North Hills native Heather Wood will soon be graduating from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. But her public debut as a fashion designer will come even sooner ... at the Mr. Roboto Project Arts Fair being held April 8 at the Spinning Plate Gallery. There, the 22-year-old graphic designer will retail her line of Port Authority-themed bus T-shirts. The shirts, which come in a variety of colors and route designations, can also be purchased online through Wood's site, www.hlwdesign.com.
So where'd the idea for these shirts come from?
I was in the bathroom, washing my hands or something. I wanted to do something about Pittsburgh, but not a skyline. In New York there are these shirts that have the "A Train to the Bronx" or something. And at first I thought about the bus route map, but that would be hard. Then I thought about how much I liked the bus. Well, "like" is a strong word. But how much I depended on it. And I know a lot of people who like and use public transit too.
I just grabbed the bus image after Googling it on the Web. It's one of the older Port Authority buses, but I just took the big chunky parts of it. I didn't want to do the PAT logo because I didn't want to get sued.
Speaking of which, does the Port Authority know what you're up to?
Not yet. I guess they will now. I'm trying to be a supporter of the Port Authority. People recognize that it's such a part of Pittsburgh.
So which bus routes are people requesting shirts for?
The 61C and the 54C are the most popular. Somebody asked me for a shirt with the T. That would be a different design. I ride the T occasionally ... I think it's really cute. It's so clean, and it's such a cute little subway.
I've gotten requests from Texas and California: "I've been a slave to the 54C for years; I have to have one of those." It's a nostalgia thing for people. It's like a love-hate relationship ... "I was a slave to it, but I have to represent."
What's your bus?
I ride the 1D. I hate driving, and I'm ridiculously cheap about paying for gas. I've been a slave to it, but after taking it 40 minutes each way every day for four years, I'm sort of attached to it. My friends and I once named our bowling team "Team 1D." There are some characters on the 1D. Like the guy who reads the "power of prayer" books all the time, with pictures of Jesus on them.
I'm moving to Squirrel Hill soon, and I know I'm going to miss it.
You're living at home now. What does the family think of your work?
My dad didn't see a market for it. He was like, "I don't see who is going to buy them." He thought it would just be my friends who would buy them. But you know ... he's not into the youth culture. And he rode the bus himself for many years and didn't like it. So did my sister when she was in college. The 1D is definitely a Wood family tradition.
Now that I'm getting all this interest, my father is really proud of me. He's coming up with all these harebrained schemes: He's the quartermaster for the VFW where we live, and everything I make, he wants me to bring it back to the VFW.
Do you have any great adventure stories from riding the bus?
I don't know; it's all so average. A great bus experience is any time they let you off at the right stop.
When I first started riding the bus, I was afraid of getting lost. I was worried I'd miss my stop, and they'd take me out to Ross Garage or something. Which happened to me once. I got in the back and started reading my book, and the next thing I know I'm on the highway. Ross was real weird ... a bus depot, and no one else was around. I had to stand around and wait for a bus to come out of the garage. Finally, I got the 11D back Downtown. The driver was telling me, "Don't worry, honey ... you'll be all right." I think I was crying. Plus, I'm small and innocent-looking.
Anything else you want people to know about you?
Dear people who work in design:
I really need a job.
Love, Heather Wood.