Thursday, 16 November 2017

Wheels of Time

It’s been a funny old couple of weeks.  Still without a car and plagued by a bout of insomnia, we have had an intense and sometimes stressful time (for reasons which I won’t bore you with here), in some shape or form rooted in the past.  For starters, not having been behind the wheel of a car since the Golf gave out, I have reluctantly had to get used to temporarily being ferried around by others (I’m too scared to drive Reaper, our van, other than on remote open roads) - something I’ve not experienced since 1990!

We have been up against it with our regular Hayburner advert deadline, having put all of our eggs in one basket by asking our first and only customer from Israel if he would be so kind as to send us some sunset photos of his beautiful 1967 Karmann Ghia, featuring his order of Voodoo Street stickers.  Naturally, Murphy’s Law intervened and his first order went astray.  A second parcel was dispatched and we spoke very nicely to Vic at Hayburner, who granted us an extra couple of days to pull it together.  

My dream car

In the nick of time, Shmuel’s photos appeared in our inbox.  

They are pretty stunning, wouldn’t you agree?  

Surf Permit Stickers available at

Voodoo Street Logo Script Sticker visible on the rear window
Our latest ad, featuring a dreamy image from this shoot, will appear in the next issue of Hayburner magazine, out in December.

On Wednesday evening, Gaz attended the local hotrod meet, having produced some promotional stickers for the group, which included language that would make your granny’s hair curl.  Unless you are driving a 1950s souped up car, you are relegated to the far end of the car park.  Gaz is just about tolerated in our 70s V8 Rover (he still has to park at the back), due to his interest in these hybrid beasts and enthusiasm for a great engine sound.  Unfortunately, despite an amazing turnout of retro vehicles, in freezing temperatures, this was the only image he managed to capture before the camera battery gave out.  

As part of our preparations for Chepstow, Gaz has been cleaning up the 1920s roadster bicycle, which he’s hoping to use as a promotional prop.  

He’s so in love with this bike, he’s started campaigning for it to be wall mounted inside.  I’m not wholly convinced, particularly as I’m now starting to think it’s haunted.  

With little room left in the workshop, Gaz is currently bringing it into the kitchen whenever it rains.  On each occasion, we’ve independently experienced unexplained knocking on the patio doors.  On one occasion, the fuse box tripped out, plunging us into darkness.


Meanwhile, I’ve been educating myself on producing and sending blanket newsletters (something we have long promised to our subscribers), re-thinking our clothing packaging, photographing and updating stock on our website (Blackberry hoodies are now available to buy online so lovers of all things purple, check out our new stock)...

….and working on promotion with the help of some natty editing tools and filters.  Warning:  We may go all psychedelic on yo' asses in the coming weeks.  Our mystery boxes are available now.  More details online if you're interested.  I'm not going to do a Christmas plug in a November blog.  I love Christmas but unless I stuff my ears with cotton wool and put on a blindfold during TV ad breaks, by mid December, I'm already over it.  The only Christmas song I could happily listen to at any time of year is "Fairytale of New York".

Our clothing may be new, but our influences are pretty retro.  My style is also pretty eclectic.  There are days – many days - when I would love to float around in a Kate Bush dress or Woodstock era hippy garb and other days when my style icon is Annie Hall.  

Then there are days like today, when I fully appreciate a more masculine look – a great pair of skinny jeans, teamed with an old Voodoo Street baseball tee and this 70s jacket I spotted in a charity shop for £6.00.  (Please ignore the sleep-deprived bags under my eyes!) 

Last week, we went back to school.  We accepted a request to attend a Q&A session on T-shirt design for a group of DT students tasked with designing a T-shirt inspired by Darwin’s theory of evolution.  

Armed with some clothing and sticker samples, we rocked up.  As we waited for lunch to end, the teacher, Miss Mason warned us: “They will probably come in and stare at you.”  She wasn’t wrong!  We had prepared answers to a range of questions covering everything from market research to the nitty gritty of the design process, but had omitted to prepare any kind of presentation, so my stomach did a little lurch when the teacher simply introduced us and then threw us to wolves/handed us over to the class. 
 I was always very shy at school and any kind of presentation would fill me with fear and unshakeable self-consciousness.  So with a niggling insomnia-induced headache and 45 pairs of eyes scrutinising our every move, we launched into an impromptu potted history of Voodoo Street, somehow without stumbling over our words or interrupting each other.  After passing round some samples, we took questions (and there were many), before leaving a bunch of free stickers for the kids.  

The great thing about kids is that the feedback is instantaneous.  We had a round of applause, a couple of high fives on the way out and some lovely follow-up messages from the teaching staff.  Why on earth I spent my 80s school days worrying so much about standing up in front of my peers is beyond me.  Well, they do say youth is wasted on the young!

Sticking with the 80s, in our downtime, we’ve also started watching the Netflix series “Stranger Things,” which is set in the decade of my childhood.  We're a bit late to the party, but loved the shades of Goonies/Stephen Spielberg evident in the first episode and I’m desperate for an opportunity to binge watch this before being exposed to the inevitable spoilers.  I’m hoping the rest of the series lives up to the first episode. 

We’re also limping through Blade Runner.  I’m embarrassed to say that this film has lain on our shelf for years and I don’t ever recall watching it.  I think I’m put off somewhat by the fact that I have the director’s cut, which removes the uplifting ending.  

Caleb's keen to see it before he catches the sequel, but for numerous reasons, we’ve only had short windows of opportunity to watch…and now I’ve got all sorts of TV vying for my attention; Peaky Blinders, The Apprentice, Detectorists to name a few.  

There’s also a Netflix series covering the relationship between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford starting in December.  We’re suddenly spoilt for choice.  Way better than all those “going-on-a-journey”, “this-is-the-best-thing-that’s-ever-happened-to-me”, formulaic, pantomime reality TV shows.  Not so great for curing insomnia.

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Modern Life is Rubbish

After the copycat seller debacle, we decided to focus on our forthcoming mini break dossing at our friends’ house in Cornwall.  As ever, fate had other ideas and on the eve of our travel plans, Storm Brian hit the west coast and so we delayed our trip by 24 hours.  This provided our Mk 4 Golf with a window of opportunity to die a natural death.  The rattly noise we noticed a year ago and periodically checked with our mechanic, evolved into a more serious don’t-get-in-that-car-it’s-a-death-trap kind of noise.  So, Gaz pulled the plug on it and our search for a new daily drive has now begun in earnest.

Never was the phrase “it doesn’t owe us any money” more apt than in reference to our vdub.  It’s done miles equivalent to driving to the moon and is only our third daily drive as a couple (and we’ve been together for ages).  

But in recent years, it’s passenger window has stopped working, the handle on the interior driver’s door is no more and the bonnet’s developed a not-so-cool patina.  Oh and not forgetting last year, a builder’s van - fully loaded with overhanging pipes - reversed into the passenger’s door and kindly buggered off without so much as a kiss goodbye, although it did leave a wonderful array of cannon ball size dents in the door frame.  In short, we started to feel like Uncle Buck whenever we had to drop Cal off anywhere.

I could happily live in this Cornish property, but I don't think Dawn French would be very happy.

So, storm heading out to sea and transport sorted (we took the van) we had a brief, but fun Cornish interlude but still weren’t quite ready to get back to normality.  

Deciding that Blur were right and modern life is rubbish (unless the Wifi’s working), this week, we have flirted outrageously with the past.

We took a tour of the local junk/retro stores(depending which side of the fence you are on), notably, Grandad’s Attic.  Ten minutes’ drive from our house, Grandad’s Attic is located next to the Bonded Warehouse, a restored listed building on the Stourbridge Canal.

This is a taster of the delights contained within.  Folks scared of, or still scarred by the 70s – other eras are catered for.  We left empty handed this time, in view of a self-imposed one in/one out policy…

….although we have found space on our shelf for these collectible VW books Gaz spotted in a charity shop.

I should also mention this 1925 light roadster bicyle he purchased.  The frame number shows it as pre-1925, so not really sure what's going on here...

...but, perhaps we need help after all.

Saturday night marked the grand finale – a celebration of All Hallows' Eve at the Black Country Living Museum.

Gaz dressed for the occasion in Victorian garb.  I was a strange fusion of steampunk, tribal, voodoo priestess and Blake's 7 in tribal make-up.  I was wearing no less than 2 dresses and Gaz has always said that my green Zara dress looks like something out of the 80s hit TV show Blake's 7.

The site that greeted us made me instantly forget my irritation at having forgotten my shrunken head accessory.

We walked in Thomas Shelby’s footprints by gas light (in case you didn't know, they film Peaky Blinders at the museum).

Crow Bride with Bottle & Glass Inn in the background

There were weird and wonderful characters on every corner, from the exasperated professor and his student to the tragic crow bride looking for her groom.
"These are the sort of windows faces look in at."  Withnail

We sampled chips cooked in beef dripping, candy floss and some disgusting pork scratchings in toffee apple sauce (thanks Gaz).  Unfortunately, we only managed a glimpse inside the back room of the local boozer, the Bottle and Glass Inn.  We didn’t imbibe any alcohol, but the atmosphere was heady.  

The Bottle & Glass Inn (not in its heyday).

It took on more resonance for me, given that my Grandad used to drink in this particular pub in its original location (Brierley Hill), before it was dismantled, brick by brick, and rebuilt as a museum set piece.

Returning home, we lit the pumpkins, turned on the heating, poured a glass of wine and discussed prizes for our Instagram comp (see, another image stuck in the past).  You can read the winning entry below.  There are times when I detest social media, but given the interaction and genuine belly laughs this competition provided, perhaps modern life isn't all so bad.  

"Voodoo you think you are, leaning on my plane?  Out of the way Fokker!"

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

E-bollocks! Let's Go Out!

Last week was a bugger.  There is no dressing up this fact.  We endured a number of sleepless nights thanks to those intent on making a fast buck from our artwork on certain well known seller platforms.  Aside from the blatant rip-offs, we had one seller in Israel, who just waded in there with a screenshot of our advert – complete with our name and copyright symbol emblazoned across the image, and advertised it for twice the price! 

An original advert.  Or is it?

I’ve lost count of the number of forms we have submitted, the number of emails sent, to little avail.  The lack of support for those experiencing copyright infringement is staggering.  I’ve become an overnight expert on the subject and have quoted bite sized, easily digested snippets of key legal points to faceless customer services departments.  I’ve reported item numbers, included links for comparisons, reiterated over and over again that a design does not have to be copied in its entirety to breach someone’s copyright, only to wake up to the same standard email requesting yet further clarification, that we’ve submitted the wrong form, or, my personal favourite, one stating that “You cannot copyright an idea.”  

Image, not subject to copyright

I have been forced to explain that a sticker for example, is not simply an idea, but a tangible product and that original graphics and phrases are covered by a copyright the moment they are written or created.  

Kinky Melon HQ

So, finding ourselves swimming against a tide of copyright issues, a day out with these lovely people, Vicky and Jon aka Kinky Melon’s Retro Boutique, was just what we needed.  We headed to Walsall Art Gallery, taking in the Turner Exhibition and getting ever-so-gently reprimanded for touching a piece resembling a bin bag full of rubbish.  Lunch was half a bottle of rose wine and a delicious vegan curry (I appear to have developed a dairy intolerance in my old age.  After all the ice cream and chocolate I’ve consumed in my lifetime, I would expect my body to have embraced it and my blood to be half cream).  Happy and sleepy (me), we walked back to our car, bathed in autumn sunshine.

I don’t know about you, but I wish autumn – the most vibrant season of the year for a nano second – would stick around for longer.  I’m talking about the magically short window of time when trees telepathically agree a plan to shed 90% of their leaves in 2 days.  I’m talking about clear blue skies, weather reporters referring to “unseasonably warm temperatures”, brightly coloured, odd shaped pumpkins (3 of which are sitting on our garden steps, waiting to go under the knife, including a white "Ghost Pumpkin"), windfall fruit and the associated pies, crumbles and experimental cider, Halloween, the first hint of wood smoke in the air, fireworks and gripping TV dramas.  I wish these autumn days would stick around until, say, 21st May, at which point an extended period of unbroken sunshine will commence, cartoon blue birds will appear and someone will ensure that I am never more than a metre away from a mojito.

Spooky sky

Leaving aside yesterday’s blip, courtesy of Storm Ophelia and a daytime sky straight out of Star Wars, one downside to the elevated temperature is having to try on steampunk costumes.  

Photo courtesy of Shropshire Star:  Ironbridge covered in scaffolding

These outfits appear to comprise endless layers.  Dressing up in full steampunk was the last thing I felt like, but nevertheless found myself doing, on Saturday afternoon in Ironbridge.  Tourists from all over the globe visit this World Heritage Site.  We go for steampunk clothes and charity shop finds.

Today, after another sparring session with Ebay, I went through the seemingly disparate steampunk elements I’ve acquired so far and decided that they can all be worn together after all.  So, top to toe, this is what I’m going with at Chepstow Steampunk Winter Festival:-

The Top Hat.

Who doesn’t have a vintage top hat in their wardrobe?  Mine just needs some temporary embellishments.

The Jacket.

On loan from Kinky Melon, it is 80s, but don’t tell the hardcore steampunk brigade.  I don’t care – it’s cropped, velvet, has crazy shoulders and looks the part. 

The Blouse.

This Ralph Lauren Sport blouse was a steal at £4.50 from a charity shop in the village.  The ruffles were hard to resist and are a key element of the steampunk look.  It was the first item I bought.

The Dress.

With steampunk dresses often commanding prices upwards of £70, I snapped up this £25 number from a vintage store in Ironbridge.

The Tights.

Black and white vertical stripy tights for a fiver - Beetlejuice meets vintage circus.

The Boots.

Still undecided between red velvet and brown granny.

A Pair of Lace Gloves.

Gloves from Hat-Trix

Another £5 bargain from Etsy, which saves me the stress of digging out my cobweb covered sewing machine, shredding a piece of lace, swearing at said machine and crying hysterically, before going online and order a £5 paid from Etsy.

Now all I have to do is steampunk up everyone else in this house.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

How to do Steampunk

Voodoo Street Steampunk Hats

Some of you may have noticed (and at least one of you bought one) some elaborate new additions to our ranged during the summer months – our handmade Steampunk hats.  We have long been voyeurs of this scene and incorporated the top hat (the lifeblood of any steampunk outfit) into our logo.  We were also inspired by our visit to Goth  HQ, Whitby and more recently, the TV series Taboo.

After a couple of weekends off and mourning the end of the summer festival season, we decided we needed another road trip adventure, preferably one to top up our levels of human contact (working from home Monday to Friday can occasionally send you hurtling towards the edges of sanity).  With leaves falling and Halloween - our favourite time of the year - just around the corner, Chepstow Steampunk Winter Festival presented itself and seemed like the perfect option.  

Monmouthshire is a stunning area and Chepstow, with its Norman Castle and proximity to the Forest of Dean, seemed like a great place to make our first foray into the world of steampunk.  We pitched and awaited the decision of the organisers.  We were anticipating that the event would be over-subscribed and when decision day came and went, assumed that we had not been successful.  So we were over the moon to receive an email from Alice the following day, blaming a faulty laptop for the delay in informing us that we had been confirmed as a Saturday trader. 

Cut to one day later and I am running around like a headless chicken, making lists (not sure how effective they are, but lists is what I do!)  We have just over a month to make some hats to replenish our stock, plan our steampunk set-up and, more importantly, pull together some killer outfits that will turn Gaz into Tom Hardy... 

Tom Hardy, as Delaney in Taboo

...and me into Vanessa Helsing!

Kate Beckinsale, as Vanessa in Van Helsing

For those not on board with steampunk, it’s a creative movement with a backdrop of either Victorian England or America’s Wild West, where modern technologies (think steam power, rather than Apple technology) are re-imagined as elaborate works of art, fashion and mechanics.  

Courtesy of Pinterest, a quick Steampunk outfit this guy cobbled together!

Devotees really go to town on their outfits and we need to be on it – no loose cogs, shapeless jackets or ill-fitting corsets for us.  So, I’m currently trawling the internet for inspiration.  Here’s what I have learned so far.


It's all in the detail
Key outfit elements include:-

  1. A fitted jacket or long coat.
  2. Victorian shirt.
  3. Waistcoat.
  4. Top Hat.
  5. Industrial boots.


Key outfit elements include:-

  1. Top Hat.
  2. Victorian blouse.
  3. Corset.
  4. Skirt with bustle.
  5. Fitted jacket.
  6. Granny boots.

Courtesy of Pinterest

Sounds relatively simple doesn’t it?  Until you dig a little deeper and start Googling images of steampunk outfits.  My head started spinning when I came across reference to “current trends in steampunk.”  What if Gaz’s goggles are all wrong?  Are DMs acceptable? 

One swift absinthe later and I had put things into perspective.  The whole event is celebratory.  Fun.  This won’t be Devil Wears Prada, it will be Voodoo Street Victoriana!  So whether we go traditional with rich coloured velvets, brocade and lace embellishments or embrace the new off-white or go cirque de steampunk, remains to be seen.  

Now, I’m thinking late November might be pushing it to camp, particularly if we’re going for a look less “festival”, more groomed and polished. So I need to get booking some digs for the night.  The B&Bs are all country dwellings with names like “Foxes Reach” and “Church Farm Cottage” and the 90% of the self catering cottages appear to be converted cider barns. you’re talking.

The result of a "Best Cider in Chepstow" Google search

Monday, 25 September 2017

Five Go Camping at Berkeley Castle

Saturday dawned and with it, the realisation that the end was nigh.  No, not the hidden planet that was making the news - supposedly heading for an apocalyptic collision with Earth on Saturday! For us, Saturday marked the end of 2017’s festival season: Berkeley VW Show.

Entrance to Berkeley VW Show

The plan was for Gaz to travel down on Saturday and set up, ably assisted by Brutebox’s Baz and Issy, who were on a five-go-mad-in-the-country weekend (five being Gareth, Baz, Issy and their two dogs, Bob and Dexter).  For once, plans ran like clockwork. 

Brutebox's Bus
Weather forecast?  Fair.
Traffic?  Light.
Automotive mechanical issues?  None.
Location?  Stunning.
Local pub? Tick.
Company? Alright.

 By 8.00 pm, Voodoo Street was set up, closed up and the famous five were ensconsed in the local pub just down the road in a village called Ham (no, I’m not making it up).

With no evening meals on offer at the local, the famous five were instead offered plastic tubs of food left over from the lunchtime service, which included chunks of bread and cheese, grapes and cold meats.  These were enjoyed around the campfire later with some slightly inebriated word-association games.  So far, so Enid Blyton.  That is, until Baz and Issy decided to turn in for the night. Gaz still had some adventuring left to do.

Backdrop for the weekend
 The sound of music and frivolity floating down from the castle and across the meadows spoke to Gaz and he decided to explore.

Meanwhile, at home, surrounded by f*!&ing enormous spiders, I was busy building my own fortress.  During one of many mobile phone conversations on Saturday night, comparing notes, I was fortunate enough to enjoy the full audible experience of Gaz very nearly falling into the moat.  

A Ha-ha
He had assumed that the black chasm in front of him was a ha-ha and had considered jumping it, before realising (too late) that it was actually the castle moat.  After a slide and a scramble to avert disaster, the result was badly nettled wrists and injured pride. 

A moat

At home, I had sealed off the bathroom where my 8-legged nemesis was last seen loitering and Caleb had built a wall of cardboard to cover the gap beneath the cooker to head off its hairy mate.  Some time around 11 pm, Gaz and I both admitted defeat and went to bed, 70 miles apart.

Thankfully, Sunday went off without a hitch.  I arrived at lunchtime (ish), delayed by road closures resulting from Velo Birmingham, the 100-mile charity cycle ride.

The weather held, trade was steady and the company was good. 
As usual, there were some classic rides, including this non-VW but stunning classic E-Type... 


...and this stunning, steampunk-inspired interior, photographed with our steampunk props.

After the show ‘n’ shine, we said our goodbyes and started to pack away.

High jinks

On the journey home, we noted the falling leaves, marking the gentle slide into Autumn.  We’re looking forward to some free weekends, catch-ups with friends and time to seek inspiration for new product designs.  

That said, we know it won’t take long before we start to get itchy feet again.  Who knows where we might turn up?