I’ve been waiting to bring you this interview in severe anticipation over the last few weeks. As a toy and art appreciator, enthusiast and blogger, there is one writer who I have looked up to throughout my five or so years of being in the toy scene. Visiting his site turns into hours of reading. His well thought out and exquisitely curated content never disappoints. Today we’ll be talking to Jeremy Brautman aka Jeremyriad, a writer who is not afraid to share his opinion and is a non-stop art excavator, combing the scene and delivering it back to us in neat packages.
A quick announcement to add to the excitement: Jeremy let me know that he has been working with Okedoki on a book about toy art called Toy Art 2.0. About the book he says:
“Our focus is on the collectors and the community. We’re wrapping it up this month (hopefully, just a couple days left), and then it will go to press. It should be available in the fall. It’s a deluxe coffee table book with tons of photos of people’s collections. The book was Okedoki’s idea, and she invited most of the subjects and did all of the design and layout. She asked me to join the project as editor about a year ago, and I invited a few more subjects and did all of the editing. Together, we wrote all of the interviews, and we think (if people read past the pictures), there will be a lot of insight in there!”
Jeremy on a recent trip to Coney Island
1. The sheer volume of blog posts you do is astounding. How in the heck do you keep up with all of the toy/art/design news that inundates the web every day?
I use an RSS reader to keep track of hundreds of websites, and I read as much as I can every morning. I view, click and otherwise consume this information over coffee. I keep Tweetdeck up in the background, and I’ll check in on Instagram throughout the day. On very rare occasions, I may even answer my phone. Things are happening all the time. I’m pleased to hear you think I keep up with them! When I find something I want to write about, I start a draft in WordPress. I have a couple hundred of these such drafts.
2. What sort of guidelines do you use to filter out what you want to write about from what you don’t? Is it purely based on “I like this, so I will blog about it.” or is it something else?
It’s kind of an evolving internal metric. I like good design. I like pop culture. I like collecting objects. I like things that make me think or laugh or feel or have questions. If you can hit all that, paint it green and slap a cat on it, I’ll probably write about it. I don’t want to give away my secret algorithm, but I will say that in order for me to write about something, there has to be something to say about it. This seems pretty obvious and logical, but I’m sure there’s a guy out there wondering why I don’t write about the toys he sprays over with Monster Kolor, or a company that has me on their dartboard because I failed to acknowledge their most recent ‘urban vinyl’ toy release. It’s not because I hate your toy (though I might), but really: I just don’t have anything to write about it. Meanwhile, there are so many other things for which I have words! Tons of words. The glass isn’t half full; it’s bubbling over onto the floor and down the hallway.
The biggest filter I have is time. In an ideal world, I would blog about everything I like. In the actual world, I have to make difficult decisions. I mean, it’s not exactly Sophie’s Choice, but I try to give it real consideration.
Oh, and one other very important thing: The Hisey Principle. In summary, it says that if there are two identical green vinyl toys shaped like cats wearing Devo energy domes, I will 100% of the time choose to write about the one designed by the nicer and/or more interesting artist.
3. How do you find the drive to power on with your writing? What is it that inspires you when you are feeling particularly unmotivated?
Actually, I’m afflicted with the opposite problem. I’m always inspired and ready to write. Powering down is the trouble.
4. What can you say that you’ve learned from writing your blog?
I’ve learned that there are other people out there…people like me! Over the years, through this portal, I’ve developed some really great friendships. I suppose you could classify these as ‘bromances’. Have you ever clicked with someone who had a great toy collection, was into good music, and said witty things, and suddenly there’s this daydream like what if we’d all been in the same highschool, wouldn’t that have been rad?!
As a writer, there’s nothing more satisfying than blogging. I wish ‘blogging’ was Pomme Wonderful and I was Morgan Spurlock, and I could get ‘blogging’ to sponsor me. Actually, the only thing for a writer that would maybe be more satisfying than blogging would be blogging and getting paid.
It’s really unbelievable that I can transcribe my thoughts and suggestions in such a way that they’re read around the world, immediately. Thanks to twitter, I’ll know (within minutes), if I’m onto something. Pre-blogging, I’d write something on paper and wait. Sometimes it felt like an eternity until the conversation continued. There’s no going back now. I’m too far gone. I do lament the absence of handwriting though. I still also write in ‘analog,’ which gives me a good excuse to accumulate a collection of small notebooks and fantastic pens.
But more specifically to your question: I feel like I’m learning all the time. I’m constantly making discoveries about design, art movements, different cultures, new materials, business insights… I love learning, and I like connecting things. You may find yourself in the midst of a post about vinyl toys realizing you’ve just been subjected to a brief history lesson or political propaganda. The last two things I learned in the process of writing blog posts were the definition of the word encomiastical and how Kleenex tissues got its name. The More You Know™!
Carrying his bag adorned with museum badges, scouring around inside a museum located in an elevator shaft in Cortland Alley in NYC
5. Other than writing, what do you do for creative release?
I’m really into capoeira and parkour. Hahaha! I don’t do anything other than write.
6. Have there been any challenging posts that have landed you in hot water or in a controversial position? If so, how did you deal with this?
I guess challenging posts are the ones that upset the status quo. In 2009, I did this 5-part “journalistic” investigation into the practice of packaging toys in blind boxes, which I thought was somewhat collector-UNfriendly. Then at the very beginning of 2010, I wrote an Open Letter to Kidrobot. It was just me musing, but it ignited a lot of discussion from people in the community who felt the same. I met a lot of people through writing that letter.
As for other controversies, I’ve been critical of certain custom toys and toy art shows. I also write about things that interest or amuse me, but are perhaps considered adjunct or “edgy” in toyland. (For instance: bath salts.) At the current moment, I’ve taken Chris Brown as my cause célèbre.
This is all pretty small-time stuff, though. I’d love to watch my RealTime Google Analytics during a real controversy. I think people are scared to write challenging posts and reveal their opinions. They fear blacklisting and ostracism, but I’ve found the opposite to be true.
7. Whose art career are you following closely at the moment?
I like almost everything that is shown at Jonathan LeVine Gallery (NY), Thinkspace (LA) and Spoke Art (SF). Recently, I’ve also begun following industrial designers.
8. And of course, a cliche of a question – what are your favorite toys in your collection and why?
My favorite toys are usually not favorites just because of their good looks. If that was the case, I wouldn’t be able to answer this question, because my entire toy collection is awesome. I love every piece. Favored status is usually through an experience. One of my favorite toys is this marbled green Inc Bear by Instinctoys that I picked up in Nakano Mall in Tokyo on my honeymoon. It was so cool to be able to see where toys come from! While I constantly rearrange and shift things around, some toys linger longer on good real estate. I enjoy looking at Ferg’s Misfortune Cat because it’s perfect, and also because I think I “get it”. I have a green vinyl “Andy Mouse” by Keith Haring that never gets too far out of view. It reminds me of nice trips to The Pop Shop with my mom when I was a kid. Okedoki’s Benny the Dreamer and my one Coarse Toys figure are two examples where I’ve kept the packaging around and “on exhibit” because the artists’ visions were fantastically executed down to every detail. Ron English’s Telegrinnies have been favorited for a while. My wife helped me make a green (Dipsy) Telegrinny costume, but then Jonathan LeVine came out with his book and his stickers where he’s dressed up like Po. I might still wear it though.
I also like hand-made toys, especially by people I know. I’ve been amassing a fleet of figures by Sergey Safonov of Moscow. I love his Moon Wanderers, and I talk to him all day through instant messages. We’re basically forming a naval alliance in case of a second Cold War. Though they wouldn’t pass the medical examination, I’d draft Yosiell Lorenzo‘s resin Sicklings for our peacetime proceedings. Yosiell is very much a process-oriented artist; I feel lucky that we live close to each other, and I get to peek behind the curtain. The Circus Posterus collective and Blamo Toys routinely produce amazing toy art. Right now, there are amazing artists doing things with resin and wood and 3D-printing on their own all over the US and on an international scale. If I ever get bummed out about ‘the toy scene,’ I need only look to Instagram for cheering up.
I’ll end with a recent acquisition that is pretty much a permanent favorite. Not that long ago, my friend Matt Hisey called my attention to this stoned platypus-looking designer toy released by Medicom in 2003. The next day, by sheer coincidence, Jeff Pidgeon tweeted to see if anybody had one for sale. Pretty quickly, Jean-Luc Desset, a French artist, responded, and I got in touch and bought the toy for a very fair price. That toy is called Bunyip, and everything about it just rules. I can’t not smile if I look at it. The designers are Perks & Mini. I believe that if Bunyip was real, he would talk like Jeremy Fish and appreciate this story.
A HUGE thank you to Jeremy for answering my questions!