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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!

Q: How did you get started in toy design?  What was your first toy –
the Series 1 Dunny?

My first toy to reach shelves would be the Series 1 Dunny. But I've had half
a dozen other toys in production since before then. Some of them you may see
this year. But then again, I said that last year too.

Q: Huck's design style is "…" ?

"Bastardized Asian Pop Culture" ?

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

Robotech, Street Fighter, Transformers, Masamune Shirow, Itsuo Ito, Joe
Madureira, J. Scott Campbell, Hello Kitty, Disney, Damon Soule, Twist,
Michel Gagne and the great Bill Watterson to name a few.

Q: You are actively involved in both illustration and toy design.  Do
you find that they are mostly complimentary pursuits?  Is one more
liberating than the other? Is the transition between 2d and 3d
difficult?

It's interesting. Both take a lot out of me but in different ways. Staring
at a computer screen for days on end or spending a couple of weeks molding
and painting. They each have different obstacles and challenges to overcome
but no matter what I do they always start the exact same way. My imagination
and pencil on paper.

Q: While much of your work seems to include certain asian elements,
your work on  20-inch Dunny customs seems to have a unifying theme
featuring rather cute almost innocent designs, which feels distinctly
different from much of your work  featuring kick ass skull guys and
gals.  Do you consciously separate out these two design styles? They
seem to balance each other nicely.  Or am I just hallucinating ;-) ? .

You're not hallucinating. I've got a lot of different styles and characters
floating around, but everyone seems to have embraced Skullhead. I'm grateful
for this but that's not the only thing I have to offer. I'm really just
trying not to paint myself into a corner with Skullhead. The Dunnys have let
me tap into another department of my imagination.

Q: On the subject of customs, do you approach the design of unique
pieces for shows differently from that of your production toys?  Does
one allow you to take bigger risks?

The major difference for me is in the creative process. Customs are anything
goes, free for all projects. Where as production can be a slow and laborious
process. Going through a long process of revisions and approvals can drain
me. Customs let me freestyle.

Q:  Any chance we'll see any of your 20-inch Dunny designs made into
production 8-inch versions?  Who do I need to bribe?

One of them will be out this year!

Q: Your bio mentions that you study the teachings of  the legendary
samurai, Miyamoto Musashi.  Any chance we'll see samurai-inspired
designs in the near future? I'd certainly like to see that!  Also,
just for kicks, what's your favorite samurai movie?

Actually yes, someone just asked me to make a Samurai version of the...
oops, I can't tell you that. Sorry!

Favorite Samurai movie? Zatoichi, hands down.

Q:  One of your most anticipated toys is the upcoming DJ Qbert Dunny.
How did this project come about?  How much input did Qbert himself
have on the eventual design?

I've been a fan of Qbert ever since I heard his Tom Sawyer mix (which
Mixmaster Mike is now famous for). I knew he was a huge toy collector and
he's such a character that the idea took on a life of it's own. He loved it!
He saw the designs every step of the way and I think he's quite happy with
the final product.

Q: The best thing about designing toys is?  The worst?

The best thing is being able to follow my passion. The worst, revisions.

Q: Your dream project ?

Hrm... I think I'm already working on it. :D

Q: The future of designer vinyl is "…"

No clue. I can't see that far ahead.

Q: Many of your paintings feature a speed theme from race cars and
motorcycles to bombs as wicked fast transport.  This  theme seems to
clearly echo your interest in racing.  Tell us a little about racing.

Ha! It's addictive! And a shizload more expensive than toy collecting.

Q: Can you tell us more about your Skullhead project with Barneys of
New York?  Who knew skullheads could be so fashionable!

The project stemmed from a chance encounter in a seedy bar between Kidrobot
and Barneys. I'm not at liberty to say what actually happened that night.
But I can tell you that I have a lot of history in the fashion industry and
getting the opportunity to work with such talent as Marc Jacobs, Dries Van
Noten, and Jill Sander is a dream come true. The concept and different
clothing designs actually fit in nicely with Skullhead's history.

Q: What's next for Huck Gee?  Any upcoming projects you can share with
us? Toys? Shows or signings?

I'm looking forward to San Diego Comic Con this year. I have a bunch of
signings and customs lined up for the show. I'm busy organizing some yet to
be announced solo shows and hopefully this year is the year of toys, toys,
and more toys! Oh and skateboards, keep your eye out for a series of new
decks from Monkey Business.


      (l to r: Series 1 Dunny, Series 2 Dunny, DJ Qbert Dunny)

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

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