Maker Faire New York: 10,000 Matchbooks Interview

Maker Faire New York: 10,000 Matchbooks Interview
10K Matchbooks 10K Matchbooks 10K Matchbooks

One of the things that makes each Maker Faire so incredible is the wide variety of makers presenting. Creative folks are out there making things you may have never thought about, and they are each so passionate about what they make. We’re merely two days away from the beginning of our second Maker Faire New York, taking place this weekend, September 17 and 18, at the New York Hall of Science in Queens. Next up in our interview series is a gentleman who goes by the name 0h10 M1ke. He’s on a mission (accomplished) to draw portraits in matchbooks and make thousands of new friends along the way.

1. Tell us about your 10,000 Matchbooks project. What inspired you to embark on it, and how many matchbooks have you completed so far?
I got really bored with art and I stopped drawing for about 2 years. When I returned to it, I had develop this single-line style and became more aware of the archaeology regarding location of street art and the sociology of the artists and their collectors. I’d spent years trying to revolutionize the concept of the “takeaway memento”: a keepsake that I could create live for someone on a memorable occasion. It needed to be personal, compact, utilitarian, possibly part of a larger set, signed, and most importantly dated. I had experimented with other ephemera until I realized that there were six bodegas by my apartment that give out blank matchbooks that look like little canvasses, so I started to buy them in packs of 50.

I would draw original illustrations signed and dated, tag the matchbook with my 0H10 logo, and give them all a consecutive serial number. Bodegas were giving them out, I was using them as cards, fliers, dropping them in galleries, bars, cafes, and everywhere I went for years. Everyone who took the chance to open the matchbook and take it was getting a receipt for the smile it hopefully gave them. They were a smash hit, and the art objects themselves became coveted. So I went into DIY factory mode and started making thousands of them, hundreds at a time, and passed them out faster than I could make them. So I started making them live. Then portraiture evolved. I’ve now drawn 5,000 people who lived in Brooklyn and Manhattan in the last two years! I completed matchbook number 10,000 in June on Governor’s Island at Figment. It has been crazy. I just got a commission to draw the Royal Family… psyche! So far, there are 10,004 total.

2. What are some reactions you’ve received from folks you’ve sketched for 10K Matchbooks?
Often, people will say I just blew their mind. Sometimes they say “no thanks,” which is the one that always blows my mind.

Other reactions include:
“I have mine framed in my living room.” “Mine’s above my bed.” “I just lit my last match to light a candle on my birthday.” “I have #34.”

This happened recently:
Sitter: What is this, a magic trick?
0M: Yes, this is the 10,004th time I’ve performed it.

3. How did you hear about Maker Faire and why did you decide to participate?
Nick [Normal] and Becky [Stern] found me drawing portraits on Governor’s Island and invited me to Maker Faire.

10K Matchbooks: Becky and Nick

4. Tell us about yourself. How did you get started making things and who are your inspirations?
They consider me an outsider artist because I never paid tuition at an art school. I remember getting very serious with drawing around age 5. My two favorite things have always been talking to people and drawing. I studied one and practiced the other. Now, I get to be a social worker and a live portrait artist in NYC, son!

My inspirations are: my Grandpa, Jim Borgman (cartoonist for the Cincinnati Enquirer), author Dan Chaon, and Ween.

5. What are some other visual art projects that you’ve done previously? Were they as wide-reaching as 10K Matchbooks?
I stopped drawing for two years, then I started again and haven’t been able to quit. In 2007, I completed The Year of 1000 Drawings, 10K PPL (10,000 drawings of faces) in 2008, 100 collages in 2009, and continued performing L1VEDRAW (digital Wacom live drawing to music as visual projections in 2011 with my band, Comandante Zero, and others. I also serve as maître d’ of Dinner Theatre with TJ Hospodar.

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6. Is 10K Matchbooks strictly a hobby or is it related to your day job?
As a social scientist, in the last 4 years, 10K Matchbooks has granted me 10,000 interactions with people from all over the world who I may not have met. Most of them have walked away with a smile. I think it is aiding me in my goal to help improve the overall human condition.

7. What new idea has inspired you most recently?
Parp is a word created by a little girl in Brooklyn who attends my friend’s drama class. It means when something is too tart or sweet. It has to do with the face you make when you eat something parp. People can also be parp, like a school librarian. She’s parp. I want to start a Kickstarter for this little girl and sell Parp hoodies and bags to raise enough money to pay for her tuition to drama camp next summer as a reward for such amazing linguistic ability!

Also, wearing a fake mustache just below my belly button and calling it a “Gorgeois,” which means that it’s gorgeous but French, so even more so.

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8. What advice would you give to the young makers out there just getting started?
If you think you’ve gone as far as you can, you’ve probably only come halfway! P.S. Everything feels like a failure in the middle.

9. What’s your motto? Favorite tool?
Everything takes longer than you think. Charm.

10. What do you love most about NYC?
After all these years, she loves me back! Finally.

Thanks 0h10 M1ke! Folks, for all the information you need to attend this weekend and join in on the fun, head on over to the Maker Faire New York site.

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I'm a word nerd who loves to geek out on how emerging technology affects the lexicon. I was an editor on the first 40 volumes of MAKE, and I love shining light on the incredible makers in our community. In particular, covering art is my passion — after all, art is the first thing most of us ever made. When not fawning over perfect word choices, I can be found on the nearest mountain, looking for untouched powder fields and ideal alpine lakes.

Contact me at or via @snowgoli.

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