David Horvath's toy company, PrettyUgly, started with a love letter. Horvath, an illustrator who studied at Parsons School of Design, had signed a missive to his long-distance girlfriend, Sun-Min Kim, with a cross-eyed, apron-wearing lump named Wage. A designer herself, she sent back a stuffed version of the homely creature. A friend saw the doll, asked to carry it in his boutique, and in 2002 the first 20 Uglydolls sold out in a night. Eighteen months and 1,500 of Kim's handmade dolls later, PrettyUgly contracted the assembly to a factory in Asia, and now it has eight employees in Kenilworth, N.J., to handle sales and distribution. Horvath and Kim, who married in November, work in Los Angeles, creating characters and writing stories about the dolls' personalities. Uglydolls have been in high demand since a magic week in 2004 when they appeared on the Today show, on CNN, and, in miniature, packaged with every bottle of Coke sold in Japan. In 2005, the company sold some 400,000 dolls, retailing for about $20 each.
Wacom tablet, $370
"I'm used to drawing and writing in journals. This lets me do that right into the computer."
Pancakes from the Summit Diner in Summit, N.J., $3.45
"I grew up going to the diner, and I eat there whenever I'm in the area. The pancakes always taste just as good."
Chibull action figure, $200
"I had this as a child, and it showed me that toys can be appealing without being from a well-known movie or television show."
UCC coffee drink, $1
"In Japan, they sell this in vending machines. Here, only Asian markets carry it. It's delicious--the perfect shot of caffeine. One every four hours, and I can handle anything."
The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, $12
"This book is about motivating yourself as an artist, and it changed the way I work."
... and What I Covet
A trip to the annual Mothman Festival in Point Pleasant, W.Va.--including travel, hotel, tour, Mothman hayride, and admission to the Mothman Museum, about $700.
"I'm fascinated by the Mothman legend. A guy with red eyes and wings? It's ridiculous. When I have time, I want to go to the festival."