KAN DU STUDIO graphic design instructor B.J. DeLong, left, and artist Matthew LaFontaine work on T-shirt designs at the studio. Kan Du clients are designing shirts and cellphone PopSockets that are sold on Amazon. (Photo by Randy Roberts / The Courier)

By BRENNA GRITEMAN
LIFE EDITOR

Got an Amazon gift card from Christmas that’s been burning a hole in your pocket?

The artists at Kan Du Studio have been hard at work creating designs for graphic tees and cellphone PopSockets, all available for sale through the print-on-demand platform Merch by Amazon.

Through Kan Du’s graphic design program, about 10 artists work with instructor B.J. DeLong to create images for the clothing and cellphone grips.

Many of the PopSockets feature colorful, abstract designs, while the shirts range from holiday prints to more trend-focused images. One shirt, made by artist Alex F., features a hipster octopus complete with top hat and monocle. Another, created by Dustin S., depicts a T-Rex bursting out of a teacup (that’s Tea-Rex to all the dad joke lovers out there). Perhaps the most popular shirt design to date, however, was created by artist Matthew LaFontaine and features Kan Du’s feline mascot Buddy, a paint palette and an outline of the state of Ohio, with a star marking the spot for Findlay.

The T-shirts are priced at $19.99 and, this being Amazon, are eligible for free shipping for Prime members. Many are also available as long-sleeved T-shirts and sweatshirts.

There are about 250 active listings on the site, and the artists earn a percentage of the sale price for each item sold.

“The beauty of it is, they make the designs on the computer here in the studio, then upload the design to the Amazon platform,” DeLong says. Amazon handles the printing and shipping, and manages the inventory and any returns, leaving the artists free to do what they do best — create more designs.

DeLong says production levels are unique to each artist. Some churn out five designs in a day, while others work to perfect a single graphic piece over several days or a week. One artist in particular has limited mobility in his hands but has perfected the art of video gaming, so DeLong helped create a tool that resembles a PlayStation controller that the artist uses to create his designs.

DeLong introduced the graphic design program at Kan Du last winter with a goal of finding a way to market the artists’ creations, much like the retail opportunities available inside the studio. The partnership with Amazon is particularly rewarding, he notes, because it allows Kan Du’s clients to sell their creations to friends and family across the country. And, the artists get real-world lessons in economics and tracking consumer buying habits.

LaFontaine, 25, has created one PopSocket design but says he prefers making T-shirts, as the larger canvas allows for more elaborate displays. He finds it exciting when a consumer purchases an item that he’s designed.

He made several T-shirts ahead of Christmas, and is currently working on some designs for St. Patrick’s Day.

LaFontaine has also written and illustrated an eBook through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing. The book, titled “Shoot for your Dreams,” tells the story of a boy named Max who dreams of playing in the National Basketball Association. A trained docent and volunteer with the University of Findlay’s Mazza Museum, LaFontaine says he has already begun writing part two of the children’s book.

Search “Kan Du Studio” on Amazon to view the available merchandise.

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