Artist Mike Perry on monographs and getting commissioned
Mike Perry is a designer and artist who works regularly with a host of commercial clients including Duvel, Apple, The New York Times, Urban Outfitters and Nike.
Mike Perry talks to us about his monograph Wondering Around Wandering, Kickstarter and why it’s good to grow up in the middle of nowhere...
We understand that you’re originally from Kansas but now live in Brooklyn. How have your travels shaped you?
I feel grateful to have grown up in the middle of nowhere. It gives me perspective. But when I was young it gave me something to rebel against; something that I wanted to escape from, even though I had a good childhood. When I first left Kansas I moved to Minneapolis. That was the first time I saw the power of living in a city; walking, ethnic food, people, different cultures everywhere. Basically my bubble popped.
From there I moved to Philadelphia then to Brooklyn. Brooklyn has totally blown my mind. I never really thought I would live in New York. But I met a girl and she lived there so I figured why not give it a go.
How has living in New York changed your attitude?
It has forced me to be strong willed and fight for what I want. It has taught me that you have to take charge or you will get eaten by the lions.
You describe yourself to be “continually exercising your belief in the transformative power of making things.” How does this philosophy feed into your projects?
I am always making something and I try my best to keep my mind open to the possibility of one thing leading to the next. I used to consider myself a fast maker but what I have realized is that all of the small pieces create the bigger piece.
This is a lifestyle not a job. When I stack a pile of rocks up its about me trying to understand how rocks stack so that if someday I need to stack rocks, I’m ready.
The more I am in tune with my creative soul the more I am able to let loose and just let the making happen.
Tell us a little bit about Wondering Around Wandering..
Rizzoli [the publisher] approached me to do a book about my work. This blew my mind. A monograph has always been one of those life goals that seemed so distant. But it happened before I turned 30.
When the book came out I wanted to do something big to celebrate its release. So I figured, lets have a show. I knew it was going to cost a lot of money but I was determined to make it happen. Then on an off chance I had a meeting with Kickstarter. I was very hesitant about using Kickstarter as a way to fund the project but they presented it in such a nice way that I set about building my project page.
This process really helped me define what I wanted to do. Not only did I get a little cash to help subsidise the cost but I had a community of supporters who were eager to see their investment come to life.
How do you get commissioned for work? Do you get on the phone to clients or do you have an agent?
I hustle. There is no time to sit around and wait for things to happen. Yes I have and agent – I actually have three. One here in the US called The Garden Party, in Europe I’m represented by Agent Pekka, and in Japan by Ambassa. But that doesn’t mean that I kick back and let them handle everything.
Anyone who thinks having an agent means you get to sit back is in for a rude awakening.
On reflection, what has been the most significant lesson you have learnt in your career?
What are your main sources of inspiration for the work you make?
My main source of inspiration is the universe around me. I don’t sit around looking for inspiration. I make things and keep my eyes open. I draw in my sketchbook every day. I use my imagination and explore complex ideas in my head. I do a lot of writing, and discuss the world with my friends. I stay off the computer.
What piece of practical advice can you offer to aspiring artists?
MAKE, MAKE, MAKE