Friday, July 30, 2010

Zoo Adventures

Tony and I always enjoy spending a nice day at the Cincinnati Zoo. For the past couple of years I've been lucky enough to have been gifted a zoo membership for my birthday so we try to go as often as possible. We always have such a fun time together and there's always something new to look at.

Whenever we go, I insist that our first stop be to the Children's Petting Zoo. In high school I spent two summers volunteering here. While scooping poop, feeding barn animals, and grooming goats certainly isn't a glamorous job, I was passionate about it and found it really rewarding.

They've drastically changed the petting zoo since I volunteered here, but most of the animals are still the same. I primarily worked with the goats so I always get a kick out of seeing them.

While I'm always more than willing to pet the goats and sheep, Tony is sometimes a bit more hesitant. He's not always as willing to get his hands and clothes covered in the general grit that comes with barnyard creatures. But he's really just a softie at heart, so sometimes he just can't resist.

Since they've updated the petting zoo, they added these new food dispensers to the goat area. I'm not sure who's idea this was, but I think the goats are pretty pleased with the additions.

Plus they've added a new chicken coop and free roaming chickens and hens to the area. This is a really different experience as you're able to feed these guys, too. I wasn't too keen on having chickens peck willy-nilly at my palms, but Tony didn't mind the challenge.

Personally, I think the chicken had plans of his own.

Exploring the zoo, there are always plenty of opportunities to see actual wildlife roaming the property as well. You never quite know what's around the corner or hiding in the woods stalking you.

Every once in a while it's nice to take a rest from our trek, but in his typical fashion, it's never too long before Tony has to break into a dance.

Tragically, Tony got really into the dancing and didn't actually leave the zoo with me that day.

Basically, the zoo is an escape for us. We go there to clear our minds, observe the animals and, well, act like animals ourselves. Sometimes there's nothing better than just being silly.

beep, boop, bop!
Jenn Bot

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Easy as...

As the literal in-house photographer for itty bitties for you and bolts and bots I commonly get asked two questions: What kind of camera do you use and what photography classes did you take? The answer, which is often a surprise to those that inquire is: I use a $100 Kodak Easyshare (the only camera that I own) and I have absolutely no photography training whatsoever.

With that said, I would like to say that photography has always been a passion of mine and that I spent years honing my skills and sharpening my eyes to capture the perfect shot. However, the reality is, all photos prior to launching itty bitties for you were simply recreational and also few and far between. And while I always enjoyed photography and even contemplated taking some courses in college I was completely clueless as we opened itty bitties for you how I was going to take product shots.

And just as I expected, the early days of itty bitties for you were rough. I tried photos of Jennifer's products indoors and out. I took them in the shade and then again in direct light. And I even tried to enhance her products by adding additional props within the frame. The results: each product would encounter hundreds of pictures that I would tirelessly sift through attempting to find just four that I could potentially use for an Etsy listing. The hours ultimately became long, frustrating, and probably a direct cause of my hair thinning.

Your photos will be good...when pigs fly

The changing point for me, however, came on my birthday a year later when Jennifer bought me a light box. The light box which is used for the sole purpose of creating an evenly spread, perfectly lit atmosphere was a true game changer for my photography. Immediately I went from taking hundreds of photos to little more than 20 per piece. Even better, instead of sifting through hundreds of blitzed, out of focus shots, I was going through 20 perfectly focused pictures and choose which one suited my eye the best.

The Box

The box, in turn, fueled my creativity making me love photography again and pushed me to use my imagination to make Jennifer's pieces come to life.

We are the Knights who say...

Ultimately, my photos and my skills are minuscule when compared to the great photographers that are out there. But while many pour thousands upon thousands of dollars into their equipment to get what they believe to be the perfect shot, I sit here with my Easyshare in hand and refine my craft to the level that I desire. After all photography, just like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

beep, boop, bop!

Tony Bot

Monday, July 26, 2010

Love Bots

Some of my favorite customer experiences have been filled with love. Literally! Over the past few months I've had several couples ask me to create their wedding cake toppers. This in itself is a huge honor. I know how stressful planning a wedding can be and how special each detail means to the couple. Having the opportunity to connect with people on that kind of level means a lot because not only does it mean they trust me, but it's also really fun hearing their stories.

Take Amorae and Jonny for instance. This is one creative couple as they're not only getting married in a movie theater, but they're creating nearly everything for the wedding by themselves! These guys definitely have a style of their own and were tremendous helping me out with the design of the bots. Just by looking at the set you can see their amazing style through the color scheme of their wedding clothes and custom Chuck Taylor shoes. Also the fact that Amorae Bot is holding a Harry Potter wand and Jonny Bot a classic Nintendo controller means they're not afraid to show the world who they really are. That's so admirable and I couldn't be happier with how these bots turned out.

Jonny and Amorae Bots

And apparently they felt the same way!

Jonny and Amorae with their bots. They're so cute!

I've also created a more traditional wedding cake topper set. I love this set just as much as Amorae and Jonny's--although it's completely different--because it truly represents the bride and groom's style. They asked me to create a park bench for their bots because they love spending time in the park reading books with one another.

Wedding couple on park bench

Emily and Megan contacted me to help out with their big day as well. While they love the more detailed bots, they wanted their topper to be a bit more simplistic which was awesome.

Even without all the details, this duo turned out really well

Believe it or not, we've even helped love blossom! A customer of ours named Peter asked me to create bots to look like himself and his girlfriend in the costumes they were wearing when they first met. He then put an engagement ring on his bot and used them to propose to her. She said yes! I'm not going to take all the credit, but imagine where this couple would be if Peter hadn't have used our bots to propose! :)

Will you marry me?

Even though I've mentioned how hectic custom orders can be, they really are rewarding and that's the biggest reason I continue to do them. They allow me to hear the stories of our customers and there's something very special about that!

beep, boop, bop!
Jenn Bot

Friday, July 23, 2010


With new friends comes new interests, new hobbies, new stories, and plenty of new adventures. And while this statement is as cliche as they come, this fact couldn't be more true as Jennifer and I have recently found ourselves amongst a rag tag pack of "kids" better known as the MINja's. And while we are named for the media centric lives that we live, often letting hours upon hours drift by sitting in front of a computer screen, the reality is, as they have shown us, that the modern nerd has plenty of ways to geek out in today's world. Case and point...geocaching!

Geocaching, while nothing more than a bastardized treasure hunt, is not only a great way to bond with friends, but it is free. And while Jenn and I have known of these caches for years, it wasn't until we met Dan, the leader of the MINja's, that we discovered what we have been missing out on. Dan, while also new to the scene having a little more than 30 finds under his belt, took us under his GPS enabled wings and introduced us to the world of hidden treasures.


It certainly didn't take us long to get the hang of what we were doing. In fact, I am going to go out on a limb and proclaim that the two of us were naturals. I was the first to find one and Jennifer wasn't far behind. Needless to say, we are hooked and have consistently craved the challenge of finding not only new caches, but ones that are considered more challenging.

Jenn celebrates another find

To date, Jenn, Dan, and I have found around 15 caches together that have ranged in size from a little medical tube all the way up to an ammo container. Some of our finds have been easy, some of them have been hard, and some of them are so well hidden that we still haven't found them. We have found these caches in parks, on the streets, in cemeteries, and even deep in the woods. And while each of these finds is as satisfying as the last, the reality is that somewhere along the lines we stopped finding just caches and started to find ourselves. What starts as a treasure hunt always seems to end with a story, with an anecdote, or with a memory that is uniquely ours.

Geocaching in a cemetery

Geocaching I'm sure represents many different things for many different people. For us though, it has become our excuse to hang out, have a good time, and escape from a world that can more often than not be hectic.

beep, boop, bop!
Tony Bot

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

my art is for me

Over the past couple of years I've found myself stuck in a major creative rut.

I'm not going to lie. Custom orders can get a little overwhelming at times. Ever since we opened up our first shop on Etsy, itty bitties for you, I've been churning out custom pet miniatures left and right. While these custom superhero pets stemmed from my adoration of dogs and I'm passionate about the idea, nothing drains your muse quicker than having people tell you exactly what to make down to the very last detail.

Super Baron Millo von Millano

And when we started selling on Etsy, custom orders were not my original intent.

For me, art is a very personal monster. And lately I've been trying very hard to come up with some original ideas. Between the hustle and bustle of school and cranking out more superhero pets than I can remember, it was all too easy to lose myself. And finally--finally--I think I'm finding my creative calling again.

Ever since we opened up our second Etsy shop, bolts & bots, little by little I've allowed myself to break free and create anything and everything I want. The bots have opened up a new world and because I created the character, I can literally do anything I please with them. And the best part? I can get away with it!

What, you've never seen a green mustached cat bot before?

And now that Tony left his job to became a full-time bot, I believe there's another creative evolution coming. I can feel the change upon me, the ideas have been flying left and right, and the creativity is electrifying.

The bots have definitely allowed me to go out on a limb and now it's time to take things one step further. I'm prepared to listen a bit closer to what my instinct is telling me and just go for it.

Looks like Trikky has plans of her own

Tony and I literally have a binder full of new plans and ideas. There will be a lot of collaborating between the two of us, and just as important, plenty of individual projects. I know he has many ideas up his sleeve and I'm really looking forward to seeing what he'll produce. As for myself, I'm going to continue to give it my all and really produce the best work that I possibly can. At the moment something is drawing me to customizing toys...and for the first time in a long time, I think I'm just going to ride the wave--no questions asked--and see where it takes me.

beep, boop, bop!
Jenn Bot

Monday, July 19, 2010

Faking It To Making It

I have, for a very long time, struggled with myself as an artist. Frustration, heartache, and headaches have long since been the name of the game. When I look at my art I am appalled, aghast, and shocked that I could create something so uninspired. Worst of all, I see myself as nothing more than an amateur, as the great fake, the big lie, the great pretender. More of my work than I care to mention has been tossed to the trash, erased, or put away only to be revisited to remind myself of the failure that I see in my creations.

It is a terrible trait. A trait that haunts me and effects my life on a daily basis.

I am a ticking time bomb...

This trait hasn't always been a part of me, however. As a child I drew for hours almost everyday creating anything and everything that I could envision. As a teenager I talked incessantly about my desire to be a Disney animator. And then as an adult, everything came crashing down at the hands of several ignorant people that I chose to believe instead of believing in myself.

I am the salt on your cracker...

Following these isolated incidents, Jennifer, my muse, has for the past 8 years attempted to right the ship. She has pushed me at every turn, encouraging me to break out of my funk, and literally has fought all of my demons with me.

I am the leftovers on your plate...

And somewhere, somehow, thanks to her, I started to realize that I was no longer faking it, but rather making it. Making it not in terms of success, but rather in terms of getting things done and believing in myself. And while I still have my moments, I have come to realize that being different is what made me and made us special. We have, together, dared to be weird. Dared to dream. And dared anyone in our lives to do the same.

beep, boop, bop!
Tony Bot

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Me, Myself, and the Robot

It didn't take much convincing and it certainly wasn't a hard decision, but ultimately it might be one of the biggest leaps of faith I have ever made: the day I quit my job to become a full time robot.

The transformation was in all actuality painless.

Realistically speaking most people could never fathom taking such a risk. Our society is molded from complacency and it is human nature to seek the safest route. And while there is nothing wrong with this fact, I feel that you only live once. Granted, this mentality may be viewed as crazy, but what one sees as crazy I see as genius. Why be like all the others when you have a chance to stand alone, make an impact, and potentially change the very world that you live in?

I say this cautiously, however, as starting your own business is no easy task. It is defined by hard work, long hours, and literal frustration at every bend. It is hard enough to get one person to believe in you, it is even harder to get the masses to see your potential. And while we have received amazing compliments about our bots, ultimately compliments don't pay the bills.

But, happiness is key, and my happiness exists in the world that Jenn and I are creating. In my 8 years as a public servant, as nothing more than a peon at my local library, there was not one day that passed that I enjoyed what I was doing. I dreaded going to work, I longed for the chance to be home to play with the bots, and I hated myself for becoming just another cog in the machine. With that said, the lessons that I learned, however, were unmistakably lessons that I needed to have. The most important of which being: you should always do what you love.

Always do what you love...or else!

And so here we sit, redefining our lives, our business, and our world one bot at a time. This is our job, our adventure, and anyone is free to join in on our happiness at any time.

beep boop bop!
Tony Bot

Monday, July 12, 2010

Custom Droplet

Not too long ago Tony and I began collecting toys. Yep. Toys. Now these toys aren't just any Playskool children's play things. They're art toys. And while some may think they're just mere dust collectors (I'll admit that in a sense they truly are), our art toys mean so much more to the two of us. Not only are they inspirational, but they symbolize something much larger for us...a dream of sorts. One of our goals is to have a series of vinyl art toys produced. Maybe of our bots, maybe not. But until that goal can be reached, I've decided to throw my spin on the art toy scene by customizing some fairly well known figures with polymer clay.

my custom is on the left and the original Droplet is on the right

I've been working with polymer clay since I was a youngster. Throughout the years I've created more characters than I could possibly count, but it wasn't until recently that our love of art toys and my love of sculpting collided. After attempting to add another cute toy called a Droplet to our collection, we received a duplicate. Since I'm a hoarder, I couldn't possibly get rid of it (plus, it's so cute!) so instead I used it to my advantage and took out some creativity on the little guy. 500 pieces of clay later, this is the result! My first custom toy.

I have to give props to Tony for his amazing photography talent. Look at those bokehs!

To my complete surprise, the little bugger has been creating a bit of buzz across the interwebs which led me to hit up one of our favorite toy stores, my plastic heart, and purchase some more vinyls. So this week I'll be sketching up some more custom toy designs and hopefully next week I'll get to work on another one. The thought of creating more of these customs gets me all giddy with excitement so I can't wait to start and share!

beep, boop, bop!
Jenn Bot