This story was originally written for Last Frontier Magazine.
The first thing you’ll see walking into Gemma Amorelli’s shirt-mobile is a mannequin with googly eyes glued all over its face, sporting one of her thrifted tank tops. To the right, there’s a wall of earrings made from thrift shop finds. Barbie arms, miniature shark figures and Hot Wheels are just some of what she’s used to make into thrift shop art. “Made in small batches, like grandma’s cookies,” is written on a chalkboard in the trailer.
Amorelli wanted to recycle by taking used items, like shirts or trinkets, and making them new.
“I think used things are better anyways. I find way more unique things in thrifting than any mall shop,” she said.
She came up with the idea of buying clothing from thrift stores and rebranding it from her boyfriend. He’s in a band called Plagiarist, and they thought it would be funny to buy shirts from other bands, then put Plagiarist’s logo on it. Even though the idea never came to fruition, it sparked an idea for remaking something used; the idea of Triangle Shirts was born.
One of Amorelli’s family members had a small trailer that wasn’t being used, so she thought she could put it to good use. Technically, Triangle Shirts is a mobile business; all she needs to do is hook up the trailer to her car and go.
Triangle Shirts started at the end of August and has only done a handful of events, including the second annual Fish Creek Festival in Spenard and a First Friday show at ACW, but is eager to do more. Amorelli wants to do some winter bazaars in town for the holiday season. Next summer, she hopes to be a part of more local music festivals and even food truck carnivals.
Amorelli is originally from Los Angeles, but moved to Kenai five years ago. She lived there for four years before moving to Anchorage.
“All my artistic side sort of went dormant when I went to Kenai, it’s not as conducive. There’s no print shop in Kenai,” Amorelli said. “When I moved to Anchorage, I kind of found that again.”
One of Amorelli’s common stops is Goodwill, but she also finds gems by sporadically going to garage sales or hole-in-the-wall thrift stores. All of the designs on Amorelli’s shirts were drawn by her.
She uses the silk-screening press at Anchorage Community Works through Tent City Press to print on her shirts. Tent City Press teaches classes on screen printing, collagraph, letterpress, linoleum block printing and more.
“They basically had exactly what we needed; no more, no less, just exactly the perfect stuff that we needed,” Amorelli said.
Amorelli gets creative with her pieces. Some shirts have Alaska themed art on them, like a salmon wheel or nestle of bird eggs, while other have witty sayings. One shirt reads, “We all live in igloos, ride polar bears and know Sarah Palin. Also, it’s dark all year.”
“I know that people love to rep Alaska, and I’m not as much like that, I do a lot of weird things that don’t have any consistency really,” Amorelli said. “I think the clothes are really standout to people.”
She even replants sempervivum succulents in discarded glass that she finds at thrift shops, like shot glasses or salt and pepper shakers. Everything in her shop came from a thrift store of some kind.
“It’s really flattering — even at events where we don’t make a lot of money or anything, it’s rewarding because every other person that comes in says, ‘Oh man, what a great idea.’ It’s really reinforcing for me,” she said.
For more information on Triangle Shirts, visit their Facebook page.