T-shirt Slogans & Protest

A Medway primary school in the Griffin Trust needed workshops on the theme of Protest, to facilitate participation in their annual competition. Wearable forms of protest were something they wanted to explore. So to tie in with the Medway Print Festival, I put together a series of creative activities for the school – including block printing zines and badges, and screen printing T-shirts with slogans. We talked about what protest meant, looked at some examples from history, and discussed protest topics that were meaningful to the children. Animal welfare and protecting the environment were popular choices.

I showed them a simple relief printing technique with craft foam and ink pads, and they created their own badge designs on the theme. We looked at how you could get across a message directly in a few words, how images can be powerful, and how you could expand on a topic in a zine.

Protest badges created in year 4 workshops
Protest zine on the topic of marine plastic polution

For the T-shirts we used screen printing, and this can get pretty messy with a large group of 8 and 9 year olds all printing at once, but it really is a lot of fun and very effective for the theme. I got the children to choose their slogans, stick adhesive letters onto their T-shirts and then print all over the top of them in colourful layers with my lightweight thermofax screens. It didn’t matter if the result was messy, as the letters stayed clean and sharp when they were peeled off at the end, revealing the slogan.

Protest slogan T-shirts printed in year 4 workshops

In some cases the more messy the printing, the more powerful the message looked. STOP CHILD ABUSE printed in red and blue textures was disturbing and an effective representation of the message.

As well as going into schools on projects, I’m lucky to have a great group of home educated children to work with who let me test out ideas with them. Within the group there are ages from about 4 to 14, but they have the support of accompanying adults when they come to my classes. Running through ideas with them in small groups helps me to see how a class might work on a different scale, or with a range of ages. When they had a go at the slogan T-shirts, I was really impressed with their results.

The home ed groups are used to working with my lightweight thermofax screens. I have a big range of illustrated designs I’ve made for various themed workshops, along with texture screens I’ve drawn or made from photographs etc. and this activity is often requested. They put together arrangements of their own to come up with unique designs on textiles. Adding the option of words gave it an extra dimension that worked brilliantly.

I started offering the slogan T-shirt workshop to teenage and young adult groups, and they took to it really well too.

You can get quite fancy with the technique, layering words, textures and images with a mixture of the sticky letters, paper stencils, and the textured and illustrated screens. This is something I love about workshops, finding out how with varied groups, in age, attention span, physical abilities, and reasons for taking part etc. – you can adapt a good activity to suit pretty much everyone.

T-shirt design by Xtina Lamb
Textile print layered with a halftone pattern

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