Sunday, February 17, 2013

Cheeky Geeky Goodness

Whether the topic of discussion is super heroes, zombies, video games, cos play, web shows, or even My Little Ponies there will always be a group of people that has such an infinite love that it will become a part of their everyday lives. There is no denying that in the last five years, geek culture has exploded and made a name for itself in pop culture. Before, it felt like the only mainstream geek fan bases were for Star Wars, Star Trek, video games, and comics, but these days there is something for geeks of all kinds all over! Television has become one of the biggest  If you are a science geek there is The Big Bang Theory. Are you a geek that is into something a bit more supernatural, well there are werewolves, zombies, and vampires all over! You have The Walking Dead, Being Human, and True Blood. Heck, the number of "ghost hunting" shows is out of this world and a lot of their methods are based on science and research. There is even a reality show for movie geeks that enjoy special effects, particularly when it comes to characters and creatures put on film. The crazy part, is these are just a few shows that are currently airing. There have been tons of shows in the past that have made such an impact that they are still talked about and celebrated. Shows like Firefly, Battlestar Galactica, The Dresden Files, Doctor Who, Stargate, Sliders, and Farscape... just to name a few. Now... what happens when you combine geek love and expert sewing skills? Well, you get JoJo and her Etsy shop, Cheeky Geeky Goodness!

My name is JoJo (or Joanne if we’re being formal!) and I’m 23 years young. I live in Cambridge with my boyfriend and housemate, who are the most important geeks in my life. I have a guinea pig called Wesley, who is named after the character from Buffy The Vampire Slayer. I loved watching it in my teenage years and still love it today. As well as sewing the geeky stuff in my shop I am a freelance theatrical costume maker and wardrobe assistant/supervisor. The theatre was my first love and is where my heart really lies. I also work front of house at the ADC Theatre in Cambridge. Keeping busy makes me happier than sitting idle, it does not come naturally to me to be bored!

1. What sorts of items do you make and sell?

My favourite area of my shop is my range of waistcoats but I also make handbags and wallets. Everything is made to a geeky/nerd theme. I started off with my more obviously geeky items like the Doctor Who and Portal waistcoats and handbags but have recently gone for a slightly more mature look with the black and white designs while still trying to keep within my initial range. The word “geek” can cover a whole range of topics which I am trying to portray in my products.

2. How did you get started with sewing and making clothing?

I saw a production of Les Liaison Dangereuses at my local theatre in Cumbria, where I was born and raised, and the costumes just blew me away, particularly one very sexy red dress worn by the Marquise de Merteuil. Since then I focused on costume design and construction and eventually completed a HND in Theatre Costume Interpretation in Edinburgh. My background is definitely reflected in the theatrical nature of the clothes I make and sell now. I see nothing wrong with going a bit over the top every now and again! I have done little odd jobs for friends since I started learning how to sew and this venture is just taking that to the next stage.

3. Do you have any plans for making woman's clothing?

 I’ve always favoured making men’s clothing but I am well practised in making ladies’ as well. My problem with a lot of historical costumes is the sheer ridiculous amount of fabric in them. I can’t imagine wanting to work with metres and metres of skirt compared to a great tailored suit! At the moment I have no immediate plans for branching out into ladies’ wear but you can never rule it out. I make a lot of ladies’ costumes in my other work so I enjoy being able to indulge my preference for making men’s for CheekyGeekyGoodness.

4. I see something in your shop for the computer geek, the Dr Who Lover, the book worm, and even the video gamer. Heck! I even saw a Power Rangers bag in your sold items. What other fan bases do you hope to reach out to in the future?

Thanks to films like Batman, Spiderman and the Avengers super heroes are so huge at the moment and fall nicely within my range of items. I already have a Batman waistcoat in my shop but I’d like to extend the collection to include some more super hero based items. This would also give me the opportunity to watch Thor and drool over Chris Hemsworth and call it research. The Big Bang Theory is another favourite in my exceptionally geeky household so that is another area I’d like to expand into.

5. Are you working on anything that you would like to share with my readers? What is it?

 At the moment I’m trying to line up some fairs to attend in my local area. The next one I will be attending is this Saturday (2nd February) with the Cambridge Arts and Crafts Group at Linton Village College Atrium. A lot of my own clothes are customised items, particularly shirts, so I'm thinking about ways to include this in CheekyGeekyGoodness. I've always got ideas buzzing around in my head so it’s just a case of seeing which one sticks and grows into a reality. Someone in my local haberdashery sparked an idea in my head today which sprung from the jacket I was wearing so watch this space!

6. I love the items that are made with the book fabric. Do you have a favorite author that you can't get enough of? Who is it and why?

 The last series that I read was Trudi Canavan’s Traitor Spy Trilogy and I absolutely ate them up. There’s something very captivating about the characters and I love the whole magical world she has built for them. I tend to read a lot of popular science books as my boyfriend is studying for his PHD in Astrophysics and has a lot of them around the house. My favourite authors of that genre are Simon Singh and Richard Wiseman. I was so surprised how much I enjoyed Singh’s book Fermat’s Last Theorem, which was a story of how this legendary mathematical theorem was finally proved after centuries of attempts by the best mathematicians. It was written like a thriller adventure getting nearer to the answer as the clues fell into place and eventually came together. Not that I have a chance of understanding the final proof, that’s some heavy maths!

7. I noticed a fair amount of Doctor Who items. If someone has never seen a single Doctor Who episode, where would you tell them to start at? New series or older?

Well I started with the new series so I am extremely biased towards them, though the older series are obviously amazing classic television. David Tennant is my favourite Doctor but Christopher Eccleston and Matt Smith are both excellent in very different ways. I would start at the beginning of the newer series if I was coming to Doctor Who completely afresh now. My favourite episode is the first one featuring the Weeping Angels, “Blink” from series 3. I found it very scary and you’ll be keeping a close eye on statues for weeks after watching it!

8. Where did you get the idea to make items with recycled ties? Do you plan on making more items with recycled materials?

 While I was studying in Edinburgh I took part in a Green Fashion show. All the garments and accessories had to be made from materials from charity shops or things people had thrown away so I gathered up all the old ties from office working folks I knew that had seen better days and made a whole tie themed outfit. It went down really well, especially the little handbag, so I carried the idea on into my shop. It’s not the area I chose to focus on but working with items that had a previous function is a great way to test your ingenuity and get inventive. So if a spark of inspiration comes to me there may be some more recycled items in the shop.

9. Since you are in the first year of being open on Etsy, is there anything that you have learned that you wish you had known prior to opening your shop? Maybe something other sellers could learn from...

I’ve learned so much from joining teams and asking questions of established shop owners. The biggest tip I could give anyone starting up is don’t think things are just going to sell themselves. Etsy is a competitive and busy market and you need to keep active to keep your work noticed. Make sure you have time to devote to it.  Also, make sure you are attentive to your customers. I have worked in customer service for years and people almost always appreciate someone who is willing to go the extra mile to make their experience better. A happy customer is far more likely to turn into a repeat customer than a grumpy one!

10. Since I am A Ghouls Best Friend, I must ask something horror related and what is more horrifying than space... I only bring this up because I saw the astronomy paintings (and I am convinced that the sun is the most terrifying part of our solar system). Is there any one thing outside of our small planet that you find somewhat unnerving? What is it and why?

I wouldn't say there is one particular thing in the universe I find scary but the sheer scale and size of it all is somewhat unnerving to me. The universe is 13.7 billion years old and life has been around on earth for 4 billion years. As I type this the Voyager 1 spacecraft is 18, 501, 539, 519km from earth. All these numbers are extremely daunting to me as I spend my days working in inches and centimetres.

However, I am so grateful we have such clever people fathoming out the mysteries of the universe even if I find them hard to comprehend. I recently made an alien costume for the Institute of Astronomy in Cambridge as part of Star Gazing Live and it was wonderful to see the amount of children and adults interested in learning more about space and science in general.

If you would like to know more about JoJo and her work you can Check out her shop, Gander at her online costume portfolio, Check her out on Pintrest, and Follow her on Twitter.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Blings to Pay the Bills

 There are some people in this world that you feel an immediate bond with. It could be your friend Mike that has listened to your bullshit and is just as addicted to drag queens as you are. It could be your friend Tanya that has an undying love for kitsch and John Waters. It could be that guy, Adam from work that would spend hours listening to music with you because you are into the same tunes. It's amazing the things that can bring two people together.

After doing this interview and post, I feel this way with Cristina from Blings to pay the Bills. There are so many things that I hold dear to my heart that she has mentioned whether it was just having Edgar Allan Poe and Vincent Price items in her shop or that she brought up serial killer haters, her own skepticism on ghosts, or just that she mentioned Jamie Lee Curtis. I swear, if she had mentioned John Waters or burlesque I would probably be wondering if we were separated at birth. Anyways, I won't bore you with my crazy banter any longer


1. What types of items do you make and sell?

At the moment I'm mostly making Victorian-style cameos, but I’m working on new creations like jewel boxes and I'm also experimenting with new materials. We will see :)

The problem is that I’m a worker and a student too, so I have few spare time to work on my creations.

2. How would you describe your style using only five words?

Umh, I'd say: antique, horror, gothic, weird, and nerdy too!

3. How did you get started crafting?

I have been drawing and painting since I was very young, I'm always been an artistic persons. Yeah, I know, everybody says that haha, it’s such a cliché but it’s true!

But I started creating cameos just for myself a couple of years ago, when I moved from Milan to a small northern Italy town where shops REALLY SUCK, and to find beautiful “alternative” jewelry is impossible. And I'm addicted to jewelry!

Then people around me showed appreciation and a friend talked to me about Etsy and I thought "Why not? Let's give it a try!"

4. I noticed that you have several items with Edgar Allen Poe on them. As a Baltimore gal, these caught my eye from the get go! I adore Poe as well as his work. Do you have a favorite Poe tale?

I'd definitely pick The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar.
But I adore everything he wrote, seriously. I became a “literature nerd” and I started to read A LOT thanks to him.

5. I also noticed that you make some Vincent Price items as well. Price has been in several film adaptations of Poe's stories. Did you love for one lead to your love for the other, or have you always been a fan of Poe and Price?

Oh, I LOVE Vincent Price. I truly do. He's just my ideal man. His voice, his accent! I fell in love with him because of Poe (most of the Edgar Allen Poe films that Roger Corman directed – like The Pit and the Pendulum, Tales of Terror or The Haunted Palace - are actually my favourite films) – and because of my mom too! I've been watching horror movies with her since I was a child. I still remember Sunday mornings in our living room, watching Vincent Price films while she was ironing :)

6. I love Ouija boards. Recently, I visited an Ouija board exhibit in Baltimore and they have a fascinating history to say the least. Most tools used to contact the other side or spirit realm have become symbols that have a different meaning to everyone. Some people seem them as evil while others see them hope and closure for their personal lives. Why did you pick Ouija boards to become part of your work and what do Ouija boards symbolize to you?

Well, this is also because of my mom. She always been into occultism and spiritism, her passions influenced me a lot. She has tons of books about those arguments that I’ve read too – and a big part that I still have to read.

As an atheist I don’t believe in ghosts or spirits or whatever, but you know, it’s something I’d like to find out some day that I was wrong about.

7. You also have a lot of serial killer themed items. I have always been fascinating by serial killers and I am assuming to some degree you are as well. I don't want to ask if you have a favorite because that sounds weird, so... is there a serial killer that you have read about more than others that interests you more than any other? Who and why?

Well, first of all: some days ago an anonymous on tumblr told me "i find the fact that you sell rings depicting murderers who have brutally killed people and destroyed the lives of many incredibly offensive. I advise you to take them down unless you want your tumblr reported". So I'm going to write the same things I wrote on the "Wear if you dare team" on Etsy, talking about this:  probably this person who wrote me is the same kind of person who enjoys waiting outside prisons during executions, partying with his/hers bigot friends.

I think that sometimes people tend to forget that behind a "monster" there is a victim too. Some of this killers were abused during all their childhood in several ways. I'm not justifying them, probably they will never be able to live "in the normal world", but I don't think it's a fair thing to be happy about their death/hate them in this way.

"Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times."  But hey, christian charity fuck yeah! It's always funny when as an atheist I have to remember to a religious person that his ideology is forgiveness-based.

Probably some people just need to get laid more and go to church less. Surely they need to know more what they're talking about, to read something about those people stories.

I also think that all this ignorance towards serial killers is because of media and stupid teenagers who idolize them. They don't really know what they're talking about too.

Answering to your question, I’d pick Richard Ramirez. I wrote to him (he's in San Quentin) several times, and was the most human experience I ever had. He's very nice in all his answers. I don't think he's a monster but just a lost soul, he's the result of a REALLY messed up childhood.

8. Looking through your shop I find items that are sweet and twisted, but they are also freaky and geeky. There are World of Warcraft items and heart charms with 666 on them. Where do you think most of your inspiration comes from with so many different themes?

Haha, this is because I’m a huge WoW nerd! I’m playing less lately and I’m not obsessed anymore like I was before because I simply don’t have the time (and because last expansion really sucks)! When I’m not studying or working I’m crafting, so I think that running a shop saved my life :D

Also as already said it’s all my mom’s fault, her interests about horror and occult influenced me a lot.

9. Who is your favorite killer from a horror movie? and why?

Definitely Norman Bates. I mean, he’s pretty messed up: he loves his mother and dressing up like her, taxidermy, watching women through a peephole and stabbing strangers under showers. He’s perfect!

Plus, I love psychological horror films. That’s why I also adore Roman Polanski and you can see some Rosemary’s Baby and The Tenant related creations in my shop.

10. Who is your favorite scream queen from a horror movie? and why?

Jamie Lee Curtis. I don’t think I have to explain why, she’s just the best! :D

I hope everyone has enjoyed reading Cristina's interview as much as I did! If you would like to know more about Cristina and her shop you can check out Blings to Pay the Bills on Etsy and on her Facebook Fan Page

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Megan's Beaded Designs

 The talent on Etsy never ceases to amaze me! You name it and you can find it on that site. Soaps, cupcakes, clothes, bookcases, and accessories galore. There are is so much talent out there that it can leave a ghoul speechless. Something that always catches my eye are the sweet and twisted artists on Etsy.

I recently got to know Megan of Megan's Beaded Designs. She makes amazing handmade, beaded jewelry. Megan's items are stunning to say the least. They make great statement pieces to add to an outfit, will add to a look for night at the club, and a lot of them would make great gifts for that lady in your life that deserves something special that you won't be able to find anywhere else.

Hey all! They call me Megan. I'm a 24-year-old, newly married graphic designer who resides on the Eastern side of Washington State (the part Seattle is ashamed of.) When I'm not at my day job or working on my handmade business, I like to read (particularly Stephen King), watch touring Broadway productions, and paint my nails. I love signing along to SNL digital shorts, and I collect Barbie dolls even though I'm not 9 years old anymore.

1. How did you get into beading and how long have you been doing this?

I've been beading since I was about 5 er so. My grandfather was really into Native American beading and hand making at the time, and he gave my sister and I a bunch of beads and some how-to books to get us started. I've remained a beading addict ever since (Beading: not even once...)

2. How long did it take you to master this craft?

The awesome thing about beading is there are an infinite number of techniques at my disposal. I'm still learning, and think I always will. As for how long it took for me to feel confident enough to sell my work: a few years. Yes, I was a young 10-year-old entrepreneur at craft fairs, selling seed bead bracelet for literally 50 cents apiece.

 3. What is your process like from coming up with an idea to the final product? Do you start with a pattern idea or colors first and go from there?

It really varies. Sometimes I'm all, "I should probably make more bracelets." So I'll check my current inventory to see what colors and styles I'm lacking and go from there. Other times I let the materials inspire me, or my desire for a certain kind of hair accessory or piece of jewelry (generally brought on by a new dress that needs accompanying.) Yes- I have made a piece because I needed it for an outing that night. XD

4. What item that is currently for sale in your shop is your favorite and why?

My eyeball rings are so fun to wear. They always catch some eyes! (Pun intended.) The green and black is my favorite, hence the reason I use it for my avatar pic on my Facebook page.

5. I really love the eyeball embellished items. Do you think you will make any more items that would appeal to horror lovers? Describe them.

I'm in love with horror-themed stuff. I try not to go TOO overboard (as to not scare off the rest of the populace who are just looking for something sparkly.) I am always happy when creating new lines of rings, hair accessories, and cuff bracelets that featuring staring irises, however. I'm hoping to add more eyeball barrettes in the future, because we all could use some extra eyes in the back of our heads!

6. Are you working on anything new that you would like to share with my readers?

Coming Soon: I'm working on an eBook that will hopefully help a lot of my fellow, overloaded handmade business sellers. The main focus will be on how to sun a successful business while still making time for family, a day job, or whatever else is attempting to pull you in the other direction. I've gotten so much positive feedback from my business-savvy blog posts, that it only makes sense I work on some larger projects such as this. So stay tuned!

7. What advice would you give someone that is new to selling on Etsy?

There are so many sellers on Etsy, and every category is saturated. The main thing to focus on is creating unique products that will stand out. If you appeal to a certain niche, you can hone in on that target audience in your creations, how you market, and where you promote. You won't be wasting time on people who wouldn't be interested in buying your products anyway, and you can build a tribe of loyal followers who go to you specifically for what you sell.

8. Since I am A Ghouls Best Friend, I must ask, what is your favorite scary movie?

This is a toughie, since I love so many. It's probably a tie between Pet Semetery and The Shining miniseries. I love a scary movie with deep themes and a good story that gets under your skin.

Where you can find Megan's Beaded Designs: