Interview: Strange Bedfellas

It’s been a while but here we are, our latest edition of Interview with a Dongsmith. As you have come to expect, we continue to talk to the biggest names in the indie space and today is no exception.
 
Saying we are talking to a maker from Texas won’t narrow down the selection and the title has given it away already. Today I manage to spend some time with the wonderful Meesh from Strange Bedfellas.
 
 

[Meesh] Whoo! Time to finally put in the time to answer these excellent questions! I’m gonna do my best not to ramble too much, but I expect I will absolutely fail 😀 I’m happy to clarify or dive further into any of these answers should you want me to. Sometimes I start writing and I sorta lose my train of thought and wind up somewhere completely off rails, so bear that in mind when you read…

 
[Fergus] What is your preferred name?
 
[Meesh] Meesh! She/her or they/them pronouns are good. I don’t advertise that I’m non-binary too openly because my family knows about my shop but not about my gender identity…
 
[Fergus] Where did you start this journey of making sex toys? I’m always keen to understand how makers find themselves in a situation that is distinctively not common.
 
[Meesh] Well, I have been making NSFW art for a long time now. I spent many many years taking porny commissions for furries and other assorted folks (most of whom were excellent folks), so I’ve never really been averse to including genitals in my arts. I have also known about the world of fantasy dongs for a long while. I wasn’t a customer of the big companies when they started, but I eventually fell into it over time. I knew there were folks who made their own silicone toys at home, but it never quite occured to me to try it myself for many years. The idea for the shop sorta materialized when a friend of mine got a 3D printer and I was in a place in my life where I didn’t have a lot going on and I needed a creative outlet. The little video game start-up I had worked at for 3 years collapsed in 2015 and I sorta turned into a stay-at-home wife who tried to make some money off 2D art commissions. I didn’t really have much of a day job and I was looking for something to Do Next. So I convinced her to print me some rough blanks and I sculpted some of my first models in apoxie sculpt on top of PLA shapes. And it just sorta…went from there! I’m definitely the sort of person who tries a lot of things and runs with whatever seems to have legs XD
 
[Fergus] How long have you been making toys?
 
[Meesh] I started experimenting with silicone in early 2017 and the shop was opened in August of 2017. So that’s about 3 – 4 years, I guess!
 
[Fergus] Is SBF your main priority these days or do you have a day job? Is this the case from your team?
 
[Meesh] SBF is absolutely my main priority and has been since I started it. I am very fortunate that my husband Patrick has a very good day job as a software engineer in video games. After the start-up we were part of dissolved he moved on to a good job that supported us and it gave me the flexibility to be able to persue my creative endeavors, one of which was this shop! It started small on my kitchen table and now it eats up almost all of my free time XD I work harder and put in more hours at this job than any i’ve ever had. It takes up most of our house and a big hunk of our friends’ house (where we rent workshop space). Me, Steve, and Avery all work exclusively for SBF, but my husband Patrick has a day job (but still puts in a ridiculous number of hours working for the shop). 
 
 
[Fergus] Can you give me a run down of who is involved with SBF, what they do and how long they have worked with you?
 
[Meesh] The composition of SBF is 3 full timers, 1 part timer, and 1 shop gremlin who comes and goes after hours and whom I have little to no control over (he is also technically the land lord). My favorite person is, of course, my husband Patrick. He has a full time job as a video game programmer (his dream job), but he also puts in a lot of hours for our shop. He does all the printing, model finishing, molding, website work, and setting up the listings for drops. I could absolutely not do this dang stuff without him. He does lots of other random jobs too. I guess this business is like…our child XD We have no pets, no children, there is only…dildos! He, of course, has worked with me since the very start.
 
Steve is our very good friend who has been working for me since early 2018. Steve started by just coming over to help me clean cups once a week. Then he offered to make toys, so we set him up with a small home workshop and I paid him per toy. Before long he was making LOTS of stuff and I had to move him to salary and expand his workshop. Then we combined into one big workshop and he ended up like me, never NOT working on dildo stuff. It’s not required, but like me he’s a person who likes to stay busy and this job has plenty to keep us busy. He does most of the pouring because he lives attached to the workshop and can work whenever he gets bored. He also does lots of shop work like mixing the big buckets of raw silicone, pulling very many dildos in the evenings after everyone has gone home, cleaning some of the cups plus anything else that needs it, taking photos on photo day, general shipping work, and basically anything else I need extra hands for. Gonna be honest, my shop wouldn’t be as big as it is if it wasn’t for Steve and I make sure he knows that!
 
Last year we knew we needed extra help to keep up with the boom brought on by the pandemic, so I called up Avery to see if she wanted to join the team. I’ve been friends with her since high school because she’s awesome! We worked together for the little video game start up and i knew she’d fit in just fine with our team. She’s an awesome artist and animator and is generally hilarious and excellent. Avery mostly sticks to pouring toys, but she also does all the photo editing (because she’s so much better at it than I am), and helps with shipping and other assorted tasks about the place.
 
Lastly, our friend (and Steve’s roommate) Brandon doesn’t really count as an employee since he’s not on the payroll. But he comes in and cleans stuff and helps Steve with the afterhours work like pulling toys and mixing silicone, so he definitely deserves a mention! But I call him a gremlin because while a lot of what he does is super helpful, sometimes he moves stuff around or leaves a small mess of sticky silicone on my desk or some other small annoying thing. He’s sort of a blessing and a curse but he’s never made at me when I forget to bring the rent checks on time (I’m very forgetful of dates). We’ve known Brandon as long as we’ve known Steve, but he really only started helping with shop stuff when we moved the workshop to their property last year.
 
There are some other smaller folks who are involved from time to time (Steve’s sister cleans cups for us, our friend Felicia collaborates to make jewelry for Black Friday, our friend Stephanie helps with making the Mystery Dates and may have a bigger role in the future when she leaves the country), but that’s the main crew.
 
[Fergus] Where did the name and brand Strange Bedfellas come from?
 
[Meesh] Gonna be real honest here….I kinda don’t remember. I knew I wanted the brand to be based on a dating website. Keeping the brand fun and consensual and full of characters excited to meet you was key. I think I just sorta kicked around words until “strange bedfellows” landed in my head. I ended up going with “Fellas” instead of “Fellows” because Twitter had a character limit on account names and “StrangeBedfellas” wouldn’t fit, so I shortened it. I liked it better as “Fellas” because it felt kinda Texan like that. As for purple and green….I’m not really sure about that either. I just really love purple! And green seemed a good match for a monster themed company. I mean…you get it ;D
 
[Fergus] SBF is super monstery with its theme but is there more to it? Is there a shop agenda or theme guiding you?
 
[Meesh] I mostly just really loved the idea of a monster dating site. Looking for monster singles in your area? Come on down! It was important for me to have characters who were approachable and fun for the shop. At the time, there wasn’t as much of that from bigger shops and I saw a niche that needed filling. I especially wanted to focus on different gender identities and body types (being a non-binary person in a fat body). It’s important to me that people with my shape and identity get to be sexy and seen in media! I guess that’s as close to an agenda as I have, really XD 
 
[Fergus] Where do you get your toy design ideas from?  
 
[Meesh] I dunno, man, my brain is full of them! When I’m brain storming I just sort of throw a bunch of ideas on paper with features I like. When it comes time to actually sit down and design a toy to make I pull up my doodles and try to find one that fits a shape I want to make. I look at my catalogue and look for what’s missing, what shapes and styles I don’t have or need more of. Then I try to figure out if I have any toys in my doodles that could match. Then when i start working in Blender I end up changing things even more as I sculpt because I tend to be very improvisational when I sculpt. I sorta let stuff pour out of me, stream of consciousness style. It’s weird, considering how much of a perfectionist I am about a lot of things. 
 
[Fergus] There are only a few names I think of when “high profile indie makers” crops up. What do you believe to be the factors of your success?
 
[Meesh] First of all, I’m flattered! I have major imposter syndrome and I don’t really consider myself as big as people say I am. I don’t honestly know what factors into my shop’s success. Hard work? Being always on Twitter chattering about the shop? Engaging with other makers and collectors a lot? Being as personable as I can be? Picking colors people like? I don’t really know! I have a big blind spot when it comes to looking at my own work, so I apologize for the ambiguity. I think it’s a combo of a lot of those things above. 
 
[Fergus] Do your friends, family or other work colleagues know you do this?
 
[Meesh] Oh yes! All of my family knows (some of them have worked for me on occasion for seasonal help) and are either entertained or impressed. It took forever for me to work up the courage to tell my dad, but he was pretty excited when I told him how well the shop did. Half of my husband’s family knows, but the other half is a bit too religious for us to be comfy sharing with them just yet (we don’t see them all that often, so it’s not that big a deal). ALL of our friends know what we do XD Steve and Brandon are 2 of our closest friends and they work for me (or close to it). All our friends know to expect bins of dildos and half finished models laying around the house when they visit. There’s also a good handful of folks at Patrick’s work that know about our business. We don’t make a big deal of things or shove it in people’s faces, but we’re honest with folks who get curious. We keep our work away from the kids in our lives (family and friends), but overall we’re pretty open about stuff!
 
 
[Fergus] What is it about making sex toys that you enjoy? why do you do it?
 
[Meesh] Oh man, that’s a good question! I love most things about it! I love designing toys and seeing them come to life! I love mixing colors and seeing what I come up with! I love seeing all the SPARKLES in the silicone we mix! I love showing our art off to people and having them get excited! I love seeing our work loved by our customers! I love making people happy! Sappy, I know, but I do love it! 
 
I really enjoy all the color work. I am very excited to think up and try out new color combos. I love collaborating with Steve and Avery and seeing what they make. They treat their color choices so different than I do and it blows my mind when I see something they’ve made that I would never have thought of in the 3+ years I’ve been doing this. Every pour is a surprise! Even with the same colors you’ll get a different look every time. It’s exciting! I know that each batch of toys is always going to be different from the last and that just delights me so much. And it is so incredibly encouraging to get to share that art with the world. It keeps me going, keeps my creative fires stoked! And seeing my friends’ hard work be appreciated too gives me so much joy! Damn, didn’t know talking about sex toys would get me so emotional!
 
[Fergus] So many people are setting up shop these days, what advice do you have for them or others thinking of starting up?
 
[Meesh] I would say, please take this craft seriously. If you just want to make some fun dicks for yourself and your friends, have fun! It can be a lot of fun! But before you start selling to the public you need to be sure you’re making a safe product and that you’re ready to respect your commitment to your customers. Don’t take more orders than you can fill. Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Don’t expect people to accept an “oops, I ran out of money, I can’t fill these orders!” when you get in over your head. I’ve seen that ruin a couple of shops and I hate to see it happen again. It’s totally fine to have fun and keep things small! But if you want to make this into a business be prepared to take it seriously and deal with a lot of unfun stuff in the process. It’s not exactly encouraging words, but I am very pragmatic when it comes to stuff like this. 
 
[Fergus] Where do you see your business going? Do you have a plan of what you would like to happen in the near and long term future?
 
[Meesh] Ha ha! I have no clue! This thing just sorta keeps growing and I feel like I’m a fisher attached to a BIG fish by a hook and it’s just dragging me along wherever it pleases XD That said, I do have some short term goals I’m looking forward to. For one, I am really hoping we can get into a bigger workshop space before May. If that happens we will be able to make some adjustments to workflow that should boost productivity. And then I’ll have space to make new models! We’re at capacity right now and badly need more space. If this pandemic ever ends we can look at hiring more folks, as well. Additionally, we have some plans in the works with a friend for a possible expansion outside of the US, but I don’t really want to speak toooo much on that just yet. It still has a long ways to go, what with the pandemic and all. But the honest answer to this is, I’m just going wherever it takes me right now. 
 
[Fergus] What’s an idea you would love to do but won’t/can’t and why?
 
[Meesh] This one is really tough! I tend to design and dream within my limitations, so I’ll have to think about that. I’d probably say that I’d love to do really BIG silicone work, like truly MONSTER sized toys. But who would buy them? Would they be worth all that work? The more boring answer to this question is that I’d really love to make resin figurines of dragons and such but I definitely don’t have the time for that yet. 
 
[Fergus] The best question, embarrassing moments if any?  
 
[Meesh] Ha ha! Absolutely the best question! I don’t have many, but it would probably be the two times I slapped myself in the face with Ceelas while pulling them from the molds. I just SLAPPED! myself and had to pause and blink because…I just slapped myself in the face with a dildo…twice. Outside of that I’d say every time I’ve overflowed my cups in the degassing chamber or the times we poured double A into molds and destroyed them (Patrick did not find this amusing as he had to replace those molds). 
 
[Fergus] Didn’t realise you started off with hand sculpting and given the background you have said, it makes sense. Do you have any photos of those models or are they still part of your line-up in spirit?
 
[Meesh] Oh yeah, I definitely still have some of the old hand sculpts around! I’ll attach a couple of photos of them from waaaay back when. The original small and slim Aelit were both hand sculpted, as well as the original small and large Batou. We’ve moved away from the hand sculpted Aelits, but our small Batou is still the original sculpt! It’s had its surface remastered recently by way of making a resin copy to smooth a little better, but it’s still the original hand sculpt. Also, ALL of the current egg models are hand sculpted, which is why they’re due for an update. Looking back through my archive reminded me that I actually did a lot more hand sculpting than I remembered XD
 
[Fergus] What are the best and worst bits of running SBF?
 
[Meesh] Best bits are things like getting to work closely with my very good friends making fun stuff for people to enjoy! There are days when put on our favorite music and have all day sing-alongs or we just tell jokes and tell funny stories all day long and man, those are great days! We work so well together and the fact that I can support my friends while they support me and we build this business together is just freakin excellent! It’s also so amazing when people share how much they enjoy our work. The fact that our art can bring so much happiness to people is just so great! 
I’d say the worst bits are dealing with customers who have unrealistic expectations that I have to address (thankfully these instances are very rare). I have pretty bad social anxiety, so customer service always makes me anxious. Other than that, I’d say that it’s been hard having no work/life balance these past 3 years. The business has expanded into every available space in my life. It’s taken over most of my very small house and eats my free time like a ravenous beast. I love the job, but it’s exhausting. I’m looking forward to the day when I can actually assert some boundaries with my work.
 
[Fergus] I believe this Pandemic has really been a boon for toymakers, myself included. I was talking to Kris (Pleasure Forge) a while ago about it and she has said about their business growth in terms of drop quantity of 50-200 items. You’ve said you have also seen an increase and had to take on staff, have there been any other positive outcomes related to COVID which you have experienced?
 
[Meesh] It’s very hard to talk about positive outcomes from COVID without feeling a lot of guilt along with it. This has been hard on everyone in many different ways. We did see an increase! We went from drops of about 150-200 every 3 weeks to drops of 250-400 every 2 weeks and that’s a LOT of work! But it’s given me an opportunity to figure out how to scale my business for growth and figure out what to aim for in the coming years. It’s also been very nice and comforting to know that this business has afforded opportunities for Steve, Avery, and myself to make a living wage in a safe way during this pandemic. We don’t have to work with the public and can keep quarantine without having to worry about paying our bills. That’s the best thing I could have hoped for. The success has also allowed me enough space in my budget to do things like make donations to food banks and non-profits trying to help people during these hard times, so that’s a nice feeling as well. 
 
[Fergus] Of all your items you have made, all those hundreds over the last year, are there any which stand out in your memory? if so, how come?
 
[Meesh] Oh, absolutely! There are pours I remember vividly! A couple of customs I was really proud of, some absolutely gorgeous pastel pours with lots of ripples in them, and stunning marbles of neon colors. They’re usually pours that were accidentally technical in ways I could not replicate if I tried. There’s also a specific toy that Steve made very early in his career that I just fell in love with. I almost didn’t sell it, but I broke down and put it in a drop. It sold, but I was able to tell the customer that if they ever got tired of it and wanted to sell it, I’d buy it back. They did end up selling it to me and i put it up on my display shelf because I just loved it so dang much! It wasn’t anything terribly fancy, but it was a really nice pour from him very early on and i still really enjoy it!
 
[Fergus] Your toppers were one of the most interesting toy appearances in the market, can you tell me the story behind how they came to life?
 
[Meesh] Ha ha! That’s so kind of you to say! I really didn’t think people would really be that interested in them, so the popularity was definitely a surprise to me! We had already made vibe sleeves and I remember talking with my friend Stephanie who ran a local brick-and-mortar sex shop here in town about different stuff we could make in the future. She stocked some of the wand heads made by Vixen and I remember seeing them and thinking “You know, I’ll bet we could make something like that but with a fantasy twist!” 
The prototype was actually just the top of Ziq’s model (the ridge of fingers), but it ended up being WAY too big to use right. I still have the prototype and it looks very odd. Then we put it on the back burner for almost half a year before revisiting it with some new design ideas. The designs themselves sorta came to me as I started working on them, and there you go!
 
[Fergus] If I gave you a big pile of cash right now for SBF growth, how would you spend it? 
 
[Meesh] How big are we talking, here? If I had a big hunk of cash I’d probably spend it on getting our new workshop space finished up and furnished ASAP. I’d also give pay raises to the crew and hire on an extra person or two and pay them well. That’s all super boring, but I’m very excited by the prospect of paying people enough that they can make this a full time job and grow with the company! I’d also be happy to find more artists to work with both for 2D and 3D work. You know, standard boring business stuff, ha ha!
 
[Fergus] What should we expect to see from SBF in the near future?
 
[Meesh] A bigger workshop!! Crossing fingers we’ll have that all ready to roll by summer time! With extra space comes places to put more molds which means NEW MODELS! I’ve got some on my sketchpad that I really want to bring to the shop this year. But in the immediate future I’m hoping we can get our remastered eggs in the shop by April. They were sculpted and ready to print last year, but then the pandemic sort of put a damper on a LOT of plans. So I’m hoping this is the year we can get back to making new, exciting things! Also stickers and maybe some squishie designs…
 
[Fergus] Who would you recommend to us checkout as an up and coming maker? (if any)
 
[Meesh] Oh, hot dang there are so many new cool shops! It’s really hard to keep track of them all. I’m excited by the stuff I know my friends over at Dirty Birdie Toys are doing (https://dirtybirdytoys.com/). They do a lot of really rad technical stuff that takes so much patience and research. Of course, seeing Paladin Pleasure Sculptors and Fantasy Grove absolutely kill it with their custom pours has been a delight! I’ve got my eyes on you, of course, my fellow green and purple friend. Your sculpts are killer and only getting better with each new model. There’s so many more that it’s hard to mention them all! Creature Feature, The Wicked Hunt, Loot Cave, Frisky Labz, Salty Doggo, the list goes on! 
 
[Fergus] With all the amazing makers around these days, who would you say is your favourite at the moment or maybe, what is your favourite toy?
 
[Meesh] Dang, this is a really hard question. There’s so much good stuff on the indie market these days! I have too many favorite makers to pick just one, but I will say that the toy I’ve loved the most lately is my Trex Erect from Kudu Voodoo. I have the same model in multiple sizes and firmnesses and it just hits all the right buttons for me. And their eye for colors at KV is just superb! I’ve never been disappointed with my buys from KV.
 
[Fergus] For those interested in seeing your work and want to know more, where is best to direct them?
 
[Meesh] Oh gosh, well my dildo work is all on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/strangebedfella The shop also has an instagram that I haven’t updated in over a year and probably won’t any time soon because I don’t have the dang time in my day to manage it.
 
I have a personal Twitter for my art not related to the shop, but I don’t feel the need to post it because i like to keep things small over there. Nothing exciting, really XD
 

Final Thoughts

his has been an interview with the shop owner of Strange Bedfellas. It’s been interesting learning more of the people who create these amazing products and to get an insight into what goes on in an independent shop.

I want to thank the amazing Meesh for their time for my pestering questions. If you are interested in more interviews then give us a shout on Twitter or [email protected]monstersmash.co.uk.

Equally, if you think you might have an interesting story to tell and want to talk then feel free to contact us as well, we would love to hear from you.

Also feel free to talk to us on our discord server!