Behind the gorgeous brick walls of the Historic Ballard Avenue storefront, behind the glimmering windows filled with creative masterpieces from some of the best local creatives Seattle has to offer, is the epicenter of whimsy and brilliant artistry in Old Town Ballard. Monster Art & Clothing is one of the most unique and amazing spaces I’ve seen in the greater Seattle area. Fantastically curated clothing mixes with equally curated art that adorns the walls, shelves, and yes, even the clothes (this isn’t your grandparent’s boutique). Spending even 10 minutes in the space will send your imagination soaring.
There are a ton of mellow, very eclectic shops around Seattle with all sorts of appointed merchandise…this is not one of them. This is a breath of fresh air in a sea of earthtones and grays. You feel like a kid again, and kids themselves will feel re-energized by the vibe of this space. Ok, Ok, you get it…it’s fantastic….well…let’s meet the equally fantastic and charismatic curator/owner.
Ladies, Gentlemen, Kids of ALL stages…
Meet Tara Monster…
Hello Tara, thank you for taking the time for us to meet you and learn a bit about your shop & art gallery, Monster Art and Clothing in Seattle’s Old Town Ballard neighborhood.
How long have you been established, and can you talk about your decision on the location of the shop? What prompted you to open such a unique shop and art gallery in Ballard versus some of the more popular downtown Seattle areas?
Monster has been in Ballard for 7 years now. I really love Ballard because it’s a funky artist area. People are a bit more into weird stuff, compared to downtown Seattle. The people are more colorful, and really into supporting unique, local, and handmade things, instead of big box stores. The feel of Ballard is great too, we are in the Historic area of Ballard, with lots of old, beautiful, buildings featuring exposed brick and ornamental facades. Our building is one of those. In fact, the old Underground Seattle runs right under us.
Do you exclusively represent any artists? Can you talk a bit about what you look for when curating your gallery?
We do have several artists that make their debut at Monster, but they aren’t exclusive to us. It’s very satisfying to see artists who had their first show at Monster gaining notoriety. Several well known Seattle artists like Justin Hillgrove, Jesse Link, and Narboo have been selling at Monster for years. Our featured artist for October, Ariel Millihart is new to the scene, and her work is amazing! She’s exclusive to us right now, but I just know she’s going to go far!
We feature work in lots of mediums: original paintings, prints, giclees, plushies, and t-shirts. The only requirement we have is the theme of the art has to be loosely related to monsters, animals, sci-fi, or fantasy. We love colorful, bold, surreal, art that inspires the imagination! We don’t feature any photography, sculpture, or art that is accurate to real life.
Tell us about the theme of Monsters. Was it a childhood fascination that you chose to grow into this fantastic space you have? It’s quite fantastic and absolutely intriguing.
Monsters have always been intriguing to me. They can be scary, but also cute and misunderstood. They represent magic and imagination! What better theme to represent the amazing uniqueness of the handmade art, clothing, and gifts we feature. I’ve been making Monster costumes since I was a child, and even more now that I’m an adult. Halloween is every day for me! For the last 8 years, I’ve been making Revival Ink, my screen printed clothing line featuring tees and hoodies with illustrations of monsters and magical animals. So yea, monsters are kinda my thing!
When people visit your Ballard clothing shop and art gallery, what can they expect to experience within your four walls?
It’s a very playful, colorful experience. Every corner of the shop is filled with something unique: art, clothing, and unusual gifts you won’t find anywhere else. We love to share the stories behind the items as well, who makes it, why they make it, and why it’s special.
Can you tell us more about the sock wall? You are obviously a connoisseur of socks and dare I say, sock culture…please, tell us more about this unique passion of yours….
I love funky, colorful socks with dinosaurs, cats, mustaches, etc. because they’re a fun, easy way for anyone to show their personality, and wear a little piece of art to share with others. Teachers, nurses, and even office workers like that they make people smile.
What is your earliest memory of art, and looking back, how has that initial experience with art carried through your life, and shaped the curation of your shop/art gallery today?
My earliest experience with art that I remember was in elementary school. My Campfire troop painted the windows at McDonalds for the Holidays. It was really fun to do, and all the customers were complimenting it when they came in. That great feeling of people appreciating our art, and knowing it was brightening their day, is something that stayed with me. I started drawing and painting after that, and ended up going to Cornish College of the Arts to hone my craft.
Supporting other artists has always been part of the process for me. I couldn’t appreciate my own art so much if I wasn’t inspired by theirs. Seeing how the McDonalds art transformed “regular people” into appreciators of the arts, made it my goal to bring affordable art into the everyday lives of others. That is the purpose of Monster, to make local art accessible to everyone.
Do you have any other locations? Do you have plans to expand, or venture into other themes apart from Monsters?
We just have the one location in Ballard, and we just plan on making it the best it can be! We are adding new artists all the time, and now expanding to sell their items in our online store at http://
monsterartandclothing.com and on Amazon.
The target audience of articentric includes not only artists, gallerists, and designers, but also emerging art collectors. What is your advice for our readers who want to collect quality works of art from local emerging artists, but may not be absolutely certain what they like yet?
I’m sure you get the collector on occasion that says “I can’t decide, everything is awesome…”
At this point, I consider myself a collector as well, my house is full of momentos from each unique art show we’ve had. I like to leave it up to the collector to choose what speaks to them, even if the artist is not a familiar one. Discovering new artists is what we love to help with. However, Henry, Jesse Link, and Justin Hillgrove all have art that is very collectible. They only do a limited number of giclees for each art piece, each one is signed, and numbered on the back. Out of print art from them will increase in value, and is easy to start collecting because its offered in different sizes to fit different budgets.
What three artists worldwide, living or dead, do you most admire and why?
He’s a local Seattle artist, and his work really represents the style of Monster. His art is colorful, clever, and depicts all characters of pop culture doing funny things together. Anyone who is having a bad day, can come into Monster, see Eli’s art, and can’t help but grin. Eli loves to draw fantastical creatures, and uses great skill to apply them to several mediums including original paintings, prints, and clothing. He is also an amazing person, with a great mind for business.
I’ve seen his whimsical murals all around Seattle, for years before I met him. One day he came in to Monster, and introduced himself. I was so happy to hear he wanted to work with us, and his studio was right in the neighborhood. His show for the Ballard Art Walk at Monster was very successful, because Henry really knows how to connect with his fans, and is amazingly humble and genuine. He also cares a lot about our community, getting involved in many projects to bring art to kids and others. We continue to sell his art regularly at Monster, and Henry is such a pleasure to work with. More organized and consistent then most artists, he brings us a new collection each month.
A street artist who has crossed into doing beautiful murals, and paintings on wood that we’ve featured at Monster for a couple years now. His style is so unique, you can identify his work from far away. His characters are simple, like sketches, but he’s able to give them such personality, humor, and visual stories they become so much more! The burritocorn is my favorite, and a constant source of discussion among my customers and friends. It seems like its always on a new adventure, popping up around the city in funny places. Its amazing to watch Dave work, he live painted outside our store for the Ballard Art Walk, and I couldn’t stop watching him. He works incredibly fast, watching his work come alive from simple looking lines is an experience I will always remember.
How can our readers learn more about Monster Art And Clothing? Website, Facebook, Location?