My friend Shango and I have always been kindred spirits with a hunger for a simpler life. Our friendship was forged as we exchanged home-canned goodies and shared gardening resources. He visited my bathtub brooder when I started raising chicks and I celebrated for him when he made the move to Vashon Island to live the homestead life. We’re longtime homestead partners in crime. And now, he’s making fun and colorful t-shirts “for homesteading enthusiasts” and I couldn’t be more excited for him! As I saw each new design, I squealed, “Oh! I love that one! That’s so me!” And that’s because he is walking the talk and is as enthusiastic about this way of life as I am.
I’m writing this post not because Shango’s a good friend, but because I believe in this new local business and think it’s just too fun not to share! I decided to ask him about what Shangobrand is all about:
So, Shango, where did your interest in homesteading start? How did you get into this lifestyle yourself?
Homesteading really startled me as an adult when I first took a ferry over to Vashon Island from Seattle for a farm to table dinner at Kurtwood Farms. The proprietor there, Kurt Timmermeister served a seven course meal entirely produced on his farm, except for the salt, wine, olive oil and coffee beans. I was floored by the tastiness of the food, the plated colors and the magic of sitting at a long dinner table with 20 people all cross-chatting after strolling through gardens. I was filled with a vision of a better way of living. Of course, there were other people just like me coming to similar realizations all over the country. I owe my food and lifestyle enlightenment to folks who blazed the trail like Joel Salatin, Michael Pollan, Kurt Timmermeister, Chef Matt Dillon, and Michael Hebberoy’s One Pot underground food events. Of course also, The Foxfire Books and oddly enough, S.M. Sterling’s, Emberverse series of novels. While there are plenty of folks who ushered in the food revolution, these are the folks who I personally listened to and where I caught homesteading fever.
What was the catalyst for starting Shangobrand? What inspired you?
After that first trip to Kurtwood Farms for dinner, I began coming over to Vashon Island for weekend volunteering trips at different farms where I would help with harvesting or building a goat milking parlor and then sleep in the back of my car overnight. On Sundays though, I had to return across the ferry to Seattle and really preferred not to go back to my fast paced tech entrepreneur life. Then in 2011, I received a traumatic brain injury and everything stopped for me. I was in a daze of migraines and pain and anxiety and sleepiness. I had to stop working and spent the better part of a year staring off into space. My neurologist told me if I really wanted to heal I should move out of the city and so I relocated. What I could not have expected was that this reflective period allowed me a large swath of time to consider what I had done so far in life and what it all meant. I was proud of the interesting experiences I had sought out up until that point, but I realized that my extreme multitasking, appetite for fine culture and caffeine driven head were leaving me stressed, eating processed foods, unfamiliar with nature and with high blood pressure. The last two years I have lived rurally and begun chopping my own firewood, gathering eggs, buying organic food from my farm neighbors and learning the names of the local wildlife has left me 40 pounds lighter, off all medications, and more patient with others and myself.
It was through talking with folks about the changes I, and often they, were going through as part of the new rural movement that led to the Shangobrand t-shirts starting with “Farm chores saved my life.” We were all excited and we wanted to connect. You can’t tell who is into homesteading by just looking at them usually. Anybody might have chickens at home nowadays. The t-shirts make community building easier and I am proud to rock a shirt with a Kombucha “mother” on it.
Tell me about the designs. How do you decided what kind of image makes it on a Shangobrand shirt?
These are essentially my hobbies. As I learned about canning, then chickens, then kombucha, then fermenting veggies, water kefir, beekeeping, heritage skills, heirloom seeds and the like, I began keeping notes in a copybook of the shirts I would like to make for people. At the beginning of this year when I was declared healed, I decided not to go back to my old life and set up a homestead business towards a better life instead.
Who is the artist behind the cute images?
I do the product development myself but I rely on the talents of experienced artists to create the drawings. It is my goal to work with an array of artists and am talking with folks now for the next wave of shirts. I have to give the drawing credit for these shirts to Gigi Gungadee from Nature Invincible. She provided the hand drawings and a great deal of design support along the way. Before I jumped in to create homesteading t-shirts, I made a line of Neocaridina shrimp aquarium hobby shirts with her for NatureInvincible.com.
Do you have a favorite shirt so far? Which one and why?
I love the color of the Egg Nest shirts the best, but it is The Waltons shirt that I wear the most often. Not only does the shirt reference The Waltons TV show from when I was growing up, but the design of the shirt also riffs on the Experimental Jetset designed shirt that was hot street fashion in 2001. The Waltons shirt straddles the odd line between club fashion and farms. I know I am not the only raver who went rural as I got older.
Anything else you’d like to share about your new venture?
An uncommon aspect of the shirts is that they have no brand mark on them. You get the art on a comfortable shirt but there is no Shangobrand logo or name anywhere. It is a clean and honest shirt. No spam.
Please tell your friends about Shangobrand. The media space is clogged with corporations and flashy videos. If the Shangobrand message is to make it through the noise to all of our lovely homesteading friends, I’m going to need some help from like-minded people by reposting and emailing. Working together we can continue to heal our communities through food and skilled craft.