Photos and words by Sydney MacDonald
Hidden away in East Williamsburg is a selfie-lover’s playground that’s currently breaking the internet. The Dream Machine, complete with light-filled tunnels, a bubblegum laundromat and floating clouds is an interactive art experience that will induce childlike wonder in anyone who walks through its doors. CONVICTS got a chance to catch up with Dream Machine co-founder, Paige Solomon, for a chat about how she brought this one-of-a-kind brainchild to life.
Hey Paige. To start, can you tell us who you are and what you do?
I’m Paige Solomon and I’m the founder and Creative Director of Dream Machine, a nine room interactive art experience in the heart of Williamsburg
Can you take us through your background and how all of this got started?
So my background is in creative graphic design. When I got out of school, I was designing banner ads for UPS. I would go home everyday crying, saying ‘Is this what I’m supposed to do for the rest of my life?’ I started to look into event production and event design, but my background wasn’t in any of those things. I sent out at least 75 emails to different experiential event production places and said ‘I don’t have the skills, but if you give me a chance I promise you I’ll figure it out and I’ll get it done.’ Eventually one of the places was crazy enough to hire me. Within the first year of working I had sold ten million dollar projects. By the end of that experience, clients kept asking for their own version of the Museum of Ice Cream or 29rooms. I went to these experiences as a consumer and I realized the crazy market demand for pop-up playgrounds.
How is The Dream Machine different from those other pop-up playgrounds?
I tried to add a layer of interactiveness to the space that I felt a lot of the other spaces didn’t play with enough. I really try to set expectations for coming in here. It should be a 45 minute escape from reality and that’s it. There’s nothing political about it, no hidden message. I’m just trying to add joy to someone’s life and give them have a moment where they can take a picture with friends then have that picture live on forever.
How did your own psyche play into creation of this ‘dream’ space?
For me, dreams were an endless theme. It’s a deeper theme than just sleeping dreams-it deals with aspirational dreams-which I feel like a lot of millennials connect with. For me, the coolest part about Dream Machine has been talking to other people my age that are like ‘Well how did you do it?” I’m like, ‘Well I literally just did it. If you can dream it, you can do it.’I really do believe that. If you work your ass off too and you’re willing to put in the hours, it will be successful. I hope Dream Machine is an inspirational moment in your life and that when you go back out in the real world, you see things a little bit differently.
How did you conceive of the different rooms? What about the layout as a whole?
I knew I wanted a cloud room. I knew I wanted a hidden door that led to something else. I knew that there had to be plants and I knew that there had to be rainbows because those were just cultural touch points that are working right now. Then I created a narrative to help guide and structure the rooms so that falling asleep and entering deep sleep, somehow connects the rest of the rooms. The black and white bubble room turns into the black and white only room. Then that black and white room turns into the black and white floor in the laundromat. The laundromat’s inspired by life in New York. Only it looks the way a laundromat look like in your dream, with something slightly off. Then if you went through the washer and the dryer, you would end up in a drain. The drain would lead you under water so you’d end up in the swimming pool that looks like you’re breathing under water. If it rained and the sun came out there would be a rainbow. If that happened and you had sun and rainbow and water, you would get plants. Then you have to wake up and that’s in the streamers at the end. Everything kind of morphed into everything else, but it was all based on a couple ideas that I knew I wanted.
Has there been a moment when you watched someone experience the Dream Machine and felt really proud about what you’d created?
A really cool part of the Dream Machine and my staff is that they’re all from very different backgrounds and everyone that comes in here has an extremely different background. Our opening weekend, I was in the bubble room and there were like ten people all interacting and laughing at the bubbles and popping them and taking pictures, all from completely different walks of life. This is not a snobby experience, so I think that opens it up to a lot of different ages and a lot of different demographics and that’s been really reaffirming. I think the laughter that you hear in this place all day is awesome.
Is there one room you find yourself most drawn to?
The cloud room was the first one that went up, so that was when the dream was actually realized, but I love our ball pit. When you lay in that ball pit and look up at the ceiling and it’s all moving, it’s a very soothing room.
What are your hopes for the future?
I want to write for millennials in business. You Are a Badass and Girlboss are super successful because they’re written from the perspective of someone who’s telling you like it is and not like: step one, step two. So that’s my personal dream. For Dream Machine, I would love to take it nationwide and worldwide and open a bunch of locations. The real dream would be to have someone license it, but I don’t know. Everyday is a new day and one thing I’ve learned is that you can’t really plan. You can goal set, but you can’t plan. So I’m kind of just trying to go with the flow and see what happens.
If there was one thing you hope for people to take away from the Dream Machine, what would it be?
To go after your own dreams. Don’t work for someone else’s.
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