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.
VP: I’d just like to say that I’m super excited about this figure and hope to get one for myself! Let’s talk about Tattoo Royale and the Garage toys you all put together.
Guf: Making toys comes from the enjoyment of collecting them. We wanted to join in the fun and say " look what we can do! " If we are not tattooing we are working on some other art project, and I wanted to do some sculpting. Our first official TR Garage Toy, Larry, was a collaboration with Milton, based on his artwork. He ok'd my sculpt, helps with the casting and has painted some. Droop has done a couple of cool things as well. We have a Webstore, If people keep buying them we will keep making them.
VP: You guys put in a lot of quality work into your figures and it shows. Walking around your pad, I noticed a lot of toys. What was Little Guf's favorite toy as a kid? What does Older Guf collect now?
Guf: I can't think of a favorite toy, but was very proud of my model kit collection. Aurora monsters and Mongram and Revell hot rods lined my shelves. I started building models again when I discovered the Japanese garage kit hobby in the late 80's. Started with Billiken and Kaiyodo kits and the discovery of Bandai Godzilla toys. In the late 90's I attended 2 Godzilla conventions ( G-Fest ) and was bit by the Marmit M1-GO , Bullmark bug . The retro playful look of their toys sucked me in, as well as the nostalgia associated with the monsters I grew up with. So once again I have a room with monsters lining my shelves, giving me inspiration as I work.
VP: Final question.. How do you sneak in toys without having your wife notice? It seems as though your shelves are quite full.
Guf: She gave up keeping track a long time ago. On our first date, 17 years ago, one of the first things I showed her was my collection of Japanese model kits and American action figures, so hopefully she knew what she was getting into. Although, I guess it is pretty bad when she doesn't notice a Jumbo Machinder for 2 weeks.
VP: It sounds like you got a real keeper on your hands! I think that’s a wrap for now and I’d just like to give a huge Thank You to Guf, Mrs. Guf, and the Tattoo Royale crew for letting me hangout and shoot some pics. I hope this interview has given our readers a chance to get to know you a bit better, as I’ve learned quite a bit myself. We will definitely see you at Wondercon! SDSK!