Meet Spoonflower: Introducing Thomas Midgett, night owl printer and Durham dj

MAR 27, 2012 updated Apr 26, 2021


We’re nearing the end of our Meet Spoonflower series and this week, I’m introducing you to Thomas Midgett, one of our third-shift printers.  Maybe it’s because I seldom see Thomas in the office–or maybe it’s because he’s just a really interesting guy who grew up in a city I love–but I particularly enjoyed this interview.  I hope you do, too!

I was born in Durham Regional Hospital and have lived in Durham all my life save for a year and a half I spent in Savannah, Georgia. Growing up in Durham has always been interesting.  I went to a hippie Quaker (they don’t like war; they do like electricity) school in Orange County through middle school. Most of the kids I went to school with were from Chapel Hill or the more country, upscale outskirts of Durham and, as the only kid in the school that lived five minutes from downtown, I felt like a gangster. It’s no NYC but back when I was younger, Durham was far more troubled than it is now.  “Murder Mile” and “Five Points” (the original one) were all minutes from my house. Concerned parents kept their kids from sleepovers at my house, and my dad got his car broken into a lot.

All these things created a kind of cautious respect and pride for Durham. It was grittier than Chapel Hill or Carrboro and I liked that 90% of the time. When I transitioned to high school, I made the decision to go to Durham School of the Arts, a lottery entry public arts school. Going from a 30 student, private hippie colony to, in my mind, a “real” public school was daunting. I had lived in Durham my whole life but had always been a little bit of an outsider.  Sure I got to claim it as my own when people from Chapel Hill asked if my house had bars in the windows (it didn’t), but it was a whole different thing to go to school within walking distance of my house. High school was my first real exposure to Durham on my own, and it was amazing. By this point, downtown was being revamped and my senior prom was held in one of the old tobacco warehouses that had been abandoned for most of my life. I’m happy Durham is where it is now.  It’s not as dangerous as it used to be and the culture that came along with all the changes hasn’t completely destroyed all the great old things in Durham. I wouldn’t want to have grown up anywhere else, and I certainly wouldn’t want to live anywhere else! (No Spoonflower L.A.!)

I was such a nerd in elementary and middle school. Card games, comic books, and video games were my everything. My interest in Japanese manga and culture eventually led to me to doing Aikido and Aikikai, both relatively new forms of martial arts. That’s one of the many things I wish I’d never stopped doing. It was a great experience to roll around on a mat and get shown daily that no matter how good you are at something, someone — usually the 45-year old 5’1” ginger British lady — will always manage to fling you across the room.

The first real job I had was working in high school as a professional nerd at Gamestop. It was at that point my dream job, but the long hours and difficult customers made me reconsider what I counted as a dream job pretty quick. It was a great introduction to the working world, though. They had me do everything during my time there — stocking shelves, selling people reserves and subscriptions, closing and opening registers. Everything I did there was always difficult, but I learned a lot from it. My co-workers and I also managed to have a lot of fun, everything from copying Super Troopers and trying to say meow as many times as we could without getting caught, to coming up with creative code words to communicate what we thought of people on the sly and playing PSP games in the back of the store. All rewarding, productive work activities for me at age 17.

By the time I returned to Durham from Savannah I had developed an interest in fashion.  I immediately let everyone know by wearing skinny jeans and talking about the person that made my $80 T-shirt.  Eventually the over-spending and bragging faded, but my interest in fashion culture and design did not. At the time, I was working as a photo retoucher for a locally based canvas company and wasn’t terribly happy. It was a dead-end, unrewarding job that I had no real interest in. (One can remove only so many boogers from photographs before the insanity starts to get hold of you.) I heard about Spoonflower from a friend’s mother who happened to know Gart. She knew my job at the time gave me the right skill set and that my interests aligned with what Spoonflower was doing. She also knew how much I disliked the job I was at and that I was looking for something that would interest me more, something that gave me more than a paycheck. So far Spoonflower has been a blast. Third shift is hard, but working at such a great place more than makes up for it!

One of my favorite times at Spoonflower was when Deron and I first started working third shift and we had Mary as our temporary team leader. The three of us had a lot of fun at 7 or 8 a.m. After being up for so long, everything became funny — really, really funny. I didn’t realize how silly the whole thing was until we spent time with another co-worker after one of our shifts. The look on her face as the three of us spoke only in inside jokes for about thirty minutes straight was amazing, and a little bit scary. (Cake Boss!)

Whenever I’m not printing fabric at 3am, I usually try and do something with my car.

I’ve had my Mazda RX-8 Shinka for about 8 months now and this is its first Spring.  I completely forgot about the NC pollen! This whole week my car was completely covered in pollen, and I won’t sleep until I get a good coat of wax and a car cover between my car and that gross yellow stuff! It’s been nice to have a car I really care about enough to actually do preventative maintenance and servicing. Trying to find stuff I didn’t even know existed and change it or clean it has been really fun and exciting. I like knowing how things work, and trying to figure out a rotary engined semi-sports car has been a steep learning curve I hope to climb fully at some point. All in all, working on my car has been a mixed bag of success and failure. Deron helped me attempt to change the spark plugs, but 20 bloody knuckles, a broken ratchet swivel, and half a can of PB blaster later, I took it to a shop to change the last 2 plugs we couldn’t muscle out. On the other hand, Jaysen helped me change my brake pads in about 20 minutes. It may have had something to do with the fact that Jaysen used to be a mechanic and did 90% of the work, but I still count that as a success.

I started DJing in Savannah, GA when I was at Savannah College of Art and Design.  The first photo here is of a random house party I was DJing at.

My roommate brought all of his fancy equipment from Connecticut and with a lot of patience, he taught me what he could and eventually let me loose on a house party here and there. After a couple months, I was playing with him in clubs and loving it. I grew up loving music but wasn’t really interested in learning to play instruments. Learning how to DJ flipped some switch in my brain and it all started to make sense. Who needs instruments when you can play and transform all your favorite artists’ songs? Reading an entire crowd and giving them what they want, whether it be a deep cut house track or the newest club hip hop track, is by far the hardest part of DJing. Learning how to do that with 30 people is one thing, but 200 people in a club or 500 people at a house party is a whole new experience.

To this day, I still think a Savannah house party is one of the craziest things I’ve ever seen, the one night I will never forget. We managed to stuff 150 people into a two-bedroom, split-level duplex and at some point the air-conditioning just gave up. The entire place was a rainforest in about 15 minutes, and by the end of the night, people were sliding around on the floors. It was really gross and I broke my digital DJing controller, but I have never since seen that many people go so crazy for hours and hours without stopping.

When I came back to Durham, I came back having a skill I’d never had before in Durham, so I didn’t know where to go as a DJ. I didn’t know who to ask or if people even listened to the kind of music I played. Eventually I met someone from the Durty Durham Art Collective and talked his ear off about being a DJ. When I finally got to play, it was at the Pinhook at Halloween and it was pretty awesome, I mainly play a genre of music called Moombahton which is  a crazy mash up of Dutch house music slowed down to and inspired by reggaeton. I thought no one in Durham would know how to respond to it but to my surprise, everyone loved it and I got invited to play again. Since then I’ve played a few more times at the Pinhook.  I have another show scheduled for April 6th at the Garage, then another Pinhook show on May 12th. Being a DJ in Durham is worlds different than DJing in Savannah, but I love how low-stress and relaxed it is. I hope I can keep doing it.  It’s one of the few things I’ve really learned to stick with and it’s one of the most fun things I’ve ever done. [The curious can find some of Thomas’ mixes here.]

When I was younger my parents made it a point to keep me exposed to as many different cultures and countries as they could. I actually got to live in France for six months while my mom got her masters in art history. It was definitely a crazy experience to be young and in school in a different country.  Luckily I made some good friends and was able to speak some French by the end of the trip. When I got older I got to do some travelling on my own.  I went to Scotland to do photography for my school. Scotland was great and such a beautiful place, and I would love to go back again without such a strict agenda.

My best travel experience was probably my high school class’ senior trip. We went all over Europe and had the best tour guide. Somewhere between Copenhagen and Amsterdam I realized that Suzanne (our guide) was the key to the trip. We ended up listening to her during the day about the historical districts and attractions and then again at night on which bars to go to and what drinks to get. It was a wild experience to be in a thirty person group.  My six classmates and I would sneak off with Suzanne to drink and meet locals while the rest of the group was in a museum. I would love to do something similar over a longer period of time.  Having only 2 weeks to see most of Europe was just too short and I was a little too young to really appreciate everything I got to see.

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