Devan Nichols rolling ink

Hand Stamped in Seattle

Clothing artist Devan Nichols has made a name for herself through creative designs and old-school stamping techniques.

It all starts with a responsibly-made shirt. Because when empowering others to make a positive change is the mission — freedom needs to be the foundation.

“High-quality, durable pieces are obviously a must. But for me, it’s more than that. I want people to feel free in my clothing,” Devan Nichols told me while we sat in her studio.

And for that to be the case, they need to know each piece started in freedom. So when I say ‘responsibly made,’ I mean I’ve spent hundreds of hours researching manufacturers to ensure the workers are free and earning a living wage.

Devan Nichols

Devan is the founder of Contour Creative, a hand-stamped apparel company based in the Seattle area. Graphics and materials are designed for the adventurous spirit, meant to be cozy, hard-wearing, and fun.   

Her studio — a non-descript garage — sits nestled between two-plus acres of cedar forest and a sprawling grass-filled pasture. It’s ringed by old rhododendrons, which even after a generous pruning by Devan’s husband Dan threaten to block access to the entrance.

Devan Nichols garage studio.
Devan’s garage studio is filled with stamps, ink, carving tools, and more!

Beyond the threshold is an array of hobbies and business tools that seem to blend into one another. Ski boots sit facing dog chairs. Floor to ceiling shelves are lined with camping gear. Two industrial clothing lines span the ceiling, partially weighed down by freshly stamped tanks and sweatshirts. 

Devan’s platform workbench is covered in duct tape and on the shelf above it rests the magic — Devan’s currently active collection of hand-carved woodblock stamps. A skill most learn in middle school, Devan has turned stamp carving into a thriving business. The blocks, in their varying sizes, are labeled with names like Tree Flake, Sugarloaf, and PNW Thing. 

Clothing artist Devan Nichols stands in the sunshine laughing.
Filled with joy, Devan is passionate about making clothes she would want to wear on a daily basis — like her butterfly sweatshirt seen here.

Her oldest block stamp is called Mountains & Water. She carved it in 2015, at the birth of Contour Creative. “I always thought making graphic tees would be neat, but you had to make them in such huge quantities that it just never seemed feasible,” Devan explained.

The unfeasible became a glimmer when Devan’s friend Bailey Arnone showed her the block print murals she was creating. “I immediately wondered if I could stamp onto shirts. After months of research, I showed my husband my ideas. He simply asked, ‘When are you going to order the supplies?’ And so I did,” shared Devan.

Back then, Devan and Dan lived in a tiny home. With space at a premium, Devan launched and ran Contour Creative from a plastic tote. It slipped into the cubby intended to one day house their single drawer dishwasher. 

Devan Nichols carves a new stamp.
Devan Nichols sews tags onto each of her pieces.

Today, the tiny house would struggle to keep up with the demand. The fabric ink Devan uses takes a solid week to dry. And depending on the piece, it needs to dry hanging or laid flat. 

But Devan is committed to the process. Stamping by hand (or foot in many cases) with ink that practically bonds and dyes the fabric produces a highly durable finished product. Being married to the boss lady, Devan’s husband has one of the first t-shirts she printed. 

“He wears and washes it at least once a week. And it’s still in great shape. To me, making clothes that are going to last and keep getting used is one of the best things I can do for the environment,” Devan explained.

Devan Nichols stamps each of her pieces by hand — or foot!
Devan hand (and foot) stamps each piece individually.

The stamps she creates are inspired by the region. Icons like trees, mountains, and moons dominate her apparel line. But recently a butterfly has made an appearance. “Butterflies aren’t the norm for me. But I just keep hoping that we all emerge from 2020 like beautiful butterflies,” Devan said of the maroon hoodie she was wearing. 

The process of stamping isn’t simply nature and whimsy. Stamping each of her larger pieces takes between three and five deep squats — an endeavor that makes printing days quite the workout. 

Occasionally, Devan can be found at local farmers’ markets. But primarily, you can see her apparel line on her website — — while supplies last!

Originally published in explore:NW Spring/Summer 2021

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