Life is known to take twists, turns, flips, and unfortunately even some flops. Which is why many of us know what it’s like to want to start their life over and start anew, especially when it comes to our careers. Except, many of us don’t have the guts to do so. Not, Liz of Mama Feels Good. She left an incredibly demanding job in science to pursue her passion – making t-shirts. A girl after my own heart (and closet space). Her tees scream Americana, which is ironic for a gal from the UK. We talked about where in the world her inspo comes from, her sidekick Rita, and more.
Kendra: First off, I love anyone who is an appreciator of t-shirts and goes after their dreams! What type of job were you working before saying, “Gotta go,” and did you have any initial reservations about going out on your own?
Liz: Before leaping into starting my own t-shirt brand I was working in the Biochemistry department of a local hospital as a biomedical scientist; it involved testing patient’s blood and other specimens to determine their various medical conditions. It’s a total world away from designing and printing t-shirts!
As much as I liked the job it came with a lot of responsibility and stress. The working hours included shifts and often having to work an on-call basis, I knew I wanted to have children and my current job wasn’t conducive to what I wanted for my family life. I made up my mind when I returned to work after having my first daughter that I would make like a tree and leave. It took four years of planning and working Mama Feels Good in tandem with working in the laboratory but when my daughter began school I handed my notice into the hospital.
It had taken me five years in total to become qualified as a biomedical scientist (biochemistry degree and post-grad training), it was a steady job with regular steady wage so to give this up was a massive decision. Without the support of my husband Matthew and family, I wouldn’t have been able to do it. For me, without a solid backing of my family, Mama Feels Good would never have been born. I am very thankful to them for this. I still wept like a baby the day I left the lab though, I’d been there for over 11 years, hard to let go sometimes ha!
Kendra: Let’s talk t-shirts. In the past, I clocked in at about 120 shirts but have since scaled down due to space. What made you first fall in love with the basic beauty of the t-shirt and do you have a personal favorite you won’t part with, ever?
Liz: I adore t-shirts and this might sound a little bizarre; I’ve been known to go up to strangers and compliment them on their awesome shirts. I think sometimes I need to dial things back a bit! Although I did see a lady wearing one of my shirts Mama Feels Good in my local store and nearly did a happy dance. I think she thought I was a little weird!
My absolute favourite t-shirt I own is “It’s always midnight somewhere” it’s by the artist Gregory James and Threadless produce and sell it. It has a retro style werewolf and vampire on it and I’ve bought it many times over the years even my kids wear it now, I am a little obsessed! The versatility of the t-shirt is its awesomeness, you can take a basic plain shirt and turn it into a piece of art, and you can show your personality through your shirt, happy, sad, or funky there will always be a tee for you.
Kendra: Today you make tees for every woman out there but you started in maternity and nursing tees. Usually, you hear the opposite. What made you want to start in mama wear?
Liz: This sounds so cliché but having a baby changed my perspective on everything. I like having my own personal style and I felt maternity and especially nursing wear was so unadventurous. Just because I’ve had a baby doesn’t mean I now love stripes and florals. Somuch nursing wear is stripes, don’t know if the designers all think new mums are sailors or something!
In business, you have to create your own niche, carve a little space for your brand and be different from the rest. Maternity and nursing t-shirts are a niche which helped establish my company. I’ve grown a lovely base of customers, some of which I would now call my friends. With pregnancy and nursing being a transient time in your life my customers wanted “regular” shirts to wear once their babies were grown. So when I was getting emails on a regular basis to increase my range to regular women’s shirts I listened and now I do!
Kendra: How did a gal from the UK come to find an infatuation with Americana designs?
Liz: Being a young child growing up in the ’80s in the UK we got a certain view of the USA, i.e. through films and TV; The TV show Happy Days was an absolute favourite of mine (really don’t mean to sound cheesy). I loved the clothes, the family feeling of it. Think I truly believed when I was six that life in America was like this! I feel a little foolish admitting this, but to me, America was Happy Days. It was warm and friendly and had great style!
I then graduated onto watching Back To The Future. The fact Marty Mcfly had a telephone in his room blew my mind. So to me, America was THE greatest place ever. In a very small house in the UK a phone in your room was totally out of the question! I love the ’50s and ’60s USA eras; the badges, adverts, posters, and packaging of the time provide a library of inspiration for t-shirt designs. I am a very sentimental person and I like looking back to past eras and making them into today’s designs.
Kendra: Have you and Rita (Liz’s printing press) been together from start or has there been various Rita’s throughout the years?
Liz: In the very beginning a great local Bristol screen printers hand printed all my shirts, they were amazing; So friendly and they would let me watch while they printed my shirts. They would tell me how they printed all of Banksy’s first art posters when he was just beginning in Bristol. They had a lot of interesting stories to tell!
As my ideas for graphic designs grew so did the cost. For each design you have to set up a screen (one for each colour in the design) and the charge for this when added up was a lot. So through necessity, I taught myself how to screen print. I started with a basic one colour one board printing press. Then practiced for about six months before I started printing my own shirts. It’s so much harder than it looks. I don’t think I’ll ever stop progressing, years on and still, learn new things every day! I’ve since graduated onto Rita my 4 colour printing press, but to be honest I might need another upgrade soon!
Kendra: As the year progresses will you be releasing new designs? Let the people know what you have coming?
Liz: I have a new bunch of t-shirt designs coming soon. I’m trying to be more organised and have produced my new designs around a theme rather than just being random! My theme for this release is favourite films and TV of mine. I want to produce shirts I really lover. So I’m bringing subtle nods to the past and present shows I like. Which if you love the shows/films you will “get” the references.