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.  Cider...now 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?

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

VDubs in the Valley Episode IV

On Friday morning, in a field far, far away (well, Arley - about 20 minutes’ drive from here), Episode IV of VDubs in the Valley dawned.  Gaz and Hayley Aulton and their crew had been hard at it since the previous Monday, battling high winds, unseasonable temperatures and heavy rain (thankfully no Sith lightning), to turn what had been a field full of sheep the previous week, into a weekend haven for Vdubbers.

The day was spent going backwards and forwards to the site.  Gaz had already driven a fully loaded van over to Arley (seriously, not even a ferret could have squeezed inside our T4 on Friday).  I followed later with yet more boxes, before leaving him to set up so that I could manage our online store and enquiries and to be on hand to cook tea at school kicking out time.

With plummeting temperatures on Friday night, BruteBox, our neighbours on one side, took Gaz and his man flu in hand, providing a fire and dispensing their own special brand of medicine (a rum hot toddy – rum, lemon, rum, honey, rum, a dash of hot water, some rum).

Saturday was manic.

The sun shone and the crowds came!

Great to see our 2015 designed tees are still going strong!

There were Star wars costumes aplenty and geeks ruled!  (For me, the word “geek” is a term of endearment). 

Spot Hayley, far right, on a rare break.


Some folks started earlier than others (Cookie!) We met Cookie Simon Cooke), his wife Vikki and son Alfie as customers at our first ever trade show – the first ever VDubs in the Valley, pitched up next to a solitary oak tree.  A different field, a different time.  Four years on and Simon, fresh from his appearance as a finalist on E4’s Tattoo Artist of the Year, was a fellow sponsor and trading neighbour, adding his own unique artwork to various coveted items and getting dressed up at 10.30 on a Saturday morning! (Sadly, I didn't get a photograph of him in his awesome costume, but here's an oldie!)

Mouse Droid lurking behind Boba

We were privileged to be custodians of this incredible Mouse Droid, built by Simon Flack.  Simon reminded us to include a Mouse Droid in the design for the official tees and beady eyed regulars may just spot our dedication to him in the artwork. 

"Leia No Buns" an obscure Star Wars character

I managed a token effort.  I was aiming for “Hoth Leia” but with theme appropriate leggings, a padded body warmer and cherry red Doc Marten boots, the link was tenuous.  I didn’t even have time to attempt the famous Leia buns.  Caleb donned a Boba Fett knitted hat.  Gaz had just been too busy in the weeks leading up to the show. 

Under the Fridge in action
Saturday night we managed to squeeze in a little socialising - accompanied by a cider (Gaz, standard) and a rather nice local beer from the BeerBuz (me), Under the Fridge providing the soundtrack.  With Autumn beginning to kick in, the temperature dropped as rapidly as darkness descended and…with no dead Tauntaun to shelter in, it was soon time to hit the sack and we headed 20 minutes down the road to our own beds. We also wanted to collect the P6, which has made an appearance at every VDubs in the Valley show to date, but with a flat battery and no fuel, this was not going to be straightforward.

The Beast and Gaz's stickerbombed unicycle

Gaz decided to redeem himself on Sunday morning, having failed to cobble together a Star Wars inspired outfit.  Therefore, he drove on site in the P6 wearing a Darth Vader helmet, but even the shocked photographer scrambled his camera too late and failed to get a decent shot.  So if anyone did witness Vader driving a 1970s Rover - Mrs Vader on the roof - into a farmer’s field early on Sunday morning, no you weren’t still suffering the after effects of a heavy Saturday night.

We hit the ground running on Sunday, fuelled by sausage sandwiches from BruteBox.  By 11.00 am, we had sold out of show stickers and were running low on tees.

Our dancing Coke can (a late 80s/early 90s craze, which had been sealed away in Gaz’s Mini for at least a decade) was a reminder of a more simple time.  Really simple.  We didn’t have to get our entertainment YouTube clips or from sharing memes on Instagram – oh no!  We were laughing hysterically at a moving soft drinks can in sunglasses!

Sunday was all about the vehicles and they were varied, sometimes outlandish, but always stunning.

Gaz fell in love with this Chevrolet Corvair
A beautiful splitty
The arse end of a Beetle.

VW Bugs

Love this Beetle!
Far Out!

We judged the Show n’ Shine's "How the hell did it get here?" category on Sunday and awarded a mummified skull (what else?) to Mark and his unique rat bus.  

Gaz as usual, got carried away and tried to re-brand everything as Voodoo Street.

Mark's Bus

BruteBox Bus?  Are you sure?

Powered by Voodoo Street

Express & Star photographer, paid the show a visit and captured this excellent shot of our rat bike and picked some unsuspecting child to model one of our steampunk hats, which ended up in Richard Guttridge’s online coverage of the event.

Photo courtesy of Express & Star Newspaper

Show ‘n’ shine over, prizes handed out, rain clouds gathering and rumours of thunder storms heading over from Dudley, we started to pack away.  Once the Golf was full of boxes, I took Boba Fett home, knocked up a roast dinner and started to trawl through the emails.  Meanwhile, Gaz was failing to dodge the rain and I felt a disturbance in the force.  A phone call confirmed my suspicions.  He was drenched and returned home an hour or so later, bedraggled, with a look and mood to match a snow beast.

Thank f*$k for Celia’s brownies, our VDubs in the Valley mugs and a night in front of the TV.