Employee's Shirt Design Gains National Attention

Published on July 18, 2016

An unabashed love for the whimsical rock band They Might Be Giants has brought national attention to an Eastern Kentucky University employee.

When Lindsay Riley was a graduate student in EKU’s Master of Arts in Teaching program in 2012-13, she created a relief printmaking project incorporating a design featuring a song lyric from the unique Grammy-winning group that has produced 19 studio albums since their 1986 debut.

More recently, the band used Riley’s design, based on the lyric “Say I’m the only bee in your bonnet,” from its “Birdhouse in Your Soul,” for one of its souvenir t-shirts. Then, on the June 5 broadcast of “Late Night with Conan O’Brien,” sidekick Andy Richter wore the shirt bearing Riley’s design. (O’Brien and Richter, like Riley, are big fans of the band.)

The song was written “from the point of view of a nightlight in your house, but I always thought that ‘Say I’m the only bee in your bonnet’ was such a great line – both kind of romantic and unhappy the same time. I also used a lot of honeycomb and bee imagery in my art for a while, so I thought it was perfect.”

When Riley saw her favorite band perform in Covington over Spring Break, she took a print. “Usually, the drummer comes out after the show and signs stuff, so I knew I could get it to the band. Then the next day TMBG had put all over their social media because (lead guitarist) John Flansburgh seemed to really like it. He went to art school for design a few years before the band took off, so it was really cool that he was informed enough in printmaking to know what he was looking at. I mentioned on their social media that I had designed the print – and they had me contact a band manager.”

Riley kept the copyright on the design, “so I guess I could make them myself if I wanted, but I don’t really plan on it. Keeping the shirt as a thing just between me and band makes it more special for me. It was a huge confidence boost (and) great to know that I created something they liked. They have created so many things over the years that I’ve loved, so it felt great.”

Riley credited EKU Foundation Professor of Art Dave Mohallatee for his guidance.

“He is a great teacher who cares a lot about his students and has a wealth of knowledge that is always worth tapping into,” Riley said. “I still make prints, and even now I go to him with questions and he gives me great feedback and help if I need it.”

As she continues to pursue her art as a sideline (check out Laserlope on Instagram and Twitter), Riley is employed by EKU as an information technology associate.