A Local Gem: Talking with Christine Cullinane-Haber, Creator of I Heart Astoria T-shirts

Last week, I had the pleasure of sitting down at Sweet Afton and talking with Christine Cullinane-Haber, creator of those fabulous I  heart Astoria t-shirts.

Engaging, sweet, dynamic, and driven are just a few adjectives that first come to mind when meeting Christine.  Originally from Long Island, Christine moved to Astoria 15 years ago to attend FIT, where she earned a BA in Restoration and Furniture. Upon graduating, she restored antiques for Christies, J. Buffet, and Southeby’s, but she simply couldn’t forget a silk-screening class she had taken for fun while studying for her degree. It was in that class, that she made her first I heart Astoria t-shirt for a project.

Christine’s attraction to the medium of silk-screening was both something innate, it just felt right, and also something that came from loving Andy Warhol. The process, says Christine, is just as thrilling as the end result—a process that, for the I heart Astoria t-shirts, is done three times, two on the front (the shirt has two different colors), and once on the back for her logo—LinDon Habes, which is derived from the first names of her parents, and her husband’s nickname. Each t-shirt is done by hand in her Astoria apartment, which she says often has “t-shirts draped everywhere.”

The first t-shirts were sold at Candy Plum, a small boutique that has since closed, and they took off almost overnight. Wanting to remain a supporter of small business, Christine decided to continue selling the t-shirts exclusively at SITE, where they are doing extraoridinary; in fact, she is the process of adding a broader baby line, which will include bibs and burp cloths to start—right now, you can get onesies.

After 6 years, Christine is still having a great time making t-shirts; she says that it’s thrilling to “see the sense of pride” people have in wearing the t-shirts, t-shirts that she made by hand. In addition to making t-shirts, Christine is extremely active in the local artists community. During the year, she organizes two mini-markets (Winter & Summer) at Sweet Afton where she works as a waitress. The event  invites local vendors and artists to showcase and sell their work; there is no cost for the table, allowing the vendor to keep all the proceeds. The min-market also holds a raffle and all the proceeds go to Concern Worldwide, a charity that is important to Sweet Afton and to Christine. Already a success, and already loved by the Astoria community, she seems to have a big, bright future ahead of her.

  • Find The I Heart Astoria Tee
    You can find Christine’s t-shirts at her Etsy site
    On the I heart Astoria Facebook page.

 

Submitted by Maria Smilios–content editor at Queens Mamas. You can follow Maria at her blog Kissing the mad hatter goodbye where she writes about gender, culture, memory, motherhood among other things.