How We Met: Friends With You

The founders of art collective Friends With You, Arturo Sandoval and Samuel Borkson, explain how they’ve kept a close friendship and creative partnership going for the past 20 years

The pair are known for their cheerful, rainbow-striped characters, and mission to spread “Magic, Luck and Friendship” through giant artworks and inflatable installations. But underpinning all that is a real-life friendship that dates back to their teens and has played a central role in their work together as a duo. Here, Sandoval and Borkson explain the ‘magic’ of working with someone else, and how they’ve learned to deal with the disagreements that occasionally go on behind the scenes.

Creative Review: How did you meet each other?

Arturo Sandoval: We must have been maybe 18 or 19. Sam was going to college in central Florida and I lived in Miami, but we had a lot of mutual friends. We’d go to Orlando to go to raves, and that’s how we met.

CR: Did you know straight away that you’d be friends?

Samuel Borkson: It was one of those secret frequency things where you just make friends. We were really good friends right away, and that turned organically into us working together, due to Miami being this vacuum of creativity, but a really beautiful place with culture.

CR: How long were you friends before you set up Friends With You?

SB: We probably met around 98, and we did Friends with You in 2002 – so four years after we made friends we started working together. It was almost playing together, but very quickly it worked and there was some magic in what we were making that got picked up and connected with people in a real way. We got traction very fast together.

CR: Had you spoken about what you wanted to do together, and sit down and make plans?

AS: We’d set up almost playdates. Sam would come over to my house and we’d try to paint together. That didn’t work out exactly how we planned, so we’d drift and do something else. Same had just come back from Japan, and he saw all these kids wearing plush and little characters. My wife had a sewing machine in the studio, and the next thing you know we’re stitching plush toys together. Not even toys, almost like sculpting, and we did 40 of them in the course of a few weeks.