Some of Atlanta’s finest burlesque performers will be gracing the stage this Saturday night at Tits for Toys for Tots, the seventh annual holiday fundraiser for charity produced by Syrens of the South. But tassels won’t be the only reason not to miss the show, local artists/vendors Jezebel Blue and 2the9’s Retro, aka Nathaniel Self, will be selling everything you need to dress to the Retro max or wrap up under the tree for your honey this holiday season.
Jezebel crafts jewelry with vintage images from pin-up girls to movie idols to steampunk style. Nathaniel sells men’s vintage shirts, jackets and zoot suits, as well as ties, small suitcases and custom-designed Retro purses. Best of all, the couple’s prices are as sweet as they are. ATLRetro caught up with the dynamic duo to find out more about their way-cool wares, what they have planned for Tits for Toys for Tots and also where else you can find them vending this holiday season.
ATLRetro: You two are one of Atlanta’s swankiest Retro couples, hair and clothes to the 9s. There must be a swell story behind how you met, and don’t lie to me, you do own the actual cat’s pajamas, right?
Nathaniel: First off, thanks for the compliments. I don’t know about how swank we think we are – pretty sure we consider ourselves to be two of the biggest goofy nerds in Atlanta. And as for owning the cats PJ’s, we don’t own them, but if 2the9’sRetro can find them for you, we will, and Jezebel will make the accessories to match.
How we met is sort of a trip to Jerry Springerville. A couple of years back we met at a great mutual friend’s event, The Rockabilly Lounge, put on by the wonderful Mon Cherie. We were both getting out of relationships, and I was actually sort of flirting with her sister at the time, but that didn’t work out, so I decided to step into the land of Jerry Springer and started chatting up Jezebel. Me being a photographer, I loved her look and her fun attitude, so we hit it off right away. I knew it was a good match on our first date when people at Cafe Intermezzo wouldn’t stop interrupting us to take our photo and to say how lovely she was. By the time we left, it was around the restaurant that we were professional swing dancers. Which is very entertaining, because I have two size 12 1/2 left feet and Jez has arthritis and can’t be on her feet for long periods of time, let alone swing dance.
How did each of you get started on your path to righteous Retro craftiness?
Nathaniel: I’ve always been an artist, started out sketching as a kid, drawing fake tattoos on classmates. Then on to photography, which I do part time with my other business, Self Images Photography. After meeting Jez, I started selling clothes and vintage luggage. Her creativity rubbed off on me, so I started designing bags in sort of the same kustom kulture/pin-up vein as some of her jewelry. I’m still getting used to doing it. Jez has the hard job making her jewelry. I’m just her carnival barker. My bread and butter is getting lucky being able to find great Kustom Kulture shirts and suits for resale.
Jezebel: I actually took a beginner jewelry-making class when I was in high school, about 24 year(and now I feel old). I had learned how to crochet from my grandmother when I was about five and always liked making things, but the minute I laid my hands on pliers, a spool of wire and some mandrels I was thoroughly addicted.
Jezebel, how do you select the images for your pieces?
Jezebel: I really have no rhyme or reason. I have a little over 3000 electronic images and folders full of old books, calendars, postcards and photographs. I look through them and wait for something to ‘strike’ me. It could be the colors or composition. It could be something as simple as I just really like the dog in it or the woman’s expression. I wish I knew myself sometimes.
Nathaniel, what are your top three tips for a man who wants to outfit himself as a true gent.
Nathaniel: If you’re serious about wanting to go all out and make an impression:
1.) Do your homework. There are so many variations on vintage style you can really stand out if you want. Make the style your own, do your own thing with it, but I’ve found if you arent comfortable in your own skin you’ll never be comfortable in a three-piece suit.
2.) Find clothing that fits you and the occasion. You don’t need your own personal tailor – it wouldnt hurt – but you can look ace on a budget, trust me. Don’t step out in a suit that’s all bunched up at the feet and a suit jacket two sizes too large. I’m a hard fit, so I know it’s not always easy, but it can be done if you’re serious about looking ace. Nothing makes you stand taller than a good suit. Dressing for the occasion is a must. You don’t always have to be in a suit. You can look just as ace in a lounge-style button-down and jeans if i’ts a casual night out. It’s all in the details.
3.) If all else fails, go and see a couple of my friends, New Orleans Jon and Chad Sanborn as they perform and take some hints from their style. Those two fellas are the best dressed in Atlanta in my opinion. Jon was really like a mentor and not afraid to tell me what I needed to work on with my gear when I first started out with 2the9s: “Lose the creepers man, find yourself some real shoes.” Haha. He has it pegged down on every detail.
Nathaniel: Hmmm, that’s a hard one. I can’t even get into all the shirts I have, because I typically like them all so much I want to keep them, but that wouldn’t bode well for my store. I’ve got a couple of pieces of vintage luggage that I have right now that I’ve never seen before. One of my best is a large round blue luggage. Those in such a large size and good condition are becoming hard as hen’s teeth to find. I recently just sold a 1950’s oxblood tuxedo jacket with gold thread throughout. It’s hard to explain, but it got a lot of looks. It was definately one of my favorites just because it was such a great showpiece.
Jezebel: For me, my absolute favorite pieces are the rings I have made with vintage chantons, a fancy word for a pointy-backed rhinestone. The sparkle is unreal; it rivals and, in my opinion, outshines Swarovski. My second favorite piece is an image I use often called “Til Death Do Us Part.” It is a couple in Day of the Dead makeup done in a school tattoo flash style that I purchased the rights to. To me, it is just a beautiful synthesis of Victorian aesthetics with the couple facing each other but done in a modern rockabilly style – and it talks to my romantic side.
Jezebel: Simple pieces like my $8 anchor earrings take about 20 to 30 mins. Some of the more elaborate pieces can take three to 18 hours depending on the techniques used. The jewellers grade resin I use takes three to four days to fully cur,e and that is after a minimum of three hours work. I try to keep my prices down by not overly marking up the pieces. I know jewelry is a luxury for most of us, as a single mom, even $10 can make a difference and I would rather make a little and make someone happy, than mark up a piece and put it out of reach of someone who would really truly appreciate it. It drives my family and Nathaniel insane. They constantly tell me I am under-pricing based on the amount of work I do.
Nathaniel, vintage luggage is making a comeback. Why do you think that is, and how do you select your pieces?
Nathaniel: All things pin-up and Burlesque are making a comeback or so I find. Thanks to the tattoo shows, suicide girls and rockabilly hitting the mainstream, everyone is looking for that little something extra to set themselves apart in a group of girls trying to ape the Bettie Page style. For some it’s just nostalgia. I can’t count the number of times I hear “Ohhh my grandmother had one exactly like that!” when I’m vending at shows.
I try to stay away from the plain Jane pieces. I like a lot of character. Sometimes I have to pay more than I want to get them, but it’s worth it when you know that what you have is a cut above the ordinary. Whatever I can do to keep them from being turned into a boombox speakers.
What can we expect to find at your tables this weekend at Tits for Toys For Tots?
Nathaniel: I’ve gotten a few more shirts and suits, from high-end Valentino suits to vintage double-breasted pinstripe gangster suits and an eclectic mix of shirts from garage, lounge, western and even some Hawaiian and tiki stuff. I still have the great vintage luggage and train cases, as well as a few hand-decorated bags with pin-ups and tattoo graphics and maybe even a couple of new Lux DeVilles if I can find the room.
Jezebel: I will have a little bit of everything: vintage chanton rings, negligee necklaces, pin-up and steampunk-inspired pieces, locker tag bracelets, honestly you never know.
Where can we expect to see you next, and also where can we find your products online?
Jezebel: The easiest place to find me online is Facebook. Single mommy-dom is time-consuming, but I can throw things up on FB and answer any questions as needed and it makes it more personal. I will be at Hayes Elementary on Dec 7 from 9-11 a.m. for a breakfast with Santa. I am not sure of anything after that, but I do post my itinerary on Facebook.
Nathaniel: We’re going to be at the Tits for Toys for Tots obviously. After that I’m looking into being a vendor at some of the East Atlanta Village craft shows and the EAV Santa Parade. After that, the future is unwritten. Matter of fact we’re open to anyone who might want to have us at their concerts, car shows or craft festivals. We don’t discriminate, so feel free to get in touch with us. The best place to find me is on 2the9’s Retro on Etsy.com or 2the9’s Retro on Facebook. We look forward to seeing you out and about. Stop on by our booth and say hello.
All photographs are courtesy of Jezebel Blue and 2the9s Retro and used with permission.