From pencils, to key chains and books, 25-year-old Brooklyn-based designer and artist Adam Kurtz makes funny things that he sells in his awesome online gift shop.
by Ben Pobjoy
You were born in Toronto and live in New York. When did the move happen and how did you get into art and design?
My dad’s family is in Toronto and my mom’s in in D.C.. We moved when I was a teenager to be closer to her family. New York is really the happy middle ground. Moving at a weird time in my life also made friendships hard—the internet was how you stayed in touch and communicated. I built websites and taught myself the basics, and then studied that in university. It’s really just the only thing I’ve ever known that I really, really enjoy. I like being able to have ideas and then make them.
You’re an artist, but there’s a lot of satire and parody in your work. How would you describe what you do?
I like to say that I am “just one person.” It’s both empty and informed. I feel like I’m just having fun and making what I like. I recently came to terms with the word “artist,” but I still describe myself as a designer. Graphic design is, generally speaking, communication. I communicate with every thing I do.
Can you tell us how the internet and its memes make in to your work?
I think we’re all trying to balance the internet and real life, to varying degrees of success. I think the internet and meme culture is rapidly shaping language, it comes with its own humour and understanding, and also informs the way we digest words and images. Bold, outlined type carries an obvious meaning. I napped my way through media studies courses, but there’s probably some good “medium is the message” stuff here.
It seems like you have a love for the gift shop spectrum of items and trinkets. Where did this interest come from?
I love the idea of the gift shop for a few reasons. I’m not big on material items— the idea of lugging stuff around seems so tedious. I’m much more interested in making memories and having a good time. That said I’m also interested in preserving memories I’ve made. Gift shop souvenirs are the most obvious way to do that. My “I AM A TOOL OR A WEAPON” pencils are a souvenir of “a time you realized the terrifying duality of everything,” and my “HOME IS NOT A PLACE” keychain becomes a token of an emotional breakthrough. Most of the things I make are notes to myself and ideas I want to hold onto, and sometimes they resonate with others.
You have a history as a zine maker. How did you get into zines?
I got into zines as an early way of getting my design and art off the internet and into the real world. I started with postcards and then the zines started as almost just books of postcards.
I also started making calendars. The first edition was printed at a copy shop where I worked, but in 2013 I switched to Kickstarter to get them produced better. They’re full of one-liners, activity pages, all the same humour and advice and lessons and memories that my items have, but spread out over a year.
Finally, you’ve got a book coming out this fall (October 7th). Tell us about it!
1 Page at a Time, is essentially a hybrid of everything I do. It’s a calendar, it’s a zine, it’s a diary and it’s also a sketchbook and a scrapbook. There are all kinds of prompts and pages, stuff to save, stuff to destroy.
I’ve put so much of myself in this thing, and I really hope people connect with it. I was given complete creative control and I’m proud of how it’s come together.
Check out Adam’s work here:
Photo by William Joos