Tina Seamonster's GRUMP Holiday Market tells a tale of heart-warming zombie Christmas cheer
In a city rapidly filling with artisans whose life stories could easily be called "the most heart-warming tale you've ever heard," local craftswoman and mother of twins Tina Henry must be added to the conversation. Her GRUMP Holiday Market on December 10th at Capitol Hill's American Legion Hall? An attempt with co-organizer Beth Baldwin and 20 Crafty Bastards market regulars to continue in her expectation of bringing a unique twist to holiday cheer.
Tina creates merchandise under the Tina Seamonster brand name, her line a blend of her grandfather "hand making hundreds of items with no real concern for what he would do with the end result," along with a celebration of her DC DIY punk roots and tongue-in-cheek-inspiration of the flesh eating variety.
"The zombies? I think that they represent a manageable fear of death. If you have a zombie plan, you will be a-okay" says Henry. She continues, "The thing about my products is that they are funny, not ugly or gory. So, they are easy to relate to and give as gifts. My first zombie products were about subverting Christmas. I designed some zombie Xmas cards that said, "This time next year, you will be fighting the zombie plague, so enjoy the holidays while you can." They were my "f**k you" to Christmas. People loved them! I was so surprised. This led to zombie t-shirts, magnets, bookmarks and everything."
Henry's DIY success has led to her merchandise being placed in national chain retailer Books-A-Million. The process nearly represented a breaking point, but ended up telling a story that relates the distinctive uniqueness of her brand. "About three years ago, (Books-A-Million) contacted me about my zombie bookmarks. They product tested a first batch in their 225 stores and then ordered a first batch of 7,000. After about 6 months, they asked me to convert the designs to fridge magnets. I had no idea how to do this, but told them I did. We priced them out to get them made in China, but instead decided to buy the machines to make them at home. That first order of magnets was for 5000! I made them all by hand in a 3 week frenzy. It was hard. I cried. I bruised my arms. I was up all night for days counting magnets. But it was just like how I saw my grandfather do it when I was a kid, it was the right way to do it. The connection because the customers and I is important. They see that I am a real person and they keep coming back for more products. It inspires people that their silly ideas could turn into products and revenue. It is all positive. Am I tired of making these things by hand? Yes! Will I change it? Nope."
Also a mother of twins, the focused yet irreverent artisan finds the balance of time and having children who appreciate her work to be important. "My kids hate zombies! They are so sick of seeing them all over the house," Tina jokes. However, she continues, "I do think they are product of the work I do, though, I hear them tell people at school that their mama makes stuff for a living."
Finding one's life motivation and excelling at it is a true blessing. Though likely years away, Henry already jokingly sees retirement in her future. "(Henry's twins) have their own little creative spirit, too. (Her daughter) Rachel recently designed a bookmark about zombie princesses that we are going to put into production. In the past, I have let them model and take product photos. I hope that by the time they are 12, they can run the business for me."
For more information on merchandise, visit Tinaseamonster.com. For more information on GRUMP, visit ilovegrump.com.
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