Interview: Velvet Alley

It’s October so that means we have to get all Halloweeny, dark and gothic. Our favourite time of year and is entirely what we are about at Monster Smash Studio. However this isn’t about us, its about another shop. A shop that embodies gothic design.
 
Let’s get this Spooky Edition of Interview with a Dongsmith going with the one and only… Velvet Alley.
 
[Fergus] Who are you and how would you like to be known as?
 
[B&T] Our shop names are Bubbles and Tie. We’re both 40 and have been married for almost 19 years. We were born and raised in the Pacific Northwest and recently transplanted to the high desert of New Mexico!
 
[Fergus] Tell us about your shop, what’s your brand and/or theme?
 
[B&T] Its just the two of us doing everything (except the bookwork, mama’s cooking those). From the very beginning we wanted to have a darker, sinister, and elegantly aggressive “brand”. We wanted to make fuckable art.
 
[Fergus] Your Gothic style is very prominent, where did this come from?
 
[B&T]  We’ve always been into gathering odd or unique things along our way. We have a nice collection of teeth in our coffee table. We love things that make you feel a little uncomfortable. After awhile it just becomes normal and comforting.
 
[Fergus] Tell us about yourselves. What are your backgrounds?
 
[B&T] Bubbles has 20 years experience working in a salon and Tie drove a garbage truck for 16 years. It feels a little odd because its nothing at all related to toy making, but we’ve always been artists.
 
[Fergus] That’s very different. What led to you getting into making toys? You said you have always been artists, what sort of work do/did you guys do?

[B&T] We fell down a rabbit hole when it comes to getting into making toys, and ultimately we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. We started from scratch. Neither of us had sculpted before this, or 3d printed anything, we had never molded or worked with silicone. We decided early on to go “all in”. So it was crash course in research, learning, and developing everything. And we are very much still learning.

Bubbles is very accomplished at intricate nail art. She did that in the salon she worked at, and has been interested in visual arts. Tie is a musician and songwriter and has been into photography as well.

[Fergus] Are you two full time with VA or do you have day jobs?

[B&T] We are currently in a position where both of us can focus most of our time to VA, we both are able to do a little free lance work also. But to get this going, we put our life savings into Velvet Alley at a time when neither of us were sure about the future.
 
[Fergus] How long have you been making toys?
 
[B&T] We cast our first mold on October 17th, 2020. We opened up shop January 21st, 2021.
 
[Fergus] What is a normal day for your shop? Do you decide the work in a particular way?
 
[B&T] We’ll start the day pouring as early as we can. It heats up really quick in the day here. Then the rest of the day feels like chaos. Its an assortment of whatever work we need to get done, or which sculpt we want to work on, or which printer needs to be fixed, or packages need to be sent out, or pictures taken for listings, and checking social media all along. There’s always something to keep ourselves busy with.
 
 
[Fergus] Of your line-up which model is your favourite and why?
 
[B&T] Legacy holds a special places in our hearts. When we lived in the Pacific Northwest we had a couple acres on a wooded hillside. We were out exploring one day and came across a horse skull. It had obviously been there for a very long time and you could see it had been put down. We liked it so much we cleaned it and hung it in our living room. It’s been with us for a few years
now and ultimately became the inspiration for “Legacy”, named after the road our house was on. It’s still in our living room.
 
[Fergus] Let’s talk packaging. You have easily marked yourselves out with the coffin boxes which are loved by many. What’s the back story to those coming about?
 
[B&T] Bubbles suggested coffin boxes right from the start. It was very important to have our customers get that feeling of unboxing something different, unique, and special. Actually, the coffin boxes were decided on before we ever started making models.
 
[Fergus] The coffin boxes are really cool, was that a challenge to organise? What was your process of having that awesome concept a reality?

[B&T] These were the biggest expense for us starting up, but Bubbles would absolutely not go forward without them! It was a challenge to find a manufacturer who would retool their equipment to make them, because they were custom measurements, and not over- charge, but it was worth it. It does take a long time for them to be produced and we have to order them months in advance. Eventually we’d love to have more color options for our coffin boxes.
 
[Fergus] In your opinion, what is the best model on the market? Which has taken your eye?
 
[B&T] Of course there are so many it’s hard to pick just one, but we were really impressed and a little jealous of Factory-D’s F Your Brains Out, what a great concept and cool sculpt! We also have to include Something Squishy and their Banana! That is just funny and awesome!
 
[Fergus] Best and worst bit of starting up your shop?
 
[B&T] The best bit would be getting to create something that wasn’t here before. We get to design these models and make them take shape, print, prepare, mold and cast them. And then have someone like it enough to order one from us. It’s very humbling.
 
The worst bit would be we did not anticipate the amount of work that goes into a business like this. But we’re here for it.
 
[Fergus] What is an insane idea that you want to do but just can’t right now, for whatever reason?
 
[B&T] The “Insane Idea” List is too long. We have a notebook full of sketches and ideas (like every dongsmith we would guess). *but* We do have an answer: Velvet Alley Pinball Machine.
 
 
[Fergus] If I gave you a huge sack of money to invest in your business, what would you do with it?
 
[B&T] Velvet Alley Pinball Machine. lol. Just upgrade everything across the board really. Definitely invest in more molds. And hire help.
 
[Fergus] A VA pinball machine is totally not the answer I was expecting and I’m sure Ashes from Kudu Voodoo would be all about that for her Arcade. What’s your interest in a Pinball machine?

[B&T] We are children of the 80’s. A dark arcade was like, the best place you could be when we were kids. Growing up around Portland Oregon, there was a chain of nickel arcades called Wunderland where Tie developed a love for pinball. That, and we have a Back To The Future Pinball Machine. It needs a friend. And now we’re jealous of Kudu Voodoo for a reason other than their amazing pours, they have an arcade?! Can we come play?
 
[Fergus] What should we expect to see from you in the near future?
 
[B&T] We’re working on adding suction cup options, currently sculpting a stroker, working on signature colorings, and if we can pull it off a new model or two for the holidays.
 
[Fergus] Where can people go to find out more about you and buy your things?
 
 

Final Thoughts

This has been an interview with the shop owners of Velvet Alley. 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 awesome Fran for their time and 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!