Jon Knox of Hello, Brute is a modern day Renaissance Man. When he's not making custom vinyl toys, painting or knocking out the occasional plush, he's designing shirts and hoodies.
Honestly, how can you not like a guy who created his own amazing brand and listens to Yacht?
Schmancy Gallery: For those people who might not know of the awesomeness that is Hello, Brute, can you give us a brief description?
Hello, Brute: Hello, Brute is just me, and I guess it's best described as a design label. I mostly make toys and paint. I've done a bit of everything. I take on freelance gigs so I find myself doing all sorts of projects. I've really been into collecting artist toys over the last several years, so whenever I have time for personal projects, I go straight to making toys.
SG: When you last talked to Kristen in 2007, you mentioned that if you could've you would have started with rotocast vinyl toys instead of with plush. Do you still feel that way? How are things different now that you work more in vinyl than with plush?
HB: It's definitely no disrespect to plush—it allowed me to realize some of my first characters in 3D (and cheaply). I actually have a few plush projects planned for upcoming shows. I do, however, have a limited skill set when it comes to sewing. I have friends that are fashion designers and what they do blows my mind. Resin and vinyl allow me to have more detail and color. I think they represent my style more accurately. After a year or so of hit and miss experimenting, I was excited to make the shift from plush to plastic. For now, it seems like the best fit.
SG: How important do you think having a web presence has been in helping Hello, Brute to develop as a brand?
HB: It's been everything. I started experimenting with the label while I was still in college and had just left to study in Australia. I didn't really know many people there at first, so aside from doing a few group shows, I mainly relied on the internet to show people what I was doing. During all of that, Kirby and Whitney at Rotofugi offered me a show in their gallery in Chicago, which was mind-blowing (still is). I think it's so important for young designers to understand everything the internet has to offer them, especially those that live in smaller towns and cities. I live in San Francisco now, and I still find that the internet is a huge help.
SG: Some of your current work that I've seen has to do with pyramids. Is there any sort of symbolism (personal or otherwise) with them in your pieces? Are there any other reoccurring themes in your work that have surprised you?
HB: It's kind of a long and weird story because they pop in and out of my work. I'm extremely superstitious and used to always find ways of including three's and triangles in my work, even when I was doing photorealistic work when I was a teenager. I ended up turning the pyramids into characters that sort of act as omniscient pets in my world. They are good secret keepers and bearers of luck. I've given them all sorts of names, but I think I've settled on calling them Arpies (pronounced AR-peez). And yes, "My Little Arpie" is already a resin figure in the works :)
As far as other reoccurring themes, I don't try and stick to any sort of formula—I go with what I'm into in that particular moment. I'm still trying to grow as an artist With my work, you can usually expect a super-saturated color palette and some sort of underlying autobiographical story about a boy. I like to keep it loose though; I hope that people can relate to what I'm doing.
SG: Do any of your characters (like Brute or Jake) have any stories or histories that you'd like to share?
HB: They are ever-evolving characters. I've created back stories for my characters before but I always feels like it kills them, in a way, if the story is too tight...especially if they're purely fiction. I'll later think the story is stupid or feel like the character doesn't fit my style anymore and eventually drop him. I actually don't even like naming my work, to be honest. I think it's important for my characters to grow as I grow. All of the guys I draw stem from different influences, and a lot of times I'll continue to work on a character for years and use him for different projects. Certain traits of the character will stick with him and I'll leave other parts behind. Sookie La La, for instance, has taken all sorts of forms...he was even a girl at one point! I think the stories to my work lately are all in my creative process—I really try not to over-conceptualize or edit my work with a fine-toothed comb. If something feels good, I go with it. It's a tough balance between artistic direction and serendipity, but it's also liberating not to tie my characters and work down with backstories. I guess I've started to approach character design from a postmodernist perspective, but it's difficult to describe because I've barely scratched the surface of where I want to take my work and what I hope to accomplish.
SG: Do you have any words of wisdom for someone trying to break into the world of vinyl toys?
HB: I say learn to do as much as you can on your own...making handmade toys, websites, Myspace. Just make as much stuff as you can and then show as many people as you can—don't be shy. Having toys produced in a factory is super expensive, and if you're a poor artist with no connections, it's gonna take some leg work and a big portfolio if you want a company to sponsor you. So just work hard and save your money!!!!
SG: What's in store for Hello, Brute in the near future? Also, quick! What're the first five songs that show up on your mp3 player?
HB: With the rest of summer and the fall, I will be having my clothing range made, plus I'll be making heaps more resin figures. I'm releasing my next set of resin toys at San Diego Comic Con. Cardboard Spaceship is representing me there, so I am SUPER excited and grateful—it's my first time selling stuff at the Con. I'm also going to begin working with one of my favorite toy companies on a factory-produced figure which is also really exciting. I've been blessed to have such a good response to my work so early on. It's enabled and motivated me to keep going.
Annnnd, here are 10 songs (I couldn't narrow it down!) that I'm thrashing:
Animal Collective - Peacebone
Chris Garneau - Island Song
Black Kids - Listen To Your Body Tonight
The Blow - Hock It
CSS - Alala
Hercules & Love Affair - You Belong
Patrick Wolf - Don't Say No
The Raincoats - The Void
Yacht - Platinum
Yelle - Ce Jeu
Jon's opening at Schmancy (1932 Second Ave in Seattle) is this Friday, June 11th from 6p-9p. Until then, check out his store or his presale on our site!