Saturday, April 17, 2010

A "Kidrobot"....Paul Budnitz, the Interview!

I have loved toys my whole life...and I have come to realise that I am one of a small percentage of 28 year old women that have this passion. I would much prefer to have a limited edition artist designed toy than I would a diamond ring. 
When I was 8 my Dad worked for a Radio Station, and a particular chocolate company needed 2 kids to talk about chocolate on a commercial. My cousin Mark and I were chosen. Because we were too young to receive cash, we were given toys as payment for our services. 
Excited at the prospect of what toy I would be given, of course I agreed to the Ad! It was when we were given our toys that my devastation began...Mark received a Transformer that turned into a jet, and I got a light blue "My Little Pony" with a hairbrush to tame its mane. Crushed was an understatement, pissed off would probably better describe how I felt that day. WHAT COULD I DO WITH A "My Little Pony"?! I wanted a toy with powers, a real toy. 

Unfortunately my Radio friends did not realise that even at 8, I was a toy connoisseur. There was no way "My Little Pony" was going to rock my 8 year old world. The closest I have gotten 20 years later is watching what Finnish Artist, Mari Kasurinen does with her "My Little Ponies"...they should have given me a Pony that had a "My Little Skeletor" flavour. I would have been in heaven...I might have even done another commercial. 
My Radio career is over, but the toy lover in me still exists. It was only last year that my inner child was awakened again when my best friend bought me home some small boxes from the U.S. Inside the boxes were toys, from a company called "Kidrobot". For a moment in time, I held these toys like I would have held the Transformer I wanted so badly 20 years ago. It was like they were made for me, the 28 year old year old woman that refuses to entirely grow up. 
My growing collection of "Kidrobot" toys remind me that dreams do come true, and "Kidrobot" is proof that there is a place for games and fun in an adult world that can be far too serious. 

Founded in 2002 by designer Paul Budnitz, Kidrobot is the world's premier creator of limited edition art toys and apparel. Kidrobot creates toys, apparel, accessories, and other products in collaboration with many of the world's most talented artists and designers. 

Wanting to know more about the man who started it all, I requested an interview with Paul and he accepted. 9 questions to the King of the Kidrobot kingdom. 

BW: Can you paint us a picture of the work environment you have created for your Kidrobot team? 

PB: Kidrobot is a group-work environment.  We don't do much creative work individually, but spread all the work -- creative generation, and decision making --between the various people in the office (and to people outside the office, too).   It's my experience that there is a group intelligence that comes from getting many people's opinions and ideas on something.  So 1=1, but 1+1 =4.   

It's a lot harder to really blow it and design something truly stupid when you've got a number of different people looking in on something.  I think that's one reason the things Kidrobot makes are generally so great.   We don't let each other make dumb decisions if we are willing to speak up.

BW: How do you fuel the creativity of your team?

PB: Creativity responds to lots of pressure and very little time.   It's easy to be creative on a schedule.  It's hard to be creative when you've got all the time in the world.   We all know that experience from writing great term papers. the night before they're due.

My own method is that in meetings, I give every idea no more than two minutes.  If we don't have a good result by then, I either kill the whole thing or revisit it another time when we've all got more juice.

BW: How would you describe yourself as a Leader? 

PB: Benevolent dictator.

BW: I noticed throughout your Blog, there are themes of 'Insomnia' and other images and words that lead me to believe that your mind is in overdrive 24/7! What do you do to switch off? 

PB: I've had trouble sleeping most of my life.   At this point it's gone beyond something I deal with, it's something I've accepted and it's integrated into who I am.  I've learned to work effectively when I'm exhausted, to not let that take over, and to exploit the good energy I have when I do sleep well.

One way I do rest is to sit for an hour at the Tibetan Buddhist Center a few block from our office almost every day.  I'm not a Buddhist, and New Age people give me the creeps.  

And, sitting still for an hour forces me to watch my own mind turning.  I'm more or less helpless to it otherwise. Sitting is probably more healthy than heroine, television, politics, email, and any of the other drugs people I know use to distract themselves.

BW: I really respect the fact that on your Blog you admitted that 'losing your edge' scares the hell out of you. It's not very often that the leader of a global company will drop the bravado and say, 'Hey I get scared too.' What brings about fear for you, and how do you handle it? 

PB: Well, there's a kind of materialism a lot of us artists have around making art while we are struggling, living in dirty little apartments, starving etc.  We feel like we're really "artists" when we are in these kind of environments, that we're viet cong guerillas fighting nobly against the middle class -- and in fact, that's just romanticism.  Every starving artist wants money, and would take the nice apartment on 5th avenue (or the equivalent) if someone handed them the keys.

At the same time, comfort is the antithesis to creativity. So I personally worry when I see myself becoming comfortable.  I'm just naturally good at making my world work,at making money, etc.  That's a gift I have.  That can lead to an outer appearance of success and comfort and all the rest.  

The consolation is, since I basically don't sleep, I'm never comfortable.  I'm an "itchy" person, and that's an advantage as a creator.  There's always something dark to draw upon, even when the outer appearance of life looks settled sometimes.

I don't miss the drunks outside my hellish first apartment in Brooklyn, in any case!  

But I do miss the pierogies.

BW: What was your last moment of 'Pure Joy' at Kidrobot?

PB: Yesterday when the SSUR skull toy released on the Kidrobot Black web site.

BW: What was your last 'Oh Shit' moment at Kidrobot?

PB: When the servers crashed five minutes after we released the SSUR Skull on Kidrobot Black web site.

BW: What excites you about the future? 

PB: Flat paint, Barack Obama, the color black, and good friends.

BW: Do you think there is a blueprint for making one's dreams come true? If so, what is it?

You can't be truly successful without the willingness to sacrifice your personal comfort for what you know is worth doing.   The universe is built so that you receive nothing unless you learn this one little trick.

Another way to say this is that you can't have your dreams come true until you first sacrifice your dreams.  Then you can look around and see what's really going on, put in effort and adapt your dreams to whatever in reality comes up. 

1 comment:

  1. Amazing how positive Paul stays every time... although is empire is crumbling away under his feet.