Photo of a young man with a cup of coffee engaged in art print production with a red-billed gull, New Brighton pier sunrise composite illustration on the computer monitor of his iMac alonside a matching large format framed poster of the same print sitting on his desk. The headline is on the dark navy blue background of the wall and reads: “Let's celebrate our passion for New Zealand… on your wall. Surface Active wildlife art prints. Canvas & specialty papers available.”

Surface Active Wildlife Art Gallery Prints

Surface Active design pARTners Chrissie Terpstra and Shaun Waugh welcome orders to reproduce fine art prints from our collection of wildlife artworks, linked here. We provide archival/fine art quality reproduction prints of our works—perfect for your walls or as a gift. your walls or as a gift.

Our offering of limited edition wildlife art prints celebrating New Zealand nature is founded on two strong foundations:

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Birds-eye view portrait of Surface Active t-shirt’s design pARTners, Chrissie Terpstra and Shaun Waugh, wearing Harlequin and Jewelled Gecko tees, against a white background, shot in a studio in 1996.

Surface Active: The New Zealand Nature T-shirt Company

Retrospective: The New Zealand Nature T-shirt Company—Surface Active, 1986–2021

South Brighton, Christchurch, November 2021

Dear Surface Dweller, We’re excited to announce our two new online retail stores, the Surface Active <a href=”https://www.surfaceactive.nz/?pr=PERFEC”>global store and the <a href=”http://surfaceactive.digitees.co.nz/&#8221; target=”_blank” rel=”noreferrer noopener”>New Zealand-based store! We are celebrating this step forward in the development of our clothing brand with a discount offer.🛍 NZ-based store: 10% discount, storewide. 🛍 Global store: Use code: “PERFEC” for 5% off, storewide.

Surface Active well made in New Zealand t-shirt neck label.

Surface Active—The New Zealand Nature T-shirt Company, well made in New Zealand since 1986.

Back in 1986, as an illustrative graphic designer; I was a design pARTner with Chrissie Terpstra in our ‘auto printmaking’ garment screenprinting studio and clothing brand, Surface Active Artwear. We learned over the next 17 years together aboard the good ship Free Enterprise, in what began as a shared hobby screenprinting on the kitchen table, that hand-pulled screenprinting is the medium of the hard labouring graphic artist. From the drawing board, to the darkroom, to the shirtfront with squeegee in hand, to folding great drifts of cotton, employing up to four people, manning our stalls at the weekend Christchurch Arts Centre Market, The Waiheke Island market and The Great New Zealand Craftshows from Cape Reinga to Bluff… busy, busy, busy.

Overview

Of course we were big fans of the humble t-shirt. By the mid 1980s they had become hot promotional items, garments on the outskirts of fashion, and a relatively new medium for the Graphic Designer’s art. What had for a long time been considered a poor medium for Graphic Design grew to an almost essential one. All you have to do is walk down the street anywhere in the world since the early 80s to see what a ubiquitous promotional vehicle they have become. Back in the day, if you mailed out 100 potential clients a direct mail brochure perhaps 200 people will see it. But mail out, or better yet, sell 100 T-shirts, and assuming they’re at all decent looking, you launch 100 walking billboards.

‘Paua Aotearoa’, adults and kids T-shirt, four colour print on navy and black fabric.

‘Paua Aotearoa’, adults and kids T-shirt, four colour print on navy and black fabric. Placement print; four colour front, a complementary small ‘blended’ one colour print on back. Piecework; adult’s garment kowhaiwhai print on sleeves.

The trend over the past several decades has been to embrace more casual clothing, to the point of stone-washed, distressed—clothing that appears to have more life experience than the youth who wears it—though, isn’t it ironic (and oh-so bourgeois,) that all of this has in no way meant this sort of hip clothing has become less expensive or stylish. I recall my eyes watering the time I picked up a pair of name brand shotgun blasted and ripped men’s jeans in 2004, NZD$450 for the look of just having been assaulted in an alley! That’s fairly interesting. Brand awareness, including personal brand awareness has been part of this trend—to such an extent that people want, or are at least willing to flaunt, the name of the brand or designer of their shoes, jeans, and bags on the items in question. In short clothing manufacturers made their products promotional vehicles for themselves.

Surface Active T-shirts celebrate New Zealand’s unique assets

Surface Active Mark III Zephyr “Kiwi Space Shuttle” black teeshirt

Surface Active ‘Kiwi Space Shuttle’ tee, mixed media, digital illustration.

Promotional teeshirts take this walking billboard concept one step further by being clothing that promotes products, services, cultural and ideological views in such a way that the wearer is willing to be identified—whether through a sense of aesthetics, humour, social responsibility, irreverence, or loyalty to a watering hole, cultural institution, environmental organisation or charity. People are willing to wear someone else’s message because they feel it says something about themselves—which is the essence of fashion. Initially our T-shirts were retailed by us at our stall at the Christchurch Arts Centre Market, also by direct mail to the list we collected, and at Great New Zealand Craftshow events nationwide. We grew to be wholesalers to environmental organisations such as Greenpeace and the Maruia Society, for inclusion particularly in their annual pre-Xmas direct mail catalogue campaigns and sold in their retail stores. As design pARTners in the visual arts Chrissie and I applied our teeshirt design skills to everything from promoting small businesses and one-time events, to our wildlife art, Kiwiana and nuclear free collections. We wholesaled to the likes of Wild Places and The Epicentre, Christchurch’s two ecostores, and as mentioned, to Greenpeace and the Maruia Society. Our market developed to include DoC visitor centres and similar conservation themed retail outlets in National Parks and in the brand new, prestigious Te Papa store in Wellington. As our business and reputation grew we were commissioned by tourist attractions like the International Antarctic Centre, Orana Park and certain Doc conservancies to design and produce custom ranges of adult and children’s shirts.

The 2021 digital design collection in our two online retail stores, that I have been developing since 2008, is based on the archive of our ‘analogue’ and computer aided Surface Active New Zealand Nature T-shirt Company range produced 1986–2004.

In terms of our T-shirt design itself, it evolved from straightforward application of flat shape illustrations like the Dolphins Leaping design, handcut from Rubylith, to hand separated multicolour drawings, cartoon images, to symbols or logos, all screenprinted by Chrissie and I after work on the kitchen table in our flat in 1986. In the beginning sometimes these prints were devised to be handpainted to finish, or in the late 90s to approaches that treat the shirt as a canvas, involving printing the garments as piecework prior to being stitched up by local seamstresses. Whereas our early designs simply applied graphics to the front of the shirt, our designs developed into appearing on the front and back, wrap around, and encircling the hems and sleeves. Treating the T-shirts as the design of a piece of clothing in the round. We also developed from printing white and light coloured shirts to custom batch dying them in vivid dark hues and speciality, more technically challenging and laborious “dark shirt” printing. The Direct-to-garment digital printing that enables the one-off printing of the Surface Active range of designs today, that is a whole ‘nother ball of wool. In a nutshell it is a process of printing on textiles using specialised water-based inks and inkjet technology whereby the prints form a very strong bond between the garment fibres and the pigmented inks. What follows is a historical record of Surface Active’s methodology.

The mechanics of hand-screen printing fabric do not change

Final heat cure of the print on the pallet, stripping the finished Tees off and reloading the next run of 10. This process start to finish took two people labouring hard-out for 45 minutes

Final heat cure of the print on the pallet, stripping the finished Tees off and reloading the next run of 10. This process start to finish took two people labouring hard-out for 45 minutes. A lunch break from this hard labour on your feet the whole time was essential, sit-down lunches at the table which amazing Chrissie Terpstra cooked for our crew of Screen Gems every single day! Morning and afternoon coffee/tea and snacks were delivered and consumed on the fly.

When you are printing on cotton fabric with seams you cannot get the kind of fine detail you can printing on paper. The fabric absorbs the inks or dyes and the colour spreads through the fibres. With our layered or hand-separated multicolour designs the colour is laid down in areas with the hand-pulled process, with “flash-curing” of the print between colour passes, in some cases up to 10 passes to print one garment one colour at a time.

Fabric colour and the issue of “hand” or feel of the fabric printing inks

‘Jewel Gecko - New Zealand’ eight colour T-shirt print on dark green fabric. ‘Jewel Gecko – New Zealand’ eight colour T-shirt print on dark green fabric. Placement; Eight colour front print, one colour kowhaiwhai print front and back around hem.

The reason for selecting water based inks and dyes as the better printing option, other than avoiding toxic (and highly hazardous) solvents that are used for printing “Plastisol” inks, is that of the “hand” or feel of the ink on the garment. Water-based inks have a nicer feel to them but they are more difficult to work with as they easily cure, “dry in” or clog the stencil especially in peak demand hot summer weather, rendering it useless and in need of remaking. Waterbased dyes have no “hand” to them as such as the screenprint literally dyes the light coloured fabric.

Custom designed and built in-line printing workshop

We developed a custom in-line sequential printing methodology, rather than rotary print methodology in our back-shed “sheltered workshop” to successfully overcome the drying-in drawback of waterbased printing dyes and acrylic Supercover inks. It was achieved by way of additional manual labour and an innovative use of our own design of screen holding humidifier boxes for keeping the ink and screens moist between print runs.

High cover ink system

‘Harlequin Gecko - New Zealand’ eight colour T-shirt print on charcoal marle fabric. ‘Harlequin Gecko – New Zealand’ eight colour T-shirt print on charcoal marle fabric. Placement; Eight colour front print, one colour woodcut print front and back around hem.

If you want to lay down a light colour on a dark shirt you have to use acrylic Super-cover inks, in some cases laying down two light coats to best build opacity while preserving detail. Flash curing in between is the only way ensure print quality is maintained throughout the print run. If your dark shirt design has a lot of solid light ink coverage you end up making something that has the feel of a bullet-proof vest when you’re wearing it. We avoided this by planning our designs to combine both ink and dye passes, colours darker than the fabric colour are dyes, lighter ones are super-opaque acrylics, all required flash curing between. The other huge benefit with water-based inks, aside from wash-up with water, and their “thinners” being water, is that the finished garment once flashed off to the point of being touch dry is given a final cure in just 20 minutes in a domestic tumble dryer rather than a 6m long high-tech curing oven.

Surface Active wildlife collage design fabric print on bedding set. Surface Active wildlife collage design, step and repeat one colour fabric print on custom bedding set.

Optimising the illustration workflow for easy printing and graphic quality

‘Ocean - New Zealand’ one colour children’s T-shirt print on navy blue and jade green fabric. ‘Ocean – New Zealand’ one colour children’s T-shirt print on navy blue and jade green fabric. Placement; One colour front and back. ‘Puff’ printed emboss effect ink.

One of our specialities is one colour “puff printed” designs, the so called puff inks contract when cured and so draw up the fabric surface. This has a tremendous tactile and visual effect on single colour dark shirt prints such as the Tuatara and children’s Ocean and Forest floor designs. I developed a variation of drawing wildlife art based on classic zoology methods, using mixed media, charcoal pencil with pen and ink on coquille board to achieve a crisp “line and tone” effect from one colour “line” images.

Regarding the gallery and our T-shirt models

As with other portfolios on the site Archive the over 40 designs included here are collected from the period between 1988–2002 of our Surface Active printed garment editions.

‘Weta - New Zealand’ T-shirt, adults and kids, on oatmeal and grey marle fabric. ‘Weta – New Zealand’ T-shirt, adults and kids, all-over printed on oatmeal and grey marle fabric. Adult garment a six colour print. High quality custom, workmanship. Cut and sew assembly. Products made in Christchurch, New Zealand, 1999–2002.

A shout-out must go to our T-shirt models from back-in-the-day, the kids are all 20-or-30-something now at time of writing. Our compliments and lasting gratitude are also due to their T-shirt modelling parents, our friends. SurfaceActive employed most of them as our highly-trusted sales crew at our stall at the Christchurch Arts Centre Market, come rain or shine, year-round 1988–2002. Credits Design and Art Direction: Design pARTners, Chrissie Terpstra and Shaun Waugh Graphic designer, illustrator, print production/‘pre-press’: Shaun Waugh Hand-pulled screen printing: Surface Active: Chrissie Terpstra and the Surface Active “screen gems” crew

©magentadot brands

Tree fern t-shirt

Feel like a walk in the forest downunder? It’s hard to avoid the familiar sight of tree ferns, or punga, no matter where you go in New Zealand. Cool and bushy, this attractively umbrellarific all-over printed t-shirt design is repeated on the shirt back. Available in adult sizes XS–3XL on forest green or black shirts.

Shop using this link to the treefern design in our global store to receive a 5% discount, use promo code: “PERFEC”.

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Events Management Group branding

EMG Events Management Group was a Christchurch firm established to support the performing arts and project manage the creation and development of large and small scale events such as outdoor theatre for the city council’s parks & recreation department, conferences, conventions and bespoke corporate events such as product launches and fundraisers.
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Antarctic Centre Adelies on ice Antarctica design on a white and a dark blue T-shirt

Cool T-shirts for Antarctica

WILDLIFE ART FOR THE ANTARCTIC CENTRE – Surface Active design pARTners’ good art achieves standout 1991 competition win

Christchurch is the gateway to Antarctica, has been for well over a century. The International Antarctic Centre was established in 1990, the visitor ‘Antarctic Attraction’ was opened to the public two years later.

Getting Antarctic people to vote on the Antarctic T-shirt designs

In 1991 the Attraction’s “Antarctic shop” merchandising and trading manager invited New Zealand’s leading souvenir T-shirt screen printers to each enter a set of Antarctica T-shirt designs into a competition, speculatively, to be judged and voted on by staff members of the various national Antarctic programmes based in Christchurch—hundreds of world-class scientists, explorers, transport support staff and the likes involved in preparing for their work in Antarctica. The brief was wide open, wildlife art designs, historical designs pertaining to Christchurch’s involvement with the 1912 epic of Captain Scott’s race to the Pole.
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Orana Park Chapman’s Zebra screen prints on front and back of a navy T-shirt

Wildlife Park T-shirts for Africa

Our 1992 competition winners, a range of wildlife art t-shirts that celebrate an international wildlife conservation success story: Orana’s African savannah top five


ORANA WILDLIFE PARK, MCLEANS ISLAND, CHRISTCHURCH


The retail market of the garment trade is tough, for an open range zoo like Orana Park, with one foot in the quality recreational experience sector and the other in the tourism sector, trading is highly seasonal. The competition for the customer’s discretionary spending dollar and the fact the park is a charitable trust that generates 95% of its income from gate takings and their ‘Trading Post’, demanded that the very best way of developing the Park’s new T-shirt range be used for this custom T-shirt design and print project.
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Poster Mr Fungus International Comic Mime

Fungustic slaprobatics: a poster for Mr Fungus

A poster for New Zealand‘s loudest mime

After training in London at the Desmond Jones School of Mime and earning a living on the competitive streets of Covent Garden and at various international busking festivals, at age 25 Fergus returned to New Zealand to work full time as an entertainer. He needed a logo and self-promotional publicity kit to enable him to market himself and provide to talent agencies. This poster is a photo montage produced using old school paste up and photolitho methods. Inverting the chair handstand ‘fungustic slaprobatic’ trick into a free-falling Mr Fungus was to play with the audience with a sort of Irish parachute sight gag, and making a poster that could be hung “correctly” upside down and still not make sense.
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Vinevax PWD brochure redesign cover

Trichoseal-spray: pruning wound dressing makeover

Vinevax_logo_radiused_256pxMore compelling design doesn’t mean prettier, or more arty. By more compelling I mean richer, more complete, better because it is more efficient, better because it is attractive in useful ways. The design of Vinevax’s new brand collateral isn’t merely about their product looking better on the shelf, but actually functioning better as an advertisement for itself in a competitive retail environment. The design has to do with the work of increasing sales by making Vinevax’s packaging beautiful and clear.

It’s exciting.
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Verso of Mr Fungus business card

Mr. Fungus logo & card: make a big impression at close range

Graphics must be purposeful

Recently returned to settle back in Wellington from the U.K. in 1991, having done his time entertaining Covent Garden and international festival audiences, Fergus Aitken was a busker, a young exponent of clowning, juggling, mime and the bizarre who needed a logo and a business stationery promotional kit to advertise and promote his comic mime character Mr Fungus. More broadly he needed to promote his availability for various performing arts roles and as a mime workshop teacher in community, school and tertiary education settings. The first project, a card, would be handed over personally or included in direct mail campaigns to various audiences, where it would be viewed mainly at very close range.
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