I had the unique opportunity to sit down with Joe Durica, the genius behind Stick It Wear?!. I visited his studio, where he does all the printing himself; we got a chance to play a bit of tennis (he’s a solid player), and we talked about how Stick It Wear?! came to be over lunch:
TennisThis: Tell me about your background as an artist and tennis player?
Stick It Wear?!: I grew up being artistic. It was always natural to me before I had conscious memories. I do remember from a young age re-doing Star Wars and Superman the Movie posters with pastels and poster board. From there, I moved onto comics where Superman and Batman became my drawing mainstays. I began practicing tennis a lot as well. Since I am from Chicago, I had a family friend that worked at Wilson. I got a Pro Staff as my first real racquet. I was looking for more power so I traded it for a Wilson Ultra 2. I had fond memories of being camped out a few feet from the TV watching McEnroe battle Lendl on Super Saturday with my racquet right next to me.
My creative talents quickly became more developed. I later was a published comic book illustrator but couldn’t take sitting at a desk for that many hours in a row. So I dropped tennis in the 90’s, which was the Sampras/Agassi era. I really don’t know why my interest waned. Maybe I became more preoccupied with Michael Jordan and the Bulls. After all, Chicago finally had a winning team after the ’85 Bears. I eventually found tennis again and have not looked back.
TT: What inspired you to start designing shirts about tennis?
SIW: When I picked up tennis again, it was with ferocity. I was playing everyday after work until the lights went dim. This was also the very beginning of the Roger Federer era. He was still a wet-behind-the-ears kid that had glimpses of genius. And then there was Marat. Safin was a fantastic player to watch as well. All these players formed a symphony of notes on the main stage of professional tennis. And since I was re-learning tennis, there were so many gestures to watch. Each one had their own signature. All I wanted to do is to capture ‘a player in flight’. That was my expression of love toward the game.
TT: When did you decide to take your designs to retail?
SIW: Since I already had a retail site I remember one year being at the Pacific Life Open and thinking, “One day I will sell my shirts here.” It was the next year that I auditioned and got into the retail tent. It was a big hit! It was one of the most exciting times in my life quite honestly. I did not know what to expect. There were fans pushing each other to get the shirts. I had families come in all wearing the gear, wanting to take pictures with me! I later drove up to San Luis Obispo to Tennis Warehouse where they also agreed to try it out. The partnerships have been working out well since.
TT: Who is your favorite player to design?
SIW: Stick It Wear?! is not about particular players. It’s about gestures. And since I have been a graphic designer for over 20 years now, I love efficiency of line. So if I can capture maximum emotion with minimal line, I am happy. One shirt that has intense emotion is my RUSSIAN BREAKER shirt http://goo.gl/EtZMF. With the contrast of the ‘friendly’ lines, this shirt is at once quiet, yet angry. I had to keep re-drawing the racquet to accurately simulate the way a Austrian racquet makers graphite braids would snap.
TT: Which player do you find that is hard to design? Why?
SIW: At this point, none of them are that hard to design. What was hard was learning the vernacular for which Stick It Wear?! would be known for. There were some players that were not translating well and so over the years I had to figure out a way to rotate and foreshorten various gestures. But there will always be various gestures that are more easily understood than others. I am a big fan of the graphic line and logos. Ultimately all of the figures are logos. And that’s where I have come up with the double entendre tag line ‘from Hero to Icon.’
TT: Which of your characters do you connect with the most?
SIW: They are all my babies! But seriously, It is not a character I connect with per sé. I care more for color schemes. So it’s more about the shirt rather then the pieces. Right now my favorite shirt is A TALE OF TWO HEROES http://goo.gl/ebTrhC. This shirt tells a story.
TT: Where do you do what you do?
SIW: When I am in the design process, it’s my laptop in my home office or on the road in various Orange County beach town coffee shops. Production happens in Mission Viejo, CA.
TT: What are you working on at the moment?
SIW: I am designing a new premium apparel line which will be more art and fashion oriented. It should be done in about a month. I am also working on a private painting commission as well. And after that, I will be adding to the Stick It Wear?! lineup of characters on the soccer and hockey side.
TT: Where can people buy your sweet shirts?
TT: Where else can people find out more about you, the artist?
SIW: I do have a blog on the stickitwear.com site where I post some of my sports related artworks. http://goo.gl/iAhVvv. On the new apparel site, there will be a comprehensive display of artworks since high art will be the theme in the new collection. Watch for it!