Creator Spotlight: Matt and Amie Gibson - Pixel Perfect
WELCOME BACK to the next installment in our Rocket Punch Creator Spotlight series! This week, we got the pleasure of sitting down with Matt and Amie Gibson, two Huntsville locals and owners of Pixel Perfect, a company they started to create Perler Bead pixel art for nerds everywhere! What was once a small hobby they both enjoyed under their own roof, Matt and Amie "perfected" their craft into a unique and creative endeavor that they never expected would become such a booming success with the geek and gaming community in North Alabama! Rocket Punch was humbled to get the chance to sit down with them and talk about Pixel Perfect and why they enjoy creating such fantastic pixelated pieces for their fans!
If you would like to listen to the audio version of the interview, or listen to Matt and Amie as special guests on this week's episode of The Rocket Punch Cast, click one of the buttons below. You can also check out more info on the Pixel Perfect on Facebook.
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Rocket Punch: Hello everyone and welcome back to Rocket Punch, I am Seth and I’m extremely excited to be joined with Matt and Amie from Pixel Perfect. They are our creator spotlight right now. We’re gonna sit here and talk a little bit. I’ve got the rest of the Rocket Punch crew in here as well.
Rocket Punch Crew: *Cheer*
RP: Basically we want to talk with Matt and Amie about Pixel Perfect, kind of get the story behind that and kind of celebrate the art and project you guys have built from the ground up. So, as we kind of kick off tell us kind of what is Pixel Perfect? How did it get started and what’s the origin story?
Amie Gibson: We make pixel art out of little plastic beads called Perler beads, melting beads, they have a thousand different names in every country. Mostly focusing on old school video games. We’ve found ways to pixelate newer games. We can even pixelate someones cat, your favorite Mario character. It’s crazy how it started because we were just looking for something crafty to do and it’s one of those things that a lot of people did as kids and we did it for about two years before we really had friends who introduced us to the artist market at the Flying Monkey. We went up there with no expectations, a tiny little card table, we were blown away with the demand for something like this. It was five dollars to set up and I thought “If we could make our five dollars back I’m good,” and we surpassed our goals immediately. It took about a year to get aware of how to manipulate our products and make sure they’re long lasting and they won’t break, and which particular glue to stick the magnets stick on. It’s been a learning process and it’s been really fun through all of it. It started because it was something we loved doing, and that’s the best part. And we enjoy making stuff.
RP: Cool, so when did you all first start?
AG: We first sold at the artist market around late 2013. So we’ve been actively selling almost three years now. We started making 2011.
RP: Ok, what was the first thing you remember making?
AG: Oh man, probably one of the stars from Super Mario Brothers 3. The first big thing I remember making was a boot Mario probably four inches tall. I remember making it and feeling so proud of myself and thinking “that took forever!” I remember the housekeeper bumped it and shattered it. I was devastated. And now I can do one of those in about five minutes now. And that’s the biggest thing that I remember making first.
RP: So, you said you started a little bit early right? And then it later on became a business. So was this initially a hobby or did you start out with the intention of growing this into a business?
AG: No, this was completely a hobby.
Matt Gibson: No, all we wanted to do was to have it pay for itself. And as long as it did that I was having fun.
AG: Not even then, when we first started. We kind of actually dabbled in Etsy a little bit for about six months before. And when we first started selling on Etsy we realized we had been making stuff for a year and we pulled things out and we found out if you don't iron these a particular way they will break, so that was kind of good that we hadn’t sold it. I would have felt really bad if we sold something that would break. We never started it with the intention of selling it. We did it for a while and moved into an apartment and didn’t touch it for six months. We found it one day and thought to start back. One day, someone suggested it but I didn’t think that we could.
RP: Okay, so what was that moment where you it clicked for you to make a living off of this? To make it more of a hobby?
AG: We never steal patterns from other people. We are very adamant about that. But I will say that we look at other peoples Etsy pages for inspiration. And I realized that there is a market for this. This sounds horrible to me, but I would see how they made stuff, and by this point we had established that they can break if you don’t iron them perfectly. I thought “our stuff looks better than this”.
MG: And theirs was over priced.
AG: Overpriced and more money than it was worth. We did the math and if we sold it, we could sell a better quality product for less than what they’re selling it for. And that’s when we tried Etsy and it didn’t go well because of copyright. It didn't flow like we wanted it to. I cannot remember who told me about the artist market at Lo Mill. I don’t remember how I thought of that. I remember being terrified my first day but I wish I could credit that idea to somebody.
RP: And that’s alright, I think finding the right outlet for that is really important. And like you said copyright is something that a lot of people kind of struggle with and what you’re creating is unique and different. It does very strongly, fall into that category as art. It’s something that’s unique to you guys, the technique the pattern that works for you and is made by you. Is that something that comes up a lot? A struggle with copyright?
AG: Not anymore because we’ve researched and companies, like Nintendo, that have the fair use act or the artist policies. That we don’t produce something that they produce. So we are not in competition with them. Its another reason why we like being local and we don’t have any desire to go to Dragon Con or Comic Con. We want to keep it local so it stay easier for us being a little under the radar. With Etsy anyone can flag for copyright. We had a friend who did something from Bobs Burgers, not pixel but something different, and she got flagged for copyright. Even though what she did may not be considered copyright it shouldn’t have been flagged. Etsy online does cause some problems with that, we have done a lot of good research to make sure we know we’re good and we aren’t doing anything illegal or something we’re not supposed to do. It’s another reason we’re big on not stealing other peoples patterns. We know where all of our patterns come from. And if it’s not from the sprite we make it ourselves.
RP: So speaking of challenges what is the biggest challenge that you’ve encountered as far as being a geeky artist?
MG: Keeping up my own nerd credentials. So often I will get asked if we have a particular type of Pokémon and I don’t know what they’re talking about.
AG: Yea, the biggest challenge is not knowing the newest stuff sometimes. But also the demand. The more known we’re becoming around town, Mario was our biggest seller but now it’s very rare if anything Mario related sells because we’ve branched into so many specific categories of nerd-dom. Now it’s the challenge of finding out the right product to bring to a convention. Keeping enough of Dr. Who or of this super hero type because everyone is a little more demanding.
MG: We try to be so diverse with it that it’s impossible to cover every base. Because if you are focusing on one fandom you’re ignoring another.
AG: And some of the challenges are telling people that don’t do it how big the beads are and sometimes they’ll want something really small that’s physically impossible for us. They don’t make them small enough even with the mini beads they have it still can’t happen. And sometimes they don’t understand and can get a little rude. That and people want a lot of suggestions that can be frustrating. Like making human characters from this TV show, we would love to but nobody has asked for them. Any human shading is very hard to translate into pixels. And people get frustrated as to why we haven’t made it before and they want to see what it looks like and want to see it before they buy it. I have to be a bit blunt with people because I can’t just make something for you to see and not buy. I can’t just make it because you think it would look neat. I have to do what is best for us.
RP: So in the inverse of that, what is the most fulfilling part of being able to be a geek artist?
AG: Peoples faces, the way that you guys earlier, people get so excited about it. We had an Oregon Trail canvas and watching an adult approach it with their eyes wide open, “I haven’t seen that in years.” They were so excited, even if they don’t buy anything just to see their expression. And I love watching little kids that can come up and name every Mario thing. All of the antagonists and peoples excitement for something that brings them back to their childhood and nostalgia.
RP: Ok, so specifically you’ve kind of focused your marketing to this are in the South East Alabama area. So what is the most surprising thing you’ve discovered as you create geek art here in the South East United States?
AG: What do you mean, for our business or in general?
RP: Thinking about other area’s of the United States and how so many individuals feel like the West Coast or the North East Coast or those places where geeks tend to congregate for large events would effect you here?
AG: I don’t think people realize how geeky Huntsville is.
MG: Oh, and it’s just getting bigger. It’s insane.
AG: There’s a handful of geeky artists at Lo Mill and at the artists market especially. I don’t want to say we’re one of the first but when we started there weren’t a lot. And people appreciate it so much. Even a guy in a suit will react with “I love Captain America!” I don’t think people realize that being a geek is not exclusive to working at Game Stop. We have the Space and Rocket Center and people lose their minds over everything geeky and I think it gets so discounted.
RP: Okay, so you’ve built this project from the ground up. What advice would you give to someone who had a project in mind that they wanted to pursue.
AG: You have to love it.
AG: You have to love what you’re making because if you don’t at some point it’s going to get old and tiring. You have to prepare. We have been extremely lucky, most businesses don’t make money within the first three to five years. We’ve been extremely lucky that we’ve never not made money. We’ve always made money every single year. But you have to prepare.
MG: There are slow days.
AG: And you can’t get discouraged. You have to think, “Why?” without diving too much. But if you’re not selling you need to find out why. Do I need a better display? Or is there a demand for my product? With someone wanting to sell something for example, you can’t wake up one day and say I want to be an artist and want to sell something. You have to have that spark and that creativity first. And if you don’t and you want to create something, my recommendation is go to artists markets and figure out where you’re going to sell your product and then go there and see what everyone else is doing.
MG: And don’t do that.
AG: Do something different. Do something that no one has done before. If you see something that you like don’t mimic it, make it your own. You have to prepare for losses and you need to be very forgiving of yourself. We’ve thrown stuff away because we’ve thought that it looks awful. To everyone else it looks amazing. You need to take a step back and not be so critical of your work.
RP: Awesome! Well, thank you so much! It has been great to sit down and learn a little bit more about your business. The last question I want to talk about is how can individuals interact with you? Is there an online store front? A way to see you or follow you?
AG: We do have our Etsy, it is linked through our Facebook. The best way to get in contact with us is our Facebook page which is facebook.com/pixelperfectnerds , that is the best way to send us messages about custom orders. We don’t have our pictures up there for personal reasons but if there is anything you want to see we have no problem sending you those. We will show you anything with no obligation, we would send you what the pixelated version would look like if you want to buy it. Etsy is more for our Mario and Pokémon. So we don’t worry about copyright. We also sell at a local video game store called Classic Game Vault on University Drive. They sell more of our specific video game things, magnets and canvases. We are currently in the market for a store front so hopefully we’ll have information for that soon.
MG: And on most weekends you can catch us at the Flying Monkey. That’s Flying Monkey Arts at the Lo Mill, second floor South.
RP: Awesome, well thank you so much. I think the work that you do is fantastic with the utmost quality and the work that you’re doing I hope is inspiring for other individuals who want to make their own geeky art, drawing, pixel art, digital art, whatever they want to do. Hopefully they can be inspired by your story. Thank you guys so much.
AG/MG: Thanks for having us.
RP: And if you want to hear more of Matt and Amie, definitely check out our latests episode of the Rocket Punch Cast, episode 14. Which is going up the same time as this interview. We kick back and talk a little bit about video games over there. So Anything else you guys would like to add before we wrap up?
MG: Go see Batman v. Superman! It’s good!
AG: No matter what, if you want to be creative, be creative. Don’t let anything stop you. On top of this we are actors. If you feel the need to be creative do what you need to do to accomplish that. It is so rewarding to create with you mind and your body. Be inspired.
RP: Thank you so much for joining us. It was a fantastic pleasure. Make sure to keep your ears and eyes, everything locked to rocketpunchgo.com . We’re going to be doing more awesome Creator Spotlights in the future. We’ll follow the future escapades of Pixel Perfect. So thank you Matt and Amie for joining us!
Again, We want to thank Matt and Amie for taking the time from their schedules to come down and chat with us about geek and gaming topics, and, of course, Pixel Perfect! They both put a LOT of hard work into the art they make, so be sure to swing by their Facebook and Etsy pages linked at the top of the page to check out and pick up some of the great pixel art they have available! HINT: They can also do custom orders if you ask real nicely! Plus, don't forget to keep your bookmarks saved onto Rocket Punch to catch all of the awesome creators like Matt and Amie, and all of the latest awesome geek and gaming content!