Urban Vinyl Daily: Would you mind telling us a little background about yourself?
Frank Kozik: I have been living in San Francisco for quite a while now (17 years). I started out doing small Xeroxed street flyers back around 1980 in Austin. Eventually I started doing small flyers for local punk bands and it all sort of grew from there.
UVD: Would you mind telling us about some of the designs that you came up with when you were first starting out and how designs have progressed over the years?
FK: Originally, it was really basic cut and paste ‘Xerox machine’ type of things. As the ‘clients’ got larger, I started doing 2 color, 3 color 4 color offset and then silk-screens. All this was pre-computer; I learned the old techniques, hand separations, stat cameras etc. Then in the early 90’s made the switch to using a computer and so on. The basics are still the same, the approach, the tools and reproduction equipment is what has changed.
UVD: How did the idea for the Smorkin’ figures come about?
FK:In the 90’s I was sort of obsessed with Sanrio. On a trip to Japan some friends suggested I do my own type of ‘simple character’. That figure turned out to be the Labbit. The Labbit was born around 1997.
UVD: Are the more playful designs such as the regular 5” labbit with accessories, or Hooverville 2010 Dunny, just as fun to design as the more serious designs such as the Smorkin’ figures?
FK:Yes, I have no problem with gentle things. The challenge is to figure out the simplest possible thing, but still imbue it with some sort of life or attitude.
UVD: I see from your profile on your website that you spent a period of time in Austin, Texas. I myself lived there for about a year. I absolutely loved it. Do you feel the atmosphere from Austin helped you in your many endeavors, and how so?
FK:I lived in Austin 1980-1993.it was then a paradise of sorts and most of my ‘education’ as to culture and counter culture came from those times. I understood that you could ‘do your own thing’ if you wanted to…and tried hard enough. A large amount of ‘successful’ creative types came from that era and that town.
UVD: I already knew that you have had quite a prolific career already, but did not know about some of the other companies you have collaborated with. Would you mind telling us about how the collaborations with folks like Nike, Oakley, or MTV came about? And even getting to design posters for the Beastie Boys and Red Hot Chili Peppers?
FK:Well, posters and music-related stuff was my stock in trade in the 80’s and 90’s. I got pretty popular and naturally, all the larger corporate work came looking for stuff they could use to relate their products to the youth market. I still do ‘commercial’ work, it pays very well and, usually, I have a free hand and little interference.
UVD: Who have been your major influences that helped influence you the most?
FK:Impossible to define. Everything I guess. My ‘influences’ come from all possible places. I suppose it would be better to deconstruct it item by item, its al been so varied.
UVD: What was it like working in conjunction with Sanrio to design a Hello Kitty figure?
FK:Effortless. The figure came via KidRobot, with which I have a perfect relationship, and everything got approved instantly.
UVD: I realize that I have asked specifically about some of your designs, are there some that I did not ask about that you wish to take a moment to talk about?
FK:Well, there have literally been thousands of pieces over the last 30 odd years, in many different ‘scenes’ and genres and so on. So, it is impossible for me to focus on one thing. In effect, the entire experience is the actual ‘work’ I guess. The independence.
UVD: After searching Google for a little bit for more of your work I came across a piece you did with Amanda Visell for SDCC. How did that collaboration come about in what ended up being a pretty cool “Wood Labbit”? And are there any other artists that you have worked with or look forward to working with that come to mind?
FK:I got to know Amanda through the toy scene, and really like her stuff. So, when Kidrobot asked me for a-list of people that I would like to do their versions of the Labbit, she was on top. I have collaborated with a lot of other artist and designers; it is usually fun and easy.
UVD: Are there any future projects that you wish to discuss for the reader to keep their eyes open for in the upcoming future?
FK:There are some new Ultraviolence busts in the next couple of years that should be pretty cool. I will be doing more customs and paintings this winter. The usual things.
UVD: What would your encouragements/suggestions be for artists/designers that are either just starting out or who are trying to get themselves noticed?
FK: Work every day, be patient and find a larger context or scene to be part of. If you work in isolation it is very difficult for people to notice your work.
UVD: Thank you for taking the time to talk to us. Are there any parting words you wish to say to the reader?
FK:Life is short, have fun.
Thank you again for your time. It is greatly appreciated.