Matthew Hoffman (You Are Beautiful) Interview

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Matthew Hoffman (You Are Beautiful) Interview

It’s You Are beautiful 3.0 tomorrow evening (02/05/2016). It’s been a huge collaboration since we opened and our arms and minds are always open to whatever it’s custodian Matthew Hoffman is up for.

We thought it’d be a good idea to show you the man behind You Are Beautiful. He has a great story and is so inspiring to know. Hopefully it rubbed off on you reading this interview.

YAB3Photo by Paul Octavious
Hey Matthew, how are you today?
Pretty good!
Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do
I always biff that answer. Recently when I was forced to do an introduction at a meeting I said “I make stickers, I don’t know.” and just trailed off from that. 
I think a lot of us struggle when talking about ourselves, it’s hard! But basically I’ve been making work since 2002 when I moved to Chicago. Back then, I would have never believed I’d be making artwork with a team, full time. It’s really a dream. 
Pretty sure I just wiggled out of giving a real answer…
I love the positive message of your art, where did your outlook come from?
It might be a surprise to the outside world, but for those that know me – I’m more of a realist than an optimist. Or even a positive pessimist. Hope for the best, plan for the worst. To be honest, life can be really hard & hit you with all sorts of unfair stuff. I’ve always made work to protest that, to be such a force of positivity, it’ll hopefully knock negativity on it’s ass.
I’ve kind of always seen this message as my protest song. I decided a long time ago that there’s enough negativity in this world, I’m not going to add to it.
YABYou Are Beautiful Sticker by Jenna Blazevich – @vichcraft
YAB has gone from strength to strength over the last few years, what have you been doing to grow this idea?
I really give all the credit to the community. I think the strength of the message is how open & inclusive it is. It’s for everyone and anyone (literally). There’s no demographic – everyone deserves to hear it. 
 
It also keeps going/giving every time someone shares a sticker. Someone sees a sticker, enjoys an interaction or a moment, looks up what it’s about, gets their own stickers, and the chain of positivity repeats. It’s a message people love to share.
I love how collaborative you are with your work. Seeing so many different interpretations of your message must fill you with pride. What gave you the idea to create these group shows?
It’s a funny story. We’ve always had a PO Box and email, where people send in photos of stickers they’ve come across. In 2004, I received an email from Jacob and his friends. They went to a bridge overpass in San Francisco with party streamers & spelled out You Are Beautiful. They sent me a copy of the Bay Area Paper, where it made the front page. I was blown away.
 
It’s really cool to see how people add their voice to the message, and see what their interpretation is. Things always happen with collaboration that you could have never done on your own.
Designers and Artists have been at war for thousands of years yet you seem to successfully have a foot in both camps, what s your opinion of this? Do you consider yourself one or the other?
Why can’t we all just get along? I say that light heartedly, and also rather seriously. I just call myself a custodian of the project. I just keep the lights on and the floors clean. 
What side do you prefer? The everyday Clark Kent, fighting design crime one letterhead at a time or the Artist Superman, making the art world a safer place?
I prefer to work with people that are inspiring & engaging, simply put – just good people. And I prefer to do things that make me laugh out loud. I love a good prank, or “dad jokes”. So, whatever arena it’s in – that’s what I look for. (The good people thing, not necessarily dad jokes).
 
I also think more and more, things are going to blend so deeply in the future, it’ll be even harder to pick out differences. Some day, hopefully we can all be seen as humans – better yet, all equal humans.
YAB2You Are Beautiful by JC Rivera – @jcrivera
What do relationships with galleries mean to You Are Beautiful?
I’d say, pretty much the same thing as the answer above. Great people growing together, having fun, and helping each other to carve out a living. Knowing that it’s a two way street, and you’re both doing each other a favor.
 
Billy & Zissou are just great guys. They’re highly proficient artists in their own right, and are working hard to foster a community of artists & designers (young humans). They’re doing a good thing for the right reason. 
 
That might not be able to be said as the intention for all galleries or people. 
You have been participating in craft fairs recently, how effective are the fairs in growing your brand awareness?
We get so many people who excitedly rush up to the booth, and say “I’ve seen these stickers everywhere. What is this about?” It gives us a moment to talk about it. We chat about the history (100 sticker in 2002 in Chicago, to now 2.5 million stickers in 90+ languages around the globe. Large scale installations in Chicago & beyond, etc.) 
 
But I prefer to just say “How did you feel when you saw it? That’s what it’s about.”
What are your plans for the future? More YAB? More positive messages for your fellow Chicagoans?
You bet. We’re always working on making more public art. That’s my favorite thing. To put up a big piece, that says something powerful, and anyone can walk by it. Who knows what’ll happen next – but hopefully it makes their day a little better.
 
But I’m always trying to keep it fresh, reinvent & find unexpected ways to interact with people. They’re not content, and I’m not content to just do the same thing all the time. So I’ll keep experimenting, and find ways to keep me & others laughing.
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