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August 17, 2007

{     Interview : Dear Earthling     }    

Dear Earthling

Jeremiah Hammer, aka Dear Earthling, has been one of my favorite customers, supporters and just a cool dude to chat it up with since I opened up Schmancy in 2004. It has honestly been a pleasure to see artists in the Seattle area blow up and to feel like I got to be apart of that process. Jeremiah is no exception. He is a very passionate artist, motivated and yet still very humble. It’s impossible not to like the guy and I continue to be on the sidelines cheering for him. The layers in his work are breathtaking and will definitely make a lasting impression on even the most uneducated art/toy viewer. It was a great pleasure to take a little time with him to conduct this interview and learn just a little more about the man behind Dear Earthling.

Check out his show going up at Schmancy this Friday, August the 17th!

Dear Earthling

You were one of my first customers and I would definitely say one of my first loyal customers. I remember you coming in and talking about going to school, then going to school, then leaving school awhile later and working more and more customizing toys and now it’s like you’re a rock star.It’s so awesome.Besides that pretty short stint with school, do you have any other training in art?

Ha ha! Thanks, Kristen!
Well, I really don't have any more art training than anyone else who took an art class or two in high school. I've just always drawn. I was home schooled for a year as a kid which put me a year ahead of my classmates when i returned to school. By senior year I had all the credits I needed to graduate, but when they said I could just draw all day in art class, I said "Cool!" We had a brand new art teacher that year, this really hip young guy. He'd give out the day's lesson to the classes, and then the two of us would just talk about comics all day. So even then, I wasn't really getting any art training.

You just came back from Comic Con and had some really great experiences.Can you let the C12 readers know more about what you did down there and how it has helped your career as an artist?

Oh yeah, Comic Con is just incredible! I've been going for years, and it just keeps getting better and better. I think everyone should go at least once in their lives. I pass up Burning Man for it, I love it so much. The title "Comic Con" is a bit of a misnomer of sorts. It's more of a pop culture extravaganza that will blow your mind! But anyway, to answer your question, this was the first year I went as a member of the KidRobot community and as a fan of the whole designer toy thing. Before that I'd been going with my comic book work portfolio in an attempt to break into that field. This time around I went mostly to meet all of the great folks I've been chatting with on the KR message board for the last couple of years, as well as to meet some of the industry heads and toy artists. I was completely amazed to discover just how tight knit, friendly, and open-minded everyone is. Not only is there an incredible level of mutual respect among the collectors, but it extends to the artists and producers, as well. I still can't get over the amount of respect and flattery I received from everyone! Artists I've been following for years were like, "You're dear earthling?!" and dropping what they were doing, give me a hug, or otherwise just light up a little bit. It was very cool and surreal. I guess that was when I really understood just how much people are enjoying my work. Through this the door has been opened and I'm in talks with several companies about my own series of figures. I'm more than a little ecstatic!

Where do you see yourself in 2 years from now?

Hmmm, 2 years from now...
Right now, I'm mostly just concentrating on getting a couple of production pieces done and out there, hoping they're as beautiful as we can make them. Some original sculpts as well as graphics for a couple of platform toys. These things tend to lead to other products, so I'm hoping my initial pieces are received well enough to allow this to happen. I'm also hoping to improve with my fine art to get into some of the bigger galleries. M Modern recently contacted me, and that's a huge opportunity!

You have gotten a lot of recognition for doing really beautiful customizing.One thing that I think has also really impressed people is your diversity in the toys you have worked on.Do you have any favorites?Would you say you like working with vinyl or canvas more?

I've always enjoyed working on MAD's MadL figure. It's a favorite among collectors and customizers alike, and it has a really great size and shape about it. The 8" Dunny is another favorite. Mostly though, I like working on pieces that surprise people. I still don't think I've seen another custom Treedweller or Orus, so there's a bit of a sense of pride in having done those. It's so much fun to work on an expensive, rare piece and then to watch the reactions. "I would never have thought to customize/have customized one of those!" Ha ha! Right now I'm working on a handful of Christopher Lee's Mellow figures by Wheaty Wheat. I like to think of them as the new Labbit because there's just so much surface to work with. As far as a preference between vinyl and canvas, it changes. I approach both of them differently, and it's challenging to make the switch. I'm usually either in toy mode or canvas mode, and so I'll do several of one before switching back to the other.

Dear Earthling

Not only are you working on art a lot, you are also a musician.Has that died down at all or are you still just as committed to that?

No, the music thing has died down quite a lot. I've been djing since '97, but the egos in that scene are just out of control for the most part. When I couldn't take it any more, I decided to start producing my own music just to get away from it. It's very organic, heady, down-tempo stuff as opposed to the drum n bass I'd been playing in the clubs. But even the dnb is more organic, melodic type stuff, lots of strings and piano as opposed to just an overbearing bass line and some crazy beats. In that respect I guess i have some commonalities with my original compositions as well as complimenting my visual work rather nicely. I'm hoping to have cds of my music packaged in with my toys to help convey the spirit and the story of the character. I've always loved that kind of stuff, and as a fan, it's the extra little things that really help set a piece apart.

What other projects are you eager to get working on?

I'd like to get back into writing a little bit, even if it's just to build a world and back story for my characters. I'd like to do some large scale paper mache stuff. T-shirts. Get into silk screening. I'd love to do more traveling! I'd like to get a bit more political again, but the beating I took during WTO wasn't much fun, ha ha! But there's only really so much time in a day, ya know? As it is, I'm stretched about as far as I can go. Probably more so.

What does the name, Dear Earthling, mean to you?

Uh oh, this is the big question! Ha ha! It's so multi-tiered that sometimes I even forget some of the original intent behind the name. But really, it applies more to the viewer than to myself. In one regard, it's a bit of an open letter, it's as if to say, "Dear earthling, here's something that I hope brings some joy or warmth or at least a smile into your world." I think originally it was more socio-political, as in, "Dear earthling, please wake the (blank) up! You're destroying yourselves, giving away your power and your ability to think for yourselves over to politicians, religious leaders, the media, and massive corporations who are all in bed together and who's only real goal is control of our resources and money." Watching as our forests and water supplies become more and more marginalized under the guise of progress and urban sprawl is really sad and dis-heartening. I like to think that the nature themes I use in my work reflect this idea.

I obviously love how the toy movement has helped artists make a living on their art and make a name for themselves.How do you think it has helped you as an artist?

Honestly, I owe everything to the art toy movement! I struggled for years trying to break into comics with very, very little success. There were a couple of opportunities, but they really weren't very appealing. With toys and pop surrealism, I haven't had to compromise my vision in the slightest, and luckily the response has been overwhelmingly positive. I owe it all to you and your store, Kristen, as well as the KidRobot community. I can't thank you enough!

What would you do if you won the lottery?

Build a spaceship! Nah, seriously, I'd do some traveling, buy a sailboat, and hire a beautiful violinist to train me as we sailed the world together. Of course, she'd fall in love with me and we'd buy a couple of houses in the most beautiful locales on the planet! Ha ha! I'd start a toy company, hire all of my favorite unknown artists, and make sure none of my closest friends and family ever had to work another day in their lives.

Dear Earthling

Sometime earlier this year you seemed to lop off the face of the world for a little while there concerning some of your fans and friends from the Kidrobot discussion boards, etc.I thought it was really sweet how one person contacted me to see if I knew how to find you and see if you were ok.It’s really amazing to have so much support from strangers.How did that affect you?

Yeah, isn't that amazing? I cried. A lot. As I slowly got over the pain I was going through, it was a struggle to "show my face" in a manner of speaking to the community again. I was embarrassed. Ashamed, too, I'll admit. The support was incredible though, and I was very humbled to not only be welcomed back with such open arms, but to read how many thought I was now doing the best work they'd ever seen from me. That the pain had given birth to a deeper part of my creative self. There was even a rumor going around that I had died! This was when my eyes were truly opened to what great people are involved in this whole thing. I'm still working on catching up to some of the commissions I took on just before the whole depression thing hit. Amazingly enough, those who are still waiting a year later are understanding. Much more than they need to be or even should be. I want to make sure that what they ultimately get in return for their patience is the absolute best I can make it. My style has evolved a little bit since they approached me, so the extra challenge lies in finding a balance between what I was doing then and where I'm heading. I used to find it sad when I would hear people say that they were better friends with the people they talk to online than they were with the people they hang out with in real life on a day to day basis. Well, let's just say I don't find it sad anymore. :)

Interview conducted by Kristen Rask of Schmancy Toys in Seattle, one-third of the FancySchmancyPants trilogy of Washingtonian awesomeness.

     » Check out more of his work at The Dear Earthling MySpace

Comments

Great to see such a heartfelt and honest interview with one of the best customisers around. :D

Posted by: Dinosauria at August 19, 2007 2:05 AM

Jer we love you and your beautiful work over at the KR Forum. I just hope that I can one day finally make it to one of your show openings and get to chat you up. Keep up the amazing work DE.

Posted by: TheFuzzyBear at August 19, 2007 8:03 AM

Hey J - I see nothing but BIG things ahead for you buddy. I've really enjoyed the few times we've been able to hang a little bit. Kristen summed it up so well by saying "It’s impossible not to like the guy". Peace

Posted by: SnorseWhisperer at August 19, 2007 5:31 PM

J,

I met you at SDCC and feel like I made a really good friend. I sincerely hope we keep up with each other. You have a heart as big as all out doors and a talent to match all while just being a kick ass dude! Plus you always laugh at my stupid jokes!!
To your continued success and most importently your continued sense of well being.
Cheers friend!

Sean

Posted by: eoin3 at September 12, 2007 9:22 AM
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