Aug 02, 2006

TWEEQIM Revealed

Talented designers, illustrators and painters -- miQ willm0tt and THUY3 are perhaps best known for their amazing toy customs seen at shows around the country.  Their new studio, TWEEQIM, is set to let loose with a torrent of art and toys over the next year and into the foreseeable future. We're stoked to bring you this look into the toys, life, passions and everything else in between of the blisfully happy and talented pair of miQ and Thuy.

Why don’t we start with each of you telling us a little bit about yourselves?


Reaper Girl - THUY3
Thuy3’s art style is … ?

Thuy3: … constantly changing and still developing. I’m still learning and having fun.  I’m influenced by many things that I see everyday and I keep a mental note of what I like about it.  I try to approach whatever project I’m working on as a unique challenge.  I get bored easily with having one style that I have to confine to over and over again.  But there are a lot of artists that I like because of their style.  I’m just grateful that people have given me positive feedback on my work and to have been invited to all these cool shows.  When it comes to customizing something, I like playing with color, designing organic shapes and forms that flow well together. I’ve developed things digitally sometimes, before I slab paint on it or sculpt it.  I also love to paint.  After traveling throughout Italy a year or so ago and visiting its museums, I told myself that I have to continue painting to get that good one day.  Seeing the old master, Michelangelo and Sandro Botecceli, and the modern master, Mark Ryden, work in person, have inspired me to paint and do things in detail.  Please ask me what my style is again next year?

miQ’s art style is …?


Paintings by miQ
MiQ: Oh, I don’t know….i think I tend to travel around a bit, creatively. I get inspired very easily by the slightest of things (be it art, or an experience), and it tends to effect whatever work I am doing. It’s a good thing, as it keeps me a bit of a chameleon, but at the same time, it keeps me from being an artist with a trademark “thumbprinted” style, and that has always been a true path to success in fine art. I like to try different things all of the time, and that keeps me
happy……being known for a certain style is just not that important to me. I’m a sick, twisted kid, at heart…i think that will always define the art I create, no matter what path I take.

You both have had long careers in graphic design and art.  Do you remember the first time you ran across designer vinyl?  Were you hell bent on taking part right away?

MiQ: I have been collecting toys my whole life, and they have always played some sort  of influence in one way or another in my work. My interest in designer toys was a natural progression of that. My first real interest was in Qees, and where I saw their role in the art community. I thought it was the coolest thing, creating a toy canvas for different designers and artists to do there own thing, and help promote their own identity through this medium. I started to collect them, and one thing lead to another….different toys, platform and independently designed, started to share shelf space with my vintage toys and what not. Years later, and many Qees later, I was in Hong Kong on bizz, and had the pleasure/luxury of hanging out with Steven Lee, Eric So, and the guys at Brothers Free. They were all so friendly, generous, and wise. We hung at their studios, then they would take me on these little mini tours with them at different times, checking out the Hong Kong toy scene, and the experience just opened up so many doors in my psyche. Just listening to these guys talk, who were all at the forefront of designer toys, and their totally different approaches, was very inspiring. Those guys definitely  played a huge part in my passion for designer toys.

Thuy3:  Miq brough my interest to designer vinyl.  Miq has travelled throughout Asia several times and brought back tons of toys and vinyl toys for us.  I’ve been a fan of it ever since.  We’re like kids when it come to toys.  We actually take them out of the box and play with them.   

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May 17, 2006

Interview: Jim Crawford of STRANGEco


L to R: Gregory Blum and Jim Crawford - STRANGEco Co-Founders

STRANGEco is one of the premier producers and distributors of designer toys.  They distribute toys from some of the top artists in the game including Pete Fowler and James Jarvis to name just a few and continue to produce amazing products including the forthcoming Minitreehouse vinyls from Nathan Jurevicius.   At this past Toy Fair in New York City we had a chance to sit down with Jim Crawford who along with Gregory Blum co-founded STRANGEco to discuss the company's origins, its approach to creating toys and his take on what the future holds.

So let’s start of with the beginning of STRANGEco.  Who you formed it with, what the idea was, what you guys were doing right before the business.

Gregory Blum and I started STRANGEco at the end of 2002, but had been friends for many years before then - since our days in the dorms at UC Santa Cruz, actually. We had both been doing various things throughout the 90s, and then wound up living in New York at the same time in the mid 1990s. By 1999 we had both moved back to San Francisco and ended up working together at an online niche consumer electronics retailer whose product was a staple for musicians and journalists.


Shikito by Superdeux
In 2000, Gregory stumbled upon an article about Michael Lau and was intrigued enough to research what little information existed on the web at that time. While collecting Lau’s early vinyls on eBay, he became aware of the larger “HK Vinyl” scene (as it was often called then) and many of the artists both inside and outside of Hong Kong that became associated with it. He introduced us all to this odd hybrid of art and toys, which ultimately led to working on the Kidrobot website as a complimentary online retail shop to the one we were already operating.

In late 2002 the two of us struck out on our own, with the intention of moving away from retail and into product development and distribution. Since then we have produced over 50 figures and have distributed a ton of others. We’ve also had a strong focus on promoting the market here in the U.S., through our website, writing for magazines, developing special events like The Cultyard and working on book projects.

Was it a challenge to grow awareness of designer toys in the West?


Naal Night Edition by Nathan Jurevicius
It was a challenge, but not in a bad way. We had a lot of energy. There was no real information in English at that time, apart from Ningyoushi’s message board and little bits on websites here and there. So, while we were working on our first vinyl production (Dorbel by Jim Woodring) and our first distribution deal (the original Minitreehouse mini figures by Nathan Jurevicius), we decided to try and fill that gap by developing an English-language website with news and info about this whole phenomenon. We figured that all the work would ultimately help us build awareness of our company, as well as the small but growing market in general. As a result we ended up getting to know just about everyone that was involved in Designer Toys at that time. Gregory and I did the writing, Gregory took the photos and Antoinette Celes, a very talented artist and designer who worked with us in the early days, created the website design. All of this seemed to come at the right time and was super fun.

We were also very fortunate to make great connections with the editors of Playground Magazine, an insert in Hong Kong’s weekly lifestyle magazine Milk. Playground focused specifically on Hong Kong and Japanese fashion toys (as they were often referred to), and they gave us permission to host regular content from the magazine on our website. Every week or two we would post an update with what was new and hot overseas. It’s a cool resource that’s all still up on our website — I’ll occasionally look through it and be amazed at how much info is there.


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Mar 13, 2006

Jamungo Interview with Ferg and VanBeater

Jamungo has just recently released their first toys, the Blow Up Dolls (BUDS),  a brand-new mini-figure platform.  We're stoked to bring you an interview with the two talented designers and co-founders of Jamungo - Clay "Ferg" Ferguson and Trevor "VanBeater" Van Meter. The two talk about the release of the BUDs and upcoming toys including the Squbes and the Sqwerts.  We're also lucky enough to bring you the first pic of the painted Sqwerts prototypes -- enjoy!  Have a pleasant read.

Let’s start by having both of you introduce yourselves with a little bit of your history and background.

Ferg: I've lived in Austin TX all of my life. I grew up skateboarding, listening to speed metal and playing whatever gaming console was out at the time. Actually, I wasn't down with intellivision....that controller sucked.

VanBeater:  My real name is Trevor Van Meter, and I live in Greenville, NC (da da da derty derty). I have a background in art, illustration and interactive design. The past couple of years, my day job has been working on web games, animation and design. When I'm not working on real world "pay dem bills" projects, I'm working on Jamungo projects.

When and how did you start Jamungo?

Jamungo was formed in 2003. Ferg and I worked together on several design projects before we formed Jamungo.  We both started talking about how much we loved designer toys and how we would love to release our own toy at some point, so we did.


Ferg and VanBeater hard at work

Where does the name come from?

Jamungo was the only domain name that wasn't taken... actually we just made it up. We wanted to come up with something that sounded BIG and at the same time fun. It's pretty much just an empty vessel.  Hopefully it will take on more meaning as we grow.

How would each of you describe your art style?

We will answer for each other:

VanBeater: Ferg's work is a minimalist approach to complicated thinking. He has a way of approaching an idea and stripping away anything unnecessary, leaving a pure idea in it's most simple form.

Ferg: VanBeater's style is like watching Saturday morning cartoons after eating seven bowls of peanut butter captain crunch... footy pajamas required.

Whose work (art, toys, otherwise) has influenced your styles?

VB: I would say I am influenced most by my childhood experiences of playing with toys, watching cartoons, and WATCHING video games ( I never really got to play because my brother hogged the playtime... I was more of a back seat gamer). More than anything, I am inspired by a feeling that I am desperately trying to get back. The feeling of blind excitement that keeps you awake in July thinking about the toys you will be asking for at X-mas. I want that feeling back, and the only thing that gets me close is creating characters and seeing other people's creations.

Ferg: Mainly, I am influenced by things in society or nature or whatever, that can be looked at beyond their initial appearance. I like trying to force myself to see more than what immediately meets the eye, and I try to convey or translate that in my art. Sometimes I to try to break an idea down, and present it with the least amount of visual data...but still keep it interesting. I am influenced by minimalist works of all kinds, but I also draw inspiration from other styles as well. I dig most of Frank's [ed: Kozik] stuff, mainly because of the ideas behind the pieces and the eyeball fuckery that they provide. I also geek out on the work of Murakami, Futura, Gunsho, Bobby Dixon, Mark Tobey, Claes Oldenburg, Jeff Koons and too many more to list.

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Feb 04, 2006

Qee Series 5C Available Now

Series 5C of Toy2R's Qees has dropped and includes a total of 22 designs (14 regular + 8 mystery).  There's some nice stuff in here including Kei Swada (especially the mystery variants), Dalek, and a great Tim Tsui Egg.  Full listing of each 5C Qee and rarity below the fold in the expanded post.

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Posted by Jack @ 11:31 AM in Interviews | Permalink  | Comments (0) |

Jan 27, 2006

Interview with Wheaty Wheat's Richard VanOver - Part II

Richard VanOver founded Wheaty Wheat Studios with his wife, Debbie Yoon, with the goal of producing art toys of the highest quality possible.  An artist in his own right, Richard's passion is helping talented artists turn their 2d art and characters into living breathing 3d toys.  We recently had a chance to visit Wheaty Wheat Studios' brand new building and talk to Rich about his company and his perspective on anything and everything about the designer toy biz.

This is the conclusion to this interview.  The first half of the interview appeared yesterday (Thursday).

The MAD*L 2k5 show at Oulous was sweet, any chance we’ll be something similar soon?

Let’s put it this way we might be seeing a big show but maybe only somewhat similar. We’ll know more about that later this spring.

Are you planning on ever releasing toys in blind-packaging?

The [MAD*L] minis.

Will there be chases?

There might be.  If we do that, then it’ll probably be a different style.

What’s the biggest challenge in the designer toy game?

Trying to keep the character of the piece when it translates to 3d.  So the 2d art to 3d art and still make it feel like it’s a translation of the artist’s character. To keep that life in it, is fucking crazy. It’s a hard thing.

What’s been the biggest success or the best day for Wheaty Wheat so far?

The best day was moving into our new building.  Biggest success.  I’d have to say, just out of pure numbers, the MAD*L’s, have been the biggest success.  Because in under a year we’ve sold 8700+ pieces. Which is pretty freaking good and they’re not all the same.  We did two phases in one year which I didn’t expect to do. Holy crap.  Those moved and phase three is on the way.  Success wise, that’s been our best.

Were your surprised by  the degree of success of those?

Yeah.  In a way.  Not because I didn’t think they’d sell.  When I think of designer toys, I’m thinking more on the art level.  You don’t expect that many to move, you know?  It feels like it was a lot longer time than a year.  To have something move that much in a year, I thought was kinda amazing to me. Until MAD said something at Comic Con to me I realized that it’s only been a year since Phase 1 debuted and phase 2 already came out and we’re already sold out of ‘em.


Scion tC for Installation '06

 

Beyond designer toys, Wheaty Wheat is also involved in several other interesting projects.  You’re involved in the Scion ’06 art tour, can you tell us more about that.

Sure, as much as I know. I guess they did a 12” car before that they had artists do their designs on and just recently they put on the Installation Scion Art Tour. We were picked up by Scion to do the  tC car through our friend Random.  He was a great help in getting us the job. He showed ‘em the 20” MAD*Ls and said we were the people to go to.  I believe the show starts in January with 20 artists doing their designs on the cars and then they’ll be auctioned. It’s the same premise as the recent painting show. MAD is one of the artist on the car

And those are 3 foot cars?

Yeah.  The cars are 3 feet long from bumper to bumper.  They came out beautifully with the help of Joe Brogno on the modeling.  I’m really excited about that because I’m a nerd.

My other favorite toy, 21c has an m1a4.  It’s basically a light tank but it’s 1:6 scale. So  G.I. Joe sits in it.  I’m just a big nerd when it comes to big shit like that. The giant MAD*L’s were so cool. It’s almost like you feel like a little kid, it’s a toy and you’re scaled down.  I’m always a nerd for big stuff, the bigger the better as far as I’m concerned.

Any chance we’ll see 20-inch toys?

I’ve had them priced out so yeah there’s a good possibility. I don’t know if they’d be painted on or they’d be solid colors.  Not sure how it would work yet.  There’s a good possibility down the line.  They would be really limited.


Kathie Olivas' Custom HoneyB

Does the level of fan interest or collector interest in designer toys and the artists behind them, surprise you?   That it’s getting so big?

No.  It’s art.  People are really into art. They just can’t afford most art.  This is very affordable for people.  Dude, I’ve got a ton of people I’d like to buy paintings from but I can’t afford a Mark Ryden, I can’t afford a Lucien Freud painting.   I just think it’s so popular because everyone knows these are limited pieces and you can afford them.  So you can collect art on the average Joe level.  I just think it’s popular because of great designs and they’re affordable. Even the paintings and prints that people put along with them… -- when could you by a  freakin’ print that’s hand numbered and hand signed from an artist for like 60 bucks? That’s what I see.  That’s why I love this whole genre, just because it brings the art to the people who appreciate it I think a lot more than some of the people who buy a 90,000 dollar painting just to buy it and say they bought it.

Stick it on the wall and not think about it?
Yeah. Probably not even look at it twice.

So you definitely see the toys you make as art?

Oh yeah. Bite your tongue if you don’t think that <slaps hands together>. 


Chris Lee

Andrew Bell

Did you ever imagine that people would line up more than seven hours in advance to buy the lava bunny?

No. 

Did it freak you out?

I think it freaked me out in a good way.  That just shows we’re doing it right.  It’s a huge compliment to the artist and to the people who produce his toys.  No, it didn’t freak me out at all.  I was more amazed. I thought that was bad ass and I’m just appreciative of all the people that took the time to take the day off to stand in line.  That’s just so cool. I respect those people because they’re motivated to purchase something that they really feel connected with.  I think that’s what runs Wheaty Wheat Studios, being able to connect with the people that love this stuff.  Know that they love it because we’re doing a good job and they’re appreciating it and that’s how they show it.  It’s more about that than anything to me.

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Posted by Jack @ 10:46 AM in Interviews | Permalink  | Comments (9) |

Jan 26, 2006

Interview with Wheaty Wheat's Richard VanOver

Richard VanOver founded Wheaty Wheat Studios with his wife, Debbie Yoon, with the goal of producing art toys of the highest quality possible.  An artist in his own right, Richard's passion is helping talented artists turn their 2d art and characters into living breathing 3d toys.  We recently had a chance to visit Wheaty Wheat Studios' brand new building and talk to Rich about his company and his perspective on anything and everything about the designer toy biz.  Since Rich had a lot of insightful stuff to share, we've broken the interview into two parts.  The second part will follow tomorrow.

Why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself?  What did you do prior to starting your mega empire?

Ohhhh… Mega empire. I like that.  I might have to put that up front.  Well, I went to art school in Cleveland, Ohio, Cleveland Institute of Art. I moved out here, because I had a couple friends that  moved out from school and they were working for a big prop company doing things for theme parks and stuff like that. I got hired and moved out and then started doing the large sculpting out of foam.  I worked there for about 2 or 3 years and after that I went into special effects where I worked on Dogma, Three Kings and also worked on a bunch of commercials.  From special effects I was hired at Disney, back to doing large foam sculpting.  Well I was at Disney I worked on Tokyo Seas Disney and California Adventures. I worked there foe one year before getting laid off. From Disney I went to Gentle Giant Studios and began my career of toy prototyping.  When I left GG I began Wheaty Wheat Studios out of my garage.

In art school I was a painting major with a print minor.  I did maybe one semester of sculpting, In the 4 years I was there mostly wood I used. I never really sculpted figures before moving to California. So it was all pretty much taught on the fly.  So that’s what I did before I started my mogul empire!

People on the boards probably think you’re a mogul.  You must be right?  You make your own toys!

Yeah… Till [we let them know that], “Yeah it’s just me and Debbie in our house and garage” (surprised sound) (chuckles).I told someone that and it fucking freaked them out. It was great.  And it was the truth you know.  And the product was packed up around me and I was sitting out there trying to sculpt in a tiny little space smaller than a prison cell.

And it was almost like it was your warehouse as well.

Yeah, I had all the Pinocchio Product we did with Gris Grimly in there and then we had MAD’s Phase 1, 6000 units total run and Phase 2 packed in there.  Basically I had just a tiny space to do my molding, my sculpting, my casting and sanding. What a toxic nightmare!


Lobby

Warehouse

You almost didn’t have a house anymore.  It was full of toys.

Yeah. Well the office was full of toys.  And the office was coming out into the dining room and taking over that space.  Debbie was getting tired of not having the house be a house.  So we made the leap of faith to the new building.

Do you collect toys and if so what?

Toys. Yes, I do!  And my favorite toy…  Well, I collect some vinyl.  And of course I have  my own product. Who is my favorite?  I love MAD’s anything! I dig his work allot he is very talented. I’m humbled just to be able to work with all the artists under the WW banner. Brandt Peter’s new piece we are doing are sweet! I’m in love with the 30’s animation style. Tristan’s designs are one of my favorites, Nathan Juervicius, Michael Lau.  Those are probably my two overall favorites outside of the Wheaty Wheat clan.

But my biggest love is “Johnny West” by MARX toys. Johnny West was a cowboy action figures when I was a kid. Those things are just… I had the whole freakin’ set.  Out of all the toys I had, Those were my favorite.   I had the covered wagons, the horses, the Indians, the soliders, and the women, the whole set.  Then my mom gave ‘em all way. But I just bought from Marx re-released of Johnny West and his horse Thunderbolt in the original packaging from the original molds. I believe they did a low run of those.  I’m a huge fan of the Marx toys because the articulation in those for the time was pretty sweet.

So you still do prototyping for mainstream toys?

Yeah, we try to keep it flowing.  We do a lot of stuff for Sideshow right now.  We’ve worked with Jakks, and Mattel. It pays the bills!


Some of Rich's Toys

Bricks by Design

Favorite artist?

My favorite artist [is] Lucien Freud.  His paintings are badass!  He just did a show at MOMA, maybe a year ago.  Lucien Freud has to be my favorite painter of all time.

And my other favorite artist is Tom Waits, just so you know.

The Musician…

So 2 spectrums.

People who have motivated or influenced you?

My DAD -- with the back of his hand.  No, my dad was a good motivator.  I think my parents taught me on pretty well how to work.  They gave me a good work ethic – nothing’s handed to you.  If you wanted it badly enough, you worked for it.
Thanks Mom and Dad!!

On your website you mention that Wheaty Wheat was started with 500 dollars and a dream.  What was that dream?

The dream was just to make the best toys I could. To be able to do what the other companies I worked for are doing but be able to do it on a better level. And not…  It’s hard to explain.  You have to work in this environment. When we did toys – you were a sculptor and made these things bad ass and then they’d go to China and then they’d come out like crap.  Because everybody wants to cut corners and make it cheaper.  Not all places.  Sideshow Toys is fucking phenomenal.  Their stuff is so beautiful, it’s unbelievable.  They take the time to do that.  A lot of companies just…

Here’s a quick story.  I was work for this company and we made these Lord of the Rings Toys.  They were going to be the Burger King premiums.  They were only like 2 or 3 inches tall and they stood a pie shaped base. You could put them together and the ring was in the center.  We spent allot of time working on these pieces We had a lot of scans of the actors and what not but you had to go in there and tweak everything and make them into their poses.  They were going into detail like sculpting their irises in.   It was just insane detail and painstaking, because it was just never enough detail.  And the client sent them out to the factory, we got test shots back to adjust. Oh my god they looked like lead soldiers.  All the detail was gone, washed out and it was just like a blob for a head, two black dots for eyes.  It was just really crappy looking, clubs for hands? That to me was just --- you know these artist are working very hard to make something nice and crap comes out at the end.  I really couldn’t take that anymore.

So I wanted to be able to do my own thing and do it right. Make sure we can make the best product we can.


Artist Series 1 MAD*Ls

MPH MAD*Ls

When did you found Wheaty Wheat?

I think it was 2001.  January 1st, 2001.

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Posted by Jack @ 07:30 AM in Interviews | Permalink  | Comments (6) |

Oct 18, 2005

Interview with Frank Kozik

We learned of his name from our first day of collecting. We have seen him in person a handful of times. We have purchased cases of his toys. We have stood in awe of his designs. His name is Frank Kozik and although a public figure in the toy world,  he remains a mystery to many. However, today Vinyl Pulse is pleased to bring you an interview with the  man himself.  We would like to thank Frank for answering all of our pesky questions in record time (less than an hour!).  Finally, we would also like to thank the master photographer behind our awesome photos, Robert Arevalo.

Most of our readers know you as Frank Kozik, the artist behind the ultra cool vinyl toys such as the Labbits and the Smorkin’ Dunny. Yet prior to toy design, you were already the twisted genius of rock & roll poster art. At one time you were an Air Force radar control technician. Now tell us how in the world did you go from the Air Force to designing music poster/album art to toy design?

Well, about 1 million years ago I got stationed in Austin, Texas, which had a really vibrant punk scene ( around 1980). My first night out on the town I saw a guy with green hair and was like “that’s a punker”!. I followed him to the punk club and was immediately enraptured by it all. I then started doing my little Xerox flyers etc, which led to all the rest. I always collected toys and had been going over to Japan for years to do things and buy like, hello kitty junk. Around 1997 or 1998 I saw a picture of the Kidhunter by BxH and freaked out. Coolest toy I ever saw and it became my very first ‘official’ vinyl acquisition. Luckily my connections knew Hikaru so I was quickly hooked up. He eventually released my first vinyl toy the Black Smorkin Labbit around 2001.

Your art carries a bit of shock to the viewer, but never too much, just enough for the viewer to linger a bit and think about it.  From controversial pieces to warm and fuzzy ones, what is your development process for a piece? You once said “I am not interested in having an artistic style. I’m just interested in the end result.” What do you mean by that?

Almost all the designs over the years have primarily served either to amuse myself or sell a product or idea. I tend to indulge in a bit of dark humor usually. I don’t really over think the process and I tend to always just jam out whatever takes my fancy.

Let’s talk about vinyl toys. What was your first vinyl toy design? How did it happen? Were you pleased with the result?

It was the BXH Labbit and it came out perfect.

When did you decide to focus on toys exclusively?

About 4 years ago, I just knew it would blow up and realized that it was a good financial thing as well. Ever since then it has been awesome. The toys are like my most favorite thing I have ever been involved with. It’s like a dream come true. The first 2 years was a learning curve and I was frustrated a lot due to the false starts but now, it’s all working out perfect. I pretty much can do and release whatever I want with a number of ‘top’ companies such as Medicom, Kidrobot,Toy2R etc. all over the world.

When I Googled Frank Kozik, the first 10 hits were all about your music poster art, do you think your background in the music poster art advanced or hindered your toy designing career? Would you rather be remembered for your music poster art or your toy design work?

It definitely helped, got my foot in the door, but I am really trying to make toys that are their ‘own thing’ and have little or no connection to the stuff I did for the music/lowbrow scene. I wanted a whole new vibe and scene, and I believe it has happened I think, and it’s refreshing. I am basically not a believer in an afterlife, so I really don’t care what posterity says. I am enjoying making the toys NOW, that’s all that matters.

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Sep 29, 2005

Talking with Mark Begley

This week's interview is with Mark Begley who is the founder of Letter Pressed, a company that produces artist series cards. We all have seen these wonderful stationery in stores where we buy our toys, now find out more about them.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.
Let’s see. Born and raised in Fresno, CA. 36 years old. Ex-teacher. Currently a stationer (that’s someone who makes stationery), and small business owner. Married to an amazing woman who is the coolest chick ever, and who I thank God for everyday. We have a naughty little black cat named Luna. I have one sister, and one brother-in-law, a niece and nephew who are the coolest, and my mom and pops. No kids yet. We all live in Fresno, the Center of the Known Universe.

We’re pretty sure you collect toys;  What do you collect?
I started out collecting mini-figures, mainly [email protected] and Kubricks, but then I really got into designer toys because of Critterbox’s amazing pieces. I still kick myself to this day for passing on the Pink Baseman Dumb Luck when I was in LA for my bachelor party (which was a toy buying excursion for me). Must’ve seen four or five of them in one day, but I wasn’t spending $50 on a single toy at the time. Stupid. Anyway, I love C-box’s stuff, but it comes out so infrequently I try to find other artist toys to obsess over.
I’ve gotten into Secret Base lately, but only have two of the Super7 Ghostfighters. I’ve sort of lost my drive to search out hard-to-find items, so I’m patiently waiting for the SBxS7 Halloween figures. Oh, and I recently ordered a Ghost version of Steven the Bat from Bwana Spoons. Not sure why I passed on the glow version at SDCC. Gee, I guess I’m not much of a collector!

Due to our extensive research (we read your website), we know that the inspiration for Letter Pressed came from your desire to make your own wedding invitations and also your love of desktop publishing.    How long ago did you start Letter Pressed?  Has it been what you expected? 
I started thinking about LP a few months before I got married, which was on May 1, 2004, and got all my business licenses and paperwork on July 1 of that year. The website launched sometime in late August. I started doing the artist cards earlier this year, although I’d emailed a ton of artists during the summer of 2004. I was helping assemble Circus Punks at the time, and thought, “Heck, maybe some of these people would design a card for me.” I really felt like I needed to do something I loved and would keep me interested. I just can’t work in an office, or even in the school system anymore. It was a big risk to start a small stationery business, but my wife supported my decision so I went for it. Thank God these artist cards have started to do well.

You named your company after the printing process you use, letter press printing.  Could you briefly describe this printing process?  Also, why this particular process?
Well, let me set the record straight and make it clear that I am NOT the printer of these amazing cards. I am a stationer. I liken it to toy companies. Very few, if any, actually make the toys, they have factories make them. But the company gets the artist to design them, then a sculptor to sculpt them, the factory makes them, they’re printed, etc. So in the same fashion I get an artist to do a design, we discuss colors and paper choices, I order everything, then I have to outsource the actual work, like the die-making and printing. My printer does a form of letterpress called foil stamping, which I really like. As opposed to printing with inks, pigment foils that come in huge rolls are used. The metal plate/die that has the design on it is heated and then it hits the foil and is pressed into the paper. A very noticeable impression is left. With foils you get a very rich, saturated color. Plus the freedom of design is pretty amazing. If it can be printed off a computer, I can turn it into a plate and make a card out of it. Some people don’t consider foil stamping true letterpress, but it’s the same process done on the same huge old presses as inked letterpress. Most people hear the term and automatically think of metallic foils, like what gets printed on Bibles, but it’s much more than that.

Why letterpress? Because there’s nothing else like it, it can’t be copied on the computer or by any other means. My site was recently featured on a Latvian blog, which strangely enough Nathan Jurevicius’ dad translated for me, and some of the comments were that my text designs could be recreated easily at home. This is true, but the printing process can NOT be. The real big draw though is the impression itself. When you hold letterpress printed materials there’s a depth to them, it’s tactile and not just visual. But the visual part is great too, when held in different light you get great shadows, etc. It’s one of those things that certain people geek out over. I am one of those people. I stare at each card or custom job endlessly.

Letter Pressed’s Artist Series cards feature amazing art from many “lowbrow” artists many of which are actively involved in the designer toy scene.   Which came first your love for the art or the toys?  Can you say a little bit about the motivation behind the Artist Series cards?  Is this a case of mixing your business with one of your other passions?
In a lot of cases the toys brought me to the art. I’d heard of Ron Regé, Jr. before, but it was his Ouch! Twins figures that sparked my interest in doing a card with him. I knew of Baseman and Biskup before they ever made toys, but TADO and Nathan, MCA and Ledbetter were all brought to my attention through the designer toy scene. (Baseman and Biskup have not done LP cards, but I have approached them.) One of my oldest friends had suggested I get some artists to do cards, and these were the people I thought of.
The motivation was simple: selfishness. I approached my old small press magazine much the same way. I wanted to print cards I was interested in and would like to own. If other people were interested and would buy them, that was just gravy. It is most definitely a mix of business and passion, and has become the most successful aspect of the business thus far.

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Posted by Francine @ 06:00 AM in Interviews | Permalink  | Comments (6) |

Sep 21, 2005

Mimoco Interview Part 2

This is part 2 of our interview with Evan Blaustein the founder of Mimoco.  (see part 1) In this conclusion to our interview, Evan talks about Mimobots from the perspective of designer toys.

Your current products have both fairly abstract designs (SDCC exclusives) and much more character-driven designs.  Do both approaches work equally well in your opinion or is one preferred over the other?  On the subject of the art for the Mimobots, do you have a particular artistic goal for the current and future series?

Glad you asked. There are a couple things about the first four mimobot characters that we’re trying to convey. On one level, Cosmos Series characters play a significant role in the mimobot backstory. In the fantastical world of the mimobots, these first characters arrive on Earth in an experiment masterminded by the one and only Knowledgeus. Protobot0 and Protobot1 are androids first “flashported” to earth to retrieve and transmit data bits back to Planet Blooh. Similarly, Isadore and Fairybit are the first creatures “flashported” to Earth for their intrinsic abilities to interact with digital DNA.

On another level, we wish to convey with these first characters that the mimobots are more than just flash drives shaped like toys. I hope people see mimobots as art and not just novelty. The minimalist/abstract design of the Protobots and San Diego Comic-Con editions are meant to showcase the sculptural element of the mimobot canvas. We wanted to divert people’s attention to the form and the concept of the mimobots before diving directly into character design. The mimobot shape was created by industrial design lead, Baron Brandt, and the technical features were implemented by engineer, Todd Taylor. A lot of thought was poured into the mimobots, not to complicate things, but rather to simplify them.

Moreover, “USB device” on the Protobots visage, is a subtle message that even though it doesn’t look like an ordinary flash drive, it really is a flash drive. It’s in your face and contradictory at the same time. It states the obvious, and the not-so-obvious. mimobots aren’t really flash drives, they are characters and designer toys first and foremost. But they happen to function like flash drives, and that’s how they should be used.


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Posted by Francine @ 06:00 AM in Interviews | Permalink  | Comments (1) |

Sep 20, 2005

Mimoco Interview Part 1

Today Vinyl Pulse presents the first of a two part interview with Evan Blaustein, the founder of Mimoco, about his company's Mimobots, a product that fuses USB flash drives with designer toys.  Look for the conclusion of this interview tomorrow.

Tell us about yourself including your background and of course about Mimoco. How did you start Mimoco?  Did Mimoco start out as a technology company? What made you decide to bring technology and art together? Finally, where does the company name come from?

eb: CC and I officially started mimoco a year ago. The seed of the idea popped in my head about a year previous while I was in grad school. Although originally it had nothing to do with designer toys but evolved that way as CC and I both fell in love with urban vinyl. CC was always carrying her USB key and TronBearbrick together in her purse and I just had this brainstorm one day and realized that both items are the same size and could so easily merge into one stylized USB drive! That’s how the idea really developed into the mimobots.

Right before we made the leap, I was working for a start-up mobile game publisher. Things weren’t going so well for them and needing a change for the better, I decided to parlay my passion of new media, designer toys, and start-ups into what is now mimoco.

The name mimoco is a made up word and stems from the word memory. And while neither of us speaks Japanese, we both have a strong passion for Japanese pop-culture and like the way mimoco has a distinctly Japanese ring to it. Plus it’s funny how people never know exactly how to pronounce or spell it ;)

For Mimoco product design, what comes first, technology or art? Do you ever have to sacrifice one for the other? How do you see Mimoco in both communities (technology and art)?

I’m not sure how to prioritize technology or art in terms of product design. I see both as components comprising the whole of product design. In terms of a form follows function discussion, I believe form should not distract from function but can still play the prominent role.

With the mimobots, we pushed this idea of unified form and function further. mimobots are not just a better designed USB drive, their shape isn’t even directly reminiscent of a USB key; it is more that they are these alien creatures that happen to be USB flash drives! In a way, the design of the Protobots is summarizing this ambivalence and reminds one that they are indeed facing a USB drive. In addition, the whole mimobot concept was to create an original storyline about them. We wanted to tie reality to fantasy and used urban vinyl as our inspiration.

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Posted by Francine @ 06:00 AM in Interviews | Permalink  | Comments (1) |

Sep 12, 2005

Interview with Paul Budnitz

Kidrobot is one of the premier designer toy companies. Their  Dunny toy line  has captured the imaginations of countless fans and widened the audience for vinyl toys.  In addition, Kidrobot's stores and message board serve as key resources for collectors and casual buyers alike.  Recently, we had the opportunity to interview the founder and owner of Kidrobot, Paul Budnitz.  Paul talks passionately and frankly about Kidrobot and also provides some insight into upcoming products as well as the future direction of the company.


Most of our readers know you as Paul Budnitz, the founder and owner of Kidrobot. Yet your bio lists a very diverse set of pursuits – programmer, artist, filmmaker, and of course businessman.  Can you tell us more about yourself and your background?

My grandfather, who was the most amazing person, he was a doctor in WWII, used to say that I have some gene missing which would have stopped me from doing stupid and foolish things.  I think he meant it in a good way, but he was a tough old guy and with him you never knew.

I’ve worked as a professional photographer, filmmaker, and screenwriter.  I sold a screenplay (a rather sick art-horror film) this year.  I’ve lived in Europe on artist’s grants, and my prints have appeared in museums.

I’ve owned three businesses. I’ve even worked as a database programmer writing engineering software. 

Right now I design toys and own Kidrobot.

If you put everything you have into something (and I mean all your TIME and MONEY too, people flinch at that), then real things happen.  You can’t get anywhere without making a sacrifice and taking a risk.  The secret is not to be afraid of falling because there is nowhere to fall to.  The very bottom is really not so far away that it can hurt us if everything falls apart.

The other secret is not to be afraid of doing something stupid because, if it wasn’t stupid, everyone would be doing it.  Kidrobot is without a doubt the stupidest, riskiest thing I’ve ever done, which means it’ll probably be the most successful and most exciting.

In previous interviews and magazine articles you’ve mentioned that you started Kidrobot as a website to sell your excess designer toys and urban vinyl that you purchased from Hong Kong.  Tell us a bit more about how Kidrobot started and how you chose the name?

Actually, that’s not quite accurate!  I started Kidrobot because I saw these amazing toys coming out of Hong Kong and Japan.  AND I wanted to make my own toys, too, and to work with a lot of the artists that I’d met over time.

Kidrobot was created very consciously to be what it is – a place to make and sell the most beautiful things in the world.  I have consistently refused to compromise on that vision, and have said “no” to a dozen big companies that wanted to be involved with us and that I thought would crush our vision.

The name – erm.  I wish I could tell you.  It just sounded really, really good.  The logo character was created by me, the artist Filth, and Tristan Eaton and was inspired partially by a very early vinyl toy created by my friend Kim at Threezero in Hong Kong,  Astroboy, and a lot of other stuff.

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Posted by Jack @ 05:37 AM in Interviews | Permalink  | Comments (12) |

Jul 09, 2005

Chris Lee Interview

1. Tell us about Chris Lee.

I’m a 23 year-old designer and illustrator from Sacramento California (born and raised). I currently attend Sacramento State University where I’m impatiently trying to finish my BS in graphic design but luckily I’ll be graduating next Spring. After four and a half years working as the lead designer for a design firm in Sacramento (doing mostly print work), I decided to leave and start my own freelancing business and it is call The Beast Is Back.

2.    Chris Lee’s design style can be best described as:…

A clean, colorful cotton candy stall

3.    Which other artists and bits of pop culture have influenced your design style?

I think my influence has come from a gradual synthesis between my design and illustration backgrounds. I’m a big typography, color-theory, and white-space junkie (yes, I’m a design nerd). Graphic design has played a crucial role in helping me understand and implement Gestalt principles in my illustration work. For graphic design, my influences have basically been contemporary design culture (i.e. experimental type, sneakers, furniture, product design, edgy magazines, etc). I’ve always found magazines to be my window to the newest design trends. I usually look at the layouts before I look at the content. For illustration, I’d have to say any artist that uses composition effectively. Those pieces grab my attention more than anything. 

4.    Do you collect toys? If so, what are you collecting right now? Best toy ever?

Definitely. Before I started buying vinyl, I collected a ton of Star Wars figures (circa 1995 +) and all of McFarlene’s figures. I’m also a huge Godzilla fan and love the stuff Bandai Japan has done with the license. But I’ve always been an action-figure nut since I was kid. Thanks to a mom who supported the habit back then.

The Best toy ever? Well, that’s a tough one since that category is so subjective. For me the best toy(s) ever were the massive Inhumanoids figures from the 80’s. Meltar and Decompose were kings! Okay, maybe there’s someone out there that remembers them as well as I do.

5.    My first encounter of your art was at the Mad*l show where I saw your 20 inch “The Boy Next Door”.  I loved the clean lines design, which was enhanced by a simple wonderful color scheme. What went into designing that piece? How long did it take you? What kind of medium did you use and where is now?

The concept for the MAD*L piece came from a lot of basic graphic design principles, specifically the backbone of all design… communication. The strongest messages are conveyed with the least amount of detail. That’s why I’m such a fan of Swiss design. But I love the power of color because it can say so much using so little. I think that’s what has helped my Urbanites series become so accessible to such a broad audience… their color schemes help evoke emotion. I borrowed a lot of the color palette for the MAD*L directly from the Urbanites (as well as using direct character references on the piece itself. The whole thing took about 4 weeks to complete. Mostly due to trying to figure out how to get the cleanest lines possible. I used Montana brand spray paint for the pale green face and hair and standard acrylic for the rest of the figure. The figure is still unsold and presently is with Wheaty Wheat .

6.    On your website, www.thebeastisback.com are a series of photographs. Tell us more about them. How did you make that transition from producing 2D photographs to 3D toy art?

Photography is just a hobby of mine. Recently, I’ve begun to collect vintage cameras and experimenting with alternative camera types (like the SMENA Symbol and the Polaroid SX-70). Other than that, I have very willing (and luckily photogenic) friends to help with my sometimes on-the-fly photo shoots. The line between my photography experiments and developing toys is very defined. They really don’t have anything to do with each other. If anything, the photos I take are just another way for me to exercise composition, light, and color.

7.    Who and what are the Urbanites? What was the creative process behind them? Are they going to be transformed into toys? Or are they mostly 2D characters 

The Urbanites are just your average neighbors. Populated together in that close-knit community you’ve come to love and hate... filled with best friends, mortal enemies, love, summer popsicles, fresh cut lawn, and daily insanity.
They are just like you and I...almost. The majority of the characters have individual stories and conflict. In the beginning, I wanted the characters to exhibit a lot of substance with minimal detail. To accomplish this, I decided to use basic shapes (circles, triangles, rectangles, etc) to give each of them their personality. The Urbanites are another example of how I like to blend the line between design and illustration. Each character was sketched out and then taken into Illustrator. The vinyl figure line is being produced by Wheaty Wheat Studios and will be available sometime early next year. The painted prototypes of some of the characters will be at the San Diego Comic Con this year.

8.    You have a unique relationship with Wheaty Wheat Studios. How did that come about?

I first met Richard VanOver while participating in a group show at Blue Space in Hollywood. The show was called ‘Art Throb’ and was sponsored by Cannibal Flower. I was invited by Joe Ledbetter to show some of my giclee Urbanites prints and so I jumped at the opportunity to show in L.A. (albeit a small show). But as far as how our relationship got started, it was more of I was just in the right place at the right time. He loved my work and offered to license my character designs to turn into a vinyl figure line.

9.     Who would you most like to collaborate with on a toy project?  Also on that note, what toy "canvas" would you most like to produce a design for?

I would love to collaborate with TADO, but I would probably have a Wayne’s World flashback and cry out “I’m not worthy!” I love their style and the promiscuity they present through their cute and dangerous monsters. The toy canvas I’d like to produce a design for would have to be a [email protected] I have a lot of them and just love the quality and the following they have (not to mention their shape).

10.    What's the biggest challenge of making and working on "designer toys" ?

The biggest challenge I’ve face is having to see my characters in a three-dimensional space. Before, my characters were merely graphic symbols, almost logo like due to their simplicity and then, all of a sudden I had to create 3 and 4 point turnarounds for modeling reference. There were new things I had to consider like consistency, size relation, and balance; things I never thought about before. So in the end, the challenge actually lent itself to be not only a learning experience about the process of starting a figure prototype, but it also allowed myself to evolve my characters into something more dynamic.

11.    What's next?  Care to shed some light on any new upcoming projects?

Currently, I’m doing the illustrations for a to-be-published children’s book entitled “Theo” and I’m trying to work out an animation deal with the Disney Channel (which is still a big work in progress).



Posted by Francine @ 06:39 PM in Interviews | Permalink  | Comments (2) |

May 27, 2005

Interview with Touma

On May 21, 2005  I met with Touma at a coffee shop in Tokyo and conducted an interview through his interpreter, Koto Nishiyama. Due to the language barrier, Koto translated my questions and Touma’s responses. The following was reconstructed with a tape recording of the interview. Touma -- well-known for many of his popular toy designs including the Knuckle Bear, Talons, Snout and most recently Hell Hounds -- was very friendly and was eager to discuss his work with his fans in the United States.   Be sure to click the photos for larger images and to see the video!


            Francine and Touma
Q: Do you have any formal training such as a degree in art or design?

Yes, I went to a 4 year school and have a degree in 2D art specializing in visual design. In school I did a lot of poster art  for advertisments.

Q: Do you collect toys? If so, which ones?

(Laugh) Yes, I do. I collect Lego and Playmobil. I like small toys which have very simple designs and forms, nothing  too complicated.


Q: How about vintage toys?

Yes, I like the old school Lego. I like the ones with simple facial expression. I don’t like the present day Lego with different characters (faces), such as Star Wars. I like the ones with simple forms. 

Q: How did your work at Sega influence or prepare you for your career in toy design?

At Sega I worked with many people creating different characters for a game, so I was exposed to various art forms. In designing games, I create worlds to fit each individual character to form a storyline. At Sega I developed the skills to design many different kinds of characters, such as monsters, gods, heroes, villains.

With popular movies like Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, the entertainment industry is capitalizing on the fact that these movies are well liked and so they make toys from the characters of the movies.  I wanted to work with that same idea, bringing characters from games I create into the toy world, that way it is exposed to a greater group of people.

Q: Would you say that games serve as  your inspiration?   

When I was at Sega, I was on a project to create a role playing game but that never became reality. I created many creatures for that project and that sometimes helps inspire my creative process.

Q: Is there a particular artist you admire, that you look at for inspiration?

I like a lot of artists, but I particularly like  the work of Tim Burton and Tim Biskup. I like their style. I like their simple designs. I really like the drawings of the artist who draws the animated Batman, I like his simple lines. But I try to create my own designs, I always encourage myself to create special designs.

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Posted by Francine @ 06:35 AM in Interviews | Permalink  | Comments (4) |

May 13, 2005

Sket-One Interview

Sket-One started as a graffiti artist and  is now recognized world-wide as a premier toy designer.  His  contribution to the original Dunny series (series 1) marked his arrival, and the release of his own toy,the Eggster,  cemented his reputation for designing compelling toys.  Recently, Sket took some time  to answer a few questions so we could peer into his world.

Q: Tell us a little about Sket-One?

Well let's see I have been writing graffiti since 1986. I have a great family and live in New Haven, CT, which is about 1 hour and half outside NYC. I have been working in all aspects of art, (i.e. design, marketing, fabrication and printing), since I got out of school in 1992. After school, I created and managed a clothing company through mid 90's called Unitee, while I focused on getting a full time job in the design field. I am now working for a marketing firm full time, I mainly design a lot of Sports Corporation collateral, but I still have time for my real passion, which is with designing toys, painting graff and also doing canvas work.


Q: How did your experience as a graff artist influence your current art and design work?

Colors/Movement/Concepts/Style and I am sure a whole lot more. Graff is great. I suggest to any artist if ya have the time pick up a can or whatever. Just paint a wall or paint a train, you’ll see how massive it feels. A day off painting is good mental health."I’m gonna go every Sunday now" quote from style wars.


Q: Which other artists and bits of pop culture have influenced your design style?

WOW EVERYTHING, I mean specifically on the pop culture part you’ll see the iconic logos and images that I use. If it was prominent in my youth you will probably see me touch upon these images.

On artists: Everything from Warhol, Lichtenstein, Mondrian, Jasper Johns, Miro and Basquiat.

On Graff: Eros16t5, Seen, Doze, Cavs, Sent, Key, Wane, Dero, Ghost, Reas, Dash and crews like TFP, AOK, Cod, Imok, SV, UA and FC

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Posted by Jack @ 06:34 AM in Interviews | Permalink  | Comments (3) |

May 06, 2005

Clutter #3

Clutter is one of my favorite magazines these days.  It's focused 100% on the designer toy scene and features great interviews with all the hot designers and artists making these great toys we all love.  Also, the production values are quite high -- it's got a nice squarish format with glossy covers which makes it feel like a little book more than a magazine.  Definitely a must read! If you haven't picked up Clutter yet, now's a great chance as...

The eagerly anticipated 3rd issue  covering the "Asian Invasion" is just about ready to drop. The cover  features a Qee collage celebrating Toy2r's 10th anniversary and the feature article, a mammoth interview (~3500 words) with Raymond Choy, the owner of Toy2r.  Other highlights include articles on Michael Lau, Eddi Yip -- the owner of Adfunture, Tim Tsui and many more!  I'll be picking up a copy as soon it becomes available.  And believe it or not, issue 3 is just half of Clutter's look at the asian designer toy scene,  look for the 2nd half in issue 6. For the latest news on Clutter check out their exclusive forum on Vinyl Boutique.


Posted by Jack @ 07:29 AM in Interviews | Permalink  | Comments (0) |

Apr 19, 2005

Interview with Huck Gee

Huck Gee is a kick ass artist and designer who is probably best known among toy enthusiasts for his deadly cool skullhead Dunny from series 1.  His upcoming projects include hish racer inspired Dunny in Series 2, DJ Qbert Dunny, and the Skullhead project in conjunction with Barneys of New York. Rather than going on and on about all his cool projects, let's just say when I see his products, money flows out of my wallet :-) In the interview below, Huck tells it like it is. Also, wondering what the front of his series 2 dunny looks like? Read on!

Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I'm 6 foot 4 inches tall. I like Monty Python, Sparks, and a good turkey
burger. I like to drive fast through the twistys. Oh and I'm listening to
G'n'R as I write this so dont be surprised if some of my answers kick your
ass.

Q: Do you collect toys?  If so, what do you collect?

Nope. Believe it or not. I stopped collecting about 2 years ago. Now, I only
collect toys that are gifts and I usually keep at least 1 of anything I
produce or am involved with. Dont get me wrong though, my collection is
huge, I just keep most of it packed away in boxes. Everything from the Dunny
(duh!) to McFarlane, Robotech, and Kubricks. Now I just rotate stuff out
every few months.

Q: In addition to a designer and artist, you're also the Kidrobot San
Francisco store manager.  Which came first?  I imagine there's a fair
amount of synergy between your two careers.  What are the advantages
and disadvantages of your dual role?

That a very interesting question. Well first, I'm no longer the manager of
the SF store. I stepped down in January to focus on my design and art work.
I still work closely with the company, just in other roles.

Now back to which came first? I stumbled upon the Kidrobot website about 5
years ago and I fell in love. They had their hands on stuff no one else had.
I used to refresh their site about 3 or 4 times a day looking to see if
anything had been added. I actually emailed them and asked them if they
needed a new logo for their site (sorry Tristan!!!). Keep in mind, this is
when they were tiny, just some bastard offspring of Minidisco, and one of
the only places I could go to get my vinyl fix. Needless to say, I never got
a reply. Heh.

So a year or 2 goes by and they opened up the store on Haight Street. Which
happened to be about 1 block from where I was working at the time. I was
their first customer and the only person in the store besides the lone
employee. I didnt know it at the time but the guy that rang me up would end
up becoming my boss and one of my best friends, Paul Budnitz.

About another year goes by before I finally got introduced to Paul through a
common friend. We met and I showed him my designs and he loved them. Most of
those toy designs are still in production to this day, it's been a long
haul.

Then they moved the Kidrobot offices to New York and needed someone to run
the store across country. Paul knew I had tons of retail management
experience and so I was brought in. I've been juggling both entities ever
since. Well, until January, phew!

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Posted by Jack @ 01:31 PM in Interviews | Permalink  | Comments (0) |

Apr 14, 2005

Interview with Mimic

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing the toy designer known as Mimic.  His  recent projects include a translucent red cyclops Qee which is part of the recently released Qee 5b series, a  yellow cyber tiger which is part of Trexi Series 1 (April 16th), and an inspired yellow monster 20inch Mad*l as part of the Mad*l 2k5 show.  As his responses indicate, he's quite humble which is refreshing considering that he's likely to have a big impact on the vinyl toy scene in the near future.  Ok enough with the intro... away we go!

Q: Tell us a bit about yourself.  Are you a full-time artist?

Unfortunately, im currently an unemployed designer from the South Coast of UK. I went to college for far too long and have bits of paper with qualifications on, woo! I spend most of my time on the various designer toy forums and probably talk the most rubbish!

Q: What were some of your favorite toys growing up?  Do you still have
any of them in your collection?


Star Wars has always been a big influence on my life, growing up in the era of one of the greatest sci-fi films of all time, you couldnt really escape it. My first toy memories are of Matchbox cars and Action Man, but I got bored of that pretty quickly. Action Force was my passion, a futuristic fighting force, it had everything, but that was in the days when "boys would be boys" From my early teens till my twenties I didnt bother much with toys, until Spawn hit the shops. I was overwhelmed by the quality and characters in the sets, and, thanks to Dan of Playlounge who ran my local comic store, I was always able to get the rarest, newest, biggest Spawn toys.

 

Q: Beyond a toy designer, I know you are also an avid collector.  Any specific designers or toy lines that you focus on?

Im a big fan of Toumas work, ive got most of his Knuckle Bears and Fang Wolfs. I love Graffiti based designs and infact the toy that got me into the scene was Seens Spraycan Monster, as soon as I saw it I had to have it. I have tons of Qees and all Series1 Dunnys and early 8". I go more for the bigger size toys on the whole. I prefer a good 8"!

Q: What was the spark that drove you to start working on designer vinyl?  Was there a specific moment/toy/person that started you on your way to fame and hopefully fortune?

Well Seens Spraycan Monster got me into the scene and Furi Furis Electronic Virus designs got me interested in designing. Shortly after I started collecting the Design a Qee UK Expo came about and I jumped at the chance to design a toy! I went to the Expo in London and met Raymond, he seemed a really down to earth guy  and I showed him my designs so he could put a name to a face and then I proceeded to bombard him with designs. A moment he probably now regrets LOL. Ive always wanted to design toys tho. The first and only comp I won as a child was to create a design for a 4x4 Rough Rider, I was sooo happy to win and have my design put onto a car you could buy, unfortunately I never saw the end result.

Q: How long have you been trying to get your designs made into toys? Are toys your first commercial design work?

Since the UK Expo :) Now I have a design in the Qee series and a Trexie design coming out, Id really like to get my own toy line. I have ideas im working on but I just need the backing, unfortunately not being in a stable job for the past year and a half, I have no money to throw at my projects, but you never know... right?

Q: Mimic's design style is "….." ?


I_Monster Qee by Mimic
Er, bloody weird? Individual? crap? I dont know really its up to other people to describe it really. Its semi personal, some of me goes into my work, but 75% of it is just the odd world in my head. I try to make it partly serious, my Qee design I_Monster is partly me, partly a view on the worlds state of affairs and partly odd monster with one big eye. You take it how you wont to.



Q: What was your first toy to be produced?  How did it feel when it was "real" – when you could hold the finished product in your hands?

It was the Qee, I only got them a coupla weeks back. I was very pleased to hold it in my hands, excited that I could give one to my Bro and say "look man I designed that, put it on ya keyring" Its great feeling that peeps on the forums are liking my design, it makes the wait worthwhile. My style has moved on slightly since I design I_Monster but to see people are diggin the style is a real boost.

Q: Since the Trexi line from Playland Imaginative is brand new, were you able to prototype your design on an actual figure or did you have to rely on a template file?  Is designing "virtually" harder than working with a physical object?


Victory Boy Trexi by Mimic
I designed straight onto the template in Illustrator, I think I was the first to submit a design to Jackie, when I saw the design I saw immediatly something fresh there that I wanted to be part of. Im really pleased for Playlab on its success so far and hope it grows. I find it easier to design on to templates in Illustrator, because I use Illustrator like a sketch book, I tend to jot ideas down then clean them up.

Q: Can you describe the process of making a toy from the point at which you submit the final design?  Do you have a pretty good idea of when your "toy" will be released?  Do toy companies  send you artists' proofs or anything of that sort? The wait must be agonizing.

Well to show how my Qee came to being would be a good example. I started designing Qees early last year, I kept sending designs to Raymond in the hope I might get it "right" and Raymond would agree to produce the Qee. I think last May/June I finally made a design Raymond was happy with. Then came the long process of waiting, lol Near the end of the year I was sent my design back with Pantone colours suggested, I tweaked one of them and sent it back. At the same time I had to design a card to go with the Qee. A few months past and 2005 arrived, I was sent some pics of a prototype of the Qee for my approval, it looked fine so I approved it, More waiting and rumours of a release date, then April this year I received the final product and they were released, the rest, as they say, is too insignificant to write about...


Q: You and several other artists have contributed custom toys  to the Qeester Collective Tsunami  Charity Auction.  Your contribution, a Yoda Dunny, is mind-boggling.  The facial expression is quite evocative.  Was this your first go at customizing a Dunny?  How long did it take you to complete?  Also, just because it's something I've wondered about: where did you get the light saber?

Ah customs, Ive done a few before the Yoda, but none have been too succesful. This time I decided to approach it differently. I sprayed the larger areas of colour and for the face etc I used stickers. It took and age to design the stickers right and cut them so they would fit the heads curves. With some help, ie my mother, I got the cloak to fit. The lightsaber or Torch with tubing attached was fairly easy. I found a small torch that fit the Dunny hand then coloured the glass with green Sharpie, found some tubing that was the right diameter and stuff that on the end of the torch, et voila!

Q: Of all your toy designs which is your favorite and why?  The most challenging?


Yoda Dunny by Mimic
For me it would be my Yoda custom, it pushed my skills further so now im happier to custom toys. Im pleased with the result and we'll see from the auction if other people are :) I hopefully have another design coming out on an established toy this year, im not sure I can say what it is, so I'll keep ya guessing, but its one of my fave designs to date, but as I say the design isnt released yet so i dont know what the result will look like...



Q: What's next from Mimic? A Dunny?  I know you've considered releasing prints of your artwork.  How's that progressing? What's your ultimate goal in producing toys? Your own line?

Id love my own toy line, as i said earlier, but its difficult. I would really love to design an 8" Dunny that would be a great result for me. As for prints, Ive been throughing the idea around for a while but it seems that theres not much interest in them so, theyre on the back burner. Ive got more customs to do, 1 for MPH, I want to do another train, Im hopefully working on a collab with Blu and would love to team up with Sket and/or MAD on a project. There are other things floating about but im sworn to secrecy!

Q: Any chance you'll becoming stateside anytime soon to meet your fans and sign toys? San Diego Comic Convention?

No chance really, im totally broke lol. I would like to one day, but im also the worst traveller in the world lol. I try to make it up to London when theres events on, im looking forward to the Qee DIY UK Expo and the Lmac show.

Q: Any last words for your fans?

Fans? weird, do I have fans? that sounds like sheer madness. If there are any out there, hello! Glad you like my stuff, vote mimic for his own toy line LOL Be excellent to one another...

So Sket-one put me up to asking this:
Q: Sket would like me to ask you to explain to us uninitiated Americans what CHAV means.  I'm not going to regret this question, am I?

Skets a Chav LOL Chavs eh? Oh well, er theyre er, a bit like wiggas, but without the dress sense, intelegence or music taste, and u know what that means... They are known to wear too much Burberry and most of it fake and really bad gold jewellry. Spend all their money on supin their cars up, but not good cars, really cheap crap. Well hope that helps ya, tho im hopin you never need to know.

 

 

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