Joey Garza and Jaime Loera, co-owners of Joey & Jaime, a T-shirt design company, both remember the first time they saw a stranger wearing one of their creations. Garza recalls: "I was with my cousin in Kroger around midnight one night and this guy walks by wearing one of our shirts. I ran after him and asked him if he could take a picture with him and the guy's like, 'Ah, why?' So I told him I designed the shirt he was wearing. Then he was like, 'Oh, okay.' And I got the picture." Garza hands us his phone and shows us a photo of him, smiling widely, standing next to a slightly bemused man wearing a T-shirt with the names of several well-known neighborhoods in the city forming a huge "H" across the front.
Loera didn't get to meet the first stranger he saw wearing a Joey & Jamie design. "I was at the Galleria with my friend and all of the sudden I stopped. My friend was like, 'What, what's wrong?' And I said, 'That guy's wearing my shirt!'
'Do you know him?'
'No, not my shirt, my shirt.' But before I could go talk to him, he was gone."
Garza and Loera, originally from Kingsville, ("Yes, the place with the Ford trucks," Garza confirms) have had plenty more sightings of strangers in their tees since then.
Garza, a pharmacist by trade, and Loera, an art teacher, formed Joey & Jaime last year. The company's slogan is "Bringing Houston together one tee at a time" and the pair are dedicated to the idea of using their designs to help Houstonians - natives and transplants - find commonality. Loera tells us, "No matter where you're from, you're here now, why not show you're proud of the city?"
What They Do: Garza and Loera call themselves designers almost by default. Loera explains, "I would calls us entrepreneurs first. I think designer refers to people who studied design and neither of us did. I studied art, but not design. We're not trained in design, but I don't know what else to call us. We design the shirts."
Together the men brainstorm ideas of ways to represent the different neighborhoods in the city, build a digital graphic and then send it out to be printed. Along with selling their tees online, they are often at local markets and pop-up shops.
Why They Like It: Both men say they've enjoyed learning the technical aspects of digital design and being able to successfully launch the business has been gratifying but the most enjoyable aspect of Joey & Jaime has been participating in markets, making face-to-face sales.
"We like talking to the people," Loera says. "Even if they don't buy anything, I still enjoy the experience of meeting new people."
Garza adds, "I know when we're at the markets we're working, but it doesn't feel like work. It feels like we're just hanging out with other makers, talking to friends."
Oh, and Garza has one caveat to Loera's enthusiasm for meeting new people. "We do want them to buy something."
What Inspires Them: Loera deadpans: "Cardio." Garza nods. "He'll text me something while I'm working out," Loera says, "and we'll start talking about designs. It's just a stream of whatever comes into our heads so the text messages are crazy. But it has to be that way, I think. I need the freedom to say whatever I want and know that he's not going to judge me for it being a stupid idea. And the same for him."
"We visit lots of other cities like Austin, San Antonio and New Orleans," Garza says. "We see where everyone is so proud of their city. We're proud of Houston so we try to figure out how to put that pride on T-shirts."
If Not This, Then What: Garza doesn't hesitate when asked what other creative endeavors he'd pursue beyond T-shirt design. "I'd be a singer. I'd love to be a singer but I can't sing so I know it's never going to happen."
Loera says, "If there was no T-shirt business, I'd paint and draw and do printmaking."
If Not Here, Then Where: "I would want to go to Chicago," Loera says. "I love it there. They have a real livable city but at the same time some areas are kind of separate from each other. I'd want to make Chicago T-shirts and help change that."
Garza would rather stay in Houston. "I don't think I would want to live somewhere else. This is close to my hometown, that's nice. And in 20 years, Houston's going to be the the top international city in the country. I want to be here for that."
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What's Next: There's a short to-do list for Joey & Jaime over the next year. "More designs, more sales," says Garza. "And a storefront," adds Loera. "A storefront with our stuff and other stuff from Houston makers."
More Creatives for 2014 (In order of most recently published; click here for the full page).
Suzi Taylor, photographer Ashton Miyako, dressmaker T. Smith, artist Lindsay Finnen, photographerKaitlyn Stanley, tattoo artist Eleazar Galindo Navarro, video game maker Kate de Para, textile and clothing designer Shawn Swanner, video game painter Andy Gonzales, painter Chris Foreman, comic book sketcher Theresa DiMenno, photographer Jessica E. Jones, opera singer Atseko Factor, actor John Pluecker, writer, poet and language justice worker Ricky Ortiz, painter, tattoo artist Rabēa Ballin, artist David Wald, actor Lisa E. Harris, performing and visual artist Stephanie Todd Wong, executive director of Dance Source Houston Pamela Fagan Hutchins, novelist Heather Gordy, artist Mark Nasso, comic artist Shelbi-Nicole, artist Marian Szczepanski, novelist Jonathan Blake, fashion designer Doni Langlois, interior designer Kat Denson, dancer Blame the Comic, comedian Margaret Menchaca Alvarez, artist Jacquelyne Jay Boe, dancer Rene Fernandez, painter Teresa Chapman, choreographer and dancer