Hello Fashion Life! I'm Rusty Epstein, and I write Depressing Fridge Poems.
What started as a one-off joke to see which of our friends could make the saddest poem out of those silly little word magnets eventually (and accidentally) spiraled into a fascination with how our brains turn misery into comedy. It turns out there are lots of sad people out there—myself included—and my goal became to twist that melancholy into as much laughter as I possibly could.
See, some people face sadness by listening to sad music and staring out the window, relishing the rain. Others scream into a pillow, then down half a gallon of Häagen-Dazs. Then there’s us, the people who take sadness out behind the school, pants it, then stand there in a circle, pointing and laughing.
You know, normal people.
This is the result of seven years of sad fridge comedy. I hope you enjoy!
Fashion Life reached out to Rusty Epstein with some questions!
Can you tell us the whole story behind making the first few sad fridge poems?
"Back in 2013, my college had an event where we were given little sets of word magnets as a gift on our way out. The magnets were all happy little words about the event ("fun," "dance," etc.), so my friends and I naturally thought it would be more fun to try and write something horribly depressing with them instead. So, the first poem was born. The next year, I spotted some magnets on a friend's refrigerator and decided to make another. And another, and another, and another — and from there it eventually spiraled into Depressing Fridge Poems."
How long does it take to create one poem?
"Writing the text of the poem is generally very quick; once I have the idea, I make sure to get it down in writing immediately so I don’t forget it. Creating the magnetic poetry itself is a much longer process and involves finding all the necessary words, Photoshop to create words I don’t have, and editing the photo. That’s what takes up the bulk of my time, for the most part."
How do you come up with ideas in general?
"Randomly, usually! I don’t have a set creative process, so ideas typically just come to me when I’m doing other things. They can come from anything: something I’m watching, a song lyric I like, a word I read, something a friend said. Then, like I mentioned, once I have the idea, I quickly jot it down so that I don’t forget it two minutes later. Sometimes I'll focus on a certain theme or idea and intentionally try to ideate something from there, but for the most part, it's just random ideas that spark something."
Do you ever feel burned out by making poems or creative work in general?
"The creative work itself rarely burns me out. That’s the part of any project that’s actually fun for me and why I keep doing it. What burns me out is social media, which is difficult because Depressing Fridge Poems can’t exist without it. But social media companies have essentially created a no-win scenario for visual creators: you can’t be a successful visual creator without leveraging social media platforms, and you can’t actually reach people on those platforms without money. So, navigating that for the past few years has definitely led me to feel burned out from time to time."
How do people mostly react to your work?
"The vast majority of people have been very supportive! I always like to show off the negative commenters in my Instagram stories, whether they’re angry or rude or just genuinely hate my work, but 99% of comments that I receive are always incredibly positive. Honestly, it’s kind of a bummer because I think the negative comments are way funnier, but I’ll take what I can get."
What inspired you to start an Instagram account for your poetry?
"Originally, I was just doing it for friends on my own personal account. But once strangers started finding it and engaging with it, I pretty quickly separated it into its own thing — I don’t need strangers liking photos of my family and my cat."
What are your plans for the future when it comes to what you are doing right now?
"That’s a great question! I’d like to get Depressing Fridge Poems published as a book at some point in the (hopefully) near future, which is something I’ve been working on this year. I’ve also been interested in turning DFP into a digital comic at some point, but there are countless steps between me and actually being able to achieve that. I’m very much the kind of person who makes tons of plans and follows through on a few of them, so who knows what I’ll actually be able to accomplish in the future. I’m making people laugh, and that’s enough for the time being."