Presenting our inaugural list of the industry’s most inventive and resourceful talents. Get to know Rick Roth of Mirror Image.
A lot of creation was going on back in the 1970s – Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak created Apple, Paul Allen and Bill Gates created Microsoft, and Rick Roth started creating cool stuff with T-shirts. All of these men were in a league of their own.
“I first learned screen printing from friends,” says Roth. “It was a time of experimentation, of interest in crafts, and there was a value put on creativity.” He describes his first screen prints as hand-cut stencils printed in short runs of shirts for his and his friends’ amusement, or for political purposes, but it didn’t stay a hobby for long. “I was printing shirts in my basement,” Roth says. “The setup was beyond crude, so I started borrowing equipment from a tiny shop owned by a nonprofit that served troubled teenagers. Eventually, I bought them out entirely.”
Roth, the president and founder of Rhode Island-based Mirror Image, has captured a treasure trove of decorating awards over the years. He credits his success to standing out in the promotional field by utilizing branding and creative methods his competitors aren’t.
“Our combination of design and printing is unique, which just isn’t what other companies are doing,” Roth says. “We bring a retail look with creative elements from the street, branding and fashion worlds and unite it with high-end art and quality that meets the stratospheric standards of museum curators. That combo puts us on a different level.”
Roth also touts his success with Mirror Image’s focus on T-shirt design specifically. “We’re acutely aware that you wear T-shirts – keep it simple, compelling and wearable,” he says. “It’s the greatest medium because regular people can afford art when it’s on a T-shirt.”
Roth’s influence, though, goes beyond decoration and carries into activism and charitable causes. “It’s satisfying both creatively and personally when there’s a social mission behind doing the work,” Roth says. His history proves this enthusiasm for giving back, having worked on campaigns like Students for a Free Tibet, Amnesty International, Farm Aid, Music Makers Foundation, New Orleans Musician’s Clinic and so many more.
“I still get a thrill seeing people many years later wearing the shirts from these campaigns, talking about how they love the designs,” Roth says. “I don’t make clear divisions with my personal and work life, so it’s only natural that my business would also have charitable aims. It’s incredibly gratifying.”
That gratification is evident in everything Roth does, including having raised 11 children. “It’s just as simple as this: I want to leave the world a better place for them,” Roth says.
Check out some pics of Rick Roth, below!