Mike “m.heisler” Slobot is an artist and a storyteller who created the website Slobots.com to house his creations. Mike has created stories for the characters and added to the back stories of each. Slobots come in versions that are collectible art sculptures, but also paintings and graphic design. As part of our March of the Robots celebration in March, I sat down with Mike Slobot to find out a bit more about his creations and what he envisions in a Slobot world.
Mike, tell us a little bit about yourself and what caused you to create the Slobots?
Well, I have been painting and sculpting most of my life. I was picking up the brush one day to paint, and my wife asked me to draw her a pic of a robot. I did, and as I was looking at it, I thought, “hey, I can build one of those” and thought about what I would need for parts, found them, and built it. That robot triggered an obsession, and I started building robots, soon to become “slobots” that are made out of all sorts of stuff, especially plastics. I like the idea of using plastic, as it is typically not considered robotic, and also because so much is thrown away too.
Robots are a fascinating thing to many people. They can mean just about anything. What do robots and by proxy the Slobots, mean to you?
For me, robots are a means to express something that is intangible. I give the slobots are given life to model the “best” sides of our human personas. My slobots aren’t destructive or bent on world domination. They are nice, caring, and looking out for humanity’s good. I think I model that behavior in robots because a robot has the ability to be strong and weather the storms of life without getting destroyed, for the most part at least.
To be honest, other than being into Star Wars and such, I wasn’t a huge sci-fi fan as a kid. I wasn’t really into comics or anything like that, so the slobots developed their own shape and design sense pretty organically. Most of their look is inspired by the things I make them out of, and I think because I use a lot of stuff that isn’t typically considered “robotic”, they have a unique look. After I had been working on them for a couple of years, I started reading a lot of Isaac Asimov books, and I realized that my slobots tend to obey the Three Laws (or maybe Four, if you follow R. Daneel Olivaw and R. Giskard’s thought frames), so I guess I would align them with that world. I also really like mid century design, and I think that is an influence as well, especially in the use of plastics as main building materials.
You do a lot of painting in addition to the sculpted Slobots, do you have a preference? I would imagine it’s more fun to actually build the robots themselves, but it’s likely easier to paint the pictures and artwork.
I do like to build the slobots, but painting has its moments too. I would like to paint more, especially larger, and have been looking for a way to meld my slobot art with a more abstract expressionist and pop art sensibilities. I really like color, and have always been more about the emotion on the canvas than the actual precision in the work. Building the slobots is different than the way I paint, largely because the slobots are usually really detailed compared to my paintings.
Your Slobots are mostly for sale and they do have a wide variety of price points. I see that the Slobotniks appear to be the cheapest options. Have you ever thought about making actual toys? Or perhaps designer vinyls using some of your designs?
I have worked on a few production designs, and would definitely be interested in doing something like that in future. I have been experimenting with my own resin casts of slobots, three of the first prototypes were in the recent show I did for Kaiju Comrades II in Tokyo. And, yes I have to see the slobots occasionally, as I build them incessantly. Slowly they start to take over the studio and the house, so then I put them up for sale.
Is there a favorite Slobot that you’ve made?
My favorite slobots are the Slodamen and Sloherren. They are a matched set that I made for a show in LA, and I still really love them. I think they are my wife’s favorites too… they just showed at a museum in North Carolina as part of a show focusing on artist made toys, and I was honored that they got really prime placement.
I have piles and piles of old plastic items that I pick up when I am out and around. My wife buys and sells vintage clothing (www.HippieCouture.com), so usually when she goes on the hunt for new stuff, I tend to dig for new slobot parts as well. I frequently see a piece that I really like, some shape that I find inspiring, and I will pick it up. That will be the genesis of a new slobot. Then I start digging through my parts bins looking for the pieces to complete it. I think I have been making them for so long now, that I do sometimes plan ahead looking for a specific part that will match something I have sketched or is in my head.
I actually really like the idea of making slobots that don’t move, however I would like to make them larger. I have a couple of designs ready for some that are human sized, but they would still be statues. I am not against designing the shell for some other firm to actually make into a functioning robot, but when I make a slobot, other than adding lights sometimes, I like that they stand quietly in the background or one shelf. Its like they are patiently watching over what’s going on, waiting for someone to need them to help.
If you’re interested in the Slobots, checking out Mike’s artwork or purchasing some of the art pieces check out his website at Slobots.com and tell them Newton Gimmick sent you. I want to thank Mike Slobot for taking the time to talk with us at InfiniteHollywood.com.