Monday, February 6, 2012

Jeb Kennedy Presents: An Interview with Brian Maddox

Back in July of 2011 I was casually browsing my twitter feed, when I began to see quite a few posts about Kickstarter ( and a certain flying rhino. I had always been a little wary of Kickstarter (mostly because I didn't understand it), but I decided to check the project out anyway. 
       What I found were some images of a very well designed (and very very cool) resin Rhino toy named "Float." I loved the concept and design of the sculpture, but the thing that really sold me was the video that the artist had made explaining his project. Brian Maddox, the mind behind Float, struck me as being both incredibly earnest and very passionate about his project. He wasn't even trying to make a profit, he was just a normal guy that wanted to pursue his dream. I happily put myself down for a donation.
      Over the next few months I began following Brian on twitter (where it turns out he is a very nice guy!), and keeping up with all the updates on the Float figure. Even thought the process ended up taking a bit longer than Brian anticipated, he always kept everyone updated on his progress and I never once doubted that he would create an incredible collectible figure.
       And then in January 2012 I received maybe the coolest package ever:


    Float was everything that I hoped it would be and more. The packaging and stickers were wonderful, and the figure itself was amazingly done.  I honestly cannot speak highly enough about Float, the sculpt is so well done that I cannot resist picking it up and holding it whenever I can. Overall, Float stands out as a perfect example of what Kickstarter can accomplish and I am soooooo glad that I decided to participate.

   Being an incredibly nice human being, Brian Maddox recently agreed to let me ask him a few questions about Float and his experience with Kickstarter. Check out the interview below!

What line of work are you in?
I am a Creative Director & designer for a small creative agency in Blacksburg, VA. called NewCity.  There I design and consult for web, mobile, print and brand identity.

Where did the idea for Float come from?
Back in high school I started doodling this little simplistic rhino.  His shape "devolved" over time to a real minimalistic form.  Then, shelved for almost 20 years, he seemed like an ideal shape and something near and dear to be a first step into this new hobby.

Was this your first attempt at sculpting?
No, I sculpted a bit while in school at Savannah College of Art & Design and really enjoyed it. Most of that experience was chipping away at a block of aerated concrete with a chisel and a power drill but I enjoyed the creative flow of making something tangible from nothing. There are a few other prototypes sitting on my desk of potential figures done in sculpey or chavant clay but I knew I wanted to rotocast the sculpt and Float lent itself well to that.

What possessed you to - in addition to working full time - take on such a massive side-project?
I think I always need some creative outlet, and while client work at the office is engaging, it is commissioned work driven by client need and rarely free to creative expression. I remember quite vividly the day I decided to start experimenting with this was after seeing Dave Pressler's 'Angry Clobber Monkey'.  It was probably 5 minutes after that I started researching what went into sculpting and crafting a vinyl toy.  Dave's work still remains one of my favorites.

When did you decided that Kickstarter was the best way to approach this project?
I was getting really good information online and there were some key people who really took some time to give me pointers (notably @valleydweller and @smallstuffpepe) and guide a noob.  However, two years passed and while the path forward got clearer, getting there seemed no closer.  I was juggling a full-time job, family time, working at learning this hobby and doing freelance work to afford all the materials and costs of the trial and error.  It was not moving forward.  Kickstarter was suggested by a friend to pre-sell Float to enable all the materials and equipment to be purchased and speed things forward.  (Coincidentally Kickstarter was founded by fellow Blacksburg'er Yancey Strickler).  But I felt a little guilty about going to all this effort and benefiting from what I saw as a community first effort. This is why I'm committed to sharing all the information I've learned, which I plan to do in a video format.

Was your experience with Kickstarter positive? Would you recommend it to other aspiring toy artists?
Extremely positive.  There were a few artists that cited it as "pan-handling" or "begging" - they are entitled to their opinion and I respectfully disagree.  It enabled me, an unknown, to not only market my product to a larger audience, but also market-test whether my product had any merit.  I kind of hoped that everyone backing the project had a toy in their head they would like to see to fruition and might get it there following along with the highs and lows of my path.  I would recommend Kickstarter in a heartbeat. I also did a write-up of my Kickstarter experience with some tips and advice. (  It is probably not for every project but worked very well for me.

What was the most difficult part of creating Float? Were there many unforeseen hurdles?
Good lord.  Tons, pretty much on a weekly basis it was something new.  Some were welcomed challenges and others were soul crushing.  A few notable hurdles were bubbles in the mold, learning to make a mold properly, wings not holding paint, learning HOW to paint, figuring out gear ratios and motor speed for the rotocaster, and on and on.  Honestly if I had not done Kickstarter and felt indebted to my backers, there were occasions that I might have given in.  It really helped to have that motivation and I'm thankful for it.  One speed bump of note was a bubble in the final silicone mold right between Float's legs.  You couldn't see it until the first cast was spun and he came out with one sizable testicle.  So every production cast of Float has been 'neutered'.

Do you have any plans for a wide release of Float?
No, no plans right now for a wide release and I plan to limit the total quantity of Float in the world to 150 regardless of color or style variant. 80 of those have been committed via Kickstarter.  Once all the backer rewards are fulfilled I will have some up on my site for sale.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone attempting a similar endeavor, what would it be?
Get connected online.  There is a very supportive community of artists, collectors and enthusiasts willing to help people with initiative and motivation.  Social media has been a great conduit.  Do a lot of the research yourself because there aren't too many situations that someone has not been in before regardless of the medium.  Just ask.  There are some folks out there that are not as tolerant of novice questions but all you can do is be respectful of their time - they may have a good reason.

Now that the Float project is 'basically' finished, do you have any plans for your next toy? Is this something you would like to continue doing?
Yes, the next toy has been conceived, designed and is undergoing refinement.  There are a number of concepts I want to peruse in addition to a few collaborations but this one is leading the pack.  Can't say much more about it yet but I am targeting SDCC. I definitely want keep doing this and build on the successes of Float and learn from the mistakes.


That wraps the interview up! A huge congratulations to Brian on his accomplishment, and thanks so much for opportunity to find out a bit more about this awesome little Rhino!

To find out more about Brian Maddox and Float, you can find them here:

And to discover more oppoprtunities to invest in talented upcoming artists/visionaries, visit Kickstarter.


  1. What a beautiful toy. Brian is a hero.

  2. Great interview! This toy is a designers dream come true!

  3. it was fascinating to read about brian's obstacles and how he didn't let them deter him. i'm super excited to see what toy(s) he comes up with next.