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Michael Masterson

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Dr_Heech View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (2) Thanks(2)   Quote Dr_Heech Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 Mar 2013 at 9:42pm
Great photo Cory, like the new avatar too :)
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Happy Hooligan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 Mar 2013 at 10:01pm
looks great!   what a relaxed fox? that is.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (4) Thanks(4)   Quote mr randal Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 Mar 2013 at 4:08pm
Michael Masterson part 2


                      portrait of Michael by Cory piehowicz



What makes a good shirt?


 I think in this case beauty is in the eye of the beholder. There are so many variables that it would be difficult to answer in a blanket statement. For me, I prefer a decent fit. This is why I make them in so many sizes. I myself am in between a 44 and a 46. If I buy from a s m l xl range then the goods do not fit right. 

 I also like clear definition in the stitching. It is easy for most to miss it unless they are clothing erotics. In turn I also like a shirt that has a sort of hidden meaning behind it. A story. This is my attraction to vintage clothing. There is a history that one can feel- perhaps not know, but feel indeed. 

 I also like what I call a deception shirt. One that from a distance looks totally different than when up close. Like a Monet painting. 

 To be honest, I don't wear button-ups that much. Only when fixing machines and sometimes while sewing. I tend to use them for their original purpose for what I myself make them for. Work. I'm a jeans, chinos, t-shirt and sweatshirt man. And more recently- overalls. 



How did you arrive at your present shirt model, and what are some technique advances you have made while getting there?


 Hmm…..its interesting to think about. In the beginning I was just sort of  throwing shirts together, using only four machines: a single needle, 5 thread safety stitch, button holer, and button sewer. I thought the machines were amazing. However, given that this was in the severe intro phase of my development, I was fascinated by the overlock, so I used it in excess. As in super excess. I was changing thread colors for a signature type feel. I was also working only in wool and had no experience with chambray, denim or other shirtings. Looking back I kind of feel like a bit of a clown.

 During the second generation, after I had some awareness of chambray, I attempted using machines that honestly had no business being used on shirts.  Like a zig-zag to mount collar stands. Weird. My goal was to add something discrete, yet visible (to me, that is), to the goods. For instance, I overused the safety stitch....on EVERYTHING. Rather embarrassing. Epic failure. But the goods were still made well. So...

 By the third generation of shirts, I had come up with a pretty traditional pattern for a work shirt as opposed to a shirt coat. Big fat plackets- traditional dress shirt plackets with funky DIY reinforcement. Twists and turns. Tried to cram a few machines to make it look like many machines were used. Way over-developed. Massive thread. Bold stitches.  I think that I was trying to be something that I was not. I was told by an aficionado that it looked like a jean guy had made these shirts... he also told me that I should think about my past, specifically, my involvement with music: How could I translate that into the goods? It was some of the best advice I had received to date. It again changed the rules. 

 Music, specifically electronic dance music, is all about the details. Simplicity equals complexity and vice versa. It's about the modulation, transformation, and manipulation of sound that is at times audible or inaudible to the untrained ear. To create Feeling and to assist in existing emotion. To combine traditional elements of Rhythm, and Sound architecture, for a specific purpose. To move the crowd. To move the soul. To assist in a higher state of consciousness. There are peaks and valleys, ups and downs. Lows and highs. Transtextual or intertextual of the complete history of music and more specific sound. Minimalisim. 

 I took this approach and birthed the LS-1 shirt model. I really began to study the past and present. I saw the machines in a different light. Instead of attempting to use as many or as few machines as possible, I focused on what each machine actually did. I ditched the showboating of a "machine lover" to just focus on the work itself. I also learned that sampling and production are two totally different things. This is also where I began to experiment with thread size combinations and types of thread.  I also began to let loose on more practical and tangible stitch experimenting. Pulling from here, grabbing from there. Making definitions that might make it possible for one to look at one of my shirts and distinguish it from another shirt...to say- Is that Michael's?  

 Up until this point, I'd never received an astonished look from someone handling the goods. People who had my earlier incarnations, had said things like, "Wow, I can't believe you taught yourself how to do this," or "That's really neat!"  Now they were saying: "Oh my god...".

 The first round of feed-back was that the entire garment looked, and actually, felt, different than any other.  It became apparent to me on a more spiritual level, that the actual emotion and hard work are serially reflective in a piece of goods you produce. Its like looking at a pair of Roy's or Jack/Knife's jeans, compared to Levis, or 7 for All Mankind....there is a sense of spirit that one cannot explain just by looking at them. 

 Now, the focus is the same. Evolve, Learn, Study, Work, Work, Work, and LISTEN!!! For God's sake LISTEN. One can pull all sorts of data out of the field if you just shut your mouth. I'm still learning this. I feel like there are definitive aspects that have a Masterson's feel. They will always evolve. Its the small things. Its sort of a game.  My latest experiment has been with changing specific hem allowances and actually working on the interior structure of the shirt. Things that the person buying the shirt never sees, but are definitely reflected in the overall look, feel and wear of the goods. 

 I also seem to go off on stitch tangents- typically half-way through production. By accident or by impatience, I'll learn something new. Hold the thought and start developing the next product. At times I find myself doing new things out of repetition, the tedium of production. A yawn causes a shift in the sewing, or a machine fails. These kinds of things often lead to studying the mistake, and what happened to the machine when it failed, or the operator did...

 I am also influenced by more contemporary work. I like to study ALL shirts. Although a lot of shirts in a mainstream store are pretty standard, some people are making some neat stuff. From time to time you can find details or even mistakes and play off of them.  Some mistakes are brilliant. I think that there is a difference between theft and interpretation--sometimes a fine line, but there is a difference (harkening back to electronic music here).



   Michael at his Minimalist booth at this years Inspiration LA (C. Piehowicz)



How do you source shirting? What do you look for in the material?


 Shirting: This subject boils my blood. As of now, the shirting manufacturing in the United States is little to none. After NAFTA and CAFTA, most material production went overseas.

 For the last year, there was an abundant supply of shirting that I was using from Cone Denim. They produced two styles, Manchester and Desert Sky. The stuff is simply beautiful. Alas, I believe that I am using the last of the Desert Sky. Cone isn't weaving shirting anymore, in the US. The ONLY reason that I have it is due to the kindness of Roy Slaper (thank you again). This is what I'm using for the LS-2 Release. 

 I also have another NOS Chambray slated for production on a new style. Very small quantity. After that run (finished by May), I am shit out of luck. I have done excessive amounts of research, and cannot find another US-made material, which is incredibly sad because, and this makes me furious: the US is the third-largest producer of cotton in the world! Yup. And ALL that cotton is shipped overseas for milling and then, maybe, sometimes, rarely, shipped back here for sewing. This puts me in a bit of a pinch. No shirting- no shirts. I would rather not make the goods, than produce something that I am not ecstatic about. Shameless plug: So if you are interested in a Masterson's shirt. Get one now. Who knows when I will make them again. 

 For the past year, I've been in contact with many-a-mill from here to Japan. It is impossible to get a mill to produce small quantities. That's the most frustrating part. Furthermore, I get it. It is a business. Why am I so special that I should ask a big company to produce 1-2000 yards of material to my spec? A larger company would barely make a profit even if they were producing 4-7000 yards of material. I really prefer not to make more than 3-400 pieces in one style of fabric. I am simply furious with the American Textile Complex in general. I am not necessarily falling into the selvage trap either. Selvaged goods are cool. Honestly, I would prefer a shuttle loom to make the goods. However, I would just love a US made chambray or oxford weave that is well made, selvaged or not. Ring-spun yes. Again, good luck. 

 The good news is that after three months of research, I have tapped into several channels that may be a playable solution for the goods. Cross your fingers folks. The material will be EXPENSIVE, but by the grace of these new found outlets, I may get EXACTLY what I want. To my exact spec-n-all. We will see in time.  

 In the past I have primarily sourced from jobbers. Jobbers are the folks that take the end of runs material and/or slightly defective runs that the client rejects from mass production. Example: A big company recently ordered 50,000 YDS of white cotton twill- the goods were run, and the company rejected it due to slight indigo splotches. Company rejects, Jobber wins. 

 I currently look for chambrays and flannel plaids (good luck with that one). I admire the simple things and a plain weave is one of those simple things. I'm not sure how to explain this, but I sort of feel with a more existential touch. First of all, the fabric has to look killer. The next thing I look for is how it feels, how the material reacts to touch. There are many variants in texture too. Loose weave, tight weave, is the material ridged, soft, does it crock, does it crock well, is it sanforized, is it loom state. How does it age. More importantly, where is it from. Where are the raw materials from. Even down to- who picked the cotton. What climate. How is the soil treated. Most of these questions are difficult to answer if one is buying from a jobber. One would be lucky to even find out who manufactured it.



What are your thoughts on buttoning? (My stab at seeing if anyone will buy "buttoning" as a word, after having used "shirting". I expect not, but fun to see, eh?)


 "Buttoning," hey, I think you are on to something! Until this release, I was hell bent on using a Brooklyn-made Tauga nut button. It takes dye well, it is hard as nails. And super inexpensive. To be honest, though, it is a bit over played. It is fine if a big designer wants to use them, and I may even use them again in the future. A deep, introspective look at the last samples brought me to the conclusion that the goods were lacking. I realized that every aspect of each run needs to be different- that's the "sex", it keeps things exciting. So the quest for buttoning began anew. This last run I used a metal button made by a big button company. However, my wife began to research antique and vintage stock. She has found two sources for buttons for the next one million years. Two garages filled with buttons. And believe me- its not like you can just call for samples. We are lucky that these places are close!

 Since you've coined this new term, I'm going to run with it. "Buttoning," to me, implies the full aesthetic of the button and the hole it goes into, the stitching around said hole, and the placket. It seems as though folks make wide plackets because they're easier. Bah! And, most buttonholes are, by default, created with chainstitch buttonhole machines. As a hole (get it???), it's the industry standard, but isn't necessarily a good idea. A chainstitch buttonhole is one continuous thread, looped around itself, terminated by tension, created at high speed. If done improperly (as is often the case), it is fairly easy after several washes/rinses and/or general wear, for that tension to release, and that one thread- the entire length of it- to get pulled out.

 I'm currently rebuilding an antique lock-stitch button sewer that, while significantly slower, is far more accurate and has less perforation by the needle.



                 Michael ponders pool-side in orange in Orange, CA



Do you use all cotton or polycore thread?


I use A&E D-Core and Perma-Core. In combination. Tex 27-80. In other words, both, on different parts of the shirt. Polycore and 100% cotton wear differently. I find that one is better for specific areas than the other.




You have your labels produced by Al's attire in San Francisco. How did you find Al and what was the draw of having the labels produced at his facility?


 I learned about Al's Attire from Kiya Babzani. I admired a label Al had done for him and Kiya pointed me in the right direction. To tell you the truth, I'm still not sure why I feel compelled to use them. The most reasonable way to express it would be that there is already enough seriousness and work in the shop. I feel like the label has a sense of playfulness to it, even though, or maybe because of, all the tedious work that goes into making them. Al's labels are like the French or Portugese language. You can say "eat shit and die" and it still sounds sexy as hell. Well for me anyways.



Your online presence is fairly minimal, and while you were active on Instagram at one point, you have since dropped off. Why the low digital profile?


 A part of me has always wanted to be famous. Punk bands. Techno Dj. Music Producer. The "life of the party" guy. At first I blogged regularly, told anyone who cared to listen (read) about what I was doing. Posted regular updates on FB and Instagram, solicited votes for "maker" things, cha cha cha. I was ready and willing to share with everyone, open source style, what I was learning.  

 But as I learned more, studied more, it became very personal. Parts of my everyday life, both good and bad, go into the sewing room and have a heavy influence on the design (for lack of a better word). There is a very good reason that the latest shirt release is named Healing Agent. 

 I could tell you that having Facebook, instagram, and a blog was just a deterrent from getting the work done, but it is not true. It would have been very easy for me to just post every once and a while and leave it up. But I found that for me, the mutated "social" networking that happens via these medias influenced the work, itself. All those multivocal conversations- the sheer cacophony of it- noise from people I care about, and people I've never met but who think I'm the bomb, took some integrity out of the work. It made my process of creation banal, in a sense. It turned me, and my work into a spectacle- and not the prankster-ish kind of spectacle I'm comfortable with.  I believe that certain native american cultures feel a similar way about the photograph. It just didn't feel right. 

 In person, I love to be very social, share, mingle, play hard, party, all of it. I have been accused of using this tactic as a marketing strategy. I can understand that. In a way, the very fact that I make shirts, and do or do not have a website could be "marketing."  I was once told by a guy that if I have a product or service, well, then that in itself, is marketing. I think there is enough citizen journalism out there that others can do that for me. It's cool that street-style journalism has leached itself into the text and image blogs. 

 I find that for me, personal human interaction is best. Be it email, analog phone call or text. I also tend to share information with people in clusters. Seems as if information is best shared this way. There is too much noise in the signal on the interwebsnets. 

 For the record, I do have an Instagram account. But it is for personal use. The folks that are on the account are dear to me. Some new friends, some old. Nothing about my work is there. Well, a fabric swatch here and there. Really, it is for my daughter. She IS a big part of the digital age. It is the culture she is being raised in; she's a digital native... I fully support it. I am of the age where I could have either left it behind or embraced it. Well, I embraced it. Then abandoned it. Its quite liberating. 



What garment are you thinking about tackling next, after the learning curve for shirt production has become less steep?


 I often fantasize about the Prisoner Coat. Still. But I have so much more to learn. I sample it here and there.  It looks great. But it doesn't feel right yet. There needs to be dark forces released for the motivation involved in it. Theoretically, after the next three or four shirts, I intend on releasing chinos. For me, It seems logical to devote time to the delicate construction of the shirt, before moving on to the more rugged aesthetic of chinos, and then, move onto the complex mechanisms of the coat. There seems to be a connection between the two that would enable the creation of the third.



                             early craft project of Michael's



For most of the machines you've bought, you have said you didn't know how to use or repair them when you acquired them. Have you ever looked at some new piece of machinery and had a sinking feeling, thought "what have I gotten myself into? I'll never figure this out!"


Yes. I recently purchased a machine that I am completely in awe of and dumbfounded by. Honestly, I will admit that I am in way over my head. It is a super complex mechanism. If you do not follow the adjuster's manual to the "T", then the machine will crack, and become useless. And so will I. However if properly executed, it will prove to be rather useful during production.



                           new machine acquisition at Chez Masterson



-Any advice for other people who are considering throwing their whole self into some form of single-maker clothing production?


  I would ask them to consider- Do you know yourself well enough to commit to taking a vocation that requires you to sit. Sit as in a state of meditation. How well do you know yourself to then sit with yourself, and fail repeatedly every day. Several times a day. For as long as you have this vocation.    

 Learn from your mistakes, and then be willing to fail and learn over and over again every day. And more importantly, take advice. From the Cryptic to the obvious. From people that are masters of their art, and even those that have no idea. 

 I have learned many things about myself on a personal level by accepting this work as well. Or rather by going with the flow of this path. I have seen both dark and light pasts and presents that I have forgotten or was unwilling to deal with. Almost therapy. 

 It has most assuredly been a large part of bringing me closer to my family. Brie and Noor (my daughter) among others close to me have been fully supportive. It is not everyday that one can say, "I think I am going to quit my full time job, and pursue something that I know little to nothing about". Just the fact that they trusted me in the beginning was an honor in itself. You see quickly what people are made of when they believe in you. 

 When folks ask why I do it alone my response is that it is fun, rewarding, and that way I don't need Xanax.


-end-





Edited by mr randal - 14 Mar 2013 at 4:43pm
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (3) Thanks(3)   Quote mr randal Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 Mar 2013 at 6:18pm

Mr.6 in a prototype Masterson shirt.

Farhad in a Masterson LS-2 Healing Agent shirt. (photo by C. Piehowicz)

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote flatpattern Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 Mar 2013 at 5:27am
Good read, thanks for that.  I'm sure the pics don't do the shirt justice but you can see that there are some very nice details on that shirt.^^^
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Erikx Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18 Apr 2013 at 9:28am
Is Micheal on the board here, or does anyone have an email contact?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote mmast01 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18 Apr 2013 at 9:31am
Hi! Yes. Masterson.mj@gmail.com
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Erikx Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 Apr 2013 at 4:35pm
Thanks, Writing you now!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Joseph Hill Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 Apr 2013 at 6:41pm
Looks like someone bought a loom!
 
Inspiring on multiple levels.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote mmast01 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 Apr 2013 at 6:44pm
You wouldn't believe the complexity of the mechanisms. 
oh, you know, whatever.
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