Taking up a cozy space of real estate on the ground floor of Bad Robot’s office is what’s simply known as the Workshop.
When you walk into the Santa Monica headquarters of J.J. Abrams’ production company, the reception area is set up right in front of the Workshop, which is in full display behind a glass wall.
“J.J. was very deliberate about how he wanted the building created,” says Beth Waisler, Bad Robot’s Workshop Manager. “He wanted the Workshop to be really visible so people knew that this was a place where things were being made every single day.”
Three full-time employees, including Waisler, operate letter presses, laser cutters, screen printers, and more, creating everything from 3-D character models for the film department to PR gifts and trinkets for Twitter giveaways.
In true Bad Robot fashion, the workshop started as Abrams’s analog playground. It was a reminder that even when you have access to bleeding edge digital technology, there’s always room for tactile creativity. Initially, there were no plans for a Bad Robot online shop. That said, the idea isn’t completely off the table, either.
“Though the workshop exists as a way to express the way we think and to make things, we’re always thinking about when we expand that or what that would be,” says Katie McGrath, co-CEO of Bad Robot. “We don’t have an answer yet. And that’s not being coy or vague. We don’t. But it’s not like we haven’t had incoming calls or opportunities around it. We just need to explore it.”
As the Bad Robot team considers their options for the Workshop, you can explore the workshop itself through the photos below:
Bad Robot’s reception area envelops you with shelves of toys, games, and tchotchkes. In front of the couches, there are colored pencils, large sheets of paper, and little signs that encourage visitors to create. “The reception area was deliberately staged so there would not be a way to be passive in there,” Waisler says. “You couldn’t just sit down and read a magazine. You were asked to draw or write or register to vote.”
With Sculpey clay and a toaster oven, sculptor Leslie Levings can crank out a new character in less than an hour, “If I’m focused,” she says. “I’ve made upwards of 5,000, so I kind of have a system down.”
Meet the Beastlies, artist Leslie Levings’s colorful clay creatures. Abrams discovered the Beastlies in a comic book shop where Levings worked, reached out to her to see if she wanted to collaborate, and now her bug-eyed monsters scored a deal with Mattel and are in the works to become a TV, film, and/or game franchise. “He didn’t come into it with like here’s exactly what we want to do,” she says. “It was more like I find these really charming and appealing in a way that I think could translate into something exciting and do you want to come on and try to figure out what that is?”
Abrams bought an Ohio letterpress shop even before Bad Robot moved into its office.
A screen printer churns out designs for everything from T-shirts to tote bags.
“When we first started out, this was largely a space that was in its infancy mirrored with what [Abrams] had in his garage,” says Waisler. “In fact, a lot of the equipment was the first equipment we had here. But over the last nine years, [the Workshop] has grown quite a bit. So initially it was very J.J. driven. He wanted to try this thing or saw a cool thing [and thought], ‘Could we replicate it and try to make it our own?’ But then it’s evolved.”
A 3D printer extrudes Bad Robot’s iconic logo.
Yes, there really is robot iconography throughout the Bad Robot offices.