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Shelly Stephens: The Oddities and Curiosities Expo

Chattanooga creative and founder of My Dope Dolls, Shelly Stephens, takes part in The Oddities and Curiosities Expo in Knoxville.

The Oddities and Curiosities Expo, a travelling annual exposition that showcases ‘vendors of all things weird’, took place on Feb. 20 in Knoxville, with Chattanooga artist Shelly Stephens attending the convention as a vendor.

Shelly said the Oddities and Curiosities Expo caters to those “that are interested in the weird and unusual art,” which her babydoll-themed pieces fit into comfortably alongside animal skeletons, taxidermies, and Beetlejuice cosplays. With such a niche market, it is even more important that events like the Expo are able to continue operating safely during the COVID-19 pandemic so that unique artists like Shelly can meet with like-minded creatives and sell their macabre merchandise to event-goers.

A first-timer at the Expo, Shelly was told by returning vendors that “the shows are normally packed and extremely busy,” but this year, the organizers made the decision to enforce “social distancing and spacing out attendees by selling tickets with time slots” so that the event could take place as safely as possible. This meant that the halls were less packed and there were fewer people about, but that didn’t stop Shelly and other vendors from having a great time!

“I was very happy with the turnout of customers,” Shelly said. “It was nice to feel like things are getting back to normal.”

The convention not only provided the opportunity for vendors to reach their market, but also for a community to meet and enjoy their shared love of the odd and the curious. Given the difficulty in putting together a large gathering while following health and safety guidelines for guests and staff, it is commendable that the organizers for the Oddities and Curiosities Expo safely and successfully pulled off a fun weekend for all.

The success of the Expo in Knoxville, and many more cities across the US soon, is a hopeful sign of the changing times as we can venture out and socialize safely in the coming months. Like many of us, Shelly is “hoping with the vaccine we will see all aspects of life getting back to normal.” She is planning to attend another convention in Knoxville, Creepy Con, this August where she hopes to continue growing her business.

“I think as people are more comfortable going out, we will see more art events, shows, and hopefully classes to learn some new techniques,” Shelly said. “I personally have really missed live music!”

Be sure to check out Shelly’s Instagram page and visit her Etsy shop to see her uniquely terrifying and enticing pieces!

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