Representation Through Expression: A Chat With Judas From ‘Media By Moonlight’
by Brendan M. Allen
I recently had the opportunity to sit down (virtually) with Judas, one half of Media by Moonlight, a small business offering original character art on stickers, keychains, pins, shirts, and more.
Brendan: Hi Judas! First off, let’s find out a little bit about Media by Moonlight, and you, one of the creators behind it. What do you do, and how long have you been doing it?
Judas: Media by Moonlight is the brainchild of myself and my significant other of 11 years now, Haze. It got its name from both my desperate love of alliteration, and their habit of doodling during insomniac episodes. I’ve been a creative for as long as I can remember. I was a passionate writer. When I met my significant other, Haze, they began showing me how to draw and I loved being able to bring my creations to life.
Growing up lower middle class on a good day, I’ve always been something of an entrepreneur. As my art became more defined and recognizable I decided we could really do something great. I wanted to show the world my art, my ideas, my passions, and my stories. Haze and I have together written so many adventures together; We have thousands of characters in an entanglement of timelines.
Aside from our goals of diversity and inclusivity, we’re also a queer power couple if I do say so myself. Both Haze and myself have known struggle from disabling afflictions as well as just discrimination for existing. One of the things we hope to do with our work is encourage conversation. I don’t think a lapel pin in pastel pink that says ‘resist’ is going to change the world, but I do think that if you’re in a position where you are safe to do so, or willing to do so, displaying proudly and loudly your position in life and your ideals, can not only make those around you feel safe, but it can empower your, and their, voices, and keep conversations happening.
It’s often said that when you’re arguing with someone, either on the internet or in life, there’s a point where you know that person is too stubborn to listen or learn, but it’s no longer about them. It’s about the audience. It’s about the people who now know that they might be able to reach out to you for help. It’s about the people who aren’t as loud and maybe aren’t as educated, that now have information they can use to investigate and maybe even correct their own ideals.
Brendan: Tell me about the process a little bit. How does a potential design go from doodle to production?
Judas: This is a great question. Honestly, I have more ideas than I’ll ever have designs, and more designs then I’ll ever have products. Our online presence is pretty small right now, and we’ve never wanted to compromise passion and enjoyment for profit.
I draw what I like. If I really like what I draw, I’ll try to produce it. A lot of potential enamel pin designs, keychains, and other high cost items begin their product life as a sticker. The best way to tell us you like what we’re doing is to engage in our social media and buy stickers of your favourite designs. Overall though, It’s all a gut feeling. I know what I like and I hope that by sharing my interests with the world I’ll be able to find other people that love them too.
Brendan: Do you ever do custom work?
Judas: Yes! We don’t typically actively seek customs, but we always encourage people to reach out to us via email at MediabyMoonlight@gmail.com. Primarily for custom work we take commissions in the form of partial or full-body images with or without background. That type of project would be the best and most cost effective for original pieces.
We are always open to other things such as keychains and enamel pins, but due to the nature of the product they either need to be something we can resell or they would need to be purchased in bulk. For example, we’re soon releasing some Creepy Pasta keychains purchased by one of our followers as a custom. They ordered a minimum of 10 keychains at a steep discount along with a small fee for requesting custom work. We’re able to do that because we know the product is versatile.
Brendan: Where do you draw your inspiration from?
I find that we draw inspiration from what interests us. For example, we’ve been playing a lot of Hooked on You and Dead By Daylight, so Haze and I have both been drawing the self insert OC we used/ created for the dating sim. I like to do a lot of what I call ‘dialogue’ or ‘script’ writing with Haze, which is just a fancy way of saying roleplaying, and oftentimes the direction the story takes sways what I’m drawing.
I find it fun, and ultimately most successful, to draw from things you enjoy. For example, one of our top sellers is a pin inspired by the Alice in Borderland live action Netflix series. If you like horror and puzzles, I highly recommend it, and if you’ve seen it, our pin design will bring a tear to your eye. It’s ridiculously niche, but each piece of the design from the packaging to the backing was picked out with passion, and I think that shows.
Brendan: I’ve noticed a lot of your designs are inspired by pop culture and current events, with themes of identity and representation. How do you determine what makes the cut, and whether it works best as a pin, sticker, or shirt?
Judas: If I complete a piece, and I like it, I try to produce it. I do a lot of individual character pieces, or simplistic graphics, which do well for stickers and enamel pins.
Haze does a lot of full background development, and intricate scenes. These work well as prints or buttons. A lot of products need to be designed with the product specifications in mind. For example, lanyards have very specific pattern restraints. When designing a lanyard, I have to think ‘this is an idea I want as a lanyard’ and then I have to format my idea appropriately.
As far as which ideas are or are not produced, the pipeline is always quality. We are confident in our position as pro-human rights. This comes out in the form of positive queer messaging, anti-capitalism rhetoric, and unique representative characters from an array of ethnicities, religious backgrounds, ability levels, and so on.
Brendan: What’s it like working with Haze? How do you find work/life balance with them?
Judas: Like anything, it can prove exceptionally difficult and exceptionally rewarding. I think Haze and I click well together in our business in similar ways to our relationship. I always describe Haze as strong, impassioned, and assertive. It’s a brilliant juxtaposition to my more gentle, meticulative, soft spoken nature.
I manage our social media and our sales accounts, though I am in the process of trying to train a part time social media manager to assist (It’s my sibling. Love you, kiddo.). On the flip side Haze manages inventory in the form of sales shipments and storage. They are incredibly efficient at setting up our tables when we attend in-person events, as well as vigilant in order delivery and quality control.
Deadlines can be hard when trying to take care of ourselves, and each other, but I feel we use our love for our business and our work to work through it. Another stress can be the art itself. Both Haze and I are responsible for our designs and products, and thus, constructive criticism is aplenty. As two people with rejection sensitivity, the level of nitpicking can prove hard.
I think as an artist it’s important to remember that those you trust only want what’s best for you. Similarly, when giving critique, it’s important to keep in mind that the other person is only human as well, and the way you communicate is important. I feel we’ve only become stronger in this as time goes on, and it adds to the passion and longevity of our work and ourselves as people and artists.
We try to dedicate time each day to something simple, even if that’s a few episodes of a TV show where we just watch it together. We also spend most of the weekends together doing chores such as shopping for the animals, shopping for groceries, or doing laundry. While it can be exhausting and cumbersome, I try to find joy in any time we get to spend with one another. I find it helps to alleviate the feeling of dread that comes with endless lists of tasks.
Brendan: You recently funded a successful Kickstarter, and I hear you have another coming up in early 2023. What criteria do you use to determine whether a new item or line gets crowdfunded versus direct listing on your site?
Judas: Honestly, we’re a super small business. Myself and my significant other both work full-time jobs, engage in higher education, and run a stray and feral cat rehabilitation shelter. All of this is to say, any income we put into our passion projects can only go so far.
Most of our Kickstarter projects have pieces that are self funded. For example, our most recent successful Kickstarter allowed us to reuse our previously funded Pride Flag Moth molds to produce new additional lesser known flags. This is the second successful iteration of this project, and over 75% of the products in this line have been paid for out of pocket.
If anything, Kickstarter helps us bring more products to our customers faster and also assists in increasing our audience. Kickstarter also helps us explore products that would otherwise be entirely outside of our capabilities.
We’re planning an ita bag kickstarter in January that features small 4 inch keychain ita bags- which are a specialty bag with an insert and see-through portions which allow you to display pins and keychains. With a minimum quantity of 100 bags, the out-of-pocket cost is vast. By paying for a sample, or proof of concept, and bringing these products to our audience, we’re able to bring them to realization.
Brendan: Thank you so much for hanging out. Before we wrap this up, is there anything else you want to put out there?
Judas: I just want to say how much we appreciate anyone who takes the time to read this, look at our products, share our socials, purchase our goods, and any other form of support you can think of. We value it more than you can imagine.
If you want to see us in person, we have a (sometimes) up to date calendar of our events on our linktr.ee along with lots of social media opportunities ranging from facebook, instagram, tiktok, discord and more. Currently our only booked in-person event is Dokidokon 2023 in Kalamazoo Michigan.
We also invite you to peruse our website, especially our Be Proud Pride Project page. We hope to offer inclusivity in the form of countless microidentities for queer folx to express and represent themselves. We even have a word document linked through google docs you can print out, copy, distribute, or what have you. If you don’t see an identity you’d like represented shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can add it to our list and make it happen.