Intersecting Favorites: Design + Swimming

Welcome to my new/old blog. I'll have something to say soon about the evolution from Google's Blogspot platform to my new self-contained effort here at But in the meantime, I am happy to have reason to post for less "professional" reasons. 

Two years ago I swam at the Ed & Ruth Shea Challenge Classic Masters Meet at Southern Illinois University (SIU) in Carbondale. If you swam one of two pentathlons, or set of five events, you got a tee shirt. The shirt, if memory serves, was–well, unmemorable. Last year they didn't swim the meet, due to repairs on SIU's natatorium. I was in France at the time (swimming for my life at Piscine Pontoise, a Parisian pool near Pont Marie) so would not have been able to swim if they had. 

This spring I was happy to get an email from Mary Pohlmann, a Carbondale resident and national top ten swimmer now competing in her seventh decade along with her husband, John. Mary takes the lead organizing the Shea Classic. She asked if I would be willing to design the tee shirt for the meet; I gleefully accepted.

I lobbied for a two-color front and a one color back. Mary was perfectly content to let me do what I wanted. I presented a sketch a few weeks back. Started (along with many other doodles) in pencil, graduated to a color comp, then got worked out in ink.

The swimming pool at SIU Carbondale is named the Dr. Edward J Shea Natatorium. Ed is now deceased. "Ed was a very proficient backstroke swimmer," Mary wrote in response to my biographical inquiry, "and held numerous Masters world and national records." (Mary's obituary for Ed is accessible here.) She continued:

Ruth is his wife and accompanied him to all his Masters swimming competitions throughout the world. She was a greatly loved and respected obstetrical nurse at the local hospital. After Ed's death, Ruth continued to live in Carbondale and was our honorary meet referee for the Ed and Ruth Shea Challenge Classic. Recently, her health has declined and she has left Carbondale to live with her daughter in the Chicago area. We miss her greatly. 

After reading that, I wanted to show "Ed" and "Ruth" at least allegorically, giving rise to the design, which shows them swimming legs of an imaginary freestyle relay. 







The pentathlons in question come in two categories, shown on the back of the shirt: the mindless Sprint No-Brainer and the masochistic Ironswimmer Glutton. Two years ago I swam the No-Brainer, which I will repeat in Saturday's meet. There is less than zero chance of my ever attempting the Ironswimmer. 

Thanks to Mary and Saluki Masters for putting on the meet, and for letting me commemorate it. Critical assistance from my fabulous intern Kate McCarter, and the folks at Adventures Screenprinting in University City, Missouri. 

D.B. Dowd, The Shea Classic Shirt, 2014. 

The color comp we showed to Mary. 

Intern Extraordinaire, Kate McCarter, wearing the shirt.

The back of the shirt.  Now that I look at it, maybe we should have closed that gap between the distances and the strokes...

The back of the shirt. Now that I look at it, maybe we should have closed that gap between the distances and the strokes...