We can't remember when, but we stumbled onto Brooklyn Bunny, which has a live web cam of a real Brooklyn bunny named Roebling. Roebling had us at "hippity-hop." We spoke to one of Roebling's owners, Kevin Dresser, who is also designer at Dresser Johnson with partner Katie Johnson.
How did you decide to make a website tracking the movements of Roebling, the white Dwarf Hotot?
In February 2005 we lost our former pet bunny named Bun. We were very sad. We live and work in the same place and we always had Bun around with us. He really helped us through the day. Well, after his death, instead of running out and trying to replacing him with another bunny, we thought it might be nice to start a rabbit sitting service. We figured that this kind of business could actually work in New York City. So, the idea of a webcam sprouted from that. We thought that clients could check in on their bunny while they were away.
So, halfway through setting the website up, we received and email from a friend that said there was a bunny up for adoption. The veterinarian that had the rabbit offered to bring him over for a weekend test drive. So, Roebling showed up and that's how it all started. We nixed the rabbit sitting idea and Brooklyn Bunny : Live Bunny Cam was born.
And the logo is wonderful - did you always think of the Brooklyn Bridge's arches as being hare-like?
Well thank you. I really had so much fun making the logo. I had never thought of the Brooklyn Bridge as "hare-like." I was at my desk thinking of ideas for the Brooklyn Bunny logo in my head and a few minutes into deep thought, it hit me, "The Brooklyn Bridge's negative spaces are like rabbit ears!" It was such a funny moment. The first few days of sketching the logo, I was just smiling and giggling as it was coming to fruition. I recently visited DUMBO and was surprised at how my view of the Brooklyn Bridge has changed since the logo was made. The massive, heavy, masterpiece of civil engineering that once made me feel like a small dot standing in awe of it's presence, now just looks like big rabbit ears. Pretty hilarious.
Have you owned other pets in the city?
No. Just rabbits.
How is being a rabbit owner in New York?
It's fun. I was originally a cat guy. I didn't even pet a rabbit until I met Kate. She had "Bun" when I met her. I soon realized how perfect a rabbit was for our lifestyle. We live and work from the same place and we work a alot. So, we don't have to take a rabbit out for walks. And, a rabbit won't jump on your desk or keyboard like a cat. At least, ours doesn't.
Most people think its odd to own a pet rabbit. I guess people are so used to dogs and cats here. People think that rabbits just sit around all day because that's how they see them in pet stores or in cages all the time. It's such a stereotype. What people don't realize it that bunnies have unique personalities and they are very social animals.
We recently discovered a book called "Stories Rabbits Tell" from Lantern Books. It discusses rabbits in depth and how people view them. I recently emailed a blogger that took a photo of a domestic bunny loose on a Brooklyn Street. The blog said something like, "here's proof that there are rabbits in Brooklyn." Even though I do not like to be preachy, I had to email him to tell him this was a domestic rabbit and not a wild rabbit. This is a huge problem after Easter. People buy pet rabbits and then just dump them in a park a few months later thinking they can survive. It's awful.
Roebling has some pretty nice accessories - does he enjoy fine design?
He loves fine design. Well, we love design and we think he appreciates it. The biggest hit with Roebling and our former bunny, Bun is the Interface Flor modular carpet that you see on the cams. Since rabbits are lagomorphs, they have fur on the bottom of their feet. So, the carpet allows them to dash very fast without losing traction. Our loft has a long stretch that we call the "Brooklyn Bunway". Roebling has had some fantastic performances on the Bunway.
It's shard to capture these moments on the cams because he is so fast. Also, we can move the carpet tiles around so Roebling can explore new parts of the loft. He gets really excited when we pick up and move the carpet tiles around.
How long have you been working as designers?
I have since 1997 and Kate since 1995.
What do you work on/what kind of projects do you enjoy?
Our situation is perfect. We are both graphic designers, yet we both specialize in different aspects of design. Kate designs exhibition identities, graphics and printed matter for such clients as The Museum of Modern Art and the Smithsonian's, Museum of the American Indian. I design digital fonts, icons, lettering and do some illustration work. I do a lot of logo restoration work. That is when someone wants to either clean-up or update their identity. I do this
for a lot of magazines, newspapers and corporate clients.
We treat every project the same. Whether it be an icon designed for a chart in a magazine or an identity for a grand exhibition at a museum.
It's funny, we enjoyed most of our projects. We love when a client like The Gap asks us to draw graffiti for them or when a newspaper in the Yucatan asks us to redraw their original masthead from the 1920's. It's such a broad range but all related because Dresser Johnson really focuses on type, lettering and font design.
Tell us more about your project where you painted abandoned, rusted cars on city streets.
I consider this work my unofficial Master Degree in Art since I do not have a college degree. I guess my work as a graffiti artist (pre-derelict vehicles) is my unofficial Bachelor Degree. Also, people always talk about underground art. I feel like this series of derelict vehicles is "super underground". Most of the cars existed for only a few days and not many people could even view the work. Iwas never interested in showing the work in galleries. This art is
most pure when it is outside in it's natural habitat. That to me is true underground art.
I started doing street art as a graffiti artist in the early 90s. Mostly in Brooklyn. So, all of my work was with a spray can. I had reached a point where I wanted to expand my art beyond just tagging my name around. I always found myself deep in Brooklyn and in not-so-great neighborhoods. So, derelict vehicles were a common sight. Their
mysterious landings on the streets or vacant lots was intriguing to me. At this point in my life, I had started a career designing fonts at The Hoefler Type Foundry, now Hoefler + Frere-Jones. There, I discovered antiquarian type books that displayed moveable (letterpress) type. Some of the books would display moveable type patterns as well. So, this seemed a perfect visual progression from painting graffiti-style letters to painting patterns. Also, I never
painted with a paintbrush before. That was the challenge I wanted. Also, painting on canvas was foreign to me, so I first hit the subway platforms and painted patterns on the blank advertising slots where the MTA wheatpastes movie posters and ad campaigns. Then I spotted a derelict vehicle and thought this was a perfect canvase for my
pattern paintings. That's when it a ll started. The second car I painted was a broken up VW Golf. I painted it and then over the next five weeks, the car was cut up, trash and other random car parts were left in it, it was pushed across the street, then it was flipped upside down. I was so fascinated by the odd life of an abandoned car.
Any good stories from your stint as a security guard at the Guggenheim?
1.) I was working at the Guggenheim SoHo at the entrance. I see someone approaching me very fast. Suddenly, this woman stopped in front of me and said, "I'm Tina Louise." I said, "You can purchase tickets at that counter over there." Then, it hit me, "Hey, that's 'Ginger' from Gillagan's Island." I would have just let her in. Why not? But, I didn't realize it was her unitl it was too late.
2.) You think that you're mind will always have something to think about. As a guard, standing around for 8 or more hours, there are points where minutes go by and you have absolutely nothing to ponder. You just reach a point where you are just staring into space. That was the hardest part.
3.) I was operating the elevator once at the SoHo Guggenheim and a fire alarm went off. I happened to be stuck in the elevator for a few minutes with model Stephanie Seymour. That was fun. She offered me her cell phone if I wanted to call a friend.
4.) It was a common sight to see visitors of the uptown Guggenheim dropping quarters from the 7th floor to see if they could get them into the pool on the ground floor. They mostly hit the floor or people. One time a guard happened to look up for a second and a penny struck him in the forehead. He had a red circle on his face for a week. Awful.
5.) One time a visitor moved a Carl Andre piece so it wasn't in a square shape. They made it look like a hopscotch board.
6.) Robert Ryman's white on white paintings start to look light blue if you have to guard them for over a year.
7.) Each day you had three breaks. Something like, 15 minutes, 30 minutes, and one hour. One time on a beautiful summer's day, I left on my 30 minute break, went to Central Park and returned an hour and a half later. I got back and my supervisor asked me, "What the hell are you doing?". I told him I couldn't take standing around anymore. He seemed to understand and never said anything about it.
8.) I was at the Guggenheim SoHo for the installation of the first show. One of the galleries was going to be a Joseph Beuys' piece that included an automobile. About 6 art handlers started to push the car into the gallery. Meanwhile, there was this awful grinding noise. I heard someone yell, "STOP!" They turned around to see that the
muffler of the car had just scratched a 20 foot indent into the beautiful new wood floors.
And some NYC favorites:
Favorite subway line:
Does anyone in New York really have "favorite" subway line? Our favorite moment was riding the G train on New Year's, 2000. We were between Lorimer Street and Nassau Avenue when the conductor picked up the microphone and said in his garbled-fuzzy-subway-speaker-way, "Happy New Year."
Favorite pet accessories/food store:
We are a little crazy about spoiling Roebling. We order him hay and specialty grasses from Oxbow Pet Products that are UPS'd to us straight from the plains of Nebraska. When it comes to his decor, we gather stuff from all around. Roebling has Jonthan Adler ceramic food bowls, a nice Japanese ceramic bowl with a flower painted in it. That
one is for special treats like oats. He gets those twice a day. He loves "Hay for Hoppers" from BunnyBytes.com. That is a small cardboard box full of hay. Most hardcore rabbit owners know that local pet stores don't carry the proper items for rabbits. You have to get the good stuff via specialty stores online.
Favorite design store:
Marimekko on the Upper East Side. They are so nice there. Sometimes I call to see if they have some clothes in stock that Kate may like, and they know who I am. Crazy, but so nice to know that people remember you from visiting so much. Maybe, I'm just one of the few guys to actually call the store. Who knows?
Favorite design element in the city:
My favorite building in the city can be seen while driving the Pulaski Bridge between Greenpoint, Brooklyn and Long Island City, Queens. It is a medium size building with no windows on the river side. However, it has this great cluster of upward-facing arrows painted in white that shoot up the building. It can be missed easily because it is camoflaged in the skyline of Manhattan. It is such a distinctive building that provides this great upward energy that
Manhattan represents. I never want to know what the building really is. It's mystery and boldness is best for me from the outer boroughs.
Best/worst gentrification trends in the city:
Chain restaurants showing up everywhere. We moved out of Greenpoint because a Blimpie moved into our building and right below our apartment. Yuck!
Also, I realize now how much parking lots and vacant lots were the great plains of Manhattan. Since the building boom, we have lost our asphalt fields which I truly feel allowed for more fresh air and open space around town.
Favorite place to relax/enjoy the city:
Kate and I used to sneak into the old warehouses in Greenpoint and sit on the edge of a pier on the East River and enjoy sunsets over Manhattan alone with the decrepit buildings. Now, those buildings are mostly gone after that crazy fire recently and that made us very sad. It's so obvious the fire was arson because now everyone is talking about the development of high-rises that will be built there. Crazy.
We also regularly visit Flushing Meadows Park and walk among the remnants of the 1939 and 1964-65 New York World's Fairs. We love that there are time capsules buried in the park from both World's Fairs that contain common objects of those eras.
There's an excellent list of bunny resources at Brooklyn Bunny, from books to products to animal organizations. Brooklyn Bunny also has t-shirts and magnets with the awesome logo you can buy. And, of course, Roebling has a MySpace page.