If there is one maker that has been a constant and active presence in the artisan community for as long as anyone in the hobby can remember, it is Binge of Hunger Work Studio. From his early hand painted Binge-face Protokeys to the iconic complexity of the Hungrkey, we have seen Binge progressively evolve his sculpting and casting proficiency, and create the well known Hunger Work Studio brand along with his wife WidgiePidge. We catch up with Binge for a brief glimpse into his history as a maker, learn a little about his creative process and inspiration, and which other artisans he admires.
The environment of Geekhack.org around the time of 2012-2013 was very supportive of people going out on a limb and learning a new skill to improve their relationship with the hobby. Folks were learning how to solder or layout PCBs. As a whole there was a huge push for community driven products for the satisfaction of members.
I wanted to experience the fuss with artisans was all about. I had yet to ‘win’ a spot in a sale, and they seemed unobtanium for the price after retail. Also, I felt for the post-retail price of some of the keys (clacks and brocaps averaged $120-$300 USD - a lot for those days) and with the amount of free time I had, it would be an affordable way to learn a new skill instead of the anxiety of raffle/fcfs/market hunt participation.
At the very least I’d like the keycaps I make to somewhat resemble the vision I had for them. With regard to casting I try to use my knowledge to predict how colors will appear in whatever style I try to apply them. Sometimes this process doesn’t yield the expected results, but it yields something interesting. The happy accidents are usually the high point of the experience because there’s something to be learned through keen observation. Sometimes there are mistakes that could easily be avoided if the right kind of planning was involved. Those are fine times, but the unexpected and unwanted outcomes are the least enjoyable.
To be clear it’s not the mistake it’s expectations which can easily let me down. After casting for as long as I have, it’s not a bad thing to have expectations which aren’t entirely met, but it’s painful to see a result which is vastly different and displeasing.
I’m sort of an airhead so most of the creativity happens within my imagination. It’s not a particularly vibrant place but I tend to try and build up a mental image of single pieces or scenes using what I understand about representation. This could be color, emotion, intention, line quality, simple shapes, symbols, or textures. To be honest the list goes on because of how abstract thought-space can be but for me it’s only powerful enough to warrant action if I can clearly establish and identify these thoughts. With age and practice it’s gotten easier and easier to put design elements into this mental space and then from the mental space to drawing or sculpture.
If I’m ever really struggling to have an enjoyable experience with this process I usually turn to a binge of some kind. I’ll deep dive into a book series, exercise, movie, music, TV show, or just walk to get lost. This could go on for days before getting sick of the action or media. That’s usually when I can go back to my thought-space unimpeded.
I have two sculptures which feel like accomplishments. The first is the 2015-2016 sculpt Hunger Key. The key is one of my longest running designs. It came from an original design for a comic book character who embodied limitless hunger!!! With sculpting I gradually started to move more toward characters which were animals or had qualities of animals. Hunger became more like a Gibbon and less human as time moved on, but what makes this figure so interesting is just what was accomplished by making the key. The key is created by using the :~$ynth V1 prototype. Without the Hunger Key I feel as though the project would not have gone as far as it did. There was a goal to make the :~$ynth to assist makers in regular casting up to multi-part encapsulation. There was a lot of assumptions made based on my understanding of mold making and sculpting, but in the end with prototype in hand I was able to create a key which contained 3 unique sculpts within a 4th which fused them all together. This protected the internal sculptures, and made a unique form which was easily recognizable.
From 2016-2017 I was working on a sculpted blank and a successor to the sculpt ‘Earl Esc’. While not as technically interesting as the hunger key this sculpture provided me with more than its fair share of challenges, but it has been very successful in proving the value of a sculpting technique I’d been refining. Small parts of what I learned from making Earl Esc were used to create the Fugthulhu, and I hope a few of those techniques will make their way to Ottersan.
Other sculptures have had similar impacts on improving what we do at HWS; however, these two have taken years of observation, put combinations of those smaller victories to work, and resulted in more cohesive proofs of concept.
Ooph. That’s a big list. I’d rather speak about certain makers because to me a sculpt can only do so much while the creative lead has a strength that usually comes across in their work.
Key Kollectiv - While they entered the scene after me and therefore didn’t inspire me to get into artisans, I feel as if they would have really lit a fire under my ass. Kudos and I have a decent peer relationship which has only improved how I view excellence in craftsmanship. From Snack-Keys and blanks to stylized Grimey characters I feel KK and HWS share a kinship in in objective motivation and vision. I love KeyKollectiv’s entire lineup.
Nightcaps - In the hands of peasants like the rest of us Nightcaps potential would be short lived. I think years of cultivating and investing in moustache economy have altered their creative potential into dimensions beyond my understanding. I’m very fortunate to have been able to work beside them. I love Nightcaps Bombking, Eggface, Fugu
Booper - If there’s one word I could attribute to a successful Booper design it would be Joy. I would also use words like Freedom, Love, and Dedication. In the artist and the work anyone can see very special quantities which charm and inspire. I love Omniclectic’s entire lineup
Coz - I feel Coz and Booper share an understanding in their appreciation for design. Before I even knew much about Coz he gifted me a frame for my keycaps which has been used to display many artisans in our home. Believe it or not this show of care and good will has rubbed off on HWS and I find myself asking the question, “What more can I do to love this project?” I love Coz’s keys with HANDS, like No-esc & Idlekey
Nubbinator - Holy shit. This guy has gotten everything from indifference to extreme hate/love over his designs and I can tell you why. He don’t fly a f#(* to fly f#(*s he f#(*s to fly. It’s hard to describe but the charm in Nubb’s entire lineup is in pure discovery. I love Nubbinator’s entire lineup
Clack - OG and the primary study for my early work. It was never my intention to BE clack or sell clacks, but I always wanted to match his level of thoughtful design and polish. I think I still have a long way to go. I love Clack’s entire lineup
Suited up Keys and Keyforge - If there’s a kinder, more thoughtful, well mannered, artists out there I haven’t met them. I also don’t know many people with the sculpting chops to compare to either of these guys, and that’s why I lumped them together. Every time I look at their work I am reminded of just how much I can improve my fundamentals and just how much I want to improve. I could be dead tired and looking at loss of life, and I’d probably get fired up to do more work just by checking out their sculpt catalogs. SUK - I love Hugo and Patriarch, KeyForge - I love Shishi
Brocaps - Another early casting guru and design madman. Brocaps holds nothing back. With no love for tradition or self imposed restrictions he’s constantly pushing at being a competent artist who can claim originality from derivation or unadulterated original work. His skill in a variety of media and tools makes him a force of nature. I love Brobot v2, Erikpls, and UMAD
Primecaps - How many ways can you shoot a blank? I think Frank and Lisa could entertain me for days with all of the ways. I mean that’s really all I can say. It’s not that they have no body of work for me to sit down and shower with praise, but their body of work is just so vast even when it comes to their most simple productions. Primecaps is partially why Earl Esc made a modern debut. I love Primecaps… caps. They are prime.
There’s more… but I need to finish this up. Next question!
About keyboards? Knowledge about mechanical keyboards changed my office and typing habits for the better. If it wasn’t for this hobby I’d probably be on disability for my hands/wrists. With regard to keycaps? This design space is enormous and it’s in such a compact space. People have found great ways to display these pieces as the art they are, and I can be reminded of all of the community artists who work their asses off just by looking down at my keyboard. They are all doing their best, so at the end of the day what excuse do I have to adorn their works if I’m not doing as much to +1 the world?
I’ve found great support with this community. Feeling full isn’t really easy when your pseudonym is Binge. It’s usually excessive and by the end of it somewhat sickening. If things changed in the hobby the way I felt most comfortable there’d probably be too many extremes. Usually I have to ask myself if something seems too comfortable for me-- I think if this hobby was in any way too comfortable I’d speak out and try to change it.
Be kind and trade fair. You may see some trade strategies work, but if you don’t have the stomach for them just do it at your own pace. Artists do great work, and they really do want their work to be yours. Support them and work toward your goals. If you find you’re supporting folks who aren’t interested in the artists or your goals please question if they’re really worth a deal.