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Owner of Internet’s weirdest store also gives Internet’s weirdest interviews

Brad Troemel’s Etsy shop is full of strange works of art. His interviews may just be art, too.


Lauren Rae Orsini

Internet Culture

If you need a taco with a lock on it or expired food as chair decor, each priced in the affordable $40 to $60 range, look no further than Brad Troemel’s unique Etsy shop.

Since June 7, the professor and conceptual artist has used Etsy to sell bizarre juxtapositions of everyday objects as a commentary on … well, we’re not sure. But where we’re confused, others are completely in on the joke. The shop has gotten mentions from Gawker and the Huffington Post, and some of the items are going viral on Tumblr with more than 7,000 notes.

And we have to admit, Troemel really knows how to sell a product. Here’s the description for his $45 Slim Jim and Snowballs decoration:

“Yummy the perfect two chair decoration can finally be yours for a historically low price of $25.
You’re going to want to educate your grandchildren and give this to them when you enter your twilight years so that they too may one day give the gift of chair decor to their offspring.”

We had to ask: is this some kind of joke? In return, the artist offered us another creation—in the form of his responses. We’re not ones to tamper with works of art, so we’ve left his answers uncut below.

Daily Dot: Your products seem incredibly useless, but you’ve made 52 sales. Have you gotten in touch with any of your customers to see why they bought these things from you? If not, could you speculate?

“BSTJ Voluptuous Victory (within prideful reflection) Interview [hosted by Ty—- Ch—] (2012) Hey Lauren first I’d like to thank you and everyone at Etsy for making this organic little experiment such a wild success. [Fumbles with e-cigarette, puts it out in a fruit cocktail nonchalantly with style and comfort easily] With the sweat of my brow I’ve turned a little dream nestled in my bosom into a global empire of unprecedented scale, environmental sustainability, and quality. [Looks over shoulder, someone deletes their own Facebook comment in some thread hurriedly because they get worried how it will look “that post has a lot of likes so you don’t want to be too public on this one” he thinks to himself] A little business secret I’ve kept to myself is that I believe in a credo of (e)quality: this has a triple meaning so be very careful: (1) it references Electronic commerce, commonly known as e-commerce or e-comm, is the buying and selling of products or services over electronic systems such as the Internet and other computer networks. [Laughter] Electronic commerce draws on such technologies as electronic funds transfer, supply chain management, Internet marketing, online transaction processing, electronic data interchange (EDI), inventory management systems, and automated data collection systems. Modern electronic commerce typically uses the World Wide Web at least at one point in the transaction’s life-cycle, although it may encompass a wider range of technologies such as e-mail, mobile devices and telephones as well.

  • Electronic commerce is generally considered to be the sales aspect of e-business. It also consists of the exchange of data to facilitate the financing and payment aspects of business transactions.

E-commerce can be divided into:

  • E-tailing or “virtual storefronts” on Web sites with online catalogs, sometimes gathered into a “virtual mall” [Flawless delivery from a zone of confidence]
  • The gathering and use of demographic data through Web contacts
  • Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), the business-to-business exchange of data
  • E-mail and fax and their use as media for reaching prospects and established customers (for example, with newsletters)
  • Business-to-business buying and selling
  • The security of business transactions

(2) Equality Across America (3) Quality in business, engineering [Polite and sincere laughter] and manufacturing has a pragmatic interpretation as the non-inferiority or superiority of something; it is also defined as fitness for purpose. Quality is a perceptual, [Flawless accent doubly] conditional and somewhat subjective attribute and may be understood differently by different people. Consumers may focus on the specification quality of a product/service, or how it compares to competitors in the marketplace. Producers might measure the conformance quality, or degree to which the product/service was produced correctly. Support personnel may measure quality in the degree that a product is reliable, maintainable, or sustainable.

There are five aspects of quality in a business context:

  1. Producing – providing something. [This is a Daily Dot exclusive, hosted by Ty—- Ch—]
  2. Checking – confirming that [Laughter] something has been done correctly.
  3. Quality Control – controlling a process to ensure that the outcomes are predictable.
  4. Quality Management – directing an organisation so that it optimises its performance through analysis and improvement.
  5. Quality Assurance – obtaining confidence that a product or service will be satisfactory. (Normally performed by a purchaser)”

DD: I discovered you (extremely late) through Tumblr where you seem to be a viral hit among the network’s young crowd. What do you think about the way your items resonate with youth culture, especially since the Huffington Post suggested your art makes fun of youth culture?

“Lauren, [looks at floor, looks up acceptingly full of hope and interest] I’m disappointed by your lateness, thankfully you were able to abort your ignorance before it was too late! [Crowd cheers outrageous, chanting ensues as a hurried collective whisper “Free-dom-Pros-per-it-y-Un-der-stand-ing” throughout the interview from hence forth]. The key to a successful relationship with youth markets is to listen often, and speak rarely though with great confidence. Some virtual closets might be 1,000 Reblogged shoes wide, but the pride of interacting with those interchangeable items means nothing compared to [Chortle] a single Art Smells Why Wait Grab An Unusually Decadent PINE air freshener with a HOTTOPIC pink to black hair extension attached, a single DEAN & DeLuca low calorie organic PARTY popcorn Glass Framed 7 x 9.5 inches w/ Cinna-Berry Car Freshener (Yummy Fun For Forgotten Relatives), a single CUSTOMIZABLE four letter word from Trader Joe’s melatonin spelled out and glued on an Open Source CACTUS (On Demand Production For Fun) Hand, a single DANNY BROWN WHEATGRASS plant (Dormroom Accessories), a single PERFECT chair decoration for two chairs very close together that no one can sit in SLIMJIM threaded through two pink SNOWBALLS coconut, a single WHOLE foods organic Bun with ENTOURAGE pink vanilla candy cigar .. aw man but there’s no mustard Sike yes there is you fun guys, a single LIVE STRONG yellow Hotdog, Pen, and Q-Tip HOLDER / The Exquisite Design You Trust & The Phenomenal Tastes You Grew Up With (Quite Limited), a single Romantic Marshmellow Rose for Dad or Lover (RARE), a single DORITOSLOCOS taco MASTER LOCKED shut (Key Sold Separately) Highly Significant (Consider The Consequences of Tardiness) Listing Stats, a single GOLD HOOP earring and smiling free-range Salami (pro-meat choice fashion accessory for Visual Competitors) Great Conversation Starter, a single ORGANIC STRAWBERRY wafers in MARLBORO box (Competitively Scarce for Free Spirits Only), a single glass framed FIJI exterior as whole foods BATH SALT container (8.5 x 11″) Carelessly Valuable in an Age of Beauty’s Repression, a single penetratingly natural elixir ALOE VERA and Hot Topic washable glitter tattoo (Go from the Friend Zone to the End Zone) Mirror Accessorize, a single framed ROASTED SEAWEED and compositionally correct FLAXSEED stripes (Beautiful Organic Formalism for Home Decor) It’s someone’s birthday, a single customizable ANY EFLUX ESSAY decorated w cactus leaf and zebra cake (OpenSource Theoretical) Fosters Many Dialogues to practice for Handmade, a single NEW HOME DECOR 1- trader joes lemons, hot topic glove, hot topic hair extension, chinese leaves (Inscrutably Unique) 1/1, a single dean & deluca low calorie snack inside Marlboro box w/ Cerebral Palsy Tissue/Organ Kidney Cancer Green Ribbon Glittery Sticker (Ethical) 1/2, a single ECOTOOLS glove wall mount VERVE organic deodorant soap w/ Young Carrot aka Lil Carrot INCENSE holder (Edition 1/1 Unique) indescribably rare, a single MITT ROMNEY floppy disc inside of a 2 pound bag of Organic POPPY seeds (You’re Not Going to Want to Tell your God Son you didn’t buy this), a single GLOW in the dark HEELYs with GRINDPLATE (Extreme Competition Edition) Unique 1/1 (Must Buy For Teen) Useful and Scarce (Size Mens 9), a single GIFT d.i.y RECYCLING BAG- comes pre-equipped with various sustainably empty cardboard boxes – MorningStar Farms, back to Nature, Annie’s, a single I AM HAPPY enlightened nutrition from Whole Foods taped to Open Source incense and Spiritual Holder (Unique as Your Uncle), a single KOMBUCHA (gt dave and tara sitting in a tree) container with Free Range CARROTS and open source MILK (Unique 1/1), a single framed Whole Foods blue BATH SALTS (organic) under plastic covering Great Man Cave Decor for 2012 (Scarce) Buy Now For Family 7×5.5″, a single CLEVELAND cavs LEBRONJAMES school folder full of Countefeit Chinese-Made united states Money (Nba Cares) 1 2 5 10 20 50 100 (Unique) Listing Stats, a single counterfeit DISMAGAZINE counterfeit ADIDAS pants (Cutting Edge) Perfect Fall Gift For Loved Ones (EXTREMELY rare), a single AUTHENTIC black pete Dutch blackface Santa Candy Holder as (Hot Topic) Neon Fishnet hand glove WESC tag included (Pervasively Influential), a single RONNYBROOK farms strawberry drinkable yogurt container holding Whole Foods ground FLAXSEED and Shaun White GUM container attached (Authentic, a single hot topic WIZ KHALIFA wristband around an 8.5 pound ROCK (Tim Taylor Gang or Die) Unique Indeed Stay Thirsty My Friends (Rocks are Organic), a single New FAP NOVELTY SHIRT (Gap Parody) Great Gag Gift for Little Brothers and Zany Uncles, a single INFINITE ADIDASxJogging TSHIRT pink and white and black 2012, a single DERRICK ROSE ADIDAS t shirt Chicago Bulls Injury shattered dreams Goldust (2012), a single a used novel by TAO LIN complete with Organic (Whole Foods) HONEY and oregano (impressive) Unique, a single potently Organic PMS Tea from Whole Foods glued to CHANSEY pog in a coin holder and a STAIND sticker from 2001 (Rare Doesn’t Do it Justice), a single DOUBLESIDED GRIPTAPED SKATEBOARD deck (Irrefutably Rare), a single TEMPORARY STICK and POKE tat (Perfect for growing years) Don’t let today’s party dare turn into tomorrow’s lost job opportunity, a single counterfeit DISMAGAZINE counterfeit ADIDAS hooded sweatshirt for men and women in all sizes (The Secret Adidas), a single MIKES classic HARDMARGARITA and Twisted Trojans, a single EASTBOUND And DOWN Stoner Crab Kit :) Very Rare D.I.Y. Fun For Friends (Just don’t smoke while plastic crab is in there haha) Great Birthday. These items create their own categories: they are not shoes or t-shirts alone, they are identity defining posts. Imagine for a second if you were 16 and went to an art high school and were the first person to show your friend Jogging, or the BSTJ Etsy store through your Tumblr or Twitter? Then you went to art school a couple summers later and showed a couple friends in the freshman dorms and they always remembered you were the one who showed them those posts, those images, those videos, those show fliers? I think these questions answer themselves in some ways. [someone disheveled runs up, they stop in their tracks 5 feet away, much confusion and then a commencement full of mutual respect ensues] We entrust youth with the dreams of our future, and it is with great maturity and pride that infinite success is their responsibility to their own future as well, Lauren. [joyous horns erupt in celebration of BSTJ Voluptuous Victory (within prideful reflection) Interview [hosted by Ty—- Ch—] (2012) Pay Close Attention (P.C.A.)]”

DD: Why put these items in a shop instead of an art gallery?

“I’ve decided to let you and the people at home figure out how to get from an art gallery to a shop! [Interviewer Lauren Orsini gives standing applause, everyone at home immediately downloads and prints out maze and completes them with varying degrees of success, e-mailing friends and close family for cheat codes and passwords]”

DD: How does your shop make a statement about Etsy and the general state of selling handmade items online?

“We agreed not to talk about this, Lauren. [Daily Dot and Troemel agents speak with each other tersely. Interviewer Lauren Orsini gets out of seat and puts hands on hips defiant: “OK, have it your way. I’ll be your journalistic poodle, your Nancy Drew – NO! I refuse. Mr. Troemel, I’m here to ask the tough questions and you’re not getting out of this. Now I’ll ask one more time, How does your shop make a statement about Etsy and the general nation state of selling handmade items online?” [Troemel sips organic whiskey on the rocks, looks up in recognition of virtue] Ha, OK, I had a feeling it would come to this. I knew you weren’t going to resist a juicy little caboose of gossip like this. The truth is I’m a paid employee of Etsy. I’m what’s called a confidential brand operative. My BSTJ project has been paid for by Etsy as a viral marketing campaign. Their intention was for Post Internet artists to look more positively at their service. [Crowd erupts in cheers and hysterical shrieks of happiness. People hold up signs saying things like “Thanks for the honesty!” “I ALWAYS <3’d Etsy!” “Allegiance/Love/Force (A.L.F. For Brad)”. Much prosperity befalls participants] This is my first conceptual marketing work for a company and I’m really pleased with how it’s turned [slow motion] out so far.”*

*Editor’s note: An Etsy spokesperson denied this claim.

DD: What feedback have you gotten on your shop from other people? Other artists? Your students? Any hate mail?

“100% positive across the board. [Cool concert hall: Having fun so often, everyone knows the words, size Small tank top crashes to the floor, everyone looks down: The tank top stands up, gets caught in a tall bike, the person falls over and mediocrely injured. The commercial is over and everyone goes back to the concert. That was 1969, this is 2012. Things like this happen everyday, beauty is found in unforeseen locations. Crowd resumes dancing with the fears of millions]”

Correction: An earlier version of the story incorrectly stated Troemel is a professor at NYU. He is a professor, but not at that school. Troemel preferred not to say where he currently teaches.

Photos via Brad Troemel/Etsy


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