[Fergus] Who are you and how would you like to be known as?
[Steph] I am Stephanie, the owner and wearer of 9 out of 10 hats around Dirty Birdy HQ. I’d like to be known as…Stephanie
[Fergus] Tell us about your shop, what’s your brand and/or theme?
[Steph] I started out making toys to stock the shelves of the store I owned in Austin, TX. Then I started wholesaling to other stores in the US. Since I was designing for a broad retail audience, the designs were “mainstream” toys that didn’t stretch my creativity much. Also, there wasn’t even really a market for fantasy toys in mainstream retail until fairly recently. Then I eventually started sneaking things like the D20 dildo into the line-up. It has a mainstream shape and size, but still satisfied a few of my nerd longings. Now that I’m not tethered to my store, or anyone else’s, Dirty Birdy is a better representation of my personal interests, e.g. horror and “nerd stuff”.
[Steph] I love old horror and sci-fi. I grew up watching movies and TV shows that relied on practical FX, like guys in suits and miniatures on strings. Or Tom Savini prosthetic kind of stuff-not CGI. That informs a lot of what I like to create. In addition to the designs I’ve made in the past, I have a Xenomorph dong that will be included in the website’s relaunch and I have a Cenobite-themed model that is going through final tweaks. There’s also the lightsaber-themed toy that has been out for a while, but will definitely be expanded upon in the near future (Don’t sue me, Disney). I also really love the idea of popping a silicone D20 in everything I make! Since my tendencies tend to veer toward cleaner and more simplistic colors and designs, I think adding Strange Bedfellas’ designs to the offerings really balances everything out. They obviously have their own following, and I’m excited to expose their “typical” customer to my designs, and vice versa. It’s definitely a “best of both worlds” situation for me, in that I get to explore all sorts of design challenges.
Whatever the inspiration for the toy, I am really adamant that the overarching theme is usability. That applies to the stuff I design, as well as any brands I may partner with. I’d rather reel in some far-out design ideas to keep a toy maximally user-friendly. While I think that collecting toys is wonderful, I ultimately want the designs that I sell to have a place in the bedside table as well as on the display shelf.
Like yourself, we are also really committed to environmental responsibility. We minimize waste, recycle and reuse what we can, and keep our carbon footprint as low as possible. Luckily, Portugal has an excellent reputation for its environmental policies, so I can kind of tap into a system that already exists.
[Fergus] Where did the name come from?
[Steph] I saw this picture posted on Tumblr ages and ages ago. It referenced an article about a bird in the Netherlands (I think) that was caught stealing bread. As a joke, the cops put the little bird in a jail cell, took its picture, and blacked out its eyes like they were protecting its identity. I thought it was hilarious and adorable. When the time came to (re)brand my toy business, that image popped back into my head. I also have a great love for pigeons, which are often mistakenly thought of as dirty. So the idea of Dirty Birdy just kind of sprung up from there. I guess it kind of illustrates my affinity for the maligned and misunderstood beings of the world.
[Fergus] Tell us about yourself. What is your background?
[Steph] My first and truest loves are leftist politics and labor rights. But doing that as a career burned me out after less than a decade. I also have a ton of retail and warehouse experience with a pinch of design education to top it off. Those things led me to open my own sex toy store in Phoenix, AZ and then Austin, TX somehow? In all seriousness, I have been passionate about sex-positivity, feminism, and the personal-being-political for most of my adult life. Then, I started educating myself about body-safe materials in sex toys, the lack of regulation of sex toys in the US (and elsewhere), and fell down that rabbit hole. Of course I was familiar with shops like GoodVibes in the San Francisco Bay area, and Babeland in Seattle. But I then learned about the work and activism of Jennifer Pritchett (not sure that’s what they’re calling themselves these days), the owner of the Smitten Kitten in Minneapolis Minnesota.
Through their encouragement and resources they had made available, I felt inspired to open my own store. The natural progression for me was to start making toys, as well. So the abbreviated timeline is: activism, to retail, to politics, to activism, to opening a retail shop, to making toys. Which is all activism when done right, anyways.