An Interview with Oak City Collective

In 2013 Angie Scala and Jerrad Bement started The Oak City Collective (OCC) with the mission to create NC inspired apparel designed by local artists and designers. Today they have over 15 locally themed t-shirts and apparel designs that are sold at local events, on the OCC website and at DECO in downtown Raleigh. Current t-shirt designs include a design featuring a large 919, a NC barbeque tong and fork image, a shirt featuring some of the area’s local breweries, and a Raleigh neighborhood shirt that lists neighborhood names in a bold typeface.


Angie Scala, co-founder of Oak City Collective, shares the history, progress, and future of this local creative enterprise that combines design with local love. Later on she, along with fellow OCC artist, Mitchell Beasly, discuss the creative process and inspiration of some of the current active artists of OCC.

How did you get started in this project?
I started out screenprinting as a hobby and created some designs inspired by Raleigh that did really well at local craft events, so when Jerrad Bement had the idea to start a NC themed t-shirt company he reached out to me to see if I was interested in partnering with him.

Jerrad and I had worked together previously on design projects for the nightclub he owns so he was familiar with my work. We decided to add an element of community involvement by making it a collective effort of other local artists and designers so we could show support for our awesome local creative scene. We want OCC to be an ever-growing and evolving entity. It keeps things fun, fresh and exciting.

What is a good early story about the Oak City Collective?
Our debut event for OCC was The Pit’s Cuegrass Festival. We only had a few designs ready at that time and we had them on a tiny table in the alley next to The Pit. We joked about being happy if we sold five shirts and were a little nervous and not sure what to expect. We ended up selling 60 shirts that day and received excellent feedback so we knew we were onto something.

Why are you passionate about making North Carolina and local shirts and goods?
We feel strongly that it is so important to embrace the city in which you live and spread as much positivity and local love as possible. Nothing helps a city thrive more than a strong sense of community and local support. We figured the easiest way to promote this feeling was on shirts and other goods.


How do you get ideas for t-shirts? What inspires you?
For ideas we just try and find fun ways to capture the feeling of being in NC, why people like it here and what defines the area. We have gone through a lot of ideas, some of them are good and some of them just make us laugh.

How does your group work together to design and make your shirts?
There are a couple of ways that we make designs. Any artist or designer can submit an idea to us but we also bounce around ideas internally. Sometimes we design over each other’s shoulders and see what we can come up with as a team. Other times we come up with something on our own time and present it to the group. We review the designs as a team and give each other feedback on what shirt or ink colors to use. We print the ones that we think will do well.

What is the process that goes into making the shirts?
We review and approve the designs as a team and then send them to production. We used to do all the screenprinting ourselves in our studio, but we quickly outgrew our space and decided to partner with Raleigh Screen Print for the production work. They screenprint the shirts for us and then we feature them on our website, social media, and at any upcoming events. We try to get as much exposure and recognition to the designer as possible.

Who is your typical customer?
People who buy our shirts are anyone who wants to represent NC in style! We have found that many different types of people from all over dig our goods, and we don’t want to limit ourselves in any way to what type of person would wear our stuff.

What is an interesting story about a customer interaction that you had?
We were pretty stoked when the mayor came up to our booth and bought a shirt!

What are some of the greatest challenges you have had?
One challenge we had was when we realized that we couldn’t handle doing all the screenprinting ourselves. It was hard to let go of that part, but it was one of the best decisions we made. We still have our equipment so we can do small batches of shirts but now we don’t feel so stressed by the workload.

What has been the response to the work you have made so far?
The response to our work has been overwhelmingly great. We have had so many compliments and so much positive feedback. We couldn’t be happier!


What are some of the positive things/successes of being a collective?
It’s great to work as a collective because it incubates a lot of unique ideas and nobody gets burnt out. We get together for beers and come up with ideas or just text some shirt designs around for feedback. It is so nice to collaborate and to not rely on just one person to do all the design work for our products.

What are some of the challenges of being a collective?
The only challenge is that unfortunately we can’t make all the designers and artists who submit designs to us happy. We aren’t able to put every idea that is submitted to us into production, as much as we would like to!

What items are your top selling items?
People love the Drink Local shirt! Also any item with our logo on it is popular. We are so flattered by how many people want to represent Oak City Collective. We have actually had a hard time deciding on what designs to discontinue because each shirt sells pretty well.


Are there any new t-shirt designs that are brewing now?
We are working on designs for other NC cities so we can branch out more. We are also working on stuff for the little ones!

What are some of your future plans?
We are working on developing a retail space (or two). We are also developing new products and trying to expand into other cities and spread the local love beyond Raleigh!

Creative process & Inspiration
Angie Scala


Where does your inspiration come from?
My graphic design is inspired by completely unrelated forms of art. Colors in a painting or imagery from a photograph can inspire me.

What are some of your favorite tools for the creative process?
Sketching an idea before I jump on the computer is a pretty important step for me. Something happens when you apply pen to paper that just can’t happen on a computer. However, you can’t be a graphic designer these days without Adobe Creative Suite.

What do you do when you hit a creative roadblock?
When I have a creative block, I step away and do something on the other side of the spectrum. I go for a walk, clean, call someone, etc. I do anything that will help press the reset button in my head so I can come back and approach a project with a clear perspective and see it in a different light. One thing that I always do is sleep on a new design and come back to it. I am able to see it totally differently the next day and approach it in a new way.

How important is collaborating with other designers?
Collaboration is definitely one of the most important steps to take in design work. Even if it’s just to have someone take a peak and give you a little feedback, I think it is really important to be able to let go of ego and have creative minds work together.

What is the most frustrating aspect of design?
Having a creative block, or not being able to get started. Once you pass that hump and are in the zone then it becomes so much fun.

Mitchell Beasley


Where does your inspiration come from?
I get inspired by any form of art that opposes the status quo… when someone comes up with an idea that’s not only outside the box, but blows the box completely apart.

What are some of your favorite tools for the creative process?
I typically stick to the three P’s: paper, pencils, & paintbrushes.

What do you do when you hit a creative roadblock?
When I hit a creative roadblock I try to get as far away from design as possible. I feel that time spent not designing is just as important as time spent designing.

How important is collaborating with other designers?
Collaborating with other designers allows us to utilize our varying backgrounds and life experiences to their fullest potential by applying them to one common goal of creating a design solution. Collaboration is essential.

What is the most frustrating aspect of design?
For me, the most frustrating part of design is knowing that there is an infinite ceiling of possibility when staring at a blank canvas. It’s discouraging to know that I can create almost anything that my mind can conjure up, but only one idea can fully come into fruition at a time.

Oak City Collective @OakCityColl

Angie Scala, Co-founder and Creative Director
Jerrad Bement, Co-founder and Operations Officer
Callie Dean, Head of Events, Customer Service, and Order Fulfillment

Raleigh Screen Print @raleigh_tshirts

Logan King, Owner
Jessica Moody, Art Director

 Oak City Collective Current Active Artists

Angie Scala
Mitchell Beasley
Jennifer Healy
Aaron Price
Autumn Cobeland

Tshirt and Model Images © Copyright Scott Scala
All other images © Copyright 2013 Kristen Baumlier, All Rights Reserved.

About the Author

Kristen Baumlier is an artist and designer and is currently developing a interactive project called Food Font. Baumlier’s work was a finalist in the Where Do You Give? design contest, and a prototype of her interactive game design has been exhibiting across the U.S. since 2012. Baumlier taught at the Cleveland Institute of Art for over 12 years in the areas of interactive design and integrated media, and recently moved to the Triangle area

By Kristen Baumlier
Published January 25, 2014