Thursday, February 7, 2008

Interview with Tom Torrey of Gamma Ray Bots

I recently discovered Tom Torrey's Etsy store, Gamma Ray Bots. It's full of...robots and other neat stuff. Tom was gracious enough to answer a few questions.

Q: What kind of art/crafting education do you have?

I have a B.F.A. in illustration from Mass College of Art in Boston Ma. I also spent a couple of years at a State College getting a sculpture and metals/clay education before switching to Mass art.

Q: How do you design your creations - - do you plan them out, or just dump out your bits box and see what falls out?

Yes,sometimes! I spent a long time without focus in my artwork. I could paint and draw I just didn't know what i wanted to make art about. Being trained as an illustrator did a lot of damage to my creative process. For a long time I couldn't look at a blank canvas without wanting to paint a businessman on it with a fishing pole surrounded by an ocean of dollar bills. It is a kind of brainwashing. When i was an editorial illustrator I didn't feel like a "real" artist. No offense to editorial illustrators you are real artists. It wasn't until I quit freelance illustration and concentrated on the more fine art side of things that this whole new world of possibilities opened up. This is just a long way of saying I love scifi and when I was free of the regimented illustrative training these pictures started to appear in my sketchbook.

Q: What tools/glue do you use?

I use lots of tools. Hand tools mostly. I share a basement with my father-in-law so what ever tool i don't have i can probably find it in his stuff. I try to make at least my robot sculptures as permanent as I can. It can get tricky sometimes. I find myself rejecting a cool looking detail on a robot that I just know would fall off or break in a couple of years. Making an object to pass on to someone else is important to me. My sculpture professor,whom I learned a lot from, always pushed the importance of permanence in art. He said why create this wonderful object just to have it fall apart in a few years. I guess it just stuck with me.

Q: Your robots seem to have very similar legs and feet - - what do you make them out of?

The most common material I use is metal. I also use a common robot body type. This didn't happen overnight. It has come from trial and error. I find what is easily available to me. When I find some food tins i can use for the body lets say i find out just how many are available. I get weird looks from cashiers when I bring 10 coffee tins to the register. I have learned if you like it buy in when you see it because containers disappear and change often. The fun is in the details. My favorite hangouts are dollar stores and thrift shops. This is when the looks get weirder. I often think about what is running through peoples minds when they ring up old silverware, broken tools, lunch boxes,jars of rusty nuts and bolts. I mean to most people this stuff is garbage and should be thrown away. I rescue it and it sits on a shelf in my studio until I find the perfect place for it.

Q: What techniques do you use to promote your store?

Flickr is a great way to generate sales at my store. I have gotten commission work based on people looking at my old work. It can be great tool just to show what I am capable of. Word of mouth is good to but it is hard to find my audience. They are out there but can be hard to find. I do some art shows in the Boston area. Another good resource I am gearing up for is magazine ads. I have my eye on doing a couple of spots this summer to push some sales. A small piece of advice to anyone before you advertise yourself, have the stock on hand. Make as much art as you can prior to any sales push. When your name gets out, there is no sales killer like having three pieces in your store front because you didn't get the work done on time. A nice full inventory makes for good sales and keep generating new art. People who like your art will come back and check you out for new stuff. If there is no new stuff they are going to move on.

Thanks, Tom. Visit his Etsy store here, his official site here, and his Flickr gallery here.

*Previously: Interview with The Builder's Studio.

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