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Transfigure Print Shop creates trans joy in Creston

Transfigure Print Co., known for its "Protect Trans Kids" T-shirts, has opened its first retail space in Grand Rapids. Founded by Bailey Sell, this trans-owned print shop has raised over $90,000 for the LGBTQ+ community. The new store is located at 2221 Plainfield Ave. SE.
Shoppers visit Transfigure Print Shop on opening day, June 1, 2024

Shoppers visit Transfigure Print Shop on opening day, June 1, 2024 /Sophie Lane

If you are a queer or trans artist who would like to have your work in the shop, you can email Bailey Sell at [email protected].


Transfigure Print Shop is located at 2221 Plainfield Ave. Se. They are open Thursday-Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday from Noon to 5 p.m.


If you’ve walked around the block in Grand Rapids, you’ve likely seen someone sporting one of Transfigure Print Co.’s “Protect Trans Kids” T-shirts, designed by artist Rio Wolf. Now, Grand Rapids residents can stop by Transfigure Print shop to grab a shirt in person. 

The retail space opened its doors at 2221 Plainfield Ave. SE for the first time on June 1, marking the first day of Pride Month and a new beginning for the iconic T-shirt company.

Established in 2017 by printmaker Bailey Sell, the trans-owned and operated printing collective became a nationwide sensation for their designs focusing on queer and trans joy. All of their T-shirts are printed in-house. Along with the Transfigure Trans Fund, Transfigure Print Co. has raised over $90,000 for the LGBTQ+ community since they began fundraising in 2019.

To date, Transfigure has collaborated with everyone from Planned Parenthood to Bombas, a nationwide sock company, and Chicago-based gay bar Dorothy Downstairs. 

Now they’re excited to make their mark on the Creston neighborhood.

“In 2019, I started doing pop-up events. A lot of people were like, ‘Is there a place where we can shop your stuff in person so we don’t have to pay for shipping?’ I just thought it would be really cool to have a place where everyone could see everything in person and try on the shirts if they wanted to,” Sell explained. He works alongside his partner, Arlo VanHorn, to keep the retail space up and running.

Transfigure Print shop is a bright and inviting space filled to the brim with holographic stickers, brightly colored stationery and a Hot Topic-style T-shirt wall showcasing some of Transfigure’s most notable designs.

Sell and his team started looking for a physical space at the end of 2023. Sell got the keys on May 1, giving him less than a month to finalize the opening.

“I’m very appreciative that we were able to find the space that we did,” Sell said about the Creston neighborhood location.

Before he started screenprinting shirts, Sell experimented with woodblock and linoleum-carving prints during his time at Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University. However, it was difficult to transfer wood-block designs onto shirts, so Sell took matters into his own hands.

Sell started screenprinting with a kit he bought online to teach himself the basics before taking a screenprinting class at Kendall. He changed his major from graphic design to printmaking, and Transfigure took off.

“It’s been a little surreal. With my art and with Transfigure, I never imagined this to be happening. It just seems wild to me,” Sell said. 

Transfigure’s goals for the shop extend far beyond the transactional nature of a retail setting – it’s a space of acceptance in a city that has limited spaces for queer and trans people, Sell said.

“I love doing events here because I feel like I see other queer people and other trans people and I’m like, ‘where the hell have you been?’” Sell said with a laugh. “I feel like there’s a lot of us here, but we don’t go out a lot. Or we don’t go to the same spaces. Or maybe there just isn’t space for us to go to. So with Transfigure, I want to be one of those spaces where people can come and actually meet other queer and trans people.”

He also hopes that Transfigure will be a place for queer and trans people to gather without the added pressure of consuming alcohol. 

“A lot of people, when you ask ‘where are the queer spaces?’ They’re like, ‘Oh it’s at the bar.’ And not everybody wants to go to the bar. I feel like, if we had a space where people can come hang out, or come and shop and meet other queer and trans people, that would be really important. We’re here, but we don’t know that other people are also here,” Sell said.

Sell hopes to highlight the queer community right here in Grand Rapids.

“I grew up on the East side of the state, in the thumb,” said Sell, who has been living in Grand Rapids since 2015. “I feel like I’d rather try to make it better here versus abandoning it and being like, ‘it’s not going to get better.’”

A perk of Grand Rapids, Sell noted, is the collaborative and celebratory spirit of the queer art community.  

“People are just really excited to lift other people up. Whenever there’s some sort of event or art show, people are really excited to promote other people’s work. There’s a lot less gatekeeping when it comes to art here. I feel like that’s pretty prominent in other bigger artist communities.”

One of the highlights of Transfigure’s space is the featured artist program, wherein a local or national queer artist will have a chance to highlight their work in the shop, culminating in a pop-up. Sell hopes to have monthly rotating pop-up shops to introduce customers to new artists.

The featured artist for June is Kae Britton, who owns Queerdo Co. and also works at Transfigure. 

Sell’s advice to burgeoning artists is as follows, “When it comes to trying to get your work out there, I’ve stopped myself quite a few times from reaching out to people because I was worried my stuff wasn’t good enough. All the times I was brave enough to do it, it always worked out in some capacity. Maybe they’re really going to like your work, or they’re looking for artwork that you make. I feel like people are always stuck on the negative parts. The advice that I would give is to take the chance. You never know.”

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