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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
A&E >  Art

Terrain debuts clothing line Terrain X

Dec. 2, 2021 Updated Thu., Dec. 2, 2021 at 3:24 p.m.

Before you read anything further, find a full body mirror right quick.

… OK, you’re back. Could you see the culture you come from looking back at you?

Is it in the fuzzy socks Grandma knits and gifts every Christmas? The gold or silver cross hanging from a chain in the center of your chest? For Terrain co-founder and executive director Ginger Ewing, the truest item of Spokane culture?

“Beanies,” Ewing said. “Beanies are big here, and that’s a very Pacific Northwest thing that is reflected in Spokane.”

They are just one of the items in Terrain X, a brand new clothing line that weaves both Spokane’s culture and local artists into its fabric.

Though released Saturday, Ewing has been dreaming about commissioning artists to make clothes for years. She grew inspiration from Vans and its collaborations with the artistic likes of rapper Tyler, the Creator and shoe tributes to the Beatles.

“Terrain X is the platform to fulfill that dreamland of (Spokane) artists to design apparel as our initial inspiration,” Ewing said.

Terrain X took form during Terrain’s Creative Enterprise program, a 12-week extensive program that teaches local artists how to sustain a small business.

“In our first cohort, six of the businesses that went through the program expressed interest in doing a collaborative retail project, so originally we said we’ll just find a space for them and then our job will be done,” Ewing said. “But the more we thought that through, we thought it was a terrible idea (to leave them), and we need our artists, makers and creators to have some more structure and support.”

From there, Terrain took a shot at the pop-up shop idea in a small space. But, once demands for a second, bigger location rose, River Park Square officials proposed Terrain having its own store in the mall. From Here opened in River Park Square in June 2019.

Located on the second floor, the 4,200-square-foot shop was seven times bigger than the previous space in the Spokane Steam Plant. More space invited more ideas, shifting consumer concerns from a place to purchase items to selling a particular type of merchandise. Residents and state visitors wanted Spokane-branded items for take-home souvenirs or more hometown flare.

“Sixty percent of the folks who come (to River Park Square) are visitors, and they’re looking for Spokane items, and then, whenever we did have Spokane things on our shelves, they would just fly off,” Ewing said.

Terrain released Terrain X during Thanksgiving weekend, a time for sale-searching shoppers to shuffle out cash in record levels. In a study conducted by the National Retail Federation, 180 million shoppers sent $30 billion. Small Business Saturday falls in between Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

“We knew it’d be the perfect opportunity (to debut) on Small Business Saturday and take it into the holiday season,” Ewing said. “We were very specific about launching on Small Business Saturday the closer Terrain X came into fruition. But it just happened to align that way.”

To make sure the artists were appropriately recognized, Terrain X item tags have a bio and headshot of the artist who designed the piece, their favorite thing about Spokane and a QR code that takes visitors to an artists’ portfolio. Terrain is in the business of paying its artists, so the selection of the inaugural artists was split between both talent and diverse skill sets.

“One of the things that we say a lot is that you can be an incredible artist, but it doesn’t mean you’ll be able to paint a mural or produce socks,” Ewing said. “That’s a skill set that is learned. We went with an artist we knew had that skill set, though we were open to working with artist who don’t.”

Ewing also wanted a reflection of the diversity in Spokane, citing the “cultural and artistic diversity” was reflected as much as possible.

Joshua Thomas, Karli Ingersoll and Jiemei Lin are the artist-designers featured in the inaugural drop of the clothing line. Ingersoll and Thomas are Spokane natives, while Lin was born in Hangzhou, China, and came to America as an exchange student for school in the U.S.

Ingersoll’s design, art and murals are some of her most notable works. Before moving into the freelancer scene, she worked in advertising with company clients like Netflix and Lululemon creating logo and branding designs.

She has murals in local restaurants such as People’s Waffle, Lucky You Lounge (which she owns) and Chop Shop, including one on North Monroe Street. For Ingersoll, art is an opportunity to expand on the relationship between humans and nature.

“I get a lot of inspiration from growing flowers and vegetables, the connection and process of growing things and living life,” Ingersoll said. “The natural world is more connected to us than humans are able to see.”

When not in her artistic world, she is in the garden or watching documentaries that stretch her green thumb. The Netflix documentary “Fantastic Fungi” helped her realize the distinctive shape of mushrooms.

“Mushrooms are these interesting species to explore because there’s so many types, so many shapes and colors,” She said. “It’s interesting to go in this direction to design and play with them.”

For Terrain X, Ingersoll mirrors the seasons in Spokane; one of her crimson red sweaters is painted with blush pinks and yellows reminiscent of the earlier sunsets and changing leaves in mid-October.

Thomas started working with Terrain after creating a COVID Crusaders Comic in 2020 through Spokane Arts and The Black Lens. He has a degree in visual communications design and a master’s in business administration from Eastern Washington University. He then founded his business, Lejit Designs, which has elevated him to completing murals and illustrations that are toss up between traditional and digital outlets. Thomas, a mixed-race man, finds refuge in art and Black culture.

“Graffiti … cartoons, anime, manga, books in general (are influential), and also I can say this: Black culture is obvious,” Thomas said. “There is a certain flow to it, and that comes up in my work a lot. There’s somewhat of an identity crisis you go through being mixed, and as a I grew up I came more and more to terms with my Blackness. In my art, I’ve gotten really good by embracing that part of me.”

For Terrain X, he infused his love for graffiti into a bubble-font design for the word ‘Spokane’ on an ash-gray sweatshirt. He also designed a graffiti T-shirt with Spokane hallmarks such as the Parkade, riverfront festivities and a basketball to pay homage to Hoopfest in a cyan-yellow-white color mix.

Lin’s hometown is still reflected in the shirts, shoes and items she designs made for Terrain X. Hangzhou is known as China’s “imperial city of poetry” where Lin grew up going to art museums that reflect ancient Chinese leaders’ art appreciation. Lin is a digital illustrator with traditional art-like murals. She also illustrates children’s books.

“My parents always took me to these gardens and art museums, and at an early age, that was my art education,” She said, “My parents who were very encouraging wanted me to express myself in an artistic way, and I think that was a big part of me and the Chinese heritage.”

For Terrain X, Lin designed an illustration of a girl with bangs peering into binoculars, finding the Spokane waterfall and bridge looking back at her. Around the girl are navy and orange flowers and a small line of Mandarin, the common language spoken in China.

To Ewing and the featured artists, Terrain X is just getting started. As the line releases continue, Ewing is hoping for an expansion of not only artistic opportunity but also Spokane-related work that embodies culture and diversifies fashion tastes.

“One of the things I’m really proud of is that we wanted to appeal to as many people as possible, so when you see Josh or Karli’s designs, they’re vastly different artistic styles and representations,” Ewing said.

“We’re still starting to get a deeper look of who and what Spokane is not only creatively but as a whole, at least through artistic interpretation. We’ll see that more and more as the line evolves, but we have to be successful first. I look forward to pushing Spokane to what they embrace stylistically with this line. I’m dreaming big here.”

Amber D. Dodd's work as the Carl Maxey Racial and Social Inequity reporter for Eastern Washington and North Idaho primarily appears in both The Spokesman-Review and The Black Lens newspapers, and is funded in part by the Michael Conley Charitable Fund, the Smith-Barbieri Progressive Fund, the Innovia Foundation and other local donors from across our community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper's managing editor.

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