From ISSUE 8 (SAMHAIN)
Passionate about decoration and spooky things, Lady Vamp is the figure behind Vamp Manor, A haunted Victorian Gothic dollhouse, full of old Gothic Stories, Tales & Movies located in Townsville, Australia. More than a personal achievement, it is especially a project that she shares with her husband, Richard aka Dick with whom she shares a pronounced taste for Gothic, vamps, vintage and horror. we met her to discuss the vamp house of her dreams, her journey, her views on the alternative community and her upcoming projects.
† Hello Lady Vamp. Or Kyra, as your real name. Where did you get the one and only "Lady Vamp" nickname from?
I’ve been a Vampire lover since a young child. I remember watching Nosferatu very young and I was mesmerised by the whole movie ! One of my favourite books was Bram Stokers Dracula, it was such a beautiful world to me. Except for Frankensteins Monster ,Bela Lugosis Dracula is still my favourite character. As I got older I read and watched anything to do with Vampires and was in love with the romanticism and the beauty portrayed in the darkness surrounding the stories. I just felt like I belonged in that world. Of course I was a total Buffy and Angel fan and wanted to create that mystical world of monsters and vampires around me.As I got older that “you will grow out of it faze” never happened, I just never grew out of it ! I find complete beauty in the Vamp culture and I started getting called Lady Vamp by close friends and family and it just grew from there. I didn’t really set out to have a different nick name but over time more and more people knew me as Lady Vamp, it is now how I choose to be known.
† You have been a professional artist for 20 years now and I think you are currently studying Bachelor of Fine Art. What form of art are you closest to?
I’ve been an artist my whole life. I was always the kid alone in their room listening to ‘The Cure’ or ‘Bauhaus’ drawing something or making jewellery . I’ve never known a time I haven’t had art as the driving force in my life. I decided to push myself with formal training after years of painting and selling my artwork. I began studying a few years ago and choose the Bachelor of Fine Art majoring in Painting, I’ve taken a break this year due to starting our new business . It probably seems strange to go back to study as I have sold artwork around the world but I wanted to push my techniques further and I’m always craving new knowledge. You always hear the saying that every artist has that one master piece in them, I felt I needed some technique training and guidance to get mine to reality.I’m hoping one day I can achieve that masterpiece . Although I major in Painting, I would love to learn more about sculpting, I’m mesmerised by how you can see something in your mind and create that vision out of items not seen as artistic. You could say I see my whole world as a large sculpture. I don’t really have a particular form of art I’m more drawn too, I see anything as a reason to create art. I’m one of those people who can either go to a junk or scrap shop and get excited to create something out of rubbish just the same as walking through nature and thinking of all the things I can create with sticks ! My whole life I see as a giant art installation, constantly changing and evolving.
† Lady Vamp is mostly the mastermind behind the small Australian company VAMP MANOR, which you share with your husband Richard, aka Mr. Vamp. What is the genesis of the project?
Richard and I had just moved towns for work and to be closer to family when the pandemic hit. The lockdown gave us more time to get some decorating done in our current home and we began designing some new decor pieces. For as long as we have been together we have always had our home filled with our own handmade or painted items. As I started sharing our new projects online others seemed really interested in what we where making and asking if we could create more.
We had so many requests for making some extra things or if we would sell them that We decided maybe we should look into making some things to sell. I was already selling my illustrations, art prints and doing custom tattoo designs.
Richard being a talented artist himself and a carpenter by trade can take an idea and make something really spectacular from pieces of wood. We work really well together, we both come up with different products and ideas. If I get an idea I just give him a rough Scribble and he can create something from that.
Vamp Manor really grew from that small beginning to becoming a larger business plan that we are now planning a year later.
The name Vamp Manor is what we called our home already, so it just felt right to use that name for the business. Being a fledgling business we are still growing and constantly changing our business plan. We are only a two team handcrafted boutique style small business at the moment and we have plans to grow and incorporate other projects over the next 5 years. I see us having an alternative home decor shop with Art, furniture, Antiques and curiosities. Definitely a little book/library area, somewhere to hangout and get together, maybe a coffee shop as well. That’s the dream and I never stop until my dreams come to fruition !
† Is this your own tomb sweet tomb or is it a show house that you use to display a Gothic / Horror Vamp design only?
Vamp Manor is our family home. I really believe that a home is a reflection of the world you want to live in. I never set out to create a show home or somewhere to showcase a style but genuinely just what we love and things we have collected over the years. I feel like a home is an extension of your inner soul, it should have a personality and life of its own.
To me its another platform where I can artistically play and showcase a world where I feel comfortable, safe and completely free. Every shelf, corner and nook is carefully curated and I suppose is my own ever changing living dream world. We both have ideas and likes that we put into our home but we generally have the same taste in everything.
Someone once said to me that I couldn’t live in my own fantasy dream world , well I proved them wrong, I do that everyday !
† Would you have liked to have had a show home? Have you ever received requests to visit or even photographers to use VAMP MANOR as a unique set for an alternative photoshoot?
I wouldn’t really feel the need for a show home. I believe a home needs to be lived in. The exception would be Guillermo Del Toros show home which is my ultimate dream, my favourite showcase home, such an amazing house ! I do like the idea of having show rooms though, I collect horror movie items and in our next home I will have a room just to display my collection. I’m continually changing our collections and rooms around so I suppose that’s my vice, having show rooms and areas.
We do get lots of requests to visit our home and whether we would ever do a B&B and we do plan to one day in the future have that option. I love seeing others enjoy our collections and asking about everything. I can’t wait to be able to create different areas for people to use for photo shoots and inspiration.
† The ghoulish mansion leaves a sweet scent of oddity, eerie beauty and ghostly haze. Looks like the furniture is haunted. Where do you generally find your most unique pieces ?
We find most of our items from antique sales, estate sales and online. I’m always looking for something different to pop up. Most of my favourite things have just manifested at the right time. I really believe that some items find you. We also now have people contacting us with different things for sale. We have a few pieces that are definitely attached to spirits. One quick story, we usually do the rounds of secondhand shops and places like lifeline etc and this one day we walk into a shop and someone had just dropped off a bunch of things. I could see this gorgeous oval frame sticking out but it had a vintage picture of Jesus so I dismissed it , but as I walked around the shop it kept pulling me back to getting it . When I pulled it out I knew I would take it apart and use it for another picture I had in mind. I finally get it home to take it apart and right at the back of several layers is this eerie antique sepia photo of a little boy all covered over years and years ago. So he finally got to see daylight again and now you feel you need to stop everytime you walk past him and just stare ! We call him Little Tom.
† For furniture that comes from antique dealers, have you never had bad experiences?
We do have some pieces with bad energy attached. I personally feel most pieces like that can be contained by storage like putting it in a cabinet or something but some pieces that make me feel anger or a really bad feeling I can’t shake I will usually keep boxed or packed away until I decide what to do with them or research them more.
If something is beyond keeping for whatever reason , I always find new owners for it that appreciate the piece. I love handing things on and I truely believe we never own these items we are just guardians or caretakers of them until the next person gets to enjoy them. Sometimes pieces tell you where they want to be and it may not be with you.
† What determined your passion for design?
I was born with this passion ! I have always curated little areas and kept countless scrapbooks of design ideas ripped out of magazines or drawn myself. I would spend hours going through decor magazines just looking for ideas I liked to mix together to create something different and unique. I was a collector very young, and would curate collections on my desk shelves. I think growing up around antiques and curiosities has played a huge part of who I now am. My grandparents had the exact type of home I try so hard to achieve, wall to wall and floor to ceilings completely covered in Antique pieces , decor and artwork. My grandmother would read my tea leaves at her kitchen table, I still remember the smell of lavender and pipe tobacco , the eerie – ‘are there ghosts here ?’vibes that would completely surround you. A house that oozed haunted elegance.
† Can you remember your first design project?
This is hard as I have a lifetime of designing things. My first business was making alternative jewellery, Handpainted chairs and furniture . I made my own little cards and stand and would rock up to the markets every weekend ! I was around 17years old, sassy punk chic at the time and dreamed I would have a huge business one day ! Never give up on your dreams !
† And, what are you working on at the moment?
Right now I’m working on my biggest baby, Vamp Manor. We have a lot of changes and expansion planned for our business and home. It takes up ALL of our time as any new business does. Design wise I’m currently working on a hand painted seance table and pieces to go in our future mystic room.
Some of those pieces will then be further designed to reproduce for our business. Everything that has been sold in our stores have been designed first for our own home. Like right now I can’t find any good vamp placemats or serviette holders etc so I’m designing some myself. If I get interest from them on my socials I will look at adding them to our store. That’s how we have been developing things the last year and will always only create and sell things we love ourselves.
† When you're crafting, what step of design are you most interested in?
Love this question. Most people think it is the final part of making something and an idea coming together that would be the most exciting. To me it’s the chaos, the time from first thoughts and idea of a project to nearly coming clear. It’s in these moments that genius can happen or the idea can fall between your fingers. It’s the battle of creation that I love, pushing your own boundaries, reaching for impossible . The possibilities of what can emerge from the chaotic process of design and art in general is what completely encapsulates me.
† Design is all about lifestyle. About how we live. VAMP MANOR, unlike some other spooky mansions, feels very comfortable, very family-friendly rather than extraordinary. Of course, a probably deceased family, but still warmly welcoming people. Quite ironical for ghosts. Why did you choose this spooky family decorum?
I didn’t so much choose a particular style. It is both Richards and my taste and personal collections that have taken both of our imagination to grow. I love that feeling of having spirits present very clearly and to be honest I probably hold back any really macabre things for the sake of our young grandchildren. In our next home we will be creating different rooms that we can just close the door so we can keep our more R rated over the top pieces ! I have so many ideas I sometimes have to hold myself back in this house ! My mind can get really dark and morbid so expect more things in the future ! I do also like to showcase that you can have a family friendly home that’s completely alternative. I really love unique goth decor and design. I feel like I always want to push the barriers of what’s classified goth or not. I love elegant pieces,pieces reminiscent of Victorian Gothic style mixed with masculine bold vintage statement pieces a perfect Vampire home in my mind. Our home is an extension of our minds and of course the ghosts are completely at home with us !
† What is the most frustrating aspect of being a designer? And the most rewarding one?
The most frustrating is having that idea that you can’t quite get to even start ! It happens all the time, I have notebooks full of scribbles and random writing just trying to get that idea out into the world. Once you have some form of a tangible idea you can ride the chaotic process of completing something. I always say the most rewarding part of creating anything is seeing that piece making someone else happy. Whether it’s a drawing, painting, photo, home decor, poem, room design anything. If a piece moves someone in some way then all that chaos, hard work, love and inspiration has been worth it.
† What I really find interesting about interior design is beyond the visuals and focusing on how people see design itself. We notice more and more Vamp and Gothic house-projects, and a growing number of social networks dedicated to them. Why do you think the Vamp Goth community is getting more and more interested, so to speak, in alternative design projects and decorative art?
Yes I’ve been noticing that too. It’s wonderful to see the community grow and also gain more interest in sharing art and home ideas. Being an elder Goth it was so hard when I was younger to get ideas or to even share interests in home decor and design and now the community only need to jump online to see some of the best Vamp or goth homes worldwide. I’ve definitely seen a growth in Vamp and Goth social accounts recently and I think a need to connect to a community and other people through this pandemic may be pushing that growth. I also see there is a need to create that comfort in your own home right now while travel is so restricted .It’s encouraging to see the community growing, expanding and opening their arms to different sub cultures and beliefs.
† You recently had issues with a fellow goth business. Usually, community members find it easy to work together and be tolerant or even supportive of each other. What happened this time?
Unfortunately yes we have had to deal with some issues, social media these days makes it all too easy for strangers to be able to attack other people without even speaking to them. I try not to take things personally and don’t really take things to heart, I’ve seen a lot of things in my time. I can only hope that others are willing to learn to support each other . I’ve seen many business and social accounts come and go over the time but my biggest mission right now is promoting kindness to each other, especially on social media. Small business and everyone in general is having a hard enough time right now, with the worldwide pandemic , many new business don’t make it past the first year. We have been really lucky to be able to stay active online and recently celebrated our first year of Vamp Manor being a business !
I detest bullying and judging of any kind, unfortunately you see more people getting affected by online bullying now and I really try to use my platform to promote anti bullying online and showing the younger generations especially that their actions and comments online can affect others. Not saying that it’s the younger generation that only have to deal with these issues, but they are growing up in a complete different world. I’m a huge positive mental health advocate as I deal with issues myself and I think as any other Elder in a community we need to share any guidance or wisdom where we can.
The beautiful thing is the actual Goth community as a whole will always band together and support each other, I have had so much support recently and I definitely appreciate all of our community. I have had nothing but support from other Vamp and Goth home accounts. We tend to help each other grow and connect. I have made many friends through online accounts, it also can be a roller coaster having an online presence.
† In Vamp culture, aesthetics are extremely valued. But when we talk about home design, we also talk about functionality. Are both equally important or do you usually compromise one for the other?
I think aesthetics and functionality have to go together. You shouldn’t have to compromise comfort or function to achieve a design outcome. Of course aesthetics are a driving force behind my style but everything has to work together to obtain a harmonious balance of being darkly usualable ! I like that anyone can walk into my home and feel that comforting homey feel, even if they aren’t alternative. I like things to be used and enjoyed not just for show. Even our ghosts are friendly ! Well most anyway !
† If you had unlimited resources, what dream Vamp design project would you have? And which place would you choose?
That’s easy ! With unlimited resources we would create our own Vamp Manor Bed and Breakfast, a living, breathing museum and a complete immersion into the haunted and spirit world ! It would represent the biggest art piece installation I have done ! Both Richard and I have the goal to open a spooky BnB, with an attached antique, secondhand shop. I couldn’t think of anything more exciting ! Of course my ultimate dream would be to renovate a Château in France ! I can’t get enough of the beautiful and eerie old manors and château. I have already planned different murals for future walls and hand made parquetry floors with a hand laid VM in the entrance way. We where planning on opening a shop front this year but with all the uncertainty around the pandemic still we have put those plans on hold . Hopefully though in the next few years we can look at that again.
† Townsville, where VAMP MANOR is located, doesn’t look like a Vamp city. Does the place conceal a secret ?
Yes, Vamp Manor ! But seriously we are surrounded by beautiful history and a short drive to some wonderful spooky places. Luckily we are in the tropics and a short drive to our beautiful rainforests makes my dark heart so very happy !
† Are they many dark stores in Townsville ? Some kind of Goth activities to do ? A place-to-be for Halloween ?
I haven’t stumbled across any dark stores here. We definitely are the odd ones out which is why we are still online for now. We definitely live in the wrong part of Australia for alternative shops ! Hopefully soon we can push ahead with our plans to open a shop front and have somewhere for the Alternative community to shop easier. In the future Vamp Manor will be the place to be for all things spooky and of course Halloween. I would love to host a Haunted gala every All’Hallows eve !
† When you're not crafting, what do you like to do in your spare time?
Hmmm I’ve forgotten what spare time is haha
Besides drawing and illustrations, I’m a total horror movie nerd ! I have horror movies on continuously in the Manor and am working on our own Video store Movie room. I’m also an avid reader, I wish I had more time to read ! I love our library and buying books for it ! I study the tarot, have since I was young, lately I have delved back into that. Secretly working on my first designed deck (not so secret now !)
I’m currently working on some photography. It’s something I did
Years ago and I’m about to start a photography course to refresh. I’m always striving to learn and relearn new techniques.
Another thing that if I had more spare time would be working on our “Vamp Manor Horror House” which is our haunted dollhouse. It’s basically going to incorporate all of our favourite spooky things from horror movies (like Samara crawling out of a well) to Penny Dreadful scenes, rooms which will all showcase my favourite vampire stories, movies, books. It’s a huge undertaking that will probably take the next 20 years ! I also have my vampire and witch dolls that I work on.
† Lady Vamp and Richard also have children. How does they view their parents’ creations?
We have four children all adults now and 8 grandchildren !We are so lucky to have such a close family. Our eldest son passed away at three years old which really devastated us, it is an experience that pushed me learn all I could about the afterlife and put me on the path to follow my interests in spirituality and the occult. I have always been over protective of my other children and kept them filled with lots of love and hugs. All of our children have grown up with our home decor tastes. They probably didn’t know we where any different until they got older and saw other homes ! I’m sure they thought all Mothers practised Witchcraft and spoke to ghosts ! But they all love our home. The grandchildren all spend parts of the week with us and have grown around all the spooky things. I probably hold back slightly in our main areas to keep it more child friendly. I have a few grandchildren who are intuitives as well and are already drawn to learning things. That’s all you can ask for in life is to hand down your knowledge to the younger generations. Our home is really the nucleus of the family. Everyone comes to it for celebrations, gatherings, sleep overs. I really love most that I’ve created a space that’s brings our family together. Ghosts and all !
† Are you considering any new home art / vamp decor models or will you first continue to promote the most popular pieces from your current collection?
We have a whole new range coming soon that we are currently working on including kitchen and bathroom. Richard has a whole lot of ideas for expanding our coffin line and shelving. We have found that it’s really hard to get quality alternative decor here in Australia and we hope to be able to fill that gap. I’m also working on our New website which will also incorporate our blog where we can share more things like behind the scenes,all our spooky travels, our home projects and spooky cooking etc. This also will be home to our Book/movie club and what I’m currently working on “Lady Vamp Letters” and photography which I’m really excited about. The future feels really positive and with
the support of the Vamp and Goth community I feel we are able to achieve all our dreams and give back in anyway we can.
© Demona Lauren