Bee Dumpling in her Dellhaven Sprite* clothes.
If you’ve been role-playing for a while in medieval and fantasy sims, there’s very little chance that you’ve not heard of The White Armory (TWA).
A popular store, not only because of how long it’s been on the grid but because of the quality of its products as well, TWA offers a variety of dresses and weapons in its massive building.
Bee Dumpling, TWA’s co-owner, was gracious enough to grant me an interview to offer me an insight on what it is like handling this kind of SL business aside from the RL make-up business she already has.
Luc Fray: You have been in SL for nearly 9 years now, Ms. Dumpling. What were your early days like?
Bee Dumpling: The year 2007 was still part of the early days of Second Life. It was still a “new” thing to be a virtual person and explore a virtual environment. The commerce at that time was not like it is now. Places to visit and explore were rare, and avatar clothing and accessories were just beginning to show signs of quality. So I took advantage of what was available and explored, while defining my virtual personality.
Luc Fray: I see. And how did you first find out about Second Life?
Bee Dumpling: I had heard of SL, but it was my uncle that sent me a url and prompted me to join so we could hang out.
Luc Fray: What made you stay?
Bee Dumpling: My uncle and I have always been buddies, so SL was a way we could hang out and chat. Both of us did our own thing as well and would hit up the popular spots like Franks, Botanical Gardens, Bogarts, etc. I started to visit Avilion regularly and thus began my passion for the medieval role-play aspects in Second Life. It was after meeting Colton and embracing the charitable aspects of Second Life and the real life impacts that could be made, even in a small way, that my involvement with Second Life became a part of my every day.
Bee Dumpling*, January 2015.
Luc Fray: How did you come up with the name Bee Dumpling?
Bee Dumpling: In the early days of SL, you were not given the option of deciding your last name. You had to choose from a list that was provided. My first name was easy. My RL name is Deborah, which means “The Bee” in Hebrew. I think I chose “Dumpling” because it sounded cute and lighthearted, which is the kind of person I am. I could have been hungry too. *laughs*
Luc Fray: *chuckles* How did you start out with your SL business? Was it difficult?
Bee Dumpling: Colton and I decided to become business partners. We had hit it off right from the beginning and he saw in me a head for business and creativity, so he purchased a small piece of land on a sim called Emerald. We set up some affiliate kiosks, and Colton had been tinkering with making weaponry for role-play. I am a graphic artist in RL, so I would design the texturing and promotional art for the swords, and he would build and script them.
I asked Colton one day what we should call our business and he didn’t even hesitate. “How about The White Armory?” So, The White Armory it was, and has been ever since.
Building a business in SL, just like RL, is a very incremental process. It takes time to build a brand. We started a group and got our SL friends to join. I began trying my hand at making men’s apparel. Medieval and custom tunics with personalized colors and heraldry. My first creations were just awful. No really, seriously just bad! If I ever want to remind myself how far I’ve come, I can pull one of them out of my inventory and wonder how anyone could have ever gave me a single Linden for them. *laughs*
Anyway, we kept growing and growing and eventually bought the entire sim.
Luc Fray: I think great achievements are usually dealt with a lot of hard work. It’s great that you guys came a long way! But who are usually your customers? Who do you cater your business to?
Bee Dumpling: You would think only role-players would come to our store to shop for their characters, but we get folks from every genre. Our creations have even been featured in the Miss Virtual World shows, as well as dozens of other high fashion and avant guarde fashion events in SL through the years. So, it’s across the board when it comes to our customer base.
Bee Dumpling in Seraphim Orion-Floral*.
Luc Fray: I noticed that your RL Business is named after your SL avatar. Tell us about Bee Dumpling Organics.
Bee Dumpling: Colton is my husband in RL, and, 2 years ago, he was having some real problems due to his diabetes. The doctor told him that if he did not modify his diet dramatically, he would lose his eyesight. I took it upon myself to find a way to eliminate all the processed food, sugars, high-fructose corn syrup, pesticides, wheat, and dairy from our diet. During this time, I began absorbing vast amounts of information about what is in the foods we eat and the products we purchase every day. The picture that was painted was not a good one. We had gone completely organic with our diet, but what about the other products I used? Namely, cosmetics? The FDA takes a real “hands off” approach to the cosmetic industry. That being said, the ingredients in most cosmetics are carcinogenic. I was already very passionate about organic food and began researching how to create organic, vegan (I am a strict vegetarian) cosmetics that were void of the chemicals and carcinogens prevalent in most OTC cosmetics.
This was a lot to take on. There really is no “cook book” for cosmetics. I had to literally learn what the hundreds of ingredients in cosmetics are and what they did. You can find books on “how to” but they only scratch the surface. It really comes down to trial and error. I’ve had a lot of failed attempts. But I learned something from each one of them. I am still learning, and always will be. But it is something I really love, and there is something pretty cool about knowing exactly what you are putting on your face!
Luc Fray: *nods* Understood. You are responsible for your body after all...How do you come up with the ingredients and the making of those cosmetics, by the way?
Bee Dumpling: This depends on the product I am making. Lipsticks use a combination of vegetable waxes and oils, and mineral products like eye shadows, foundations, blush, and highlighters use mica, iron oxide, and vegetable/mineral powder combinations. Even the slightest variation can change the entire batch!
Luc Fray: How do you usually market them and where can they be found?
Bee Dumpling: I market almost exclusively using social media. Especially, Instagram. I can be found on all social media. Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter as Bee Dumpling Organics. My products are sold almost exclusively from my Etsy shop.
Bee Dumpling looking like a sorceress*.
Luc Fray: You and your RL husband run your SL and RL business together. How does that work? Is it like he’s in charge of weapons and you of clothes, or is it more like he does the meshing and you do the texturing kind of division?
Bee Dumpling: Colton and I do pretty much everything as a team. In business, you want to have people around you that you trust and are as passionate about the product and brand as yourself. Colton has always been that for me, and this goes for our RL as well. Colton does all of the weaponry building and scripting in SL. I create his textures and promo art. I create all of the apparel. As for the Cosmetics, Colton has his own social media accounts that he promotes the new releases on so we can double up on promotion that way.
Luc Fray: Where do you guys usually find inspiration for your creations?
Bee Dumpling: We are both similar in the way we get our inspiration. Colton will focus on a shape or piece, and the sword will sort of be built using that as a center piece. I will troll Pinterest, or just get an idea for a certain type of sleeve design, sketch it out, and then the rest just sort of builds itself.
Luc Fray: What are the newest clothes and weapons released at The White Armory?
Bee Dumpling: Colton has just released a mesh Viking sword collection called “Warriors of Odin.” I have begun collaborating with a mesh builder here in SL. She and I have been really enjoying the creative process of original design, mesh, and textures. We formed a secondary brand called Silvan Moon Designs. We enter most of the fantasy or RP-inspired events in SL. We also have a shop inside the TWA main store.
Luc Fray: Do you guys also get involved in grid hunts and events?
Bee Dumpling: Yes. Our secondary brand Silvan Moon Designs is in many of the established events in SL as well as some of the major hunts.
Colton and Bee.
Luc Fray: I saw that you and Colton met online. Tell us your story.
Bee Dumpling: Colton and I met in early 2008. Colton was looking for merchants to rent stalls in his market to help offset the cost of a ¼ sim called Majestic Heart. I had been helping a jewelry maker with his textures and marketing during that time, so I agreed to set up a shop on Colton’s sim. It was during this time that Colton and I started getting to know one another. By the end of 2008, we were very much in love. He swept me off my feet one day in October of 2008 when he asked me if I wanted to get married (in SL). I was even more flabbergasted when he meant, like right then and there! He had already arranged a RL pastor to officiate as well as witnesses to the union! So we were married and began our Second Lives as husband and wife.
We Skyped every day as well. Colton is from the UK. So, we literally had a long-distance romance for many years. It helped that we could speak and interact as virtual people. We did a lot of charity work in SL, so we were very busy in those days with that. I was making good money from my White Armory Designs, and it was enough to fly Colton over here to the States where we met in RL for the first time. That was September of 2009. He was only able to stay a week. It was a tearful goodbye as he headed back to the UK again. He came back to the States in the Spring of 2010 for 2 weeks. Again, he had to return to the UK. He came back for good in February of 2011. We married in RL in June of 2011. The process was long and sometimes heartbreaking. And the immigration process was also long and frustrating. Not to mention expensive. But it was worth it!
Luc Fray: I'm in the White Armory group and I notice that there would be posts about services regarding Worship, Praise, and Fellowship to the White Cathedral, usually held by a priestess. I was curious, are you guys Wiccan? If so, do you think being Wiccan made a distinct difference on who you are now as a person both in RL and SL? [A/N: See Into the Cauldron]
Bee Dumpling: Actually, we began having the services to allow folks of every denomination and/or background to come and be encouraged or ministered to. Colton and I do not subscribe to any one religion but are both spiritual people. We believe that everyone should have a safe place where they can just come as they are and know that they can give their burdens a voice so that others can help to ease their pain or suffering through fellowship and positivity.
Luc Fray: What's next for Bee Dumpling, Colton Drechsler, and The White Armory? Any plans in the near future?
Bee Dumpling: As Colton likes to say, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” So we intend to carry on doing what we have been for as long as SL allows us to. Silvan Moon Designs is growing exponentially as well and I am very happy with that aspect as it allows for even more creative freedom. And, of course, Bee Dumpling Organics will continue to grow and add more products. These keep us both quite busy, but happy.
*Photos courtesy of Bee Dumpling. You can check out more of their clothes at the Marketplace here and their official website here.