Mar 12, 2012
Interview with Guf & The Introduction of King Swine
The great thing about the toy community is meeting collectors in my very own community. That’s how I met Guf, model kit builder, toy collector, sculptor, tattoo artist and part owner of San Diego’s Tattoo Royale with long time friends, Milton and Droopy. Guf is responsible for sculpting and casting the Larry figure (HERE), which was based on a design by Milton, as a part of their Tattoo Royale Garage toys. Now some time has passed and Guf is ready to introduce his very own figure, by the name of King Swine. What better way to introduce KS, than an interview! So I had the chance to stop by his shop, as well as his home to snap a few photos and ask a few questions. Also, for those attending Wondercon, Guf will be bringing along with him some of his Resin King Swine Figures. Stay tuned for more information on the release! Word on the street is that it will be guerilla backpack style, as they did at NYCC.
VP: Hi Guf! How about we start off with this interview by asking for a brief background about yourself? Where are you from? Art, Sculpting, Tattooing Background, etc…? And where do you draw inspiration from for your artwork and toys?
Guf: Born in Wisconsin and have been drawing and doing art projects since I can remember. No formal art training after high school, just lucky enough to learn from talented people I have met and worked with. I was raised on monster and sci-fi movies , comic books, MAD and monster magazines. Also built and painted a lot of model kits.
VP: How long have you been tattooing? And how much of that time was spent as part owner of Tattoo Royale?
Guf: I have been tattooing almost 20 years, 5 years at Tattoo Royale.
VP: Of those 20 years of tattooing, have you ever had any outrageous or really funny requests?
Guf: I once gave a 65+ year old man his first tattoo which was an old plow horse on his belly, with the horse looking over it's shoulder making the mans belly button the horses rear end. He did it for his wife because he said she was always calling him a horses ass.
VP: As much as I think the viewers would love to see that tattoo, I’m going to have to spare them. But anyways.. I’ve noticed you’ve been in a few publications in both the Tattoo Industry and the Model Kit Industry, any particular spread you favor the most? Or had the best experience working on?
Guf: Some of my clients have had their tattoos photographed and published in the tattoo magazines, one was a cover, that was cool. I also contributed to a model building publication called Amazing Vehicular Modeler, a spin off of Amazing Figure Modeler magazine. It was a how to article on building, painting and kit bashing an old Ed " Big Daddy" Roth model kit. I didn't realize how much work it takes to document the process with photos and then write about it. The hard work paid off , it ended up on the cover of the premier issue.
VP: Congrats on those covers by the way! Speaking of Tattoos, I couldn’t help but notice you got some fresh ink. Would you like to tell us a little bit about it?
Guf: Just got my hands tattooed in December 2011, Godzilla on the right, King Kong on the left. Again, nostalgia for 2 of my favorite movies, 1933 King Kong and the 1954 Godzilla.
VP: So if King Kong got into some radioactive goo, which made him equal size to Godzilla. Who do you think would win in a fight?
Guf: Please don't make me choose sides, I love them both. Hopefully they can work out their differences and get along some day.
VP: The idea of Godzilla and King Kong getting along would make a good film. Now let’s gets to the nitty gritty. King Swine! Where did this figure spawn from? I know you are going to start him off as resin, but do you have any plans to turn him into vinyl?
Guf: Still working on King Swines backstory, I just had an idea for a pig monster and had an urge to sculpt something that would fit in a Kaiju toy collection. For some reason I like pigs, even have some tattooed on me. Keeping him a garage toy for right now, roto cast resin in small runs. Someday I would like to have a toy made in vinyl, but honestly resin and vinyl collect dust just the same and I can do the whole production in resin from the sculpt to the finished product here in my garage, that's why we like to call them garage toys.
Mar 02, 2012
KCUR Radio Interviews MAD
If you have a few moments, check out this great interview MAD did for a local radio station, KCUR. He speaks a bit about himself, his toys, where the term “Urban Vinyl” comes from and lots of stuff you should hear! You can find the interview HERE.
Oct 27, 2011
Interview: Amanda Visell Reckons ‘Everything Dies’
[Right before Amanda Visell flies off to Mexico for the opening of her ‘Everything Dies’ solo (11.3) @ Guru Gallery, Vinyl Pulse caught up with her just long enough to pick her brain about her latest work. Enjoy.]
Q: Your next show, 'Everything Dies' revolves around the end of life, from the title to the scheduling with the opening falling on the day after Dia De Los Muertos. What does death mean to you?
AV: Yeah lets start with the light questions... Well I dont believe there is an afterlife beyond being absorbed by the rest of life around us now. You know ther’es a cycle, we eat things, we die, we feed things. So death has to happen for life to exist, but life keeps going, death is really just about the individual.
Q: While the timing of the show makes the theme a natural fit, you seem to gravitate to destruction whether it's rampaging monsters, avenging female warriors, or the modern battlefield. I think you once told me that you draw things you think 'boys' will find appealing -- i.e. guns, bombs, etc. Is that all there is to this story, or is there something more -- a sense of vengeance and perhaps empowerment against oppression ?
AV: Mmmm, well I guess I made this show more about life. Creatures with life buzzing in and around them. Thats’ a bit more of what Dia de los Muertos feels like to me, celebrating life.
There’s always an aspect of attempting art that you hope will be palatable to people. This is my actual job and identity so I’m very lucky as an artist to be able to have complete control of what I make every day. I’m also a big geek so imagery I use is just my own geekiness shining through.
Nov 29, 2010
Interview: Andrew Bell Talks about the A-Type (Part I)
[We’re happy to bring you part one of an interview with Andrew Bell about his design of the A-Type platform figure which will be released shortly from mphlabs. The interview includes Andrew’s video introduction of A-Type. Don’t miss Part 2 over at myplasticheart.]
Q: Hi Andrew. How did A-Type happen ? Had you planned from the beginning to include the mph heart logo into the design ?
I’ve known Vin from MPH for years, when we first met we were both still working full time and just getting into toys as a fun aside. A few years later, we’re both working for ourselves, and toys are a major part of our careers. He’s always been fun to work with, and we’ve always wanted to work on something together, so the A-Type project was a natural fit. It’s hard to believe, but we planted the seeds of this project almost four years ago. We’ve both been so incredibly busy on our own that it’s been hard to focus on a joint project, luckily we were finally able to get it together!
The inclusion of the logo was always a goal of mine. It’s simple, yet strong, and a globally recognizable shape.
Q: A-Type. What's in a Name? 'A' shaped, 'A'ndrew Type ? Were any other names kicked around ?
The name is a little bit of everything really! The figure makes a bit of an A shape, my name starts with an A, but primarily it’s a reference to the heart shape, specifically blood types. We kicked around a few other names, most with a heart theme. They included “coronary”, “bypass”, “heartsy”, “bpm”, and the close but not quite “Type A”. I think we made the right choice!
Nov 19, 2010
Interview: Jon Knox & Designer Con Exclusives
Jon Knox has been up countless hours getting ready for this weekend's Designer Con. There he will be releasing an exclusive Jeffrey and Max (above), as well as a ton of other other handmade toys, prints, and t-shirts. He will be hanging out at booth #420 with Paul Kaiju, Monstrehero, and Uh Oh Toys.
DesignerCon @ the Pasadena Convention Center
300 East Green Street
Pasadena, CA 91101
While we’re on the topic of Jon, he was nice enough to take some time out of his busy schedule to do a little interview with us.
VP: Hi there Jon! To start off this interview, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself?
JK: Let's see…Male, 25 years old, grew up in the south, bachelors in graphic design, living in Portland, and I make toys all the live long day.
VP: So let’s get straight into it. What got you into art and resin casting?
JK: I've been into art as long as I can remember. I haven't gone a day without it since I was 5. I got into vinyl toys while I was in college in 2005 (thanks to a professor of mine) and started making my own toys with resin a couple years later.
VP: Ah! That’s around the same time I started collecting myself. Are there any particular artists toys you collect?
JK: My toy collection is taking over my studio and I'm running out of room to put everything. Jeremyville, TADO, and Dehara are three of my favorites. I have a lot of their stuff and it really inspires me when I'm creating my own toys.
Nov 12, 2010
[We recently caught up with French artist Tan-Ki for a quick interview as he was setting up his solo, When Birds Sing the Song of of the Clouds, which opens on Friday, November 12th 2010 (7-11 PM) @ Toy Art Gallery in Hollywood. It’s a quick read and gives more insight into his toys, their progression, and upcoming toys – including his first vinyl.]
VP: When did you start doing toys?
T: About three years ago. I sculpted the first one by hand and then used computer modeling and stereo lithography to create the mold for the current design.
VP: What drew you into toy making ?
T: The doubters. People told me that it wasn’t possible to create toys on my own, that I need a company behind me. So I had to give it a shot.
VP: How did you come up with the shape of your signature KiToy figure?
T: I first created the toy as a DIY so it had to be easy to paint with a large surface area.
Oct 20, 2010
Interview: Michelle Valigura >> Institute of Lower Learning
[Switcheroo (Amanda Visell and Michelle Valigura) recently started the ‘Institute of Lower Learning’ – a series of workshops offering hands-on practical instruction on art-making techniques. We recently cornered Michelle (she’s elusive) and asked her to spill the beans about the Institute and her Ceramic Tile workshop (info sheet) which is this Sunday, October 24th 2010 in Pasadena].
VP: The 'Institute of Lower Learning'. Clever name. What is it and why did you start it?
M: School schmool. You don't have to get a fancy degree to be an artist, both Amanda and I learned everything we know from real life and awesome people. That’s the idea behind the institute, bringing real life experience together with some of the amazing artists that we know and respect.
VP: Michelle, you've been quietly transforming yourself into a serious ceramic artist. Some of your pieces are pretty amazing. What's the attraction to ceramics ?
M: Awwww, you're just scared of me. I always suspected I would like ceramics but never knew how much we would get along. I feel like I went on match.com and they hooked me up with my soul mate.
Sep 29, 2010
I had the pleasure of driving up north in the 103 degree heat to do a studio visit in Anaheim with Rohby. For those of you who do not know, Rohby is a maniac when it comes to his Mech customs. He has had two shows at myplasticheart, one being his solo show “Elbow Grease” back in 2007 and his most recent duo show with Phu, “The Confrontation”. He showed me around his workspace, as well as gave me a peek at his current project. He was also nice enough to answer some questions for me. Take a look after the jump for the full interview!
Jun 09, 2010
Interview: Paul Kaiju
I had the pleasure of joining Mr. Paul Kaiju for a day at his new humble abode here in sunny San Diego. After seeing all the amazing custom Kaiju figures Paul has pumped out over the years, I have become a huge fan. Not only can this guy customize any figure in his path, but he is also a very talented sculptor. Take a look at our little interview session.
May 18, 2010
Interview: Daniel Goffin
[German artist Daniel Goffin creates original resin sculptures full of life and style. Before he hopped on a plane for his joint show with Martin Osuna (5.29 @ TAG), we caught up with him in cyberspace for this lil mind dump (errr… interview)].
VP: Hi Daniel. Can you tell us a bit about yourself. What do you do when you're not dreaming up and casting toys?
D: Hi. In the past few years I have been studying Visual Communication with a focus on comics and illustration at the school of art and design in Kassel, Germany. Next to that I have worked already as a freelance illustrator and sculptor on a few projects. One of them being Classics, an e-book reader for the iPhone. I drew a few of the covers and helped with the concept art. At the beginning of the year I also worked on a game for the iPhone. I don't know when it will be out but probably in the next few months.
VP: How would you describe your style?
In my drawings I have limited my palette to simple black and white and I am working solely with brush and ink. My sculptures focus on expression and bringing the character alive in a way that I envision them. Articulation limits this somewhat which is why I haven't used it much. Japanese culture, old and new, is a big influence and I think it shows in my 2D and 3D work, yet there are numerous other references to cartoons from the 1930s and 1940s, haute couture fashion design, etc. One of the best things about my art is the blank face of my listeners I get when I try to describe what I do. Try describing my Karl Diesel character in a few words and then compare the results of the audience's imagination to my toy. Fun.
Mar 26, 2010
Interview with Amanda Visell
[Wait… this is Amanda Pulse right ? Well… yes, but we decided to turn the tables on her. She’s always interviewing other folks on her birthday (including Bwana below), why shouldn’t we return the favor ? So… Here ya go – an oh-so-deep interview about her upcoming Primeval Love show (4.9) in LA. The show represents a definite evolution in her style – read on.]
Did you have a specific goal in mind for your new show ?
Well the quick concept answer from my brain is my show is an example of one direction life could have gone.
Did you have this concrete idea for the show when you began painting ?
No, at least for me I have vague ideas that get worked out as I go. I don’t sketch everything before I paint but I had a good foundation in my brain before I got started.
Did you focus on research prior to painting for this show ?
No way. It comes from my brain juice.
Your art style seems to have changed considerably since your last solo in '08. What's behind this change ?
I had this office roommate who kept bugging me to change it. So I gave him the boot. oh wait, no...I just try to push myself to get better with everything I do. Progress and grow. It doesn’t mean I will, but I gotta try.
Bwana Spoons Interview
Hi Bwana Spoons, thanks for joining us. So we are best friends, but can you tell the viewers how/where we met?
You guys always say you were stalking me at Comic Con, but in real life I saw your works and liked them, and then my old shop partner had a show booked with you and Michelle and then he bailed. You guys were supposed to be the next show and he didn’t even tell you he was leaving I think. So I maybe talked about a make-up show. Uh... Not about make up, but maybe a show for a later date. When’s that Amanda show gonna be at Grass Hut? Natural History Museum, that’s for girls.
You are a fine type artist, a toy designer, a small business owner, does it ever get boring? Sorry, my question just bored me, lets talk chickens.
Chickens are awesome, dumb, hungry all the time, cute, a little scary, and taste good. My neighbor thinks they are ducks, but that’s because I have a special neighbor.
All that other stuff- no not boring, but maybe well beyond my capacity to chew. And flat out a bad idea to make art and try to run a shop at the same time. Too much business, not enough everything else. But I can’t help it. I love seeing other peeples art on my walls, and showing the world art they may have never seen before that I know and feel more peeple need to see and love. Did that make sense?
Pics please, and how sure are you that you can taste the difference between store bought eggs and the ones you pull from your chicken's tushys?
Getting my own asseggs is the best. They are bright orange on the inside and are superior in most ways. When I get them from the coop sometimes they are still warm, occasionally even hot.
Bwana. What did you want to be when you were a kid? How weird is your job now? What would tiny you think about you now? Would you be impressed with your beard?
I think tiny me would not understand the beard. Maybe I would be impressed with me. I know I always wanted to be an artist, but couldn’t see how I would put it together. I definitely didn’t think I would be able to make a living selling and making my own art. I thought all the way thru even young adult me that I would be working for somebody else, instead of torturing my own brain with my own made up deadlines and whoforall.
When I was a kid I wanted to be a park ranger like any normal kid, but with art I thought I might be an architect when I grew up. That was the only way I could relate art to making a living.
You have spawned a human, her name is Hazel. How does she feel about your toys? Any in particular she is creeped out by or identifies with? Do you plan on making a character to explain the birds and bees?
She definitely wants to know about birds and bees that’s for sure. Currently when she grows up she wants to be a mommy that also dances. Hazel says quite often it’s silly that I have so many toys. She really likes that this is what I do for a living, but she also doesn’t know another way. She really digs steven and killer. But is definitely more interested in dollies, and lambies, and pigs that she can make paper liatards for.
Okay I want to know what you have coming up, but I;m kinda using this interview as an excuse because you never tell me until after!
That’s because we only get to hang out a couple times a year and I am weird on the phone... Uh.. First I am making a little comic book. It’s maybe another Soft Smooth Brain. I am excited about Balls Out next Friday at GH. After that uh... Crystal rainyday globby comes out, going to Spain and Italy in June for a couple of shows, making more new toys with Gargamel and Super 7, and me and beth from brand loyalty are teaming up to make a bubble tea weilding sloth. I think that will be the first toy produced by grass hut., SDCC, some swimming, riding BMX bikes in the forest, listening to boredoms, maybe going to Japan and taiwan in November or october, then walkabout.
Oh, that sounds interesting, you must be excited.
Dingleberry! (Amanda wrote this before seeing my answers)
Hey lets cap this shit off with you talking about your walkabout.
Do you mean easter island? Yeah shooting for january, got ochile and then off to easter island, the birthplace of fantasies in my mind. I thought that peeple cut down the last tree there, and I think they did. But I heard recently that it was rats, rats were the nail in the coffin. They ate everything, so once they chopped down that last tree, there were no seeds to plant a new tree. Oops rats. Thanks amanda.
Jan 11, 2010
Paul Budnitz Interviewed by MAD
With the recent news that Kidrobot will be moving their headquarters from NYC to Boulder, Colorado, I was hit with a bitter/sweet reality. "Bitter" cause many of my good friends that work at KR may no longer be there, but "sweet" because I think it's going to open up a whole new world of opportunity for the company to grow. I moved from LA about five years ago back to the Midwest (Kansas City) and have managed to grow my art, career, & business significantly. If anything, being in the Midwest has allowed me to focus my attention on my work, without the distraction of the never ending "scene". As an artist/designer who's been working with Kidrobot for a few years now, I thought I'd go straight to the source with some questions about some of the plans they have for moving into the new decade. So I shot over a few questions to the man in charge of it all... Mr. Paul Budnitz.
1. The word has leaked that KR is moving their New York headquarters out to Boulder, Colorado. and many are curious as to what the biggest reason/ motivation for this is?
Yes, we're moving Kidrobot to Boulder in in April, though we'll be leaving behind a small office in New York City, and of course our flagship store will remain in NYC as well, with Lisa still at the helm.
The motivation for the move is really simple -- I kept finding that I was doing my best work outside the big city. New York is wonderful, and it can also be very distracting. There is so much going on, and that's good and exciting, but having our offices right in the middle of Manhattan for so long, it was also constant noise, noise, noise.
Several of us got together, and about a half year ago began looking for a new home for the company. We wanted somewhere that was an art and design hub, that is near a big city with a strong urban art scene, and that has access to a good airport. In the end Boulder won. It's 30 minutes from Denver, which has a tremendous street art community, and also one of the top art museums in the US. Boulder itself was rated #1 of best places in the US to be an artist a few years ago.
Some people also know that we're working on greening Kidrobot. We're exploring carbon offsetting, recycled packaging and plastics. We're already locally sourcing more and more of our apparel (we just switched to USA-made T-shirts, for example. We're working on having our cut-and-sew done in Canada). Boulder is the the #1 bicycle town in the USA. We're putting our offices in the center of town so our employees can bike or walk to work, and save the carbon from car commuting.
We want to show that you don't have to be environmentally wasteful to be cutting edge. The two things are not incompatible.
One of Kidrobot's company missions is to never succumb to fear, and to never sit still. We're excited because the move is letting us pull out a lot of the old wiring and look at things differently. We're inspired by change. It's like starting again!
Dec 02, 2009
Interview with Noferin – Jibibuts, Pecan Pals Plush and More
[Noferin, Nick and Candy, have taken their own path to making art toys. The duo turned heads and grew their fanbase with the excellent Pecan Pals wood toys. With a wave of new product coming including the Jibibiuts wood mini-figures and the Pecan Plush, we thought it would be a great time to talk to Noferin about their approach to creating art toys and get the skinny on the new toys.]
Hi guys. Can you tell us a little about yourselves and maybe how you got started with your art careers?
Hi Jack, so nice to speak with you. We are Nick and Candy, a husband and wife collaboration who design and manufacture toys, sculpt, paint, illustrate and write stories. Under the name, Noferin, we bring to life the stories of the Pecanpals.
Noferin has broken from the norm with your art toys. Instead of making vinyl Pecanpals, you chose to create them in wood with excellent results. Why did you decide to go with wood ?
The more we looked into the process of making toys, the more we found ourselves leaning towards using wood as a medium for production. Wood just seemed like a – excuse the pun – natural choice for us. We are very hands on with our production, preferring to open a sketch book and work on ideas first than going straight to computer, and the concept of using plastic or vinyl felt cold and foreign to us because we couldn’t shape plastic or vinyl ourselves, but with wood we could.
We chose to use wood because we wanted to expose a traditional material in this new scene of designer toys. Wood has a weight to it, a true sense of solidity. Wood is living. It has grain, pits and pores and is a beautiful medium to work with. We wanted to create a set of figures that would stand the test of time – something that is cherished and passed through the generations.
Nov 17, 2009
Interview – Ray Robinson III
[Ray Robinson III (Three) is the founder of the Gold Coin brand and the artist behind the Stick Up! resin figure dropping this Friday (11.20)from Argonaut Resins. We wanted to know more about Ray, Gold Coin and Stick Up! so we fired of some questions. Enjoy the interview behind-the-scenes making-of pics. ]
Q: Hi Ray. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your art/design background?
First off let me say thanks for having me! It's an honor. I'm an artist / designer / graffiti writer based out of San Francisco. I started drawing at a young age. Initially I drew a lot of inspiration from comics and video game art. For years I drew nothing but. Then in middle school I gravitated towards graffiti. I not only enjoyed the study of letters but the characters as well. Over time I just tried to consistently up my skills in character development area. As I got older I started to get into doing art as a profession with graphic design. After a few years of random work for hire I then decide to start my own label called GOLD COIN. That's basically what most of my creative efforts go towards now.
Q: For those that don't follow lifestyle apparel, can you shed some light on Gold Coin ?
GOLD COIN is a label I started about 3 years ago. It started out as a creative outlet for my work. At first I didn't really know how to go about getting my art out there so I started GC as a means of a release for it. I design all the products myself from start to finish. We make all kinds of random goods but there is a big focus on clothing. I have been making clothes for myself since I was younger so it only made sense for me to mix the two, clothing & art. Every season I try to expand the line a bit as well. This season for example, Stick Up! will be our first toy release.
Oct 29, 2009
Interview with Brent Nolasco
[Pennsylvania based artist Brent Nolasco will release his first original resin art toy, Gordo, in conjunction with mphlabs @ myplasticheartnyc this Friday (10.30) from 7 to 9 PM. We wanted to know more about Gordo and his development and thought you would too – so here’s a short interview for your reading pleasure.]
Gordo, your first original figure, looks great. What's his story? Evil, good, or just misunderstood?
Thank you. The Gordo story is:
"Just off of Main Street, in every town, lives a foraging monster, named Gordo. You can find him standing over a box of leftovers, fishing out that last crumb, and licking the containers dry. His will to eat overcomes his need to stop, always chasing the next tasty snack. Backyards and garbage cans are his buffet. After a long day of gorging, he falls into a food coma, only to awake hungry and repeat the cycle. His stomach is a bottomless pit. Who knows what he will eat next."
He’s a mischievous character. He thinks from his stomach, not his brain. But all in all, he is a good guy.
You've drawn and painted numerous characters from your evolving world, how did you choose which one to do as a resin?
Well, I went back to the drawing board and I developed some new characters that would work well as a resin figure. Sometimes paintings don’t translate into realistic or cost efficient products.
Sep 28, 2009
Michael Lau – Ten Years, Ten Questions (Part Two)
[In July Vinyl Pulse had the rare opportunity to interview HK vinyl pioneer Michael Lau at his studio in Quarry Bay. In celebration of the 10th anniversary of his signature Gardener series, I asked him ten questions with the assistance of invaluable interpretation by Florance Yip. On the eve of his historic Gardener 10th show which opens with a private VIP event tomorrow, 9.29, we bring you the final part of our interview. If you missed part one, go check it out and then come right back].
6. Word has it that you will be unveiling three new gardeners for the G10 anniversary show in Los Angeles. Can you tell us more about the additions?
107 is M, 108 is D, and 109 is Young. M.D. Young (laughs). [ed: MD Young is the Co-Founder of MINDstyle]. I can’t tell you exactly, but all three are from America. It wasn’t intentional. 107 and 108 were designed a few years ago. 109 was inspired by things happening around me and the world in the past year or so. The timing is really good, since this is my first exhibition in America.
7. Mini-figures are one of the growing genres in art toys today. Do you have any plans to create a new mini-fig line?
Yes, I want to do it. It won’t be ready for the exhibition, but in the future.
8. Over the past decade you've worked on so many memorable projects and mediums. Taking a step away from reality for a minute, what's your dream ignoring cost and practicality?
I would really like to do an animation using my own characters. Currently my development goes from 2D to 3D as a figure. I would like to turn my characters into an animation where it tells a story. I can’t do it by myself and really want to explore doing it and working with other creative talents.
Sep 21, 2009
Michael Lau – Ten Years, Ten Questions
Photo: Milk Magazine
[During a great trip to Asia this summer, Vinyl Pulse had a rare one-on-one interview with toy pioneer Michael Lau who has set the course and helped define vinyl toys for a full decade. Meeting Michael was a great experience. I’ve admired his artistry expressed through the vinyl toy medium from afar for years, so to be able to visit his gallery and chat with him in a relaxed setting was truly a treat. While I was prepared to ask a few questions in person and have the rest done through email due to time considerations, Michael gladly answered all of them and took the time to really consider the relevance of each. I left with a better insight into the man behind the Gardeners, a witty and wickedly creative visionary.
To celebrate Ten Years of the Gardeners, we asked Michael ten questions during our visit to his gallery. Through the gracious interpretation of Florance Yip, we covered a range of topics from Michael’s experiences over the last decade to his milestone 10th Anniversary show which opens with an invite-only VIP event on September 29th 2009 at De La Barracuda in Los Angeles. Today we bring you part one of our exclusive Interview. We’ll follow up with part two next Monday. Enjoy. ]
1. Congratulations on the upcoming 10 year anniversary of the Gardeners series. As one of the only artists to be able to sustain success with vinyl toys for a full decade, you've seen it all. Any surprises in the way vinyl toys have progressed and developed?
When I started ten years ago, I did not know that it would develop into what it is now. I made vinyl toys because I liked them, had a passion for it. I never thought the toys would be such a commercial success. I’m still doing it for the same reason as ten years ago – passion.
When I look back on the development of the vinyl market over these past ten years, I’ve seen it have ups and downs. It has its good times and its down period. It seems to have stabilized. There are definitely a set of people who have become collectors and true supporters of vinyl toys. Maybe some newcomers. I don’t see the market peaking again, we’ve reached a stable point.
2. As an artist you've chosen the medium of vinyl toys as you primary form of expression. Are there any other artists' work you admire or that inspires you ?
Some artists who have inspired me include --
Jean Marie Pigeon - the French artist who did the Tintin sculptures. I traveled to France and was inspired by his form and structure.
Mike Mignola – the artist behind Hellboy.
Tim Burton – He creates characters that are special and unique. Dynamic and life-like.
When I create characters, I want them to tell a story – not just a door without a life. Not something remote or distant. When you’re holding one of my characters it’s like he or she is talking to you and he or she has a character of their own.
Apr 15, 2009
My Collection - Tattoos
Tattoos are pretty much the only thing I collect now a days. My tattoos are my way of collecting art. Over the past few years I have gotten close to 100 hours of work done by Joe Capobianco, Jime Litwalk, Kat Von D, PON, Grez, Nikko Hurtado, Eric Newman, SEEN, and most recently, Mike DeVries. Yes - it hurt. Yes - it costs a lot of money.
Since tattoos are a passion of mine I wanted to introduce you to some of my tattoo artists who have become involved in the vinyl toy scene: Joe Capobianco, PON, and Grez. All three Artists have had vinyl toys and have done customs. Joe and Grez were both in the Tattoo Dunny Series I curated a few years ago, and PON has his own FatCap and Dunny. Get to know these amazing guys and witness how tattooing and vinyl toys collide.
How long have you been tattooing?
As of February '09, it is 16 Years.
What was your first introduction to art? What mediums did you work with before you started picking up a tattoo machine?
As long as I can remember I've been creating art, in one way or another. But my first actual introduction, as in Grade school 5th grade to be exact. And every year following that thru 12th grade I was very active in art classes. Having not continued on to college, or art school, I feel this was a huge leg up.
My primary art tool before tattooing was, and still is the Airbrush.
What made you switch to tattooing as art of choice?
Its a great job, I get to be creative in a very unique medium, and meet interesting people from round the world. That, and I was out of work, and was asked to apprentice...
Apr 09, 2009
Huck Gee – Minosu & The Golden Bull + Interview
Huck Gee continues his Gold Life saga with probably his most complex limited-edition piece to date – Minosu & The Golden Bull. This two-figure set features a bad ass Minosu Ushi-Oni (modified custom Munny – yes the blank was an April Fool’s joke) riding atop the 100% Huck original Golden Bull. This is the first Huck in-house release to feature an original character sculpt – maybe a sign of things to come. The Double Bulls has some added significance – Huck’s sign is Taurus and he was born in the Year of the Ox. Limited to 10 signed and numbered pieces, Minosu & The Golden Bull drops this Friday, April 10th @ Noon PDT from Huck’s store for $1500 per set.
Since this is a first for Huck, we thought we’d ask him a few questions about the release and potential new directions. Enjoy the mini-interview.
Hi Huck. Beyond your army of production toys, you've been incredibly successful with limited-edition custom releases. How did that start and are you at all surprised that demand is still amazingly high with sets of 10 selling out in under a minute ?
I think “Surprised” would be an understatement. The last few years have been quite a rollercoaster ride. The demand has been quite overwhelming at times… it’s flattering. And I’m thankful for all the love. It continues to open up new doors for me. Some amazing projects are coming.
This set marks a first and a bit of a departure from your previous releases. In addition to the custom Minosu Ushi-Oni Munny ride you have an original bull sculpt. Have you been wanting to create and produce an original sculpt in-house for awhile ? How did it go ? Any surprises?
Patience. Sculpting, casting… so much time is spent waiting around for something to set. And if something does go wrong during the process… well, you just lost a lot of your time, sometimes days. It’s too easy to get frustrated.
It’s always a learning experience, learning new techniques, new lessons… Trial and error, they can be my best teachers at times.
Mar 26, 2009
Who is Jack ?
[A Jack is a creature that keeps the Vinyl Pulse wheels a turnin’. Though he loves sticking the camera in your face he seems to hate attention. Here’s a picture of him in his natural setting.
A few things I know about him are.....
-messy peanut eater
Like you, the viewers I crave more information about this dude. So let’s tie him to the chair and ask him. – Amanda Visell. ]
Hello sir I will be doing an interview for Amanda Pulse and I was wondering if you would be interested in answering some questions for our viewers.
How long have you been doing Vinyl Pulse?
I started Vinyl Pulse at the end of March '05 so it's been almost four years now.
Why did you start it?
I started collecting vinyl towards the end of 2004. I still remember thinking $100 on eBay for Tristan Eaton's Black Voodoo Dunny was insane, but I just couldn't help myself -- way too cool. So since I'm slightly obsessive I wanted to learn more about the scene, the artists and the toys. Being geeky I did a few google searches looking for vinyl news sites. When I didn't find any really, I thought it would be fun to start one. I would like to say it was purely a hobby back then but it was also an experiment of sorts -- playing with Typepad for blogging and Google Adsense to see if I could cover my hosting fees.
So since you've started you think you've been thinking about toys every single day?
I've never really thought about it that way, but yes I think that's true. I pretty much do VP 7 days a week, so yeah my days are filled with toys. It's rough :)
We're you obsessed with toys before you started Vinyl Pulse?
Not really. I had my fair share of toys when I was a kid but I didn't really collect them per se. I didn't really obsess about toys or collectibles really until I saw one of the crazy Tokyo Guns vinyl figures in Import Tuner of all places.
You have a lot of toys, so many you hide them in a secret facility. What do you really like to collect though?
You have a lot of toys, so many you hide them in a secret facility. What do you really like to collect though?
Secret Facility. You make a storage unit sound so glamorous --- thanks. I have a few artists that I like to collect -- Tristan Eaton, Itokin Park, and Touma to name some. I tend to focus on larger toys these days -- mini-figs are hard to display in a way that makes them look appealing. Kaiju is growing on me -- I like Blobpus. i figure if you're going to buy monster figures they should creep people out. I've started collecting Michael Lau (waaaaay behind), and I'm enjoying that. But really I collect what catches my eye.
Top 3 toys from last year?
- WWR Bertie by Ashley Wood -- sick toy. a toy nerd's wet dream come to life. The finger articulation alone was incredible.
- 1:3 Pain by Coarsetoys -- Mark Landwehr's extreme sports aesthetic is great and works really well on the large scale. Like everything he does, the quality is top notch.
- T9G's Loveless figure -- the spotted animal print one. Sick. T9G makes wild figures -- his trademark doll eyes are just plain weird and hey I can respect that.
Top 3 toys you're looking forward to?
Of the stuff I can safely mention without fear of instant death --
- Ferg's Squadt Line -- love the combination of military 1:6 ish style and designer toy stylings.
- Jeff Soto's Walker -- I know, I know... but hey it could happen, right ???
- Brandt Peter's Peacemaker 32.9 -- love how it looks like a metal toy. Just gives me the desire to reach out and play with it -- which is pretty rare these days.
Pet peeve in toy design?
Uh oh. You're a troublemaker! One I've been thinking about lately has to do with blind-box artist series. I think it's really important to make sure that the customer knows who designed the toy they opened. Some companies make it a point to include collector cards that identify the artist and also list their website. On the other hand, some blind-box series make it exceedingly hard for someone unfamiliar with an artist to figure out who did the design. That's a serious no-no in my book since arguably artists do platform mini series to get exposure.
Favorite dog named Horrible?
This is a trick question. I do dig your dog, Horrible, but Peanut is pretty dope as well.
What are the odds of you eating a vegetable today?
It depends on what your definition of a vegetable is, particularly in terms of portion size. Even then, not so good.
Thanks for the keys to Vinyl Pulse, I'll lock up when Im done. (editors note: yesterday I heard Jack tell Horrible that he loved him).
Feb 11, 2009
Amanda Visell Interviews Ohm
[We're pleased to bring you an interview of French artist Ohm by Amanda Visell. Ohm had the challenging task of creating a consistent look for Muttop's Tcho! mini-fig series which features characters from six different creators. For the interview, Amanda put on her journalist's hat, pierced the fluff and got right down to the heart of the matter. Enjoy. ]
AV: Hello Dude, I had the pleasure of checking out your new toys when the Muttpop boys came over. How do you feel about having toys made?
O: I'm super excited about the toy release… especially since the Tcho! line includes a character from BAO BATTLE, my own comic book series. Designing a toy line has been a dream of mine. Knowing that these toys will be sold on store shelves next to toys designed by artistic geniuses like Devilrobots, Tado, and Friends With You is a great honor. But now that the first Tcho figures are done I want to do more, way more!
Can you describe the world they live in?
The world these characters come from is a galaxy with many different planets. Each planet is a very unique and colorful world filled with surprise and fun. The six characters the toys are based on actually come from six different comic book series all published in a comic anthology magazine here in France called Tcho!
Feb 04, 2009
Interview with MD Young of MINDstyle
[MINDstyle is one of the premiere art toy companies. Based in Asia, they have released toys from notables such as Michael Lau, Brandt Peters, Buff Monster, Doktor A, Kathie Olivas, Ron English and more. Vinyl Pulse recently had the opportunity to interview MD Young, MINDstyle's co-founder and visionary mind, in a rare interview about MINDstyle, toys, and the scene as a whole. Here's part one of two. Enjoy.]
MINDstyle is now based in Asia. Why did the company make this move and what are the advantages? Is Asia the future in terms of growing markets for designer toys?
MD: Our move here was always part of MINDstyle's expansion plans and more so, the timing seemed was right allowing us to develop the emerging markets and create additional revenue streams. In addition, part of our expansion is the development of our own original content and properties. MINDstyle as a whole is a lifestyle brand versus just a toy company. In Hong Kong for example, we've opened a creative space and partnered with DNM. This now allows us to produce everything from limited edition lifestyle products to even furniture. Our Manila space will allow us to partner with the right creative team to launch new projects. More importantly, our China based offices allow us to oversee production and work closely with our factory partners. We have our own in-house design team and (QC) quality control staff to give us an edge in the market.
Asia is not the future, as personally I believe much of the collectible toy business started in Japan and Hong Kong. With the early Japanese action figures to the whole Hong Kong boom with Michael Lau, if anything, this is where it all started. As a collector, I started collecting everything from Ultraman to Kikaida and Kaiju. Of course, there were the early McFarlane figures but it really were all the Hong Kong designer toys, Bounty Hunter, Kaws and Medicom products that created the excitement. Today, it seems to have gone full circle, as Kaiju is seeing a tremendous resurgence in the states and Michael Lau (who we have the pleasure of working with) sell outs instantly and commands an amazing secondary market price; just as Medicom's products of Kaws does in the marketplace and I am a big fan of collecting all of them. Clearly, Asia is the pulse of the collectors market.
With that being said, what companies like Kid Robot, Toy2R, Toy Tokyo and StrangeCo did is equally important in expanding the market and attracting a new fan base. The buying habits are different in the each market but there is no question that the whole movement in the United States increased awareness globally. The community as a whole is small in terms of gross toy sales, however it would be safe to say it's the most exciting segment.
The term 'Art Toy' is used quite frequently these days. While it sometimes gets used interchangeably with other terms such as "designer toys", some see it as an indicator of creative quality -- a step above so to speak. What's your take ?
MD: When we entered the market, we were a bunch of collectors with a background in the entertainment business and sales; with an understanding for pop culture and passion for art toys. At the time, the only terms used were urban vinyl or designer toys. What interested us most was the ability to license an artists original work and create quality collectible figures. It was our belief early on that such products were a great way for an artist to expand their fan base and reach a wider audience. Let's face it, with the world wide web everything is much more accessible and news spreads so much faster. While everyone's budget does not allows for a purchase of say a USD $10,000 original painting, most fans and collectors would spend USD $100. This had us focusing on the whole art and toy factor. Whereas art posters and art books were readily available of one's favorite artist, we saw art toys as another product for the artist to reach their fan base and more so, create a wider fan base therefore actually increasing their fine art value and collectibility. The term "art toy" is now loosely applied to roto-vinyl figures or at times used to define a product category.
Feb 02, 2009
kaNO Interview & ToyQube Exclusive Hi-Def @ NYCC
Official pictures have finally been released of Hi-Def! From the creative mind of kaNO and with a hefty amount of help from ToyQube, Hi-Def makes his debut at this years NYCC. 10 inches tall, fully articulated, records in hand, and wearing a m-65 military jacket, this all black colorway is ready for his first ever release. Only 100 of these figures will be available at the ToyQube Booth (#870) that will retail for $85. We were lucky enough to get a quick interview with the mastermind behind this piece, which can be read right after the jump.
Nov 21, 2008
Jamie Mathis Interview: Fully Visual + Apocalypt-Ephunts
[We recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Jamie Mathis, the owner and founder of Fully Visual, to talk about creating metal art figures. He also gave us an exclusive look at the newest Fully Visual project – Amanda Visell’s Apocalypt-Ephunt mini-fig set. Beyond taking a bunch of pics, we also shot a quick informal video intro (above) to the dope new metal mini-figs with the man himself in the new Switcheroo Workshop. Watch it for all the details, calm yourself, and then read the story behind Fully Visual to learn how a private label apparel designer added a new element to the art toy world.]
Q: How did you get started in metal ?
About ten years ago, I was designing apparel for a new company, Lucky Thirteen Apparel. I wanted to get into belt buckles. Since the price point for the mold making and sampling was pretty high, I started working for this guy who was doing belt buckles on his own. I worked with him and learned about sculpting and everything. As the years went on I got pretty close with him – kinda like a step dad deal.
I really got into doing the belt buckles and I ended up doing a private label line for Hot Topic for a few years. You know the brass knuckles, thorn n’roses – kinda like tattoo art. I’m not much of an artist except for tattoo type drawings, so it was really easy for me to turn my art into belt buckles.
I learned to work with metal through that experience.I really liked it a lot but eventually it wasn’t really playing my bills. I then got burned out and went back to my background in apparel design. I worked with a lot of artists like Rockin Jelly Bean, von franko, and Dirty Donnie – a lot of that low brow scene creating clothing.
More recently Paul Cruikshank, whom I met through punk rock collecting, needed help with production on Circus Punks which I did briefly. He pushed me towards doing more with metal. He was the one who focused me more on doing my own thing.
I had gone totally away from metal to focus on apparel. I didn’t event think about sculpting pieces with artists. I dealt with all the artists for clothing and circus punks, but it never crossed my mind to actually sculpt in metal until Cruikshank said “You should do stuff with the metal”. He knew that I had worked with metal. He was always pretty innovative – he lived in Fresno and up there you always have time to think about the lame things you can’t do but you want somebody else to do.