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Jan 15, 2008

Interview with Mark Landwehr of Coarsetoys

[Mark Landwehr creates stunning extreme sports figures for his Coarsetoys label.  Following on the success of his first releases, Switch and Cream, he's just dropped the monster 1:3 scale (25 inch) Pain edition of the Flake figure in conjunction with Vans. Pain is available from European Vans store and will soon be available in the US (targeted for 2/12) at both Munky King and Rotofugi. We interviewed Mark to learn more about his  cool figures.  Enjoy.]

Mark, tell us a little bit about yourself.  I assume you're an illustrator.  How did you decide to get involved with toys? What do you do from 9 to 5?

My roots are graphic design. Since I was a kid I liked to challenge myself. Today I am floating somewhere between Graphic/Packaging/Product-Design. To survive I am working in a design company in Hong Kong - the Asia branch of a German company.

Designing for money is fun but never made me really happy. To many exhausting compromises, boring restrictions and weired decisions by customers can be quite demoralizing.

I always liked sculpting - think its fascinating to discover shapes. When I am sculpting I easily forget everything around me. But I always did it just for fun - when I started with the coarsetoys lineup I didn't even think about producing toys. I just made them for myself.

While 1:6 figures have moved from military to more urban characters, your focus is pretty unique.  Why extreme sports?  Do you skate or surf?

I have been skateboarding a lot during my younger days. Nowadays the idea that my hands might become unusable, even for a few weeks, REALLY scares me. Luckily Snowboarding is more safe - spending days in virgin snow is just paradise.

For a few years I have been working as a photographer with a quite number of publications in board sports magazines. And did many graphics for snowboard companies. I always felt deeply rooted in that kind of stuff.

Your first releases from Corasetoys, Switch and Cream seemed to come out of nowhere.  The sculpts were so powerful -- chiseled yet quite stylish.  The simple color scheme really pushes the form.  I've never seen anything quite like 'em.  Tell us a bit more about your art style and approach to toys.

Well its weird. There are many great toys out there - but seeing them is really confusing me. I guess I am one of the worst informed toy artists out there hahaha....

I think the approach for my work is mostly about a certain kind of feeling. When I look in my characters faces I don't see much life. They just seem to be empty and withdrawn. Always in the right place at the wrong time ... I like this hopeless expression. Don't know why.

Incorporating these feelings in the final figures and finding the right balance between curves and edges keeps me busy for weeks and weeks during the sculpting period and doesn't let me sleep much...

But in the end I love to do the complete product. Illustrations, packaging, photography...

Your toys ooze coolness.  Thinking about it more, it seems that part of that comes from the hard lines and exaggerated shapes of the muscles.  Almost hyper real.  How long have you bee working with this style?

Initially I just make some rough drawings before I start sculpting. But in the end I need clay, sculpting tools and a lot of time until I have the feeling the result is right and concentrated. Took me a long time actually.

Your figures are all about the strength of the shapes.  Do you rely on a sculptor or do you do it yourself? 

100% by myself. I tried to explain sculptors what I want - but don't know, I can't describe it. I can't stop until the figure has the right flow.

How did the association with Vans come about?

Vans had somehow seen my figures in the "Lodown" magazine a while ago. They contacted us and asked for a few figures for themselves. But during that time I just made some polyresin copies by myself. Somehow we got together and they started supporting us. I love their true-hearted attitude. They are cool and just let us do whatever we want. They never tried to influence the designs.

Tell us more about your upcoming release with Vans -- Flake: Pain.

We made 2 versions of the pain 1:3 release. "pain" and "chopper".

From the pain version we made 400 pcs while 200 of them are exclusively available in a few Vans stores around Europe. The chopper version  (aka Butcher Block Edition) is a special edition of 200 pcs which is exclusively available in the Vans store in Berlin.

Maybe it's the extreme sports theme, but you go really BIG.  Flake is 1:3, 25" or so.  And I see on you're site that you've done 1:1 as well! Why go so big?  Wow factor?  Does it allow you to add more detail ?

For me  making figures isn't really about making toys. Its more like making statues. And I always loved huge art pieces. I like the surreal feeling they can cause. Keeping the simple shapes in big size makes it even more abstract. It is even more strenuous and dirty to shape the heavy clay and to sand the fiberglass. But it's fun.

What's next for Coarsetoys ?

Before summer we will have our first step to expand the world of coarsetoys - a new direction. And hopefully 2:1 hahaha

Posted by Jack @ 11:12 AM in Incoming , Interviews | Permalink  | Comments (0) |

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