What do Lady Gaga and Tara Smith have in common? A gaggle of little monsters. And while Smith's following might be a bit less than the diva's millions, the store owner has carved out her own niche in the Seattle lineup with a curated collection of locally created art and apparel at her shop, Monster Art and Clothing. The Ballard stop for left-of-center goods features over 35 artists and designers and highlights a new guest artist each month.

Smith's team includes local illustrator Maxx, and her sister Amanda Jellison who creates flower and feather hair pieces that are also sold in shop. Get to know the head monster below.

Owner Tara Smith (far left) with January’s featured local artists Michael O'Driscoll and Summer Booth.


Shop Talk: What song or album is playing on your store’s sound system right now?
Smith: Right now it’s "Fancy Footwork" by Chromeo. We like to mix it up though! I love rock like Joan Jett, and Soundgarden, but also appreciate local music and random stuff like Blondie and Beats Antique.

What was your first job in retail? 
My first retail experience was selling my clothing line at the Fremont Market and at festivals for four years before buying the shop. I loved having direct contact with my customers and making friends with the other vendors. It's a little community where we shared our small business triumphs and fails. The only part I didn't like was the setup and breakdown. It's a lot of work, and if it’s raining, everything gets wet.

What’s your favorite thing in the store right now?
Right now it's Seattle designer Angel Gehm. She makes dresses and tunics that all the Monster ladies (including myself) love to wear. My favorite thing changes every week though; it’s always one of the newest things!

Where do you shop when you’re not at your store?
My favorite store in Ballard is Market Street Shoes. I'm obsessed with shoes and the shop always has shoes that look amazing and are still comfortable enough you can work 12 hours in them. Clover is also super fun and could spend hours looking at their toys. Whenever I want to get something for my niece and nephew (or myself), that's where I go.

What do you love about your store’s neighborhood? What nearby restaurants, coffee shops, etc. do you recommend?
I love Ballard because we have so many amazing bars and restaurants. They're always something new popping up! My favorite coffee spot is Caffé Fiore because it’s right around the corner, and I love getting drinks after work next door at Lock and Keel. Tuesday night trivia at Ballard Loft is a regular activity of mine, too.

What’s the weirdest thing that’s ever happened in your store?
We have weird stuff happening at Monster on a regular basis. For the Ballard Art Walk, on the second Saturday of the month, we have an aerial performer or two who swing on a trapeze from our ceiling. We also have artists painting weird creations outside our shop in the summer. Between my circus friends and Burning Man friends, Monster attracts a lot of weirdness, and we love it. I'm always looking for excuses to wear costumes—really anything goes!