I’m so excited today to finally share Kate Bingaman-Burt’s new book Obsessive Consumption!! I’m sure you’ve heard about the book already or at least know about Kate’s big on-going project which I’ve talked about before here. I think what Kate does is brilliant and makes us all think about why and how often we are buying stuff. The book is a wonderful collection of three years worth of her quirky line drawings and detailed credit card statements. I thought it would be fun to have Kate do a little q+a about the book:
Can you tell us about your Obsessive Consumption project and how it began?
I came to graduate school with a small amount of credit card debt (prior to school I worked as a graphic designer where I first started my fascination with branding and consumerism and why we buy what we buy) and while I was in graduate school I basically paid my rent, bills and utilities with my teaching assistantship and then lived off of my credit cards. I did this for over three years. Pretty stupid. During this time, I started the brand/project Obsessive Consumption to catalog all of my daily purchases and I would make work inspired from these daily purchases. So I was photographing all of my STUFF and I have the tangible evidence that debt came from magazines, lots of coffee and baked goods, too much vintage and thrift store clothing and merchandise, going to concerts, cheap beer, lots of eating out and lots of money put forth towards art supplies.
At the end of graduate school the total of my debt was eating at me and I was super secretive about it. Ironic, right? Here I am making work about the stuff that I buy and I was too ashamed to talk about it. Too much guilt. I revealed my debt to my friend Ian who was super good with money and as he was looking at my credit card statements he was like – “where are your jewels? your sports car? you don’t have ANYTHING of value to have debt like this!”
And he was right. All of that debt (at that point $20,000) was comprised of little things. It was easy to add another magazine to the pile of magazine when you have resigned mentally that you will just “pay it off later once you get a REAL job.”
so dumb and so easy to do (at least it was for me, unfortunately).
So I started to draw my credit card statements and then in 2006 I started drawing something that I purchased everyday and cataloged the drawings into monthly zines.
You’ve been drawing your purchases for a long time. While looking back through all your old drawings for the book, did you notice any differences between early drawings and later ones? Have the drawings gotten more or less detailed or evolved in any other way over time?
They evolved in a few different ways. First, my style has tightened up quite a bit. I redrew most of the drawings from 2006 and 2007 for the book to match the more refined style that emerged towards the end of 2007/early 2008. The first few years shows a much looser style and a thinner line. I also switched pens around 2008 and started drawing on better paper in 2007. The drawings have always been executed in black pen on white paper, but slight changes make a big deal.
Why did you choose to work with Princeton Architectural Press? How involved were you with the design and production of the book? Can you tell us a little bit about the process of putting it together?
I worked with Princeton when I created the illustrations for Handmade Nation. I really enjoyed working with them and once Handmade Nation wrapped I was asked to submit a proposal for my own book. I sent them a package filled with all of my zines and then a proposal showing different ways my drawings could be represented (color etc). The design process was extremely fun and easy. I had plenty of input and really enjoyed working with the designers and editors. Princeton is a wonderful company.
Is the book curated or is this every one of your drawings? How is the book arranged?
The book has 650 illustrations represented from three years worth of drawings. They were curated a bit. We picked drawings that best told a story and that were also indicative of time passing (ie: holidays, seasons etc). The book is chronological starting on Feb. 5th, 2006 and ending Feb. 5th, 2009. I am still making daily drawings, so I have plenty that have only been published in zine form.
I feel like I know you personally from seeing all the things you now own. Do you ever feel embarrassed by some of your purchases? How many things don’t get drawn? And what is the most embarrassing thing you ever included in your project?
Luckily, I don’t get embarrassed that easily. Also, I don’t think I have ever drawn anything that embarrassing. Me = Boring. Most of my purchase items are pretty mundane. Give me a good receipt and I will be super excited to draw it. I draw one object a day, so a lot of items get edited. When I was photographing ALL of my purchases I didn’t have that luxury of editing. However, even then, I still purchased boring goods.
Most embarrassing drawing for this year was the five dollars that I spent to fail my driver’s test.
When will your obsession end? Is this a life commitment? I know you mentioned that once you paid off all your credit card bills you would stop-is that really true? There will always be bills to pay…
I am out of debt as of two months ago, so the credit card drawings have stopped.
However, I don’t think that I will really change the way that I work too much…the documentation may stop, but it will probably evolve into another project. There is so much rich material in consumer culture. So many emotions. Humor, guilt, sadness…so much more to explore.
Congratulations to Kate for being out of debt! and of course for her awesome book which you should all make your own daily purchase today right here.