November 2, 2015
Adam J. Kurtz
We needed some sunshine this Monday morning and nothing makes us smile like Adam J. Kurtz. These perfect giftable items will be at the AdamJK booth all weekend long at our New York Holiday Fair. Rejoice!
Where did your business name come from? Is there an interesting history behind?
ADAMJK isn’t technically a business yet, and it’s barely a brand. It’s my name! I’m Adam J. Kurtz, so I used “adamjk” as a username. I didn’t even realize it read as “adam just kidding” until others starting saying it. Since then I’ve fully adopted it. My work is pretty weird and silly so the name really fits.
Have you always been passionate about design?
Absolutely, from building fansites as a teenager and through college, where I earned my degree in Graphic Design. I’ve worked at a mess of places as a designer, from web, to print, to (specifically for) social media.
When/Why did you start working in this particular craft/field?
It was maybe six years ago that I decided to start using my skills to make things for myself. I wanted to give life to thoughts and feelings, give them a physical, tangible form, so I could hold on to them, and then LET FUCKING GO.
What do you think sets your designs apart from others?
I hope my work hits an immediate nerve, whether it’s funny or sentimental or a little deeper sometimes. I try to make bright and friendly gifts that you can use to say the things you really mean. Sometimes there’s a darkness in them that strongly relates, and you want to keep something for yourself, forever.
Have you had any major failures? If so, what were some important insights gained?
Most of what I create is for me, or because I wanted it to exist. This occasionally leads to a box of erasers or plastic tokens or balloons or keychains that sit in my closet for months. But I don’t care. I still think of myself as an artist?????? Art is still art whether it sells or not.
Have you sacrificed anything to create your business? If so, what was it, and do you have any regrets?
If anything, I’ve sacrificed my business. I held full-time jobs until very recently, telling myself that I alone was not enough to be sustainable. I’m finally trying it – I am myself and I am taking the time I need to give myself a real chance.
What has been your proudest/favorite moment since creating your business?
Working with Penguin Random House to create a book was a really incredible experience. I never thought my self-publishing projects would lead to a mass paperback book that’s released worldwide. It’s been out a year and still doesn’t feel real. But that is just a small part of who I am.
How does the city you live in influence your work?
New York is a good match for my own sarcastic humor. I’m so fucking east coast, I can’t even help it. I grew up in Toronto, spent some years in Baltimore, then ended up here. I’m a little crazy but everyone else is too. I think I’m getting away with it?
What valuable experience/knowledge did you have before starting your business?
Uhhhhh I still don’t think I’m there yet. But not really knowing what I’m doing has allowed me to do a little of everything. I don’t feel trapped by one aesthetic or one type of output. I do digital art, I do paper goods, I create work for my online “gift shop,” and I’ve done larger-scale brand collaborations too. I’m saying yes to things because maybe I don’t know any better.
What made you take this leap into being your own boss?
I had a major personal work deadline that I needed to meet, and I just wasn’t happy anymore. I can sit at a computer no problem, but the environment really matters. I wanted to have more control over that.
What are some inspirations for your work?
I’m really into gift shops – keychains and personalized items and pencils and mugs, souvenirs of times and places that we don’t want to forget. I try to create that for emotions and intangible “places” we all “visit” in our lives. Also I fucking love artists who work with text in simple and memorable ways like, you know, Barbara Kruger and Jenny Holzer and the animated text tumblr account.
What are some tips or suggestions you’d like to offer to fellow makers?
There is a lot of pressure to make things that are commercially viable. Sometimes the things you think nobody cares about are the very best things.