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My Trick Pony

Not a T-Shirt Shop

Some people are thrilled to the bone to bring home new clothing from boutiques and department stores. Others prefer a diet of thrift store wares. Both groups may find that graphic design house My Trick Pony adds just the right amount of personal flair so as to distinguish its patrons from the masses.

Techniques employed here include heat transfers, airbrushing, dye-sub (sublimination), silk-screening and embroidery, which can either be applied to in-store apparel or pretty much anything clients bring in. The key is the owner's strong vision of helping his customers bring their ideas and creative inclinations to life.

Store proprietor Matteo Tacchini moved to San Francisco from Seattle less than a year ago, leaving a despised job. Once here he started looking for corporate jobs and quickly realized he could not compromise what he loved to do to go work for the man. When the idea for opening a bar didn't pan out, Tacchini took his love for graphic design and t-shirts and ran with it. The result is truly marvelous.

My Trick Pony opened in August of 2005. Its name is a twist on the phrase "one trick pony" -- a person or group with only one trait, talent, or area of expertise. "Eventually my friends and I came up with 'My Trick Pony', which was perfect," Tacchini said. "It suggests that you can get your idea, your image, your trick. It's individualized."

"This is exactly what I want people to do [at My Trick Pony], to come in with their ideas and let me help them translate those ideas into the item they want." Those who go in with a clean slate need not worry either: inspiration abounds. Readymade pieces are for sale but are intended more as samples of what can be done. Eye-catching examples included several vintage skirts and neckties with heat-transfers and spray-paint jobs.

The spray-paint/airbrush effect here is not the cheesy stuff you find at amusement parks. A vintage pencil skirt with a stencil spray-painted pistol has a fine art feel to it. Transfer work is My Trick Pony's specialty and also the most popular service offered. Vinyl/poly heat-transfers mimic the effects of silk-screening and can be elaborately intricate. It can also be done in a velvet flocking type of material. All transfers are designed and applied in-house by Tacchini and local artist Eric Schum.

Samples included a slate blue skirt with old dance step diagrams applied in yellow. In truth, the customization made the skirt; on its own it was quite drab and unremarkable. My favorite was a man's vintage wine-colored velvet blazer with silver diamond transfers. The lines were so fine that the diamonds look as if they've been embroidered.

The dye-sub effect is quite cool as well. With this process dyes are transferred to partially acrylic fabrics for a photorealistic quality with high-resolution capabilities. This can also give a weathered vintagey look to a brand new shirt. But shirts are not the only blanks sold here; there are also American Apparel undies for men and women, as well as clothing for baby and soon in the future, hoodies.

If you are dead-set on getting clothing screen-printed or need a bigger batch, My Trick Pony does silk-screening out-of-house starting with runs of 25 pieces minimum. This is a cost-effective choice for larger orders. If you tried out a transfer design and got a huge response from it, you might consider using My Trick Pony to get a batch screen-printed and consign your shirt at one of the many local shops, or even to sell online.

Tacchini encourages people to think beyond the basic t-shirt; have your totebags decorated! Get your ink pouches calligraphied! Whatever your vision, the artiste technicians at My Trick Pony can help you articulate it into reality. Other opportunities to get inspired or just hang out with cool people are the monthly art openings (every first Saturday at 7:30pm) and movie nights (every last Sunday).

Tacchini installed a large screen in the shop and brought in old movie seats for showing films. Unfortunately, January's movie night is already sold out for The Never-Ending Story. Next month Flashdance will be showing. These movie nights cost $25-30 a ticket and include a T-shirt printed with a theme from the movie. Pretty much anyone can host a movie night, so just stop by and ask about availability. Showings are limited to 25 people, which provides an intimate setting complete with snacks, cocktails, and most importantly -- a themed T-shirt. Quite a bargain!

Each month, an art opening celebrates a featured artist, who creates three or more designs for limited edition shirts. These designs are printed on shirts of any color or brand with the artist's choice of color for the design. Once these three designs sell out, they are no longer reproduced. However, artists can and do continually add new designs to their portfolios, which become artist books, not unlike the hairstyle books found in salons. In addition, artists receive $5 each time someone comes in and picks their design to go on something.

Stop by this Saturday, Jan. 7 for the next art opening, featuring the work of John Waguespack. February will feature Mike O'Connell of Pooping Rabbit fame. Previous artists have included Joseph Findeiss, Chris Sumida, Rhiannon Bell and Mie Hommura. Hommura's Sleepytiger collection of stuffed animals are adorable, funky, and well suited for any age group.

Tacchini also carries vintage pins for $20, totally cool vintage flashcards for $3 and screen-printed greeting cards by Seattle's Jody Davis under her imprint "Truly" ($6).

Whether you come armed with your own ideas or have no idea where to begin, My Trick Pony is the best starting point. If you still find yourself totally uninspired after seeing everything in the store, you can even surf the web for images and ideas. Tacchini is all about inspiring and encouraging people to be creative and customize things and make them personal. All his actions point towards his sentiments: "Anything I can do to promote the artists and the art community that San Francisco does have and could have is something I am happy to do."