Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: The Fanbase Press staff recently discovered your amazing company at WonderCon and was instantly in love! How would you describe Museum of Robots?
Vicki and Richard Küng: Thank you for the kind words!
Museum of Robots is what happens when a sci-fi fan girl marries a toy robot collector, and they decide to create products that they'd like to have in their own home. Richard has been collecting toy robots for 30 years; Vicki is a lifelong sci-fi fan who got her first robot at age 6.
It's a brand, not an actual museum (more on that later). Our focus is on creating products that have a sense of humor, experiment with interesting materials and design motifs, and are well made. Our products are inspired by our fascination with robots, which to us are the essence of modern and nostalgic: futuristic and retro, technical and playful, functional and entertaining.
BD: As you will soon be celebrating your 10th anniversary as a company, what inspired you to launch Museum of Robots, and how would you describe your experience in working as a dynamic husband-and-wife duo?
VK/RK: Museum of Robots launched as a virtual world museum in 2007, in Second Life. We had visiting artists, exhibits, events and movie nights, robot design competitions – everything you'd expect from a robot museum.
Eventually, we moved into designing real-life products, creating sci-fi and retro-future-inspired home and personal accessories that we’ve manufactured and sold worldwide in retail stores, museum stores, catalogs, and pop culture events including San Diego Comic-Con.
We are both designers by training and have been working together creatively for over 25 years, and we're lucky – we work well together.
It's helpful to have someone to bounce ideas off. It's great to have someone to explain a concept to as you're working it out, and sometimes you have to defend the concept, which makes the work stronger. An in-house devil's advocate is pretty useful to have around.
We also noodle out ideas on our daily dog walk. There is pretty much nothing that can't be improved with a dog around, and that includes sci-fi product design, as it turns out.
BD: Where do you find inspiration for your work?
VK/RK: Well, the vintage toy robot collection is always a good starting point, and we also love mid-century modern design, the retro-future, technology, toys, sci-fi books and movies, vintage cars, Googie architecture, and Disneyland - the resulting mashup is Museum of Robots products.
BD: Your products span a multitude of uses, ranging from housewares to jewelry. What leads you to determine each new product, including the licensed jewelry that you create and sell?
VK/RK: Ideas start with what we like – that is really the defining factor. We began in wholesale, designing housewares like our Flying Saucer salad bowl, and Rocket Salt & Pepper set, and that went well. Then, we realized that since we were attending conventions (like WonderCon) as "civilians" anyway, we should go where our audience – and out hearts – are.
Speaking directly to our customers led us to create personal accessories – we felt the rocketship and ray gun jewelry market was underserved. Joke, but also true. We got a great response and have added products in that range. Vicki has a background in fashion design, so we like to have a sewn product in the collection. And Richard has a background in 3D design, so that helps our design concepts and experimentation, especially in jewelry.
We are fortunate in that studios have approached us with licensing opportunities based on the products they've seen in our booth, like the Penny Dreadful home accessories license. That relationship started with a pillow they saw in San Diego, so you never know where these conversations might lead.
The Terminator jewelry license happened much the same way. It's rewarding when people see our products and understand the thought we put into our design, and the effort we take to make sure things are high quality.
BD: You will soon be exhibiting at San Diego Comic-Con later this month. What kinds of items will attendees have a chance to see at your booth?
VK/RK: San Diego Comic-Con – our favorite week of the year! This year, we have the full Terminator jewelry collection available and a few things that you can only see at SDCC – like our sterling silver jewelry. We worked with an incredible silversmith – who we met at a con, of course – who created a series of silver pendants for us: beautiful ray guns and rockets inlaid with semi-precious stones. We also have mystery boxes filled with products that we are, sadly, retiring. Booth 4634, please stop by and say hello!
BD: Can you give us the inside scoop on any upcoming Museum of Robots projects in the works?
VK/RK: What I can share is our new Patreon – we are going back to our roots and creating a virtual museum. This time, it's not in a virtual world, but online, and we’ll talk about robots, manufacturing and selling products, and the world of conventions. The topic might be vintage toy robots, an introduction to a robot artist, a how-to idea for small manufacturers, or a tip about conventions that we learned the hard way (so you don’t have to).
People often ask if there is a real Museum of Robots, and we always say not yet, we've started with the gift shop; however, we have a monthly Patreon level that will support a real museum. For just 36 payments of $2,777,777.78, we will build an actual Museum of Robots, located in the North American city of the patron's choosing. This award includes naming rights, so it makes a great gift for the robot lover who has everything, except a museum.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find out more about your work?
VK/RK: Website: https://museumofrobots.com/
San Diego Comic-Con: Booth 4634
Thank you for the chance to chat about Museum of Robots and our work!