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The art of starting a business

“I didn’t want it to just end with the drawing being done,” said Angela Werstine. “I’ve always hated that when I draw something and put it up online, it’s done. I wanted more. I love my drawings so much, and I think every artist says that, but maybe not as passionately as I do. I lo-o-ove my drawings.”

Angela Werstine conceived her clothing label, The Werst Designs, after printing T-shirts at her art exhibition, ‘The Erotic Side of Classy.’[Will Sloan / The Observer]
Angela Werstine conceived her clothing label, The Werst Designs, after printing T-shirts at her art exhibition, ‘The Erotic Side of Classy.’ [Will Sloan / The Observer]
Werstine, a St. Jacobs-based artist, is known for her minimalist-but-sensual line drawings that encompass topics ranging from Christianity to tasteful erotica. Now, you’ll be able to bring her designs with you thanks to her new clothing business, cheekily titled The Werst Designs.

“My husband and I have wanted to start a business for years, and we were kind of waiting for that right moment. My husband has some amazing ideas about men’s clothes and even the ladies’ clothes, and we do it together.”

The idea was hatched during Werstine’s most recent art show, a celebration of the female form called ‘The Erotic Side of Classy.’ To help publicize the Kitchener exhibition, Werstine printed some of her drawings on T-shirts, and found the merchandise selling quickly.

“We sold all the clothes – my husband sold the sweater off of his back,” she laughed. “From there we were like, ‘Okay, maybe this is a cool outlet.’”

The Werst Designs offers a range of products for varying tastes from shirts to underwear to lines of “Viking Pride” and “Scottish Pride” hoodies.

“I have something for everyone,” said Werstine. “The very conservative Mennonites would like my Christian work; the 20-year-old university girls would like the erotic, fun, playful clothing; the 50-year-old homemaker would like the native stuff, and the new mom would love the mom-and-baby things.

“I do not pick one specific group of people to sell to. I want to sell to everybody, all over the world.”

Being a professional artist was Werstine’s ambition from childhood, and she recalls that she spent much of her free time drawing “ever since I was a super-little girl.” She put aside the ambition after graduating high school, but got back into it after encouragement from her husband Adam.

“For my birthday one year, he got me an easel and canvases and paints and books and said, ‘You need to keep doing it.’ It inspired me to start doing it again, and then my confidence grew and I started doing art shows and loving it. It just spiraled from there – I draw every day.”

She focused first on Christian art, producing hundreds of drawings that encompassed most of the New Testament, before turning to a series that examined her native heritage. “The Erotic Side of Classy,” and her ongoing work on naughty fairy tales, explored a somewhat different set of artistic interests.

“I guess all artists are kind of erratic, and I think you just need to find what fits for you,” she said. “Drawing the female figure fits with me – I like curves and the way you can move. It’s almost empowering. … I kind of do whatever I feel in that moment. I never know what I’m going to draw – I just draw. And a lot of the drawings were just sporadic, spontaneous drawings, and they’ve become some of my favourite designs.”

She continued, “I wouldn’t even know how to describe what kind of artist I am – I’m just an artist. I’m not a painter, I’m not a portrait artist… I know what I’m not. But the line drawings, and the simplicity of them, it’s easy for me, and I love it. It’s what flows, it’s what works.”

The clothing business was partly spawned, she said, front frustration from the usual shopping experience.

“I hate shopping at places like the Gap and Old Navy wearing clothes that everybody else wears,” said Werstine. “I want to wear something and be an individual, and people always claim that they want to be individual and they want to look like themselves and nobody else, but they all look the same. We offer them something nobody else does.”

The business’ website, www.thewerstdesigns.com, also offers prints of Werstine’s drawings, but don’t expect to get an original.

“I don’t sell my originals. Ever. I keep all of them – I have thousands of them, but I don’t sell the originals, I sell prints. But that’s gratifying – I love selling prints. There are thousands of homes around the world that have my art.”

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