Creative Profile: Richard Upchurch
Love hearing yourself talk? The innovative and entertaining Voice Recorder by Richard Upchurch is a device that is sure to bring out your silliest side. We got the chance to chat with Upchurch recently (sadly, not through Voice Recorders), and we're excited to bring you his witty and oftentimes novel insights.
Where are you from originally and how did the local culture shape you as a designer/maker?
I grew up in Tupelo, MS (birthplace of Elvis). My backyard was the Natchez Trace and as a kid I was free to roam and explore until my mom’s voice came through the pine trees to let me know it was too dark to keep playing ('adult dark') and time for me to come inside. So there was that freedom.
But my dad, an attorney by trade, is a first rate artisan. He loves leather work and I can’t recall the last time I wore a belt that wasn’t made by him. He cuts, tools, and dyes each piece by hand. Custom leather boxes, bracelets, watch bands, belts, and what I would say is his 'prize winner'—a leather checkerboard with dyed cedar pieces for the checkers (built for my mom).
He taught me the joy of figuring it out. Sure you could buy it in the store, but why not see if you can figure out the process, and then create something. Process is where you end up living your life, so why not enjoy getting to understand that system rather than just let someone tell you how it will be.
What initially inspired to make your product?
I wanted my nephew to have the experience of a tape record where you could record your voice, play it back and get all those little happy accidents you get with tape; the sounds of fast forward/ rewind, tape drag, etc. So I decided I’d just build him a gadget that could record his voice with a pitch control knob. He took the recorder to show and tell and his teachers asked if they could buy a few. So I kept making these little gadgets in my apartment.
What is your favorite step in the creation of your product?
Discovery: I love that moment when you’ve figured it out your way, someone else comes along and suggests you try it another way. Then you modify your whole system only to find some other slight variation in process. In the process you find something in which you never intended.
Then you put an object out in the world and it gets used in ways you never imagined. When you have that 'you can do that with it' moment and then you see it get passed on to the next person that finds a new way of seeing it…I mean, that’s beautiful.
What hobbies inspire your designs/products?
1) Since I was a child I loved the record player. Changing the speed control, dragging the record, and while I never will claim to be 'Cut Chemist', I am a sucker for listening to guys who can scratch. I guess that’s a roundabout way of saying I love listening to records.
2) I ride my bike everywhere and in a city like New York, I find inspiration in every crack of the sidewalk.
3) Travel. Other cultures are wildly inspiring.
4) Eating with friends. I love sitting with friends, talking and laughing. Is that hobby?
What is your favorite color?
I’ve been really into blues toward the violets. I mean there is magic in this spectrum depending on light, angle, and sometimes you see what you want to see. Otherwise, I’ll sit in front of a Rothko all day long.
What is your favorite shape and why?
I am in love with the shape of Brancusi’s Bird in Space. That elongated figure is something I think about every day.
What is your favorite texture this season?
Well, fall is just about to break here so I’ll have to get back to you on this. In general, I love the feel of a piece of maple or cherry or any really beautiful wood grain that has been sanded smooth.
What did you see of interest today?
To be honest my day isn’t over, so I hate to say. But I guess for sake of being a good sport, I went out to get a coffee and this neon blue car pulls up at the stop sign with Bob Dylan's 'Like A Rolling Stone' blasting. Just a strange moment knowing that Dylan was writing these tunes a few blocks away on Leroy Street. So I take in the tune, the vibe the driver is feeling, all the people filling the streets, the buildings. It's just a moment.
Also I built these frogs for Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips and sent them to him a few days ago...here is what he came up with...now this is of interest....amazing!
What is your motto?
Recently: Surround yourself with creative, positive, loving people and you’ll find nothing but possibilities.
Thanks and have a great week!