to take a crack at it himself.

“Over the first six months, I was terrible. But then I decided I wanted to get better, so for months I wrote for a couple of hours every night.” He started getting small commissions from friends, who wanted things like inspirational quotes written with appropriate care. Now, his work is going public, from our logo to a series of hanging menu boards for the Mandarin Hide cocktail bar.

Though he insists he’s still perfecting the craft, he’s picked up more and more insights into the nuances of lettering. “The style you illustrate in has to match up with the word [you’re writing]. If you’re scripting the word ‘round’ using a super rigid, heavy font, it won’t feel like you’ve captured the word.”

That kind of insight draws on Kevin’s years in the studio art program at the University of South Florida. “I took video, painting, drawing. I’ve always drawn, since I could hold a pen.”

USF’s respected program also gave him a broader perspective on his passion, particularly its broader context. “Art,” he says, “Is the best representation we have of humanity since the beginning of time.”

Big thinking is great, but Kevin also got an early start on a profession in the arts. “Even though I’d been working on art, I was just like, what’s the smartest way to tie in to an industry, or a career? Graphic design seemed natural.” So he spent four summers interning for an IT company that needed design work, teaching himself the tricks of the trade with tools like Illustrator and Photoshop. Now he spends his days illustrating and designing logos (such as his work for Venture House), mixing and matching digital and analog skills.

Kevin loves being in St. Pete – though he has just as much affection for his hometown, Dunedin. “It’s great. [Dunedin has] a lot of good restaurants, craft breweries, music – and it’s right on the water.”

When he’s not working on his script style or as Lead Graphic Designer at Big Sea, Kevin DJs at local nightclubs, opening for jazz and funk bands.

The St. Pete famous, World Tour shirt.

You’ve seen it everywhere, even if you’ve only spent a day or two in St. Pete – “Paris, London, Tokyo, St. Pete.” A mission statement, but also a little ironic and self-deprecating. The so-called “World Tour” design is a bid for St. Pete to stand with the cultural capitals of the world, emblazoned on prints and posters and, especially, t-shirts. Thousands and thousands of t-shirts.

So many t-shirts, in fact, that it’s shocking to be reminded that the design only debuted a year ago. For the launch of St. Pete Threads, we knew we had to snag the man behind probably the biggest t-shirt in our fair city – Chad Mize, who first launched the design from his former Central Avenue gallery, Blue Lucy. So we recruited Chad to sit on our Board of Directors, where he’ll help us pick the next viral St. Pete t-shirt sensation.

Mize says the design was inspired by a similar shirt making big claims about Torrance, California (maybe a bit more of a stretch). Though the World Tour is his biggest hit, Mize has been making t-shirts for nearly 20 years – since before computers were a common part of the process. ”Everything was hand-done,” he says of those early days. “We had to cut out the letters [to set up prints].”

But Mize stuck with t-shirts, because he’d seen how much power they had. “Growing up, I always loved getting a band t-shirt when I went to a concert,” he says. “You can make a statement. It’s something that I’ve always been drawn to.”

Mize has a lot of thoughts as to why the World Tour design has been such a hit. “It’s simple. It’s kind of tongue in cheek, but at the same time, I don’t think it would work for every city. I don’t think you could put ‘Tampa’ on the bottom and have it work.”

The shirt does have a big out-of-town fanbase, with tourists regularly picking up shirts from shops at the Don Cesar and the Vinoy. Then they head back home and spread the word about our bayside ‘Burg.

Mize is happy to be part of getting the word out, and he sees great things for St. Pete. “The art scene is really good, there’s so much going on now. The restaurants and brewing . . .  That kind of stuff helps artists live.”

Since the success of the World Tour shirt, Mize has designed shirts for I Love the Burg, the Vinoy, and the St. Pete Shuffleboard Club, which Mize helped found nearly a decade ago.

He closed the Blue Lucy gallery in December of last year, after a happy five-year run. Now he’s relishing the freedom, curating shows with his trademark poppy sensibility at venues across St. Pete. His next event is at Black Amethyst Tattoo, where the show Elements, featuring artists riffing on the molecules on the periodic table, opens on April 11th. He’s also got a garden-themed show, featuring nearly 50 artists, coming up at Green Bench Brewing.

We’re glad Chad’s part of the St. Pete Threads team, where we’ll all be hard at work making his famous t-shirt’s message comes true.