Shannon Rivers on Blending, Urban Vinyl Art Toys and CommunityApr.26.2016
#OverACupOfTealeaves: At TEALEAVES we believe that the best “condiment” to any cup of TEALEAVES is a story to tell and wisdom to share. Our team flew out to Las Vegas to meet up with Shannon Rivers, and here is what we learned.
Shannon Rivers, former Specialty Manager at Kidrobot, knows that there’s always a kid in each of us. And encouraging that kid to emerge, instead of remaining hidden, is his job. Kidrobot creates collector’s items that balance between conceptual toy and sculptural art, serving as an expressive medium from international fashion designers to street-art gurus. From Munny to Dunny, each art toy is a three-dimensional canvas for self expression.
See Shannon River’s approach to creating a community of artists and self-expressionists— after all, art doesn’t need to be so serious.
#OverACupOfTealeaves with Shannon Rivers
Kidrobot Specialty Manager
TEALEAVES: Can you start off by telling us a little more about Kidrobot?
Rivers: Absolutely. Kidrobot is a art toy company. We work with artists. We collaborate with them on whatever it is that their imagination would like to see. We bring their ideas to life in a 3 dimensional, plastic way. Those artists are people from graffiti artists, graphic designers, fashion designers. Working with everybody you’ve ever heard of, and some people you haven’t. What we want to do is infuse a little bit of fun, a little bit of their take on the world. This excitement, this passion, this joy of making things. That’s what Kidrobot does.
TEALEAVES: Do you think with us there’s a difference between a toy and art, as well as an art toy?
Rivers: I think art is what we do as humans when we have our basic needs met. It’s the kind of thing that it elevates us, and it gives us something beyond just the here and the now. It’s a leisure. It’s non-essential. Toys too. I think, to a certain degree, art are toys for adults, and art toys are one of those things where we can bring art to toys and make it okay for somebody who maybe shouldn’t be playing with toys anymore, to play with toys, to have that outlet for a little bit of their own creativity. It’s a way of expressing who you are and what you love. I see that too in TEALEAVES, right? You can have any old cup of tea, but when you really want something that is more experiential, that has nuance and flavor, and lots of different layers to what’s going on, that’s what we seek out.
TEALEAVES: Kidrobot is known for fostering a tight-knit community of creators. Can you tell us more about that?
Rivers: I think Kidrobot gets a lot of credit for creating the community. But this community already existed. These people have always wanted to share with each other, with the world at large, their own views, their own feelings. All that we do is give them an avenue. What Kidrobot does is give people something that they can coalesce around. That passion is within these people and we just give them a way of connecting around it. We stand by a lot of our partners. We give them that ability to have people connect in meaningful ways. We give them the excuse, they’ve always wanted to do it they didn’t have something to talk about so we give them something to talk about. It’s not so much that Kidrobot creates the community as much as Kidrobot gives the community something to work around. There is a give and take conversation that these people get into over, “what’s your favorite design?”, “did you see this new thing?”, “what do you think you’re going to do tomorrow?”
Really, that’s the conversations that these people have always wanted to have, it’s just that Kidrobot gives them that one little thing that they can start with, and from there it’s themselves that take it further.
TEALEAVES: Community, collaboration, creativity is a core part of TEALEAVES. And we see the same parallels in Kidrobot.
Rivers: Right. I think creativity is one of the greatest parallels between TEALEAVES and Kidrobot. You guys are excited to try new things, and we want to try new things. It’s the unheard of. The kinds of things where you take a few, disparate threads and pull them together. It’s our unique abilities to take random stuff, jam it together, and come up with something that no one’s ever come up with before that is unique and innovative.
I also think that there’s a commitment to quality. We will continuously refine whatever we are doing to make sure that that experience for the consumers, for everybody involved, is the very best it can be. Even if we have to go back 5, 6 times to redo it to get it just right. There is no such thing as good enough. How can we elevate this? This might be okay for now, but tomorrow somebody else can come along and do that. What can we do to continuously improve and make ourselves better, make our products better? I think it’s that constantly trying to better ourselves that I see in so many of our collaboration partners, but especially with TEALEAVES.
· On Tea & TEALEAVES·
TEALEAVES: What’s your favorite type of tea that you enjoy drinking?
Rivers: I like oolong tea. It’s one of those things where what I like about it, is that it’s in between a lot of different things. It’s sort of like Kidrobot in what we do is span the sort of “very serious adult” art where very intense people are there, and toys which are completely frivolous, we melt the two of them and it’s sort of like how oolong is in between a lot of these different teas and, well, I’ll also say that my heritage, I enjoy it because it’s from my people in Taiwan, like “yay! Hooray Taiwan!” It’s a home grown kind of thing and that’s awesome.
TEALEAVES: Of the two TEALEAVES blends that you’ve tried, would you happen to have a favorite?
Rivers: I wish I could say I did, but it’s one of those things where there’s a favorite tea for a specific moment. The Relax blend is exactly what I need at the end of the day, when I need to unwind. You get all wound up with the contagious enthusiasm that is Kidrobot toys and the mind circles and it’s nice to be able to decompress. Then again, sometimes you are looking for a little bit of a spice in your life, and that’s where Monsoon Chai is amazing. It’s…you’ve got to try it yourself, I couldn’t possibly put it into words what Monsoon Chai is. Then again, there’s the the Tencha High Energy Matcha. I love the color of it, the aroma of it, the froth that comes off of whisking in matcha. There’s a little bit of the heritage of what matcha. It’s very experiential; you feel like you might just be a shogun somewhere when you’re drinking it. It transports you. I love that about it.
Honestly, there is no favorite tea because it depends on what time of day it is, there’s something perfect for that time.
TEALEAVES: That’s a great entrance to one last question.
Rivers: Just one?
TEALEAVES: Would you happen to have had a fond memory of tea?
Rivers: Before my wife and I were married we went to Taiwan. We had been driving all day long, visiting various different places, and one of the last stops we went to was a family-owned tea plantation. They had been there for around eleven generations. To be able to go to this little place, where we turned around one of the bends in the road and there it was, with tea fields in the the background. An amazing, centuries-old house where this family had been crafting tea for generations and generations.
They were so welcoming and the tea was so amazing. It was just a picture-perfect moment of “we’ve been traveling all day here”. From the fragrance of the jasmine that was hanging over the entryway to the architecture of the building to that tea— it calmed us down all at once, but at the same time there was energy. This is the place that whenever I have oolong, that’s where it transports me back to. It’s that memory, that entire scene, just unfolds in my head, with that floral aroma…