Thursday, April 1, 2010
There are some people you know and you don't quite remember how you first met them. It is like that for me with Paul, the artistic mind behind Boxboy. I don't remember the first time I met him, because it seems his zany creations have always been a part of my world. Approachable, affordable and just plain fun, I hope these boxes become a part of your world too.
Q~How did you get started?
A~ I used to own a gift store in Knoxville, TN, called Objet d'art (I should have known then the store name was too fancy for the folk in East TN); I came into possession of a very old and beat up wooden trunk made in Central America. It occurred to me to try and decoupage it. Nothing inspired me to do so ... at the time Rosie O'Donnell was bragging about her pitiful attempts at decoupaging on her awful TV show (her decoupage was awful, too). She was NOT an inspiration. I just started cutting, pasting and varnishing. It actually turned out quite well, and I received many compliments on it. It eventually sold (at a way too low price) and my decoupaging took off from there. Over the years the boxes have gotten smaller and smaller, but I am always experimenting with new media and different techniques.
Q~Why do you continue?
A~I absolutely love what I do. Besides making a little money at it, it is therapeutic and it keeps me off the streets and out of trouble. Of course, I have never been one to flit about on the streets or get into any kind of trouble! It's a good BoxBoy line to use on customers, however.
I don't remember the last time I had a "real" job in the real world. At this point in my life, I am too old to be employed by the man and too set in my ways. What else could be better than sitting on the floor, doing the decoupage thing and listening to Tiny Tim sing "Tiptoe Through the Tulips"?
Q~What is a great success story?
A~To be truthful, when I hear from a customer who is just absolutely thrilled with a BoxBoy creation. This is even especially more true when the compliment comes from a fellow artist. I mean, I have talent in what I do ... there is an awful lot of crummy decoupage out there ... but when a person who can actually draw, paint, sculpt, etc., rants and raves about my stuff, wow!
One of my favorite BoxBoy moments occurred several years ago at Eastern Market. A very nice gentleman was searching for a special box to hold some of the cremated remains of his recently deceased lover. He told me his story and found the perfect box at my booth. What an honor for me. Plus, it made me weep.
Q~What is one of your greatest failures?
A~No one humongous failure in particular ... probably many mini-failures. I probably should be more aggressive in marketing my products. I really can't get too big as I am a one-person show and there is a limit as to what I can do numerically. Well why not hire apprentices (for lack of better terminology) or teach classes? Because I don't want to ... nobody can do it better than myself (not egotism, just the facts, ma'am).
I would love to travel to other cities and do some shows, but that is just not in the cards. The fact is I do well enough in the DC area to make ends meet, and that's fine with me. I am not greedy nor do I have any aspirations to get rich. I am the quintessential bohemian artist, and am glad to continue in that role.
Q~Where do you get your inspiration?
A~Honestly, I don't know. One of my artist buddies asked me once what artist(s) inspired me, and I couldn't answer the question. It may sound self-serving and self-indulgent (the latter term I borrow from American Idol judge Simon Cowell), but the inspiration comes from within. The ideas just pop into my BoxBoy brain, and I run with it. The idea make take years to come to fruition in the form of a tangible
product, but eventually it blooms, ripens and falls from the tree.
Q~Why do you make/create what you do?
A~It's all I know to do at this point in my life. Plus, people like weird, kooky things ... not that all of my creations are weird and kooky. I am glad to fulfill a need in the DC area. Somebody observed once that people seemed attracted to my booth at an outdoor show as if I was a magnet. Well, that's a great compliment. I am happy when my customers laugh at something they see, even if they don't purchase it. Then I have done my job.
Q~Where is your favorite place to sell? Or Favorite show?
A~I sell every Sunday during fair weather months at Eastern Market (the school playground side) and have done so since 1999. I love it for many reasons, mainly that it attracts visitors from all over the world and has an ever changing weekly audience. Plus, it is run by very professional personnel, as opposed to other markets in the area.
My favorite single shows/events of the year are Art on the Avenue in Alexandria in October and the Downtown Holiday Market in the District of Columbia in December. Besides being my best moneymakers of the year, they are just fun to do ... my fellow vendors have incredible goods there and everybody is so nice. I think we're all here to help each other, and those two shows epitomize that. Some shows/events, it's an "all about me" attitude by some vendors. These people I have no use for ... and I could name names, but I won't!
Q~What is one thing you love about your business?
A~That I have the freedom to do whatever I want on every conceivable level. I set my own work hours, I choose the designs I want to use, I decide when and where and how I want to sell, etc., etc., etc. BoxBoy is not a job, it's a year-long working vacation almost.
Q~What is one thing you loathe?
A~Well, I could write a book and could go in any number of directions. But I'll be honest ... I have no tolerance for people in my booth who have no sense of humor. ;) Oh, I'm used to the ignorant remarks of "$16 FOR A BOX?" I guess I take things too personally. Not everybody shares my warped sense of humor; so that's why I take the low road and when I'm in a bad mood ... when somebody gives me attitude ... I give it right back. I am not the most professional salesperson in the world, nor do I strive to be. But you know what, when you know the idiot isn't going to buy anything in the first place and you're never going to see the idiot again, why not get if off your chest? The last time I snapped was at the DHM in December just before our first snowstorm of the season. A lady picked up a box and asked, "Why is this $20?" I responded, "Because that's what the market will bear and this is how I make my living." She said, "Well, that's a fair answer." My next door neighbor was greatly amused by my honesty. Frankly, it was the mildest retort I had used in a long time. Maybe I am mellowing with age...
Q~What is your dream about your art?
A~Well, it's on a monetary level. This is my sole source of income. How I am able to support myself and indulge in my vices is beyond me, but I do it. I hope that people continue to be kind to BoxBoy and allow him to continue to do what he does. I greatly admire people who have full-time jobs then do their artwork as well. I am so very, very lucky.
Q~Where are you based?
A~I work out of my home in Fairfax County, Va, near Mount Vernon. My art studio is in my basement and I am surrounded by my compact discs, artwork from around the world and scary clowns dangling from my ceiling.
Q~Where would you live if you could live anywhere?
A~For some reason, I would love to live in rural New England in an old farmhouse. Fall is my favorite season and heaven on earth would be to live amid foliage in September and October. Also, I have also wanted to experience at least one winter in the north. After 60 inches of snow in DC this season, that desire no longer exists.
Q~What would you be doing if not this?
A~Excellent question. In my previous life, I was a journalist. That was never my calling, however, and although that trade could be picked up again, I have absolutely no desire to do so. An extremely complicated chain of events brought me to decoupage, so this is where I am meant to be and this is my destiny.
Q~What is next?
A~I think this is it. I have lived in many parts of the US, but I hope DC is my last stop. BoxBoy can't go on forever ... I think there is about 10 years left before BB retires. I choose to adhere to the Scarlett O'Hara philosophy of reality ... "I'll think about it tomorrow, for tomorrow's another day."
Q~ What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen sparrow?
A~Hey, I was a smart guy in school/college, but math was never my thing ... and it's still not. I never understood how "if x plus y equals z, what is the value of x?" could be useful in life. There are calculators for that.
Boxboy, and his warped sense of humor, can be found at many markets this year, as well as online. Click here for his website and here for his schedule.
Happy April Fool's! ;)