Bent Objects: Interview with Terry Border

Neatoramabot, the Bent Object version by Terry Border - ain't he awesome?

When I came across Terry Border's blog, Bent Objects, way back in 2007, I knew that my days of making funny, amateurish little sculptures out of paperclips were over. There was no point in it anymore - I've met the master. Heck, Terry is to wires as Michelangelo is to marble.

Today, Terry has an excellent new book, Bent Objects: The Secret Life of Everyday Things, published by Running Press, featuring some 70 brilliantly wacky wire creations (I have to say that counting the book's vignettes was actually a tough job - many of 'em are so funny that I lost track of how many I've already counted).

Terry has kindly agreed to provide a copy of a signed and doodled Bent Objects book, as well as an 18-pack of the Bent Object holiday card as prizes to two lucky Neatorama readers (see below on how to win).

It's a pleasure to have him as a guest on today's Neatorama Interview series.

Neatorama: Hi Terry - the book is awesome. Congratulations! Sorry it took so
long to get back to you, but I had to pry it from my toddlers who have
surprisingly strong grips. I was wondering if you could tell us how
Bent Object started?

Terry Border: First of all, I'm glad you like the book. The fact that people are liking it is a relief. After I was finished with my part, my publisher had to carry it through to the end and make it look good. I'm happy to say that they did.

I started a blog so that I could show off some of my wire creations, hoping that I could sell of them. (Plain and simple profit-driven beginnings! ha!) People were liking what I was doing, but much to my surprise they wanted photos of what I was making, and not so much the wire things themselves. I also started adding my screwy humor to the pieces, and again, much to my surprise, people really connected with it. In person, I'm not that entertaining (to put it mildly), but give me some wire and time to think and people like what I do.

Neatorama: These are absolutely hilarious. Where do you get all those ideas?
Or are you just naturally twisted that way?

Terry: I watched too many cartoons as a kid. Also, I've always been the happiest living in my own head, thinking about things.

I'll tell you a secret - a lot of times I'm not trying to be funny at all. I'm just creating the saddest situation I can think of while using a certain object. Sometimes, while I'm photographing a scene, I'm like "Oh man. I've gone too far here. People are gonna see how sick I am, and make me get psychological help." Know what though? Those are always my most popular images. People see them as funny. There are a lot of sick people out there, just like me. Hello out there, all of you sickos!

Neatorama: Please walk us through the process of making one, from idea to the
final photograph. What's the toughest part of making one of these?

Terry: I do this thing at the blog every once and a while when I'll ask people to mention an object for me to work with, then I'll let them vote on which object gets used. A couple of weeks ago, the winner of the polling was Autumn Leaves.


Luckily, it was Autumn, so no problem finding leaves. Then, I tried to think of a situation using leaves that we as people can relate too. I'm scared of heights, so falling was a natural for me. If I was a leaf, I would think that life is pretty good until you fall off the tree. You've had a good year, and now you've developed a beautiful color; you've never looked better. But now your hold on the tree is becoming weaker and weaker. After you're on the ground, you're pretty much mulch, so you really don't want to fall do you?

I then doodle the situation to figure the best poses to show my idea. I picture people in the situation here, and how they would react. How many characters are needed? I want as few as possible, so I can boil the story down to it's most important elements.

What kind of background, what kind of lighting? If I want leaves to be characters, I need to pick ones that I can add arms and legs to and make it look somewhat believable. For example - oak leaves and maple leaves are too intricate. I need to find a simpler leaf.

Then I figure out how to connect wire to the leaf. I tried a couple, and you could see the wire behind the leaf, so I had to add a paper backing so the leaf wasn't as transparent.

Then I cut some small branches and connect them to light stands outside the frame. Try to make things look kinda natural in this one.

Then comes the hanging of the leaves. Autumn leaves easily fall off their branches, so I had to epoxy one of 'em onto the branch. It looks a little funky, but that's how it had to be unless I photoshop a bunch of it, and I don't do that.

I then have the epoxied leaf hanging on to his doomed friend (but in the end, they're both doomed, right?). I adjust their poses after each test shot, while also adjusting the lighting.

After I'm happy with the photo (usually late at night, after everyone else is asleep), I breathe a sigh of relief, have a glass of red, and post it on the blog.

Neatorama: What are some of your favorite Bent Objects?

The Party

Mr. Kiwi Gets Ready for the Beach

Neatorama: What's next for you and Bent Objects?

Terry: Hopefully a narrative book of some kind. I have the story already roughly written. Other than that, I just want to keep making images that get a reaction. I want to surprise people, so now that the book is out, I have to work a little harder at that.


Links: Bent Object | Bent Objects: The Secret Life of Everyday Things


As I mentioned above, Terry has generously agreed to provide two Neatorama readers with excellent prizes (Thanks Terry!). To win, simply provide a caption to this Bent Object vignette below. The funniest one will win a signed and doodled copy of the Bent Object book, and the runner-up will win a 18-pack Bent Object Holiday Card.

I'd Like to Have Coffee With My Breakfast

Contest rules are simple: place your caption in the comment section. One caption per comment, please. You can enter as many as you'd like. Good luck!

Update 11/20/09 - Great entries, guys! Congratulations to guyek who won the main prize:
Quietly, Coffee watched as they drank her offspring. Confident in the knowledge that neither of them would survive the morning.
and Andrew Rice who won the pack of greeting cards:
"This coffee has really got me wired."

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