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.

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