“It wasn’t about the kid in the wheelchair……..it’s his artwork – it’s quirky, it’s different.”
It started with a handmade sign at a local Arts Festival; one man and a modest piece of cardboard hanging from some string, hoping to sell some shirts.
Daniel Pavlovic, better known by his artistic pseudonym Daniel(ink.), is a one man creative enterprise. What started as a simple illustration whilst studying at TAFE, was soon recognised by a lecturer as unique artistic talent. Within a matter of months, designs were printed onto t-shirts and demand snowballed – and from there, a fashion label was born.
“The lecturer saw something - I could draw! But I was like, I want to be a comedian! They said, ‘your jokes aren’t funny, stick with your artwork!’ Here I am, four years later… I’m a doodler!” Daniel exclaims.
The mood turns reflective as Ivan, Daniel’s father, comfortable in his new found role as business mentor, thinks back to Daniel taking that first leap towards his own business.
“So what happened is… 30 of these shirts sold. And I actually, I thought, you know, look at… is it a kid in a wheelchair? People are feeling a bit bad and support da-da-da, or it his artwork? So we trialled it again - sold out again. I quickly learned it wasn’t about the kid in the wheelchair… I mean, that’s part of the whole story, but it’s his artwork – it’s quirky, it’s different.”
“There are always problems along the way, but we’ve always approached them as hurdles. How do you get over these hurdles? One thing I can tell you is that since he’s started this, this has really brought him out of his shell.”
Daniel and Ivan joke that the young artist has quickly learned how to pay bills, do admin and sell shirts – but at the end of the day, much of his business is about giving back to those who have helped him; 10% of all profits from his t-shirt business go to Ability Centre. A moving testament to their profound impact on Daniel’s life to date.
“I donated my chair when I was 13 to some people at Ability Centre, and that was a pretty good feeling, so I decided that when I was in position to do more, I would.” says Daniel.
Daniel and his family have been accessing a wide range of services and supports through Ability Centre for over 20 years.
“Since he was 2 and a half, we’ve been coming and going and coming and going,” says Ivan.
Daniel’s business is thriving, and he’s quick to reassure that it’s a team effort. His Dad is his business mentor and stands by him in the front line, his sister does lots of his admin, and his grandma hand sews every single label into the increasingly popular t-shirts.
Daniel and Ivan chat about where the young artist’s design inspiration comes from, including Ivan’s favourite, the dog t-shirt. “My third child was my dog, Toby,” explains Ivan. “He was the family dog and he was 16 years old – he just looked at me one morning and said ‘mate, I’ve had enough’.”
The family had to put their beloved dog to sleep, but Toby lives on in one of Daniel’s shirts. Ivan re-tells the story with what can only be described as a sense of awe and wonder. “This guy starts doodling; you know – a dog that looks nothing like Toby – but how spooky is it that he didn’t see the angel?”
Look closely at the shirt, and the outline of an angel can clearly be seen in the dog’s face. Ivan explains that every time he tells the story it gives him goosebumps to this day. “The power of a story is just mind boggling”, Ivan notes enthusiastically.
The Daniel(ink.), range of products includes t-shirts, caps and even babywear and can be found online and at markets across the country, even venturing to Hong Kong last year for an international market.
Daniel(ink.), has been going strong for four years now, and at age 23, Daniel has no plans to stop any time soon.
He has new designs in the making, plans for more travel, and will continue to support Ability Centre along the way.
“He has a t-shirt called Skeleton Hearts. It’s a skeleton with a big red heart on it and it kind of sums up who he is: big heart, he loves to give,” says Ivan.