Bogan Caps is an exciting new maker from Australia, who entered the scene in late 2021 with some fascinating debut sculpts. Every once in a while, we are fortunate to find a promising maker with a background in art, who becomes a fan of the traditional artisan keycap art form, is both intrigued by and seeks out the body of work that preceded them, and ultimately applies their newfound passion to creating their own art in this space. We chat with Arium to learn about his creative influences, how he discovered the hobby, and what inspired him to launch Bogan Caps to bring us his wonderful resin creations.
Ever since the start of covid like everyone, I’ve spent a lot more time at my computer and designing from home. I started gaming, got a new computer, chair, mouse(s), and started getting fancy with it. Which led me to mechanical keyboards. And as a long time tinkerer, almost immediately building my own. Yada yada yada a year and a half later I found out about artisans on a keyboard discord somewhere maybe OwlLabs? Of the first few I saw for sale after going deep as I tend to do, among a handful of makers' work I vibed with Rubrehose, cos it’s dope!
I immediately joined the Rubrehose server and jumped into a voice call that day where I met a small crew of homies who to this day are among my closest in the hobby. That server was and still is in many ways a home base for me, and where I eventually got to know and love other makers and collectors. Spending many a night (and bottle) picking people's brains for stories about where they started in the hobby, their favorite works, who made them, how they released them (something i find cool about the past), easter eggs, and little known facts, all cherished morsels for me. I found myself smitten with the history of the hobby before I had any semblance of a collection.
Those aforementioned miscreants for sure originally spurred me on. As we got to know each other and share our hobbies and backgrounds, they thought it would be cool for me to progress from street art and toy making/sculpting to caps. So over a few months and a lot of DMs to Chad, Frank, Lisa, and eventually Liam, and scouring old Geekhack threads, I started giving it serious thought.
I’ve been part of a whole bunch of artistic communities in the past; from writing indie comics, sculpting custom toys, aquascaping competitions, graff/street art, and a few local exhibitions of my paintings and sculpture. But none of them (other than graff), have as rich or as interesting a social history. In fact the artisan hobby is VERY similar to Graffiti in a LOT of ways chiefly, the history is for the most part an oral history. Passed on and unavoidably flavored as it travels from one passionate custodian to the next. I once heard Frank (Primecaps) talk about the hobby as a ‘fellowship’, and I silently grinned ear to ear. I think it was mostly like that for a long time, as was graffiti in Melbourne.
But times and fashions change, and keycaps like street art, did recently for some time create some hype and attracted collectors repping supreme collabs, and using words like “stonks”. After market values of both caps and NFT chat are rapidly more and more common in artisan discord conversation. The newer financial aspect of the hobby initially reminded me of the yeezy kids prying signs off laneways in Melbourne blessed with an OG marker, to flex on their IG before advertising WTS/WTTF Dior 1’s. And that's ok too probably, Hype after all is just a kind of measurement of interest and passion, and its expressed financialized form is likely a result of the times we live in and what we culturally value; the come-up, and the flex.
Just like fashion, time is somewhat cyclical. The old school often has a comeback. Kids in Melbourne are now trading those anti social hoodies out for cable knits, loose jeans, and black beanies. Not only is the 90’s style returning aesthetically, but the old school heads are out there painting walls again. At 40 years old, my phone has begun ringing again with tags I haven't seen in years. Text’s like “we are fucking up (suburb) drains next wed night from 6, bringing the kids”. With a turn out of almost a dozen middle aged burners, surrounded by a crowd of family friends, and teenage onlookers, absolutely staunching anything the youngins are doing now, cos the old heads kept watching, quietly sketching and adapting.
I feel like this is quite probably going to repeat itself within keycaps too. Well, maybe that’s just my hopes talking. I lament that I maybe wasn't around for the old days that I relish hearing about so much. Sadly I never got to talk to Kudos, and with the current hype train I’ll likely struggle to afford to own a GAF cap, or Binges Hunger to marvel at in hand. But I still feel like I’m here for what could possibly be the most significant historical moment in keycaps' rapid and rich history, its looming renaissance.
I started around early October 2021, Initially I went with adapting characters from some of my old graffiti. But quickly mixed in some comically styled native Aussie animals. From there most of my ideas have really just been a natural progression in terms of subject. But each sculpt is usually centered around a technique I had an idea for or challenge I’ve set for myself (e.g., negative only, or isometric).
MOST of them. I guess im kinda sculpturally minded, so for me personally my wish list is riddled with makers like Binge (Hunger Work Studio), Lisa and Frank (Primecaps), Brewcaps, Kudos (GAF), Chad (Rubrehose/Bad n Booj), Brocaps, Liam's sculptural work (Hello Caps), Booper's (Omniclectic) Keywok and Colonel v2s are dreamboats, there's just so many.
Trouble is that being so late to the game, a lot of this stuff has become unobtainium for me. But there are heaps of online resources so I get to perv. Pretty excited for the v2 of the Hungrkey. I kinda hope to see something like the hungr games come back, and to be able to experience that palpable environment return to the scene first hand. But at the same time, I hope to finally be able to have a tangible chance to own one too. It's a selfish conundrum.
YESSIR!! Chad (Rubrehose) was the first to hook me up with a rough list of stuff I need to buy and helpful tips like: “Remember to make what YOU like”, ”ALWAYS have fun with it”, up to some more technical opinions of my work if I annoyed him enough. He also put me on to old Geekhack threads, which I highly recommend checking out. If the pics are still there, there’s so much to be learned! Via Chad I was lucky enough to meet the dream team, Frank and Lisa of Prime Caps who also became fast family, mentors, and now collaborators. Between the two of them is a seemingly infinite expanse of knowledge, they have literally tried it all, and are somehow still discovering. WIzards, surely. I hope to keep learning from, and working with them as long as they’ll have me.
I also have in the past shamelessly pestered Liam (Hello caps), who was a reliable yardstick for real talk at the time. There’s no beating around the bush with him, I love that. He's a uniquely fantastic window into both history, and the current reality as a maker. His recent Insta stories sharing retrospective processes was also something that was somewhat of a highlight for me for sure. Also local maker Alex from KeyCapital. He’s one of the craziest local shooters of resin (very jelly of his CW’s), and is always around to talk over an idea. Initially helping me choose the right compressor, and a grocery list of stuff and basic advice for casting. Little known fact, I actually did my very first casts at his house, and he helped me with my new cavity design by bringing my ideas to life digitally with immense patience, for Glen to implement into a custom system.
I LOVE sculpting. I could sculpt all day every day and be happy. I also like processes and testing new techniques. I love effects, exporting techniques from other practices I use, and pushing boundaries as much as I can. I probably dislike casting most. But I’m getting over that as best I can. I guess that's why all my stuff is so small-batch. Repetition is not really my jam.
It was a struggle if I’m being honest. I guess I was pressured/encouraged to just do it after giving my first few away to mates to look at. If left to my own devices I’d probably just be considering my first sale now 5-6 months later. TBH I have yet to make a cap I’m 100% proud of, (closest I’ve come is maybe the Curmudgeon). I'm working on balancing that by both revising all my stuff by making small, hopefully unnoticeable revisions to the masters prior to each release, and by just eating a bag of cement and hardening the fuck up.
I’d really love to do some more collaborations eventually with some of my role models, that’s the dream. I’ve used this analogy before but I find myself feeling like I'm finding my feet as a guitarist while jamming out with Page, Plant, Lemmy, & Homme (I guess Chad is Homme). But I have a long way to go perfecting my craft till I’m ready for that. IDK, in reality I guess just continuing the way it’s going would be dope, so far so fun.
Editor's Note: Looks like Arium's dream is already coming to fruition, via an upcoming collaboration with none other than Primecaps. Stay tuned! =)