Inside the Artists Studio with Cheri of Bitti Bots!

Hi there! We are so excited to get inside your curious mind we can't take it anymore! Please state your name for our lovely readers and what it is that you do :) 

My name is Cheri Kudja and I make people smile. 

We bet you do! We're smiling right now just looking at your work...Tell us, how did the idea of these adorable Bitti Bots come into fruition?

From a school project. My daughters school was doing their "100th day of school celebration" and decided to have all the kids make a sculpture out of 100 found objects. She wanted to use cereal or rice and I told her no, that's not a found object. She protested and said, "I found it in the pantry". At that moment I knew she needed to be schooled on what found objects are. We hit the streets in our golf cart and found a couple of Altoid tins, some spark plugs, lug nuts, tons of nuts and bolts. She said, "alright I get it but what can I make with that junk". I proceeded to show her different shapes when the image of a robot popped into my head. That is where my idea came from initially.

How would you describe your subject matter?

Everyone loves robots, they are fascinating and all unique. Like evolution of everything, they take on different shapes, sizes, materials, etc. I just give my robots personality and a little bit of me to go with them. 

What themes seem to occur/reoccur when figuring out who to create next?

I have favorites among the art show patrons, like ones with opera glasses as heads, sports related, old vintage cameras, piano players and artist robots, so I do try to please my patrons with ones that are most popular but my found objects are really what dictates my themes. I find things randomly so my lineup of pieces is really dictated by where I go picking, what people are getting rid of that I find at garage sales, etc.  

What research do you do?

I research all my parts if I don't know what they are or when they were made. I try to tell everything I know about the parts in the story that I write that comes with each piece. There is always some little diddy about how I came upon the parts either from jumping out of a car to retrieve a part off the street or finding a little treasure at a garage sale. 

How do you go about finding all these incredible parts?

Ever since I was little I'm always looking down, not because I'm down or sad, just curious about things I find. In my lifetime I've found diamond rings to bent pieces of wire and each one, regardless of its value, is a treasure to me. I was not a deprived child by any means but just had a natural curiosity about what people lose or toss away. I've always saved parts I find, so they are not lost anymore. Plus, I've ALWAYS been fond of garage sales, estate sales, swap meets, flea markets, thrift shops and of course antique stores. So any chance I get, I'm picking a parking lot, a thrift store, or whatever I find when I'm out and about. It's a sort of therapy for me to see what I can find and rescue. Bear in mind however, I only will use parts that can no longer be used for their original purpose, due to damage or ill repair. I would never drill into anything that still has value as it is. I'm breathing new life into the parts I use to make my robots. 

We see you’ve given each Bitti Bot a Date of Birth (DOB)…can you tell us a little bit about that?

Each part I use on its own is just a part. Once I design a robot, it sort of comes to life in my mind and physically in my hand. So to me, that is the date they come into the world and it should be celebrated. To ensure this point is understood, I give each one of my Bitti Bots a heart. The day they are assembled is the DOB.

Describe a real-life situation that inspired you?

Advertising! I love old advertising tins. They told the tale that people wanted to hear to buy their products, to live in this great world, to have all the things they needed in their life. Its how they were educated about how products work, what to be cautious of, etc. This product placement is how this great nation flourished into the world it is today and that fascinates me. The tale old tins tell is remarkable and simple. From the multitude of fonts and images captured on old vintage tins to the composition of the metal used to make them I'm in love with them all. 

Name something you love and why.

Besides robots, antiques, it would be recycling. Finding new ways to keep things out of landfills. I make a very tiny difference but its something. 

What's the best piece of advice you've been given?

Do what makes you happy, the rest will fall into place.

What type of creative patterns, routines or rituals do you have?

All of my robots have a heart inside to represent the new life the parts will live as recycled art. They are all given a DOB and come with a story about the parts used to make the robot and what inspired me to make the piece. They also come with a certificate of authenticity and are signed and numbered.

What jobs have you had other than being the creator/maker of your Bitti Bots?

I'm a mom to two wonderful teenage girls and 3 furbabies.

It must be difficult creating a name for each one…How do you go about deciding the right name?

Surprisingly, the names are pretty easy. As they are coming to life in the assembly process their names just sort of pop in my head. Sometimes the name comes from the tin or type of robot I'm making but 99% of the time the name is from the personality of the robot. 

What's your most memorable piece?

My first robot, the one I helped my daughter make for the school project. It was a little devil robot named "Damien", which to this day I can see every part my daughter and I found, hear every question she asked, hear the giggles she made when I talked about how we could use the part. I think she thought I was crazy! It is just such a fond memory of her childhood and look what all has come of that little school project. I'm humbled by it and will cherish that memory forever.

Do you have any other interesting hobbies or maybe a fun story about an experience involving your artwork?

I regularly visit swap meets and thrift stores, so much so that the staff and vendors know me and know what I do, so they save stuff for me. My local Goodyear tire store has a bucket in their workshop that says, "Bitti Bot Bits". So I love how my hobby has made so many people aware of recycling. I'm told by some folks that its always a treat to see me because my little "weee's" and "ooo's" make them smile. I'm just a silly little girl in a 50 year woman's body and not afraid to let people see it.  

What do you read, listen to, or look at to fuel your work and find inspiration?

My inspiration comes from my childhood, movies, and all my picking trips. 

Can you tell us about your process?

I generally start with the tin, then add parts from there. Usually once I pick out a part for the head the personality starts to come to me. 

Do you have a motto?

Everyone should be able to buy art, so I keep my prices low enough so even kids can buy my pieces.

What three (3) things never fail to bring you pleasure?

Robots, found objects and antiques.

What risks have you taken in your work, and what has been at stake?

Making this my full time job. Giving up the professional accounting career to pursue my artistic side. 

Do you have a day job? What is it? What does it mean to you?

I did! It was a CPA and I'm thankful I lived the professional accountant tract for as long as I did, but in time I yearned for something more artistic. The ability to create something that makes me smile as well as others, far outweighs the 9-5 which was more like 7-11. 

Have you had to make sacrifices in order to live your life as an artist? Do you encounter misconceptions about that life or choice?

Yes, no six figure salary but I feel happy and accomplished daily. No, no misconceptions about that choice.  

What do you think is the function of art in society? Do art or artists have a responsibility to do anything in particular?

Art is personal, an expression of one's self so artists help people feel. Too often we are caught up in the everyday and art helps people feel again. So I feel it is very important for people to be surrounded by art.

Is there something you are currently working on, or are excited about starting that you can tell us about?

My summer picking trip to the 127 Corridor Sale, which starts in Alabama and goes to Michigan, starts 7/30th. One full week of picking the worlds longest yard sale has been a dream of mine for quite some time and I'm finally going to be going this year. Wahoo! Picking here I come.