Hey New Yorkers! Pick up a free copy of NYジャピオン Japion Vol. 612 and you'll see a familiar face on page 28!! Find it at Japanese restaurants and shops in the NYC area.
A super special thank you to journalist Masako Kaida!
And another super special thank you to my in-house Japanese translator, Sam Malissa, for whipping up this quick translation of the article! Read his translation below:
[The mascot next to the feature title is Japico, and above her head it assures that “Our girl Japico is on the scene!”]
[Under Chen’s picture, it says, “Chen Reichert-san, Botodesigns Designer”]
[Headline:] Building a Robot-themed Brand with Japanese-inspired Characters
For this installment of Beauty Expert, we spoke to Chen Reichert, the artist behind Botodesigns.
What led you to this kind of work?
Well, I was born in Israel, and moved to Philadelphia, PA with my family when I was seven years old. My father ha a strong artistic sense for sculpture and furniture-making, and I grew up reading his art books, including on Isamu Noguchi.
I studied art at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, and after graduating in 2005, spent two years teaching English in Japanese schools through the JET Program. I lived in Nara prefecture, in a town called Oyodo, part of the Yoshino area so famous for its cherry blossoms. During my stay, I traveled around with a sketchbook in hand, and was influenced by many of the shapes and designs that I saw. When I returned to the US, I took a job as a graphic designer for a travel agency and made various artwork on the side. I worked hard until 2009 when I quit my job with the aim to devote all my attention to the Botodesigns brand that I had made. Now I’m living in New Haven, CT with my husband, who is researching the translation of Japanese literature at Yale. I have my goods in more than ten stores across the US, and also sell through my website and at craft shows in New York and other places.
What are the special features of your brand?
One of the things that I liked best about products in Japan is the adorable characters associated with different brands, each one with its own individual personality and background story. There are mascot characters in America too, but there aren't that many good ones. Taking a lead from what I saw in Japan, I developed my brand around robots that are full of spunky character.
The “boto” in the name Botodesigns comes from the Japanese for robot, roboto. One of my characters is a boy robot named Boto, there’s a girl robot named Botoka, and also a plant-themed character named Planto, among others. I make a lot of T-shirts and children’s apparel, along with all sorts of other things like stuffed animals and greeting cards.
To help me stay connected to the Japanese that I learned, I add words in katakana script to some of the designs, like hajimemashite (“nice to meet you”) and mama-chari (slang meaning “mama-bike”). The hajimemashite T-shirt design is popular with my Japanese customers.
I also wanted to support the victims of the recent disasters in Tohoku, so I specially made a design of my characters helping to rebuild. The group of characters makes the shape of the rising sun flag, and it includes several of the Fukushima nuclear facility workers who worked so hard during the disaster. I’m donating 75% of the proceeds from this design to the relief efforts.
Please tell us about your favorite beauty products.
I often zone out on my work and stay in my studio until late at night, so I get dark circles under my eyes, but this Clarins Eye Countour Gel does the trick. I also swear by my Achipelago Soy Milk hand cream.
What do you envision as your next project?
I’d love to make a picture book using the Boto family to teach children about Japanese culture.
Caption in turquoise box on upper left, under a photo of the Botodesigns booth:
A spread of goods featuring robot designs and katakana script at a Prospect Park craft show
Yellow Outlined Box: Show Us What’s in Your Bag!
1) Vintage Mexican handbag from the 1970s, purchased two years ago on Etsy
2) Highway brand waterproof wallet
3) Sexy lip-shaped bandages, from an art supply store in Philadelphia
4) Mini colored pencils bought at the Shibuya branch of the Tokyu Hands Creative Life store. They're super convenient to carry around, but there’s always the worry that they’ll run out!
5) Sketchbook purchased in Japan, filled with sketches from travels around the country. Open to a drawing of Izumo Taisha shrine.
Turquoise outlined box: Giveaway
We’re giving away two Botodesigns bag-hooks, great for keeping your purse handy when you are out at restaurants and bars. Please send your name, address, and reactions to this article to:
Attn: Japion “Kirei no tatsujin” Giveaways
Entries must be received by Friday, June 17, 2011