During some of the unboxings for the ATS Autumn box, a few people said they got retro and 80s vibes from it. It was 70s inspired, fwiw, but close enough. That put a bug in our ears about actually doing an 80s themed box.


During our quarterly meeting at Chili's, where we finally decided to stop getting real food and just fill up the entire table with apps and zerts, we were developing the idea of a holiday gala at a wealthy Slytherin's manor. The theme sounded cool enough. Dark green ball gowns, Death Eater masks, crisp tuxedos with tails and snakeskin bow ties, a live band heavy on the cello. I'd go to this party in a heartbeat, even if it was all a ploy to collect donations for some needless charity outreach to Durmstrang. The problem with the theme, though, was that it wasn't lending itself to any actual items that we'd need for the box. They wouldn't be drinking tea, they'd be serving red wine that had been fermented in the hollowed out corpse of a basilisk for 1000 years, or absinthe enchanted so that it glowed from cup, to consumption, and all the way to toilet. The idea was also too similar to our Holiday on the Hogwarts Express, and we didn't want to step on our own toes. Who even has the proper footwear for that?
So one of us threw out the 80s idea, and that developed into an 80s winter dance at a high school gym. The first thing that popped into my mind was the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance poster from Back to the Future, which I know isn't 80s at all, but shut up. It sure sounds like a very specific theme, incorporating Death Eaters, winter, a high school dance, the 1980s, and-oh right-also tea, but I was sure we could pull it off. And then I started on this monstrosity.

Pretty bad, right? I bailed early on, and then I briefly considered going to the store and getting posterboard and sparkle glue and actually making a sign and photographing it. That idea was short-lived.

I wanted to design it to represent the real 80s - the 80s I knew and loved as a kid. The problem, I realized, was that my 80s consisted of Fraggle Rock, Atari, He-Man, Garbage Pail Kids, and constant replays of Michael Jackson's Thriller. Sure, I had a silver boom box and a breakdancin' greatest hits cassette tape, but most of my childhood wasn't actually relevant to what I was trying to design. So, I started playing with neon colors, grid lines and shutterstock photos of cassette tapes until I had something that looked like that classic "Saved By The Bell if Principal Beldum were played by Max Headroom, and all the kids were Tron"-look.
The results were pretty weird. I was nervous. This was supposed to be our winter box, but instead it was grey and neon pink and retro-futuristic. But, I made a playlist-the kind I'd make if I were the DJ of this dance-and kept going.
Also, there are shockingly few number of 80s songs about winter. Hazy Shade of Winter was pretty much the only one I could find, and that's a Simon & Garfunkel cover. And I know, I could've included Christmas Wrapping by the Waitresses but I just didn't want to, so.
I tried to get some cool 3D effects going with neon pink and blue, especially with the skull (which made its debut in the DETC Autumn box). The Weird Sisters cassette tape was the fastest I'd ever designed a pin. The idea actually came from the ATS Autumn box. I initially wanted to make fake 70s-era Weird Sisters labels and slap them on 45rpm records. They wouldn't fit our boxes, so then I thought I'd make some just for photoshoots. I ran out of time. I still might, though! Anyway I figured the Weird Sisters would embrace the era and go for a ghastly colored cassette tape, complete with Hi-Fi Magic.
As we were under a time crunch and designing this in parallel with the ATS Winter box, it was decided that I'd design the tea pouch labels for this box. Juli had a ton of work on her plate with that box, the ambitious tea towel, plus some client projects all at the same time. Also, we wondered, how do you even watercolor the 80s? The style seems incongruous, kind of like rendering an MC Escher design in Legos.
So I made a couple of weird, trippy labels that I thought were cool but assumed everyone else would hate because it was so drastically different than anything we've had as tea labels before. But once we started to go weird, we made the design to commit to weird. So, absolutely. Let's give that skull some headphones. Sure, make a Slytherin-colored Rubik's Cube. Let's put them all on silver bags so it looks like you're using a laserdisc as a mug coaster. Let's make a Bellatrix-meets-Tiffany paper doll and give her fun green dresses to wear. Let's print pink skulls on 80s neon sunglasses, because that's what people associate with tea and winter.
And there you have it. Maybe the weirdest box we'll ever do, sry not sry.