Author of the seminal Vinyl Will Kill, and the recent Jeremyville sessions, curator of the Sketchel Project, Toymaker, Sticker Stamper, Skatedeck Illustrator, T-Shirt, Badge, and Cap Wearer! Mentioning his name is futile, the man is a brand already, and if you don’t know by now, you better find out. Did we mention he’s composed some wicked prints and paintings, and that he is exploring new media as you read this? In fact, don’t read this, grab a pencil and catch up.
“A cute rabbit on a paranoid acid trip probably sums up my art style”
Format: Looking back on the development of Vinyl Will Kill, to what extent do you feel that publishing the book was at all a catalyst for your personal career in the designer toy world?
Jeremyville: I think it certainly raised awareness of who I was quite quickly internationally, when previously there wasn’t much awareness! It was also a blast to hear from artists I had up until then only admired from afar, from my studio in far away Sydney Australia, who e-mailed to say very positive things about the book, like James Jarvis, Kinsey, Sarah from Colette, Tim Biskup, Paul Budnitz from Kidrobot, lots of others. It just opened up a wealth of e-mail dialogue and contacts that I still value greatly and can still call upon today.
I think it also taught me the value, in a very real world sense, of being the first at something and how powerful that can be, and how being the first with an idea opens doors – especially with others who value and respect a good idea too. It was the first book on the designer toy genre, and, as a result, was talked about a lot on notice boards, blogs and media – Wallpaper magazine in the UK had it in their book of the month section. It gave me a lot of vindication to make my ideas a reality, and I guess more confidence to try new ideas that I had in me.
Format: Who would you like to apologize to for leaving them out of Vinyl Will Kill, and why?
Jeremyville: Well, producing a book is a very intricate game of chess and can become very political, especially when it is the first document on a burgeoning genre. I tried to include as many seminal players as a I could, (and new ones), but the hurdle of being an unknown from Sydney just e-mailing say Bounty Hunter in Japan, was a very difficult hurdle to overcome, especially for a first time book producer. There are no books to read on how to produce a book! Maybe that’s my next book.
I really just had my instinct, my journalistic powers to track someone down (I was the editor of the student newspaper at Sydney University) and my gall to just cold call e-mail a well known artist, and do interviews, maintain e-mail dialog, design and layout the book, make it ready on time, do the introductory essay, wait for replies from traveling artists, travel to places to meet the key players. It really was a big job, and I had no idea how big. I also had to still of course juggle my other design work, so it is not for the faint hearted.
So in terms of leaving anyone out, believe me when I say that it was more a struggle to get people in the book, and more a case of artists maybe not wanting to get involved with this unknown artist from Sydney! There are a few I would have loved to include who I just could not get a hold of, but I’ve since heard from them and they’ve said only positive things about the book.
Format: How has the designer toy scene changed since you published Vinyl Will Kill?
Jeremyville: There are a lot more designers getting involved, a lot more companies getting in on the scene, more products as offshoots from toys like apparel. The excitement for me is still there, and every once in a while you see key figures coming out that really push the boundaries, and that invigorates the genre a lot. However I also see quite a few average, derivative figures coming out, which for me is disappointing as I think the revolutionary, iconoclastic nature of the genre has to be maintained. When I see a very derivative figure, it baffles me as there is still so much to explore in the genre, and I believe it will morph into very exciting new territory. So to spend all that time producing something that looks like some other idea, to me is crazy, and a waste of all that time and money. Like watching a bad movie, you just think, ‘why?’
Some recent highlights for me have been Bill McMullen’s stack of dollar bills, Geoff McFetridge’s Creature off My Back, KAWS’ new giant Companion figures, Super Rad Toys’ Mr. Cartoon and their recent Dr Seuss work, The Gorillaz, Kidrobot’s mini series with Doma and their eBoy figures, there are many really cool and amazing toys coming out. Friends With You always to great work. That’s just all top of mind.
Format: Since publishing Vinyl Will Kill, you have developed and overseen several other print projects. Please take a moment to discuss these projects.
Jeremyville: I released ‘Jeremyville Sessions’ in 2007, which is all about the collaborative process, and the 304 page book looks at around 350 artists and projects I’ve worked with over 2005-2006, from toys to apparel to murals and shoes. It was also published by IdN, and has sold very well. It comes with a DVD, fold out poster, and a silver foil hardcover.
Some artists and companies who’ve collabed with me in there include Beck, Geoff McFetridge, Miss Van, Devilrobots, Lego, Converse, Jim Woodring, Bigfoot, Deanne Cheuk, Reed Space Gallery, it was a fun project to put together. It’s sold in stores like Colette, Zakka, Urban Outfitters, Magma Books, Reed Space, Ariel, and Halcyon in Brooklyn.
I’ve also produced a 56 page catalog on the sketchel custom satchel project, which has now attracted around 600 artists.
Format: Please discuss the Sketchel project.
Jeremyville: Myself and Megan Mair designed a custom satchel bag that is able to feature one-off artworks on canvas pieces, and also limited edition runs as we did with Beck, and also with Gary Baseman, Tim Biskup and others. We launched it at the Semi Permanent design conference, and it currently has around 600 artists who have created work for sketchel series 1 and 2. More stuff is planned for sketchel in 2008.
Format: Format’s recently featured all Australian artists in Issue #34. To what extent does Australia have an identifiable national aesthetic, or how are you influenced by Australia?
Jeremyville: I don’t think Australia has a national design aesthetic, simply because national boundaries have blurred so much, Australian designers work a lot overseas and online, and what in the past was perceived as a national identity, is now seen more a series of clichés that contemporary Australian artists try and avoid vigorously. Australia is often identified with the outdoors, sport, Paul Hogan, shrimps on BBQ’s, Steve Irwin, beer, Kangaroos. None of those symbols resonate with me or my work, nor that of my contemporaries.
The one element of being born in Sydney Australia that I suppose I do bring out in my work, is the carefree lifestyle that I had growing up in Wonderland Avenue Tamarama, which is five minutes from Bondi Beach. skating, getting up to no good, hanging out at the beach, I still do this and it’s a part of my makeup.
Format: The general Jeremyville style can be categorized as cute, warm, and positive. How do you resolve this when dealing with negative issues?
Jeremyville: Personally I don’t really describe my work as cute, warm or positive, I do actually draw a lot about darker stuff, like taking mushrooms, acid, decaying skulls, dark underworld ghostly figures, crying moons, lots of tears flowing, intestines tumbling out of dead people. But I like mixing that up with traditionally positive imagery like say a cute rabbit. A cute rabbit on a paranoid acid trip probably sums up my art style, as I like the juxtaposition of such elements. That’s life. Human emotion is very complex, and happiness can coexist with the depth of despair. I try and tackle it all in my work. Maybe not in every piece, but certainly I think about and draw both sides every day.
Format: Out of all the media on your website, paintings seem to be the exception in that they are in a recognizable, but much darker style. What about painting specifically do you feel brings this out?
Jeremyville: I’ll show you some of my darker drawings too, but yes, I think it comes down to the time it’s painted or drawn. Usually my work created late at night with candles burning and some Nick Cave playing will illicit imagery from the depths of the Jeremyville universe. I’m actually working on a series of paintings which contain imagery trawled from this alternate reality. I did stuff as a teenager that’s just now coming back in my dreams.
Format: Jeremyville has worked in a large variety of media. What is something that you would either like to try or explore further, and why?
Jeremyville: I’m working on some secret new directions right now, different to what I’ve done before, I definitely like to mix it up and explore new mediums. I will still work with the current mix I have going, but these new elements will take that all further. Hope that’s cryptic enough!
Format: Jeremyville has shown in galleries, published books, and appeared on everything from skateboards to guitars. How do you prefer your work be received? What differences do you notice in the reception of your work depending on the media in which it is presented?
Jeremyville: I think as mentioned earlier, I really try and tackle the big issues like death, love, loss, sadness, longing, psychedelia, as well as more upbeat stuff. The medium dictates the imagery, but I feel at ease with every medium I work with, it’s all just another instrument to learn to play. I don’t try and over think it, if an image works in a particular medium, I go with it, trusting my design instinct is everything for me
Format: In 2007, you presented your work in a group show titled “If You Could [design anything to improve the way we live – what would it be?]” What did you show and why?
Jeremyville: It was an image called ‘Fat Cat Help the Alley Cat.’ Rich giving back to the poor, haves versus have not’s. I think that is the greatest issue to improve the way we live, to span the chasm between the world’s poor and those with plenty
Format: Skimming the interviews on your website reveals a lot of student interviews. What advice can you offer to students at art schools?
Jeremyville: I try and not give advice anymore, as each person I feel should find their own answers from their own journey that they are on. To trust your own instinct and reach the conclusions that work for you, is the goal. If you do that, then it’ll all fall into place.
More Info: http://www.jeremyville.com