Last Track Home August 28 2018
Summertime is coming to an end fast. Soon there will cooler nights and sunsets hitting us all earlier—better find your way home before nightfall. In our latest lookbook our models cross the river to the other side of the tracks.
Summer Escape June 21 2018
Summer is here! That means you can finally get out of the house, leave the city—and escape into somewhere that you can be alone! Grab your closest buds and find the best secret swimming hole. You deserve some sunlight on that skin after hiding at home most of the time. Be sure to go out in style with our featured items.
From The Owner: A Reflection For 2018 January 02 2018
Alex here, Owner & Creative Director of Strange Ways. I spent the first workday of 2018 getting back into the more normal flow of things now that the holiday rush is over. It’s been a weird adjustment, because the shop has grown larger than I ever expected it to. There is not much “normal routine” lately because as Strange Ways grows new tasks, challenges, and projects are put onto the table.
What started out as a passion for showcasing what I’d want to buy, create, and share has turned into a buzzing spot for creative entrepreneurs and DIY-minded individuals to connect with. We’ve been picked up by major publications and we regularly ship packages all over the world. We had our largest sales ever just last month!
The craziest thing is—I can live off the shop. To be able to survive off of something I built was always a dream. I started my own business so I could be my own boss, make my own hours, and earn my own money. I thank you all for allowing me to do just that, while putting money into hustling artists as well. By shopping with us your dollars hit everyone dearly.
It’s been over 3 years since Strange Ways began, and this year is not letting down. I can’t wait to show you new product, collaborate with people I look up to, put on more fun events, and travel to other cities. Strange Ways has grown as online destination, a storefront, and as a brand.
Thank you again for all the support, and keep watching. I’ll try to keep surprising, delighting—and maybe mildly offending you—in the year to come. 😜🍾
Founder & Creative Director
After The Fall November 26 2017
We hadn't created a lookbook in a while, so we wanted to do something more complete + unique if we were gonna rise one back from the dead. Antonio had done such a great job on this Strange Ways Interview, that he was brought on to not only photograph our latest editorial—but create a video lookbook too! Utilizing our staff member Julia, she also customized some vintage pieces using pins + patches. Combine that with some of our fav items we carry at the moment, and we hope it inspires you to express yourself!
Strange Ways Featurette March 29 2017
A lot of people ask us how the shop began, or the inspiration behind it. Fortuitously, a local filmmaker asked us to do a feature on Strange Ways and what makes the shop unique. We thought this would be a perfect opportunity to share a bit about why it was founded, what makes us stand out, and how we are truly a small business trying founded by one person trying to share what he wants to see out in the retail world.
Exurbia December 08 2016
We're following up our successful summer lookbook with another collaboration. This time with Harford-based group Breakfast Lunch & Dinner—are a very talented group of creatives just north of where our storefront is located. They constructed custom pieces, used local model talent, and photographed a series of images that read both intimate and hard. It's the perfect feel as Fall draws to a close.
Summer Style June 27 2016
For our latest lookbook we teamed up with style blog Black In Bloom, plus our go-to vintage supplier Poor George Vintage. Together we worked on custom pieces, cross-collaborated on styling and wardrobe, and put together some motivational shots for your summer wardrobe. Get inspired for some warm weather adventures, and easy ways you can update your style.
A Chat with Adam J. Kurtz aka ADAMJK March 18 2016
Adam J. Kurtz is possibly one of the more well-known “small artists” we carry at Strange Ways. You might have seen his book 1 Page At A Time, or bought some the products he released in collaboration with Urban Outfitters. His commentary on modern appropriation by referencing Joy Divison's “Unknown Pleasures” artwork is still being shared around the internet today. In fact, you may have seen much of Adam's work online, as he's amassed a large social media following. This is probably because he's able to add emotion back into everyday life. His simple, yet insightful drawings bring a human touch to online media which can feel forced, fake, and unfulfilling.
Adam is one of the few artists we've carried from the beginning of Strange Ways, and he still has a presence at our shop today—larger even. It's been great to watch his career grow, and appreciate him taking a chance on our little shop when we first began. Adam is a friend, and I'm happy to be able to talk with him more about his background and insight into the art he makes.
Let's just dive right into it and discuss how you began creating your artwork. What was some of your earliest pieces and inspirations?
I don’t know that I had early “pieces” necessarily. My “art practice” was born out of a hobby, I was never intentionally building anything until people started calling me an artist and then I was growing a “body of work” and then I had a book and then I turned real. But I’ve always really enjoyed bright colors and simple shapes. That’s a sort of visceral childhood thing, right?
Your work can seem both hopeful and sad at the same time. What inspires you, and what are you hoping people take away from your work?
My work is really personal. It’s usually actual emotions or feelings or events that I’ve experienced, translated into something a little more universal or digestible. I am hopeful and sad at the same time! I am sappy as fuck. I am afraid of myself. I am proud of some things that other people aren’t proud of. So I cover a range.
“Oh, I am definitely a graphic designer.
But ‘artist’ encapsulates so much more
of all the other things I do, too.”
A lot of what you create are tangible objects. In many ways they are “useful” items—or “small gifts” as you've stated you enjoy. What's the idea behind art in this type of medium?
Not everyone is, or can be, an art collector. Some people just like nice things that they like. So I try to make work for those people. You can’t necessarily buy a bunch of $500 prints, but you can treat yourself to a $10 pin, or gift a couple to friends. It’s all about making things affordable and easy to collect. I’m also not a huge fan of owning too much “stuff,” so I gravitate to little things.
On a related note, do you ever consider yourself a designer versus an artist? Do you consider there to be a difference? It seems nowadays that the lines between the two slowly blurring.
Oh, I mean I am definitely a graphic designer. But “artist” encapsulates so much more of all the other things I do, too. I’m sort of an “illustrator” and kind of a “product designer” and slightly a “brand” and it just all wraps up nicely in “artist.” I channel feeling into something else. I think that’s art probably.
An assortment of popular lapel pins designed by Adam J. Kurtz.
One of your more popular projects is the Unsolicited Advice planner that you crowdfund each year. Can you talk a bit about them, and why you think people are willing to invest in them every year?
Unsolicited Advice is another example of accessible, digestible art. I love zines, but you read them from time to time and then put them on your shelf. The planner has some zine-like elements, a fun and DIY spirit that feels personal and small-scale, but a practical purpose that serves you daily. It’s also just a fun, nice thing. If you’re going to use a calendar it might as well be one that makes you laugh!
Correct me if I'm wrong, but these planners influenced your first book backed by a major publisher. How did the planners and your other work inspire 1 Page at a Time?
The planners have a lot of weird little surprises, and tiny nagging reminders to help you get your shit together. When I first met with my publisher at Penguin, she told me she loved all of that good stuff, and knew it could be expanded into a standalone book. 1 Page at a Time embodies a lot of my ideas about life and how to live it, but is also weird and surprising. It’s simple enough to not be overwhelming, and like the calendars, it becomes whatever you make of it as the year goes on.
I assume creating items that allow the viewer to interact with them is something you enjoy. Your books ask the readers to draw in them, write down answers, and express themselves. What do you appreciate about this type of interaction?
When you make work about life and feelings and introspective thinking, it can’t be a monologue. I can’t tell someone how to process their world. Our experiences are not the same. “Self-help” is kind of a misnomer. Self-help books are more like “I tell you what to do” books. When you instead choose to interact with a book, write down your own feelings, and process them as a whole, then you are truly helping your self.
You've been invited to have an event at MoMA, you've worked at Buzzfeed, you created a shirt for Tumblr plus exclusive product for Urban Outfitters... Any insight into working those big name connections? How did most of these partnerships come about?
Every single situation is different, and I don’t know if there’s a “life hack” to making cool opportunities like these happen. BuzzFeed was a day job, and I applied for it the same way you apply for any job. I uploaded a resume to a website.
I think one thing that does seem to work sometimes is being genuine. Your honest enthusiasm for a brand or a project is palpable, and some of the coolest opportunities I’ve had simply came out of being excited in a casual conversation.
Other opportunities are flukes. My book editor found me through my personal projects. MoMA invited me because my book is a top seller… I didn’t even know they carried it there. Life is unpredictable and sometimes coincidences line up.
You now live in Brooklyn, NY but you're originally from Canada. Was the move to NYC a part of pursuing the Big City dream of being a “true artist”?
I was actually living in Baltimore after college, and was in a little bit of a rut. A friend got a job offer in New York and randomly asked if I wanted to move up with him. I kind of wasn’t doing too much else, and worked remotely for a marketing firm. I said yes and moved three months later. It was only a 3 hour drive, we just threw our shit in a truck and I’m still here.
You're a popular guy on Instagram and other social media outlets. Do you find online interaction a key part of your work?
To be honest, I am not sure my whole thing would work without the internet. So much of my simplest work relies on human connection, whether implicit in the words, implied in the style, or tied to me: a real, live, open, human person.
How did your moniker and online handle ADAMJK come about? I think it's pretty obvious, but it seems like many people know you by this nickname more than your full artist name.
I’ve gone by Adam J. Kurtz since grade school and I don’t know exactly why. People were calling me ADAMJK before I was, it just makes sense the way we find variations of our names for usernames. It started a little earlier on the internet, before our full names were attached to everything. It was definitely me, but afforded a tiny amount of anonynimity.
For the past month or so you've taken a break from selling your art (which we've happily worked with you to sell many of your items in our shop during this time). You've been working on finishing your second book to be published by Penguin. Can you say how this will different from your other books, and possible your other work in general?
At this point, it’s actually been three months! Three glorious, amazing months of not processing daily orders. I love having a shop and sending work directly from my hands to someone else’s, but it is time consuming, and I did really need that time for this new book.
PICK ME UP: A Pep Talk For Now & Later is similar to 1 Page at a Time in that it’s an interactive book that I made. Everything else is pretty much different. This time, it’s not linear at all, and pages don’t end after you write on them, but rather build over time so you can see how you grow, and take your own advice when you’re losing your shit.
Most notably, this new book contains a lot more writing! It’s still very much about whoever is using it, but there is also general advice and reflection on life. It’s still very casual, and I don’t present myself as any kind of expert. I’m not telling you what to do ever, because I have no fucking clue either.
A lot your work revolves around phrases, bits of advice, and thoughts to ponder. Would you be so kind as to end our interview by leaving readers with one of these anecdotes?
NEVER GIVING UP IS HOW YOU WIN.
Joshua Grannell on Christ, Evil, and Being a Cult Leader October 25 2015
Photography credits: Jose A Guzman Colon, Amanda Rebholz, Nicole-Fraser Herron, Brian Benson
In the world of cult cinema, Joshua Grannell may very well be the Queen of Cult. Based in San Francisco, his day job is really more of a night job—entertaining followers of his “Midnight Mass” screenings of cult classics. Their priest: Joshua's alter ego drag queen Peaches Christ. Along with showing fan-obsessed films like Showgirls and Welcome To The Dollhouse, Peaches and her team put on theatrical performances filled with audience participation and often-times feature guest appearances from cult icons like John Waters and Elvira: Mistress of the Dark.
Over the decade of performing and idolizing these movies, Mr. Grannell decided to put his love of cinema and theatre into a film of his own. He wrote and directed the indie horror comedy All About Evil, which we're helping to commemorate the 5 year anniversary of with a limited edition artist print. Below Strange Ways talks with Joshua Grannell about being a cult leader, why the “others” of the world inspire him, and why the cinema is his church.
First things first, I want to talk about how most people know you: your alter ago Peaches Christ. For anyone who has never heard of her, how would you describe Peaches to them?
Peaches, the character, was born in my senior thesis film, Jizmopper: A Love Story. I was studying film production at Penn State University and the actor we’d hired to play the drag queen in the movie I was directing didn’t pull through for us—so Peaches was born and stepped in to play the part. My advice to first-time drag performers is always: “Try not to put your first-time drag in a movie, so that people can't discover it forever”. I would say that Peaches is the outgoing, outrageous, glamorous, comedic extension of the cult movie loving nerd that Joshua is. There’s plenty of overlap, but I tend to be more introverted and shy out of drag; whereas Peaches is all about putting on a show, leading a cult movie audience through their celebration, and celebrating the underdog.
A large part of what has made Peaches Christ (in)famous is hosting your popular Midnight Mass screenings. Where did the idea for these shows come from, and what happens on a typical night? They seem to facilitate an almost Rocky Horror type of fandom.
Midnight Mass started in the summer of 1998 and the first ever show we did was with a screening of Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! I came out as Peaches and held a “Mass” that concluded with a Tura Satana look-a-like contest. I was terrified nobody would show up—or worse nobody would enter the contest. But we had a great turnout, and some great contestants. Drag star Putanesca won when she cart-wheeled across the stage and karate chopped me. I couldn’t have imagined then that some years later I’d be doing shows with the actual Tura Satana. The shows have evolved to become elaborate theatrical stage-shows celebrating cult films, sometimes with cult icons and stars playing onstage with us as well.
A look at the behind-the-scenes of creating a Peaches Christ stage show.
Were you always drawn to being a performer—and if so, why did you decide on drag? Tell me about the humble beginnings of Peaches Christ. I can't picture you just performing in night clubs for tips...
I’ve always been a performer and have always been super inspired by movies and so much of what I do with drag is informed by my love affair with cinema. Most of my drag career was built in cinemas and on the stages of underground nightclubs like Trannyshack back in the late 90's and early 00's. I’m also inspired by underdogs—the “others” of the world. I like to think that Peaches Christ leads a cult of devoted followers who worship the cult movies we all love. It’s my job to create events that celebrate these movies, and I borrow lots of ideas from other cults like the Catholic Church. I think for us, the cinema is our church and we earnestly believe in these characters. We are the nerds, the freaks, and weirdos with a wicked fierce sense of humor. We’re the Dawn Weiners who grew up to become the Dawn Davenports. Both Dawns are Saints to us.
For many of your stage shows recently you've brought in a popular drag queens who became famous on RuPaul's Drag Race. Was this a conscious decision? Why do you think drag is having a resurgence in popular culture? (By the way, when is Ru going to invite you on the show as a guest judge?!)
I don't think Ru will ever invite another queen as a guest judge, unfortunately. Seven seasons in and it hasn't happened yet. The conscious decisions to work with girls who've been on TV was about celebrating their own cult of fans in our shows, and bringing performers I'd personally felt inspired by somehow. I really enjoy Drag Race; and some of the girls go on the show and I know I want to work with them.
You call yourself a “cult leader”. Obviously, you're a lover of cult cinema and fandom, but what draws you to it? The movies? The audience? What makes it special?
For me, as a young queer-do growing up in a conservative Catholic School, the discovery of early John Waters movies, Divine, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show really, truly changed my life. They were my own It Gets Better videos. These sorts of cult, outsider films became my religion. So while I say that I'm a cult leader in a somewhat tongue-in-cheek way, I'm also kinda serious. We come together in movie theatre to worship what we love. The cinema is our church, and I am comfortable saying Mass.
Much of your influences come from horror. What is it about the genre that inspires you? I find that often queer people relate to the themes in the horror genre, and often-times cult films tend to be in horror. I imagine you must find connecting threads between some of your more obvious inspirations.
I think I'm a sensitive person. Maybe one of those people that others describe as “too sensitive”. I sometimes have trouble with real world horrors, like war, crime, poverty, and abuse. I think that the fantasy world of the horror genre really allows me to exercise feelings and fears in a safe, fun way. I'm also just attracted to darker, wicked subject matter. I'm not totally sure why, but I've always loved it and continue to.
How did your love of horror and niche cinema influence your debut film All About Evil? Where did the idea for it come about? Were there any specific movies you looked to for inspiration?
I was running a single-screen theatre when I wrote the movie, and I had anxiety around the fact that all the great neighborhood cinemas were closing down across the country. Multiplexes were popping up everywhere, and I started thinking about what length we should go to in order to save our old movie houses. I guess that led me to the idea for the plot. I was also really inspired by the only female exploitation filmmaker from the 60's and 70's, Doris Wishman. I kept thinking about how she built a career making disgusting, rude, exploitative films just like her male contemporaries and how unique she was.
The movie is outrageous, funny, gory—and also a bit nostalgic. That can be a bit hard to balance. Was there a certain tone you were going for with the movie? I imagine setting it in a struggling cinema house was a very purposeful choice for you.Yes to all of this, and the tone was a very fine line to walk. I wanted the movie to be outrageous and comedic, but I also wanted it to have real darkness; the characters to have a real pathology to them. I'm glad it came out the way it did, but there were times on-set where I'd ask myself “What the hell is this?!”
The cast is all-around pretty stellar, especially for a low-budget indie horror film. The film hinges a lot on Natasha Lyonne and Thomas Dekker, who both have solid careers. How did you go about casting them? Natasha, particularly, puts in an enthusiastic turn as “De-BOR-ah”.
I had been a fan of Natasha's for years and years. She was always on my wish list of actresses. I just never thought we'd actually get her. It was a great coincidence that our talented director of photography, Tom Richmond, had also shot The Slums Of Beverly Hills starring Natasha. He was able to call her and put us in direct contact. She read the script, we had some phone conversations, and she agreed to do it. I can't picture anyone else in the role now. Thomas was on TV when I met him. He was shooting Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and was playing John Connor. I went to the set and we met in his trailer and when I saw his personal DVD collection I knew he'd get the movie. I told him he couldn't say no. He didn't say yes right away, but eventually he did and now we've worked on loads of projects together. I adore him.
You've also managed to attract special film guests to your live shows, and with All About Evil you convinced some to continue that relationship onscreen. How was not only working with, but directing, icons like John Waters' veteran Mink Stole and Cassandra Peterson aka: Elvira?
By the time I'd asked both of them to be in the movie we'd become friends and I felt comfortable asking them to do it, but even though we're friends I never stop being a fan. I remember they were both so totally professional and easy-going and comforting to me on the set. It was a really stressful time, and I can remember them being so supportive and helpful to me personally.
I just have to ask about the “titty chopper” scene—whose idea was it?! Where did it come from? All the deaths are creative, but I'm not sure something like that had been put to film before.
That whole guillotine scene was my idea and I really wanted to do something that suggested the character was betraying her gender. She was no longer an ally, and she was willing to do whatever it takes to put butts in movie theatre seats. This, again, was where I was watching old Doris Wishman movies like Bad Girls Go To Hell and thinking “Wow, you'd never know a woman came up with this awful stuff.”
When All About Evil first premiered, you screened it across the United States in pure Midnight Mass style with live performances and audience participation. You seem to be taking your shows to other cities more and more, having just recently finished a month-long residency in Provincetown, MA. Are you finding there to be a pull for you to be seen more and more outside of San Francisco?
With the internet and social media, more people around the world are discovering our weird little world of theatre and movies; so there has been an increasing amount of opportunities for us to travel and do shows in other cities. I really enjoy it and am just thrilled I have a job where I get to travel. I loved doing the run in Provincetown especially because I got to be there long enough to really enjoy it.
A couple years after filming All About Evil, you (as Peaches Christ) also teamed up with Elvira for a film festival sponsored by HorrorHound Magazine. I imagine that must have been a sort of full-circle moment from admiring horror movies, creating one, and then judging them.
It was incredible! I remember when we were shooting the ads for it and I was sitting on a set with her. We were both in drag I just had to keep pinching myself. It was like a wonderful dream.
Aren't you also teaching a class at the San Francisco Art Institute? Tell us about it.
I teach a class there called “Creating Character” where students learn about artists who develop alternative personas to create artwork through. All of the students then workshop their own new character, and create work through them that they wouldn't have otherwise made. Next semester we'll be doing more with the “digital persona”, so you should be able to meet these characters online soon.
How does it feel that 5 years have passed since completing All About Evil? Have you watched it recently? Looking back, is there anything you're particularly proud of about the film?
I can't really believe it has been five years, probably because I still get asked to go places to screen it and perform the pre-show. Two weeks ago I screened it in Pittsburgh and then my alma-mater Penn State. Both shows were really special “full-circle” type experiences, because I hadn't been back to Pennsylvania since I went to school there. I haven't watched the movie in a while, but I could hear it from my dressing room at Penn State and it was fun listening to the students laugh and scream.
You seem to be very busy lately, but are there any plans for another movie in the works? Where do you think your career is headed in the next 5 or 10 years? Any goals you have yet to hit?
I'm working on a movie right now, still developing it. The film is really different from All About Evil, but still pretty outrageous. I have loads and loads of goals still. I'd love to write a book someday, and I'd love to make a movie that then becomes its own fully realized stage-show. I'm hoping that's what happens with this new one I'm working on.
5 Year Anniversary
Strange Style July 23 2015
To showcase how one can wear our collection of patches, pins, and buttons we teamed up with a hot model and a talented photographer. The Strange Style lookbook gives some inspiration on how these easy and inexpensive touches can add personal expression to your style. Check out the entire photo series—and then go shop our Flair section!