5/15/10: Latest sign of the apocalpyse: Hello Kitty is waning in popularity.

May 15, 2010 at 10:13 am (culture, Uncategorized)

It’s so true. And the Sanrio Corp has made all sorts of missteps over the last few years (seriously, Spottie Dottie? What the hell is that crap?) which isn’t helping. My god, people – bring back Little Twin Stars. They were always so underrated.

What’s more, I don’t want Kitty to be edgy. I don’t want her to have a back story, I don’t want her to be shrouded in black and be edgy. I got enough of all that in my own life. I want her to be vacant and stupid and this completely empty icon onto which anything can be projected. I want to look at her and think, “WTF? Why would I want this face burned on a piece of toast,” quickly followed by “OH MY GOD I WANT THIS FACE BURNED ON A PIECE OF TOAST.” That’s what was always so hilarious and wrong about her. She’s cute, but also just so damned weird. She only barely looks like a cat. Oh, no mouth? Perfect.

Article taken from the NY Times.

May 14, 2010
In Search of Adorable, as Hello Kitty Gets Closer to Goodbye

TOKYO — At age 36, Hello Kitty may be running out of product lives.

That is the fear of executives at the Sanrio Corporation, the Japanese company that created the cute, cartoonish white cat in 1974, and groomed her into a global marketing phenomenon worth $5 billion a year.

In Japan and around the world, Hello Kitty has been licensed over the years for products that include dolls, clothes, lunch boxes, stationery, kitchenware, a Macy’s parade balloon and even an Airbus owned by Taiwanese airline EVA Airways. But amid signs that Hello Kitty’s pop-culture appeal is waning, especially at home, where sales have shrunk for a decade, the company has struggled to find its next-generation version of adorable.

Sanrio’s recent flops include Spottie Dottie, a pink-frocked Dalmatian, and Pandapple, a baby panda. Even the moderately successful My Melody (a rabbit) and TuxedoSam (penguin) show no signs of achieving global Kitty-ness.

“We badly need something else,” said Yuko Yamaguchi, who has been Sanrio’s top Hello Kitty designer for most of its 36 years. “Characters take a long time to develop and introduce to different markets,” Ms. Yamaguchi said. “But Kitty has been so popular it’s overshadowed all our other efforts.”

One of Sanrio’s latest efforts is Jewelpet, a group of 33 sparkly eyed animals each with its own look. Diamond the black kitten is ladylike and decks out in pink bows. Sapphire is cool and prefers to wear blue. Sanrio’s thinking is that with so many to choose from, one has to stick.

A Sanrio savior would arrive not a moment too soon.

In a closely watched ranking of Japan’s most popular characters, compiled each year using sales data by the Tokyo-based research firm Character Databank, Hello Kitty lost her long-held spot as Japan’s top-grossing character in 2002 and has never recovered.

In the latest survey, released this month, Kitty ranked a distant third, behind the leader, Anpanman, a character that is based on a Japanese jam-filled pastry and is produced by Nippon Television. The second spot is still held by the venerable game and animation brand Pokémon, owned by Nintendo.

Sanrio is also being usurped by smaller, nimbler rivals. The formerly little-known stationery maker San-X has scored two huge hits in Japan with its panda character, Tarepanda, and its bear, Rilakkuma — which has charged up the Character Databank charts, ranking fifth in the latest survey.

“The character business is basically a wide-open field,” Hikaru Takayama, chief executive of Fanworks, an animation and character consultancy here, said at a recent convention of the Tokyo Contents Market. “It all comes down to management.”

“Going forward, perhaps smaller companies will be quicker to come out with new ideas,” Mr. Takayama said. “Characters can develop into manga, anime, potentially a big business,” he said, referring to the popular Japanese comic book and animation art forms.

Sanrio’s sales, which come from products as well as licensing, have reflected Kitty’s fading fortunes, shrinking for 10 consecutive years since 1999. The company’s overall sales in Japan fell 3.3 percent in the 12 months ending in March, Sanrio announced Friday, as both licensing and sales of good slumped. Hello Kitty fatigue is hitting Japan first, and hard, the company indicated.

But a one-time 28 percent jump in overseas sales — which Sanrio attributed to an accounting change, as well as several big contracts overseas tied to Hello Kitty’s 35th birthday celebrations — helped the company swing back to a net profit of 4.37 billion yen, in contrast to a loss of 1.50 billion yen the previous year.

Sanrio now relies on overseas sales for 30 percent of its revenue, the company’s executive director, Susumu Emori, said Friday. But Mr. Emori was cautious about Sanrio’s future overseas prospects. “The last quarter was extraordinary, and we expect both sales and profit to fall this year,” he said.

Analysts say part of the problem is that Sanrio has oversold Hello Kitty, which appears on products as various as T-shirts, toilet paper and toasters. Sanrio was recently forced to write off the 500 million yen in debt held by Harmony Land, one of its two character theme parks in Japan, after a falloff in visitors, although the park remains open.

“Sanrio was initially very careful in making sure the Hello Kitty phenomenon didn’t get out of hand,” said Naohiro Shichijo, an associate professor in creative industries at the Waseda Institute for Advanced Studies in Tokyo. “That’s the unspoken rule of the character business: you can’t let a character get too wildly popular all at once,” he said. “You want to go for longevity.”

Hello Kitty, introduced on a vinyl coin purse in 1974, became an instant phenomenon in Japan, and sales at Sanrio grew sevenfold in the cat’s first three years. But even then Sanrio’s founder and president, Shintaro Tsuji, expressed nervousness that consumers would burn out on the brand. Sanrio’s sales tapered off in the late 1970s, and then again in the mid-1990s when Japan entered a long economic slump.

But around 2000, Kitty surprised Sanrio by rebounding in a big way, with Hollywood stars wearing the cat on T-shirts and carrying Hello Kitty bags.

“But when you have a boom, you have a bust,” said Mr. Shichijo, the professor. “People get sick of it. Now Sanrio’s in trouble.”

Sanrio has tried to keep Hello Kitty up to the times: sensing a move away from Japan’s love affair with the cute, or “kawaii” aesthetic, it has pushed an edgier look for the cat in the last three years, using as much black as pink.

Still, a sense of crisis is evident at the Tokyo offices of Sanrio, where 30 designers, led by Ms. Yamaguchi, are charged with developing new characters. At periodic product meetings, each designer presents as many as 20 characters for consideration by Ms. Yamaguchi. Of those, perhaps a dozen are chosen for trial sales at a pilot Sanrio store in Tokyo.

These days, designers are also urged to make sure their characters work across multiple media — a lesson Sanrio learned the hard way with Hello Kitty. Because Kitty had no mouth, it was difficult for the cat to break into television animation, depriving Sanrio of a lucrative source of revenue.

When the company created a talking Kitty for a pilot cartoon series, it set off a fury among fans loyal to the cat’s mouthless look, Ms. Yamaguchi said.

And though Sanrio goes to great length to create back stories for its characters — Kitty, for example, was born in London and likes to eat cookies — that biography is not compelling enough to draw many fans, according to analysts, who cite weak characterization as a drawback in Sanrio’s product lines.

Characters developed by Walt Disney, in contrast, typically make their debuts in blockbuster movies that propel them to fame and provide a springboard for further storytelling. The hit Disney animated film “Lilo & Stitch,” for example, which featured a Hawaiian girl and an alien friend, made a successful transition to a television series, all the while bringing merchandising and licensing income to Disney.

In fact, “Lilo & Stitch” has been so popular even in Japan that the series has been localized — with a Japanese girl named Yuna in place of Lilo and Okinawa replacing the Hawaiian setting.

Sanrio’s designers are also told to aim their new characters at children in elementary school or younger — even if much of the marketing, especially in Japan, will be aimed at older consumers. When younger children embrace a character, many tend to remain fans even later in life, said Miyuki Okumura, the lead designer behind the Jewelpet series. “If a character captures the heart of a little girl, she’s going to love that character into her teens, at least,” Ms. Okumura said. “Then when she has children, she’ll again buy that character for them,” she said. “That’s what we’re aiming for.”

Permalink Leave a Comment

5/14/10: Mississippi update

May 14, 2010 at 10:11 am (art, culture, interesting, life)

The kind folks over at Ole Miss sent me some pics of a project they have going on in relation to the show I have up at their museum. I’m not quite sure the ages, but through some sort of after-school program, kids were brought in and shown my work, and then they went on to create a huge map of the US.

I don’t totally follow how it all came together, but the work is too great not to share. I do know that as part of the project, the kids had to pick something to represent the states they were drawing. And in the examples below, the kids chose Tupperware, the ACLU, and Shirley Chisholm. That completely made my day.

Permalink Leave a Comment

5/13/10 part two: Attention, bloggers!

May 13, 2010 at 8:59 pm (art, blog, culture, thoughts, Uncategorized)

I’m doing a giveaway! I hear these are all the rage online these days, so I’m curious to give it a try.

I have no idea if this is going to work or not, but here’s the deal:
1. Write a post shamelessly pitching my tote bags (and linking to where they can be bought, aka http://amywilson.bigcartel.com).
2. Mention that the next round of totes will be available on Wednesday, May 19th, at 7pm EST.
3. Then, leave me a comment below with a link to your post. When you do, you will be entered into a contest to win a free tote bag!

Think about it! Not that many people read this blog. You’re going to be in the running with like, three or four other people, tops. This is so obtainable!

Make sure you remember to leave a link to your post in the comment section of this post, otherwise I might not see it. And if you’ve been a super awesome blogger and already blogged about the tote bags, just leave a link below. I’ll enter you in the running, too!

Contest is good til May 19th at 4pm. Do it!! 😀

Permalink 14 Comments

5/9/10: Sneak peak

May 9, 2010 at 9:55 am (art, culture, life, Uncategorized)

I worked allllllll day on this project, and I made seven tote bags. Yikes.

But! The good news is, a lot of that was just fine-tuning the pattern and figuring out the best way to do this thing. I hope.

After a day of working my ass off, I started to feel like… well, this. Homer = Amy, Marge = Jeff, big pile of sugar = vinyl.

Anyway. Back to work.

Permalink 1 Comment

5/4/10: The business of art as art

May 4, 2010 at 4:24 pm (art, culture, interesting, life, Uncategorized)

Gracie Mansion art gallery(left); Sur Rodney Sur and Gracie, circa early 1980s(right)

Yesterday was the last day of classes at SVA, which means that already I have a million ideas about what to do next year.

One of the things I’ve been kicking around is this idea of offering a class called The Business of Art as Art. The idea of the class would be to investigate different historical models of doing business in the art world. Above, I’ve posted a picture of the art dealer Gracie Mansion and her co-conspirator; they ran a gallery out of her apartment and even on occasion, out of a rented limo. Their way of presenting art was very different than the white-cube standard that is the norm for showing and selling work, and yet they did it and did it quite successfully for years. In a way, their gallery became a work of art in itself, a living kind of performance art, or at least a very different way of trying to make a little money and while supporting art that they loved.

They’re just one example out of many (and I mean MANY… there’s no shortage of examples at all). It leads me think about things like “art in the age of etsy” and about how as a teenager, I was drawn to art not so much as a way of expressing myself, but as a lifestyle, as an alternative to getting a normal job and working 9 to 5 with someone else as my boss. Sooner or later, as an artist (or as anything else), you bump up against the idea of “how am I going to support myself?” and I don’t see a reason why the answer has to be “exactly like everybody before you has.” We expect artists to be original or different in their work (even if they’re appropriating, because re-presenting is never the same as the first time), so why not in the way in which they conduct what is essentially their own small business?

So this is what I find myself thinking about on the first day of summer – how I would structure a class like this, what we would talk about, and what, very specifically, the goals would be. Immediately I know I would want a situation where each student would start their own business (this would be a requirement of the class) and the business would have to, in itself, be a work of art. But beyond that? That’s what I’m thinking about.

Permalink 2 Comments

Micro-benefit for Haiti: My invitation to the Whitney Biennial

February 18, 2010 at 10:44 am (art, blog, culture, interesting)

I am selling my invitation to the Whitney Biennial opening reception as a micro-benefit for the victims of the earthquake in Haiti.

I got this in the mail a few weeks ago and have been staring at it in dread ever since:

I’m not going to act like I’m being some sort of selfless hero… my social anxiety disorder has been kicked up a notch over the last few weeks, and the thought of going to the Whitney next Tuesday and seeing everyone I have ever met, ever, would be all it takes to put me over the edge. As a result, I really can’t go anyway. But I also don’t want to just chuck it when maybe it can raise a buck or two for a worthy cause.

I have absolutely no idea how “exclusive” this invite is. I have zero clue as to why I got it. All I know is that I have it, I’m not going to use it, and it should be put to some sort of good use. Several people I mentioned to that I have it got all eyebrow-raised and interested, so maybe something can come out of this.

Interior of the invite reads:

Adam D. Weinberg, Alice Pratt Brown Director, and the Board of Trustees of the Whitney Museum of American Art cordially invite you and a guest to attend a reception celebrating the opening of [the] 2010 Whitney Biennial. Tuesday, February 23, 2010, 7 – 11pm. Festive attire.


Fine print reads: This invitation admits two and is nontransferable. This invitation is required for admission. However, despite the use of the term “nontransferable,” I have given away several similar invitations over the years and it’s never been a problem. They just take the invites at the door and don’t check a list. Will things somehow be different this time? I have no idea.

Bidding starts at $1 and goes up in $5 increments from there. Leave your bid in the comments section below. Winner will be decided noon on Sunday, February 21st and announced here. Bidders are responsible for checking back here on Sunday to see if they won.

Once a winner is declared, that winner has until 6pm on Sunday to make an online donation to a Haiti relief charity of their choice in the amount that they have bid (any major non-religious charity is ok by me). They they will forward me the receipt they get from the charity, acknowledging their donation. If the winner does not do this by 6pm, the next highest bidder will win and we’ll go down the list from there.

Monday we will sort out delivering the invite. If you’re really generous and are somewhere in Manhattan, my arm could be twisted to hand-deliver it. Otherwise, if we could meet at a mutual-agreed-upon location, that would be great.

And then on Tuesday you get to get dressed up and rub elbows with art people!! And I get to be knocked off the Whitney’s mailing list for the rest of my life.

Permalink 8 Comments

Almost-new website

January 30, 2010 at 1:28 am (art, culture, drawing, interesting)

Yesterday I took a leap forward towards refashioning my life as something other than a person who merely treads water all the time: I bought a new computer. As I explained to some of my freshmen, the last time I had a new computer, they were in middle school. And then today, I started out on Part Two – redesigning my website.

Good god it’s a huge job. For starters, not having a decent computer for so long means I haven’t documented a lot of my work; and then there’s also the fact that I seem to work 24/7, so there’s so much stuff to be caught up on – we are talking literally a couple of hundred images that need to be added. It’s pretty overwhelming. Then add stuff like press, student work, texts… and well, there’s a reason why I’ve put this job off for so long.

But I almost have a decent start ready to go and premier to the world. My hope is that I’ll be done by this weekend and able to launch it, and then slowly chip away at what’s missing. I’m cheered by the fact that I will have an actual live, human intern this summer (well, I’m convinced she’s going to be offered an amazing and well-paid full time job the second she gets her diploma, but in case that doesn’t happen immediately I have her for a little bit) who I can have help me with this task.

I tend to torture myself with these endless questions of What am I doing with myself, what do I spend all my time on, am I accomplishing anything, and so forth. After sitting down and digging through all these images I feel like wow, well… I guess what I’ve been doing with my time is working. A lot.

Permalink Leave a Comment

It’s up! West Thames Park!!!

January 22, 2010 at 12:10 pm (art, culture, drawing, interesting, painting)

My installation is finally up at West Thames Park!

Photos courtesy Katie Armstrong. More available here.

And more info on the project, including a copy of the text that will accompany it available free for download, here.

Permalink 3 Comments

The Degenerate Craft Fair!

November 29, 2009 at 11:53 am (art, culture, interesting, life, other sites to see, painting, personal, thoughts)

I know – I’ve been MIA for a while.

About a million things have happened, and I will happily bring you up-to-date on all that on some other day. But for right now, I’m reminded of a bumpersticker we used to see around New Haven (“My kid and my money go to Yale”). If I were wearing a sign right now, it would say “My brain and my heart belong to the Degenerate Craft Fair.”

I am way to flustered to blog correctly, but here are the basics:

The DCF is being put together by me and Shannon Broder. It involves 20+ artists and will run for five days spread out over three weekends, the first being this Friday night at a DIY place called Silent Barn. The weekend after, it moves to a storefront in Williamsburg, and then the weekend after that it’s in Chelsea at BravinLee. For allllll the details and info, see our website: http://www.degeneratecraftfair.com

A slight aside: Have you ever been to Shecky’s Girl’s Night Out? It’s this really terrible event in the Puck Building – you pay something like $20 to get in; there’s tons of goodie bags and freebies and free ultra-sweet alcoholic drinks, and lots of vendors selling stuff. You go, the whole evening is a blur, and you wake up the next morning with a pounding headache and a brand new purse next to you that I guess you bought (probably stuffed with other things you bought), but good luck if you remember actually doing so.

Ok, so the Degenerate Craft Fair is supposed to be the good version of all that. Vendors (aka artists) selling FUCKING AMAZING stuff at fantastic prices, giving you lots of things to give as ultra-cool Christmas presents or maybe keep for yourself. And yes, alcohol and music and a party-sort-of-atmosphere. And also free to get into. Fun!

So basically I’m scrambling to get all my own work done (tons of cheap editions I’m making – books, “records”, other fun stuff) and also help organize this thing. It’s a lot. But I really hope you’ll consider coming and maybe even re-blog this event if you keep your own blog.

I have a million things to do, so let me close with some of the work that you’ll see at the fair…

Lauren Fatzinger: Beard Scarf

Everest Hall: (color xerox edition)

MiYoung Sohn: One Dollar USA (inkjet print)

Yura Osborn (Imaginary Friends)

Shalimar Luis

(and dare I say, “and much, much more…”?????)


Permalink 4 Comments

New book: Middle, 2008-9

September 28, 2009 at 6:56 pm (art, blog, books, culture, drawing, interesting, life, personal)

This is a book that I started at least a year ago (may have been longer, I’m not sure) and only completely finished just now. It’s strange for a project of mine to take that long, but this one went through so many different changes as I learned more about book-making and pop up books. There is a real ceiling when you’re making things where your abilities and your ideas sort of clash; for me, that ceiling of ability kept constantly changing (I’d learn something new and it would go soaring up or I’d totally screw up another project and it would scare me enough to basically have it clamp down). And I am really, really trying to find a way to combine this idea of the pop-up, which I absolutely love, with my work so that it’s not just gimmicky or cute but instead refers to this interior space which is infinite.

Anyway. At very long last, here is the book.

The cover:


Side view:


Here is a picture of my gimpy hand opening it (not sure why I always show my hand in these pics but I do so why stop?):


Inside the cover:


Then you turn the page and you reach this part you have to assemble:


So it’s not a pure “pop up” in that you have to do some of the work, but it is incredibly easy to assemble. The five-sided cobweb basically comes out at you and all you have to do is latch the side into a little perforated latch I created. When you do, and interior part naturally falls down and it looks like this from above:


…and like this from head-on:


You fold it up to read the rest of the story, but from there on it’s just symmetry in terms of the design part:


and the last spread:


I worked like crazy trying to get the hinges on the pages so that it could be opened and assembled over and over and over (100s of times) with no worries about damaging it… and in the end, I think it has to sort of remain a fragile work of art.

Ok, I’m excited! I think this is a big step!!

Permalink 1 Comment

« Previous page · Next page »