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Kristina Bilonick

Friday, October 2, 2009

Kristina Bilonick, http://www.kristinabilonick.com

Specialty: Hand-printed T-shirts, vintage ties and scarves

Price range: T-shirts, $20; ties, $12

You could liken Kristina Bilonick's career to a pie chart.

She has been, in no particular order: a gallerista (at Govinda, the longstanding Georgetown gallery); an artist (she recently had work in a show at Honfleur Gallery); an outside-the-box party planner (she helped put synchronized swimmers in the Capitol Skyline pool for the Washington Project for the Arts).

Then there was her very first job out of art school, the year she spent as a screen printer at a T-shirt shop in Connecticut. It was tedious. Awful.

But here she is, still printing almost 10 years later, though now for her eponymous business that she runs out of a hip artist studio in Chinatown, on her terms.

Bilonick, a bubbly child of the '80s, dreams up designs that bear the same pop quality as her art. There is a Michelle Obama T-shirt; vintage ties with phrases such as "Let's Get Famous," drawn from pop music and movies; and lately, lots of buffalo and deer.

"It feels like something I can't stop doing," she says. "The shirts are kind of one-offs -- an art project that doesn't require an artist statement.

"The biggest kick I get out of it is, like, being on a bus and seeing someone wearing a shirt you made," she says. "I don't even really care about the money." Which may explain why she sells her wares for a good bit less than other T-shirt makers who frequent craft fairs.

Bilonick, 32, imagines a future in which maybe she's a Spike Jonze type, doing a little bit of this, a little bit of that. But she's a little worried about the future of indie craft and her place in it.

"I have this scary feeling that the craft movement is not necessarily dying, but . . . like it reached its peak a couple of years ago," she says. "All of a sudden, the masses all decided they want to make their own stuff.

"Maybe three or four years ago, if I was at a craft fair, people would be like. 'Oh, my God, you made this yourself? That's so awesome, how do you do it?' And my insecurity is now, people see a T-shirt and they're like, 'Anyone can do this.' "

BILONICK'S GO-TO RESOURCES:

Clothing and accessories retailer Fred Flare, http://www.fredflare.com

"I'm constantly checking this site, which is chock-full of fun and trendy clothing, accessories and housewares," Bilonick says. "It's all super poppy and cheeky. . . . They hold an annual craft/design contest called the Next Big Thing that is so fun to watch and vote on."

Art suppliers Dick Blick and Utrecht

Dick Blick has "great prices, and my orders always arrive in a couple days even if I choose the cheapest shipping," Bilonick says. "I stock up on mesh and fabric inks from their screen-printing section."

Utrecht is where she goes when she needs supplies in a pinch. "They're like family after shopping there, and I feel like a rock star when I walk in and they all know me and what I'm looking for." Visit Dick Blick at http://www.dickblick.com; Utrecht is at 1250 I St. NW. 202-898-0555.

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