2017 Tee Design- 'Dance, Friend- & Enter'

Hello, everyone! I hope you enjoy reading some of my backstage musings. Thanks so much to my husband Josh for really pushing me to utilize this blog feature on the new site. Let's see where this goes!

'17 Image.Design by Wendy Rover of  Roving Horse Henna.

'17 Image.Design by Wendy Rover of Roving Horse Henna.

2017 Tee Design-

It is important to me to present designs that are beautiful, unique, and capture some aspect of the mission statement of the JamBallah festival. It’s always tricky because the festival is, by design, not a landing place for any one style or taste. But I’ve worked with some fantastic artists over the years, who have come up with designs that I hope are inspiring to everyone. Here are some thoughts on the 2017 design, and below you'll find a list of some of the considerations that must be weighed when creating them each year.

The 2017 image was designed by Wendy Rover of Roving Horse Henna. I chose Wendy because, (as when practicing proper ethical fusion of any sort), she has the extensive knowledge of both elements that I wanted portrayed in this piece. Wendy is an amazing font of information about different henna styles, cultural traditions, and historical contexts, which comes out beautifully in her teaching and in her conversation. She is also an enormous fantasy nerd like me, with a deep love of J. R. R. Tolkien's 'Lord of the Rings', where the base design of the Doors of Durian originated. 

Element I: Henna Art

The barest snippet on the origins of henna: “Archeologists and historians have found evidence that henna has been used as a body adornment on hair, skin and nails for over 6000 years. As far as we can trace it, henna was first used in the Nile delta of Africa. However, written and pictorial records also place the use of henna on the Arabian Peninsula, and Persia and the Middle East as well as the Indian subcontinent and even into Europe and Northern Asia for millennia.”

-From the Roving Horse Henna ‘About Henna’ page, SO MUCH MORE INFO and further resources list here.

On incorporating henna art into the design:

I felt that creating an image incorporating henna design would read as acknowledging the Middle Eastern diasporic arts we all love, without having to rely on a dancing figure.

I asked Wendy about her inspiration in creating the 2017 design, and some of the specific henna motifs that went into it. She said that eye-motifs can be found “from North Africa all the way to Spain and across the Arabian peninsula and across central and south east Asia.” They serve as protection from negativity and unconscious envy (aka ‘the evil eye’ in several cultures). Lotus flowers are symbols of unfolding beauty “with roots in the mucky mud,” whose symbolism also crosses several cultures, primarily through India and Asia. As for the pendant moon: “The central motif of the moon chandelier is not specific to any region or culture. My thinking regarding it has more to do with the concept that though many of us lead indoor lives out of necessity, that magic and Light of the moon are always with us. Think also of the ‘presence’ lamp in many kinds of sanctuary- the light is always kept on, and represents the presence of divine spirit.”

Element II: The Doors of Durin

Fiction and fantasy, while not perfect, (most of the classics have pretty deep issues with racism and misogyny etc, more on that later perhaps,) can deeply touch us and provide us with comfort and inspiration. It's also a fascinating lens with which to view our world and explore possibilities. Lately I have been trying to let the art design of the festival reflect a more personal aesthetic, so have been using pieces from classic geekery that are inspiring to me in ways that also (I hope) speak to the dance world. It's been a challenge to balance nods to pop culture and the folks who, like me, are great fans, and also create designs that speak to non-fans at the same time.

The Doors of Durin  by  J.R.R. Tolkien  (as printed in   The Fellowship of the Ring  , Book II, Ch. 4 -  A Journey in the Dark ). Part of the inscription is a riddle to open the door that reads "Speak, friend, and enter".

The Doors of Durin by J.R.R. Tolkien (as printed in The Fellowship of the Ring, Book II, Ch. 4 - A Journey in the Dark). Part of the inscription is a riddle to open the door that reads "Speak, friend, and enter".

In Tolkien mythology, the Doors of Durin is an entrance to a great Dwarvish realm. The Doors are special of course because they are prominently featured in the movie and the book and are therefore recognizable. However, their deeper story represents a cooperative effort between two distinct and often contentious cultures in Tolkien’s Middle Earth--the Dwarves and the Elves. In the story, master craftspeople of both cultures came together to create these doors specifically to further trade and encourage association and collaboration between their two peoples. I love the symbolism of coming together to build something beautiful that benefits everyone. It also jives with one of the main tenets of JamBallah: to encourage inclusivity and cross-association of all kinds. We can only be stronger the more we get out of our comfort zone, learning and sharing.

Coming together across social boundaries to build something beautiful and beneficial-to-all felt like a very fitting statement in this current climate of separatism. I hope that everyone is able to wear this design with pride and purpose-- even those of you who are not fans of LOTR.


Thanks so much to Cheryl and Marcie, seen below beautifully modeling the 2017 tee options with me. AND NOT A-ONE IN BLACK STRETCH JERSEY *gasp!* Here's to friends who help you out!

You still reading? Then I'll keep on talking!

One of the things I do want to start putting out there through this blog is discussing the backstage work that goes into creating events.

For example, there are a ton of considerations that must go into a tee design, including things like:

  • What does the design mean to you? What aspects of your ‘vibe’ or theme does it represent?
  • What will the design say to your attendees, and separately, what might it say to the general public when it’s ‘out in the wild’?
  • How will the design look when it’s put on a stretchy shirt, over a variety of body types and boob sizes?
  • Where exactly will the design be placed? (see above) Front and center? Sleeve only? Back of the shirt?
  • Use of text? Some people hate having text on their clothes. If yes, what size, where is it placed, and how legible should it be?
  • If the design is a figure, who does it represent? How do you make the figure(s) feel more inclusive of all body types, ethnicities, and other variations in human beings? In America, white slender able-bodied women are most often used as the ‘default’ in design work. How can you push back against that, without being tokenizing or confusing?
  • Who are you hiring to do the work? If it’s a series of designs, are you making sure to include a variation in backgrounds/life experiences of artists, or just pulling from the same pool over and over?
  • For a bellydance festival design, where is the line between celebration/cheeky fun/inspiration, and harmful Orientalism/exotification?

When ordering merch items, there is also a constant battle between what will look great, what will sell, and what will keep your pieces financially accessible.

  • What is the going rate for design creation? Don’t short-change working artists just because you are one!! The design fee has to be budgeted into final per-item cost. (Depending on the design, expect to start at $250-$350, more if it's super complex.)
  • How many colors of ink are needed to make it pop? (Printers charge per color, genearlly ~$30 per screen they make)
  • What colors of ink will work against what color of shirt? How many different colors/shirt designs to order?
  • What shirt/dress designs are ‘in’ so people will buy them, will be comfortable and flattering on a large variety of body types, and don’t cost an exorbitant amount to order?
  • How many items can you afford to print, and in what sizes? I've always wanted to do a preorder form so everyone can for sure get the size they want, but adding a shipping component and another layer of organization to keep track of is a little scary to me. Plus, then you have to have everything finalized waaaaay in advance, to have time to print the items before the event. Hopefully someday.


Whew, thanks for reading, talk to you more soon! I've got a huge list of topics I'd eventually like to cover, but I'm also open to suggestions- email jamballahnw@gmail.com with comments, suggestions, etc.