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Meet the Illustrator Who Turned "Knock it Off" into a Rhode Island Fashion Statement

Maret Bondorew is the creative designer behind Rhody's now-famous T-shirt

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“Knock it off.” Just three words, and they’ve made history. They were first uttered by Gina Raimondo, when the governor implored Rhode Islanders to stay home during the pandemic. Then they returned – as jolly letters on a T-shirt next to a bobbing anchor. Frog & Toad Press received hundreds of pre-orders before the shirt was even printed, and a scrubs top soon followed. The design now adorns Knock It Off IPA, a new beer from Proclamation Ale Company; the Knock It Off Stay at Home Brew from White Electric Coffee; and a Knock It Off hand sanitizer from The Industrious Spirit Company.

The smile-inducing image was created by Maret Bondorew, graphic designer for Frog & Toad Press. Bondorew studied illustration and art history at Hartford Art School, and after she spent some time working retail at the Frog & Toad gift store, co-owner Asher Schofield recognized her talents and invited her to start a press in 2014.

“I feel really lucky to have Asher as a boss-co-conspirator-cheerleader,” says Bondorew. “With his design background, he’s able to serve as an art director on all our projects, and we both have the same off-kilter sense of humor, so a lot of our strangest ideas actually manage to see the light of day.”

And there are a lot of strange ideas. Bondorew has drawn and designed untold numbers of cards, patches, banners, and shirts. Examples: A greeting card with George Washington wearing sunglasses and the caption, “You’re old, but like, cool old.” Or a portrait of fungi and skulls: “Poisonous Mushrooms. (Try not to eat these).”

“I approach each project first by thinking about who my audience is and what the feeling is that I want to convey in the piece,” says Bondorew. “I do a lot of problem solving and trial and error through pencil sketches – some pieces come easier than others. As with any creative endeavor, creating a final piece comes with highs and lows and moments of frantic work and self-doubt. But somehow I reach the final piece!”

Bondorew has been managing well during the quarantine, despite being five months pregnant, and she’s spent much of her time gardening, walking her dog, and keeping up with the news. When Schofield proposed the “Knock It Off” shirt, she couldn’t have anticipated the craze that followed. She notes that 20 percent of T-shirt sales benefit the Rhode Island Foundation’s COVID-19 Response Fund, and at press time the shirts had raised more than $42,000.

“We have been overwhelmed, blown away, and humbled by the response to ‘Knock It Off,’” she says. “[Asher] foresaw the community latching onto ‘Knock It Off’ in a way I couldn’t. Rhode Islanders sure know how to rally together, and that’s one thing I love about this state.”