Raleigh, NC –Not many people can say that the economic downturn has changed their lives for the better. But for Raleigh, NC artist Amy Flynn, it has been the catalyst that has taken her from a comfortable, 27 year career as an illustrator, to a whole new world of galleries, art fairs and Fobots.
Fobots? That would be short for Found Object Robots, and Amy can’t build them fast enough. Incorporating cool vintage junk found at flea markets, scrapyards, basements and auctions, she creates each one as a one-of-a-kind sculpture, with its own name, number, and personality. As it says on their tags, “They are not functional, they are not toys, and they will not go on a rampage while you sleep”.
“I’d been a professional illustrator, working for giftware and greeting card companies, for most of my life,” explains Amy. “But I’d never faced economic conditions so bad. Clients were backing out of contracts, failing to pay me, going bankrupt. I was at my wit’s end”. Finally, her husband said “Why don’t you take some time off and make some of your robots? You’re so much happier when you’re making robots”.
The Fobots had been born of Amy’s love of flea markets and robots. She likes to tell people that they combine two of her favorite passions—making stuff, and shopping. So she went upstairs to her workshop and made some bots. And the recession got worse. She made some more, just to keep the creative juices flowing until business picked up. It didn’t. Soon, the mantelpiece was full, and people were starting to joke about robots taking over the house. Encouraged by a local gallery to start selling them as a business, the Fobots made their debut at the Buyers Market of American Craft, a national wholesale show in Philadelphia. “We sold out of our inventory of 100 bots, and had orders for more. Other artists encourage me to apply to some of the big outdoor art festivals. The first one we applied to was Saint Louis in 2009, and what do you know?–they accepted us! It’s like saying you want to be an actor, and getting cast in the first show you audition for—on Broadway!” Since that auspicious beginning, the Fobots have appeared in many of the country’s top shows, from Miami to Sausalito. They’ve even been on television, gracing the sets of “Ugly Betty” and the ESPN show, “Pardon the Interruption”.
It’s easy to see why Amy’s little metal friends are so popular. The junk they’re made from is cool to start with—vintage cameras, funky old tins, little toy refrigerators with the food printed on the inside of the doors, car parts, and metal spinning tops transform themselves into faces, bodies, arms and legs. And, like the Tin Man, they all have a little brass heart inside. Then there are the names—Hermaphrobot, Steampunky Brewster, Robama, Sigmund Droid, Cyborg Young, Queen Elizabot, Love Machine, Roboticelli…you get the picture. And some of them…well, let’s just say that in some cases, it’s easy to tell the boys from the girls.
Amy is so much happier now making Fobots. And that’s something that never would have happened if things hadn’t first gotten so bad. Reflects Amy. “I keep hearing that the Chinese characters for “crisis” and “opportunity” are the same. I looked it up—turns out, they’re not, that’s just a myth. But they SHOULD be.”
Amy Flynn is the Senior Fobotologist and creative genius behind FOBOTS. To see more of her little metal friends, visit iFobot.com.