LIKE TOYS, LOVE CLUTTER
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24 LUKE CHUEH 26 Bearface Killah Article by Josh Kimberg
Cover Illustration by Luke Chueh
Empty Eyes & Hollow Heads Article by Nick Curtis
One:12 COLLECTIVE Returning to Mega City One Article by Nick Curtis
Undead Toys / Kagemaru Designs’ DobuRat Article by Rich Montanari
The Life & Times of… Article by Nick Curtis
Passion & Waifs Article by Barbara Pavone
Welcome to Neo-Tokyo Article by Nick Curtis
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TEAM Miranda Oâ€™Brien Editor-in-Chief
Nick Carroll Art Director
Barbara Pavone Contributing Writer
Josh Kimberg Managing Editor
Jason Ryule Technical Coordinator
Rich Montanari Contributing Writer
Nick Curtis Associate Editor
Mike Torrisi Advertising Sales
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The basics first: what’s your art background? Schooling, influences, all that good stuff. I’ve always been a doodler, I spent most of my childhood drawing space battles, car crashes, and monsters. One of my older sisters is an artist too, so I learned a lot by watching her and having that influence as a little kid was really good. I’ve worked as a visual designer in print and web for 17 years, but me and school didn’t get along so well. I tried studying Graphic Design in school a few times, first at SUNY Farmingdale and later a very brief stint at Pratt. During my attempts at art school I did take a lot of fine art foundation courses, life drawing, art history, etc… Besides that I am mostly self-taught.
"Candy Corn Goblin," 2014
EMPTY EYES & HOLLOW HEADS NICK CURTIS
I first encountered the art of Joe Scarano at a group gallery exhibition in Beacon, NY. His contribution was a perfectly painted grayscale Munny with extracted eye holes that peered into the figure’s hollow head, a piece that straddled the line between being funny and tragic. Needless to say, this work was immediately a ‘must own’ addition to my collection. Since then, I’ve witnessed Scarano’s name become more recognized within the art toy world, with all of us slowly falling into the thrall of his glamorous grotesqueries. 12 | Clutter 24
My influences growing up were mostly cartoons — Tom and Jerry, Loony Tunes, anything by Tex Avery was alright by me, [Who Framed] Roger Rabbit is one of my favorites — and lots of sci-fi movies. I spent a good portion of my childhood hoping I would get frozen in carbonite because it looked so cool, but that would have sucked in retrospect. I loved Mad Magazine, the different illustrations styles were great. And I spent a lot of time copying album art from metal bands… onto denim jackets. Don’t judge, I grew up on Long Island. The cartoon influences especially make sense to me, as your art reminds me of Depression era animation… It’s definitely an era I am fascinated with. I remember seeing some of those really old Disney cartoons as a kid and being mesmerized by them, they are so odd and really, really violent. There’s a certain sadness or darkness to my work that is offset by the overly zany or goofy nature of the characters I paint. I think a lot of that comes from my childhood; I grew up in a zany house, I was the youngest of four kids and the only boy… there was always a lot of noise in our house. My mom is absolutely bonkers, in a good way. She was always hiding around a corner ready to jump out and scare you. Do you know what that does to a 5 year old?!? Dad was always out playing the guitar on the west side of Manhattan and trying to empty as many bottles along the way as he could. All of that craziness and the stories that came from it tend to influence the universe of characters I’ve created.
Do your characters all have a shared universe they inhabit? Or do you just create whatever you are moved to do, not concerned with a larger backstory? A little bit of both. I feel like they are all from the same world but not necessarily connected by the same backstory. My older work was more disconnected in that way, I was just creating one-off pieces that felt right at that moment. I am now working on a series of paintings that do have more of a shared backstory. Can you go into the shared backstory that your more recent works have? I peek into the Scarano-verse, as it were… These characters that I have been developing are all kind of on a journey. A lot of elements of stories that my dad used to tell us about his misadventures as well as some fairy tale elements thrown in. Breaking out of their day-to-day, encountering or causing trouble and mischief… getting lost in the woods and finding their way out through the bottom of a well.
“Ol’ Stitch Wilson,” 2014
What made you take the leap from two-dimensional representations to creating hand-painted toy pieces? I tend to go through fits where I don’t want to paint or draw and I felt like a lot of my characters would translate well to 3D. I didn’t really know how to sculpt so I started working with the DIY toy platforms. It was a great way to start to think about how my work translates to 3D. Within the last year you’ve started to sculpt and cast original figures. What was the impetus behind this? I started to hit a wall with the custom toys, I just got burned out on doing them. I had done some sculpting but wasn’t really psyched with any of the results, so I kind of put it down. Going to the Bewitching III show at Stranger Factory last year really got me excited to try my hand at it again. After talking with other artists out there and seeing the different ways people were going about creating these resin editions I got really excited and wanted to learn how to do it myself. It took a lot of trial and error, YouTube videos, and research to get to where I feel comfortable doing small runs of figures but it’s been fun. “A flawed escape,” 2014 Clutter 24 | 13
“One last thing before we go old pal…,” 2014
What made you choose these particular sculpts to pursue? Namely the Lil’ Scabo, Ol’ Stitch Wilson, and Grimley designs.
“The Goon,” 2013
For me it has a lot to do with what shape or form would translate well from 2D to 3D, those characters in particular made the most sense to me. I feel like Ol’ Stitch really worked well in 3D, sculpting him allowed me to push the forms and shape further than I had previously done in my 2D work. The oniony shape of Grimley’s head just kind of begged to be sculpted, I am working on variations of that character... I want to see how his big onion head turns out sculpted. Your resin editions have all been hand-painted customs so far. Is this the tactic you’re planning to continue forward with or will we see these designs available in unpainted editions at some point?
“Grimley’s madness,” 2014
For now I am focusing on micro editions that include a painted design. I feel like the characters I have been focusing on really come to life once they have been painted. If I were to do some unpainted editions I would want to be able to push the design and casting further than my own skills allow for right now, like clear or translucent colored resin castings, that sort of thing. Are you hoping to make the transition to production pieces in the near future? I would love to do a production piece. I’ve had a few conversations with people who do them, so that may happen soon. We’ll see. For more information on Joe Scarano, please visit:
www.joescarano.com various studies by the artist, 2015 14 | Clutter 24
Mutantology mu·tan·tol·o·gy noun \ˈmyü-tən-ˈtä-lə-jē\ : the study of indie toys as selected by Rich Montanari of Mutant Vinyl Hardcore. www·mutantvinylhardcore·com
DobuRat by Undead Toys / Kagemaru Designs Pictured is Undead Toys’ first sofubu toy, the DobuRat, cast in milky translucent vinyl.
During a random Instagram search one night, I came across Kagemaru and his brand, Undead Toys. I was immediately drawn to his designs and sculpts, as I felt they perfectly merged Japanese shock and classic American animation styles, his works really walk the line between cute and creepy perfectly without going overboard. In addition to all this, a true master of his craft, his paint application is always fresh and extremely vibrant. I knew I had to speak with this man, and luckily I was introduced to Kagemaru through Luke Rook of Lulubell Toy Bodega. With Luke’s invaluable help, I’ve been able to collect Kagemaru’s toys as well as having the pleasure of introducing him to the world, by inviting him into his first American toy exhibition. I believe, in time, that many will see the brilliance of his work and come to appreciate it as much as I.
Tell us about yourself. Originally, I started making silver accessories in 2003. Then, in 2012, I started using wax for prototyping and making resin stuff. Around this time I was introduced to Sculpey, which helped me to better express my ideas. As Kagemaru Designs, I design and make toys as well as silver accessories. I also design original characters and create illustrations. Then, as Undead Toys, I work in resin and sofubi, which I sell directly in Japan and through international retailers.
How long have have you been making toys, regardless of medium? For the past three years I’ve been working in resin in earnest. It’s been less than a year since I started working in sofubi.
Who and what are the major influences on your art?
Artists are H. R. Giger, Tim Burton, Rockin’ Jelly Bean, and Takayuki Takeya. Movies are Alien and The Nightmare Before Christmas, while characters are Rat Fink and Spawn.
Who are your favorite current toy makers? Since back in the day, [my favorites] are Palisades, McFarlane Toys, and Sideshow. I’ve been recently curious about Secret Base.
What’s next from you? Scheduled to be released in 2015, in resin, are my Alice Series Vol. 2 and Harinezum, [which] uses resin and fur. In sofubi, I have Eye-Scream, Maneki Cadora, and a collobaration project, Ko-chagammer, [coming out].
For more information on Undead Toys/Kagemaru visit:
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Lil’ Grizlli - hand-painted one-off version, 2015
Illuminated by cracks of lightning, an imposing figure pushes his way out of a nightmarishly dense forest. He stretches, his bear-like build suggesting a grizzly fur trading mountain man, or an uncontrollable norse warrior, or a hard-drinking lumberjack, but he is none of these things. He is an artist. A tattooer. A graphic designer. An illustrator. A sculptor. A toy maker. This Jack of all artistic trades was born as Kevin Kusulas, but is best known by the nom de guerre Grizlli Atom… So who is Grizlli Atom? And where does that name come from? People started calling me “Grizzly” a long time ago. I’m a big boy and I’m hairy, makes sense that it stuck. Then, while in high school, I had a surge of interest in ‘Sticker Art.’ I wasn’t fast or sneaky enough for graffiti, but stickers I could do. The G-R-I-Z-L-L-I spelling was a teenager’s attempt and standing out. Plus bad grammar is fun when you’re young. Again it stuck. What’s your art background? Formally trained or self-taught? I guess it’s safe to say I’m self-taught to some point, although I’ve had many amazing “mentors” over the years. 20 | Clutter 24
First and foremost, John Filardi while I attended the High School of Art & Design. I had been drawing my entire life, but I was never really encouraged to follow my own path. John told me, week one of class, to sit in the back of his room and do whatever I wanted. No drills or projects, just draw, have fun, get weird if need be. And this wasn’t some pretentious fine art studio. Mr. Filardi was a swords and sorcery kind of guy, so it’s safe to say that I drew a lot of messed up monsters in his class. (Laughs)
been exploring ways to get into the toy world for a long time, none of which panned out. It wasn’t till a particularly slow day at the tattoo shop that I picked up clay for the first time in my life and out they came. They aren’t perfect, but they’re full of love. That’s the one thing I hope people see in them.
I think your Old Ones line was the first thing I saw from you. Were those ‘battle sets’ your first releases?
The first art form I tried to cut a path in were comics. Growing up, if I wasn’t smashing toys together, I was reading comics by Jack Kirby. He was my patron saint. The Old Ones were the
The Old Ones were my first born. I had
What’s the story behind the Old Ones series of mini figures? The name invokes Lovecraft but the figures feel very Jack Kirby!
first things I sculpted, so the Kirby homage was natural, they sort of just happened. The Lovecraft nod is based more in perception. To me, the creatures Lovecraft wrote about were forgotten gods, things that mankind once knew to fear, but over time those deities faded into obscurity. No less monstrous, just not continuously feared. The same can be said about Kirby’s monsters: they were once the forefront of comic horror, but now are only occasionally used. And mostly in a comical tone. The Old Ones are the forgotten monsters as they live and breathe, still monsters and gods to be respected. Luckily my brother Mikee Riggs [Toys Are Sanity] and Luke [Rook, aka Grody Shogun] understood what I was going for and we got them produced.
Pashka - hand-painted one-off version, 2015
Your Old Ones figures also remind me of the giants from the 1966 film Frankenstein’s Monsters: Sanda vs. Gaira, also known as The War of the Gargantuas. Am I making this up or was it also an inspiration? You must mean Cave Brute and Georilla, in which case you’re absolutely right! They actually were supposed to be part of series two, but — after a failed snake omake — they got moved up the ranks. The Sanda and Gaira homage is something I definitely wanted to explore, and their next incarnations will be in a midsized set. I’ll definitely be having some Gargantua fun with those sculpts. With the popularity of the vintage Ooze-it toy, many people were doing their own renditions of the piece… including yourself. Was your Ooze Corpse a bit of statement on over use of the design? Oh certainly. Don’t take that as a slight towards the others being produced — I’ve collected quite a few of them — but it just seemed like such a strange coincidence that SO MANY happened to be coming out so close together. It became a sort of game in my eyes, like a toy maker relay race. Each maker doing something new, and then next trying to take it a further. I knew I wanted to do a ‘rag doll’ style toy, but having an un-oozeable Ooze-it seemed so redundant. (Laughs) So I embraced the idea and sculpted a dried up fossil, the corpse of the once oozing Ooze-it. R.I.P., little guy. Please tell us where Bostyrant came
Ooze Corpse - hand-painted one-off version, 2015
from?!? That figure is an absolutely sick creature creation!!! It was done in partnership with Snatch Punch Creature Cartel, so who did what on it? (Laughs) I wish I knew, man. Joe [Truck Kasher of Snatch Punch Creature Cartel] sent me his sketch after Paul [Bas of Monster Island NYC] introduced us. He had a crazy concept, gave me plenty of creative control to sculpt, and, as they say, magic happened — maybe black magic actually! Our little ‘Pickle Tits’ is a strange one, but she’s our baby girl and we love her. I’m just afraid to see who or what comes to pick her up on prom night!
Figures like the deformed bunny Pashka, the two-headed Back-Biter, and the hairy bear Lil’ Grizlli seem a bit out of place next to your more strange monsters… What inspired you to do these freak show animals? They are extremely different from the Old Ones, but I never wanted to work in one genre. There’s a lot of cool toys out there, so how can anyone collect only one genre? I happen to have an affinity for vintage squeeky toys. I know they were created to be cute, but there’s something inherently eerie about them. Wide-eyed and smirking, there’s something unsettling about them. So I wanted to take them a bit Clutter 24 | 21
Back-Biter - hand-painted one-off version, 2015
further, explore different concepts — humanoid features with Lil’ Grizlli, birth defects with Back-Biter. There’s a few more characters in the ‘Squeak Show’ series that haven’t made there debuts yet. I’m excited to get them finished, and take the whole line to vinyl soon. What inspired your Black Rider figure set? I love the idea of a Plague Doctor accompanied by a Plague Pony and Plague Rat! The idea of the ‘Plague Doctor’ came up in a conversation with [the artist] beaK. It was the anniversary of the black plague, and we talked about making a toy in tribute. I began sculpting with no real direction, and what I ended up with was much more penguin like than I originally thought! This was around the time I became obsessed with the dichotomy of cute and horrific, which led to my ‘Squeak Show’ sculpts, the last of which was the ‘Plague Pony.’ The pony was a bit too dark to fit in that series, but by chance the pony and doctor worked perfectly [together]. I heard that the Black Rider set will be produced in vinyl by Toy Art Gallery (TAG). Congrats! Will it be the full set 22 | Clutter 24
or just part of it? I won’t jump the gun and say they’re producing the set. That was, for the most part, a one-time resin release. What TAG is in fact producing is the good Doctor himself. He and his rodent friends should be debuting very soon in sofubi. As for the ‘Plague Pony,’ she hasn’t been forgotten… there is definitely plans for her to make a vinyl debut one day as well. You’ve done releases under Gnosis Toy, so who and what exactly is it? Is it just you? I honestly had no idea who or what Gnosis Toy was at first. The word “gnosis” has been important to me for years. It essentially means “knowledge of all things”, and the power one gains from that. I have tried forging myself an art career in many fields: comics, tattoos, illustration, painting, sculpting, I’ve tried it all. Most I’ve left behind entirely, but with each venture I like to think I learned something… some technique, some lesson that brought me to where I am today. As of this interview, WE are a collective. I’ve been lucky enough to
come in contact with a lot of really talented people, who I now call friends. A group of people who not only share a drive to really make a mark in the toy scene, but to make every new project better than the last. As of this interview, the founding members of ‘Gnosis Toy Crew’ are: Blood Guts Toys (@izumonster), Death Cat Toys (@johantattoos & @lindsey_ ulrich), Katt Su (@gnosiscrew), Mike Riggs (@coma21), Ozzi (@ozzidawizz), Snatch Punch Creature Cartel (@snatchpunch), and myself (@grizlli_atom). It’s very exciting to start this collective with such talented people. What’s better, though, is the lack of ego involved. This crew has no time for hype, drama, or bad vibes. Toys should be fun, and we intend to keep it that way. Our first showing as a group is on April 18th at TAG in L.A. There is a lot of really crazy stuff in the works for this show, and — perhaps best of all — we’re all gonna be in attendance! So I hope to see all the West Coast collectors out there! For more information on Grizlli Atom, please visit: instagram.com/grizlli_atom
BEARFACE KILLAH Josh Kimberg
Magician. Satirist. Pyro. Luke Chueh is a… A bear in a pill bottle. A chicken staring at eggs on a plate. A bear setting itself on fire.
“You Are What You Eat (Self),” 2014
“Some Trends Make Me Want To Puke,” 2014
Chueh has elevated the seemingly mundane to an art that is meaningful and desperately relevant to our generation. It’s his talent at honesty that reveals to us his inner life and subsequently our own; it’s the bears and bunnies that allow us all to see ourselves. When did you first know you wanted to be an artist? I think I always wanted to communicate visually. When I was a child I wanted to be a cartoonist, and when I was in high school I wanted to be a graphic designer, the practical man’s art career. Turns out I ended up being a little bit of both. So how’d you get from there to being a painter? While I was in school, my professors would tell me, “Luke, you’re a good designer, but you’re a GREAT illustrator. We recommend that you pursue a career as an illustrator.” Painting just seemed like the right medium for me. I like the organic lines that you can only achieve with a brush, or with loose ink. What were some of the important steps you took at the beginning of your career?
The biggest step was getting an education. Though I didn’t go to a fancy art school, I studied art & design at Cal[ifornia] Poly[technic State University in] San Luis Obispo. Their program gave me a foundation in art and color theory that I still employ today.
me up with Fall Out Boy, whom I did the album art for Folie À Deux. Gallery 1988 was behind a whole bunch of amazing opportunities for me.
Looking back, I also attribute my rise in the LA art scene to my friend LC [L Crowsky] of Cannibal Flower. When I moved to LA in 2003, he was one of the first artists I met, and he basically took me under his wing, explained to me what was going on, shared with me his theories, and gave me a venue to explore and to find my voice.
To be honest, the real reason why I started with animals was because they were easy for me to paint. I’m pretty much a self-taught painter, so — in the beginning — my skills and abilities were limited. I also formulated a theory/philosophy in order to validate my work to myself. That is, by employing anthropomorphized characters in my paintings, I believe my narratives have a much more universal appeal, bypassing issues of agism, racism, and sexism.
I thought Gallery 1988 gave you your first real break? Gallery 1988 was the first gallery to show my work. They also allowed me to curate my first show, The Vivisect Playset. They produced my book, Bearing the Unbearable, and hooked
What inspired you to depict anthropomorphized animals in your art?
For instance, if I replaced my animal characters with a 30-something asian male, or a geriatric black female, I would instantly divide or alienate my Clutter 24 | 29
audience. Despite how open-minded we like to think we are, as human beings, we all feel varying degrees of prejudice whether we’re conscious of it or not. Earlier in your career there were more different types of animals in your visual language, so when did the bear and bunny become the primary aspects for you? Something I try to capitalize on is the way modern societies like to associate human behavior with animal behavior. For instance, rabbits are typecast as being abnormally fast and are prolific fornicators, foxes are clever, chickens and penguins lead tragic existences because they can’t fly, as do monkeys cause they’re one chromosome away from being human — I’m not sure if that’s the truth, but heck, I ain’t no a scientist! Anyways, I like to play off of these myths in my work, and when I started painting, I felt like I had a lot of them to work with. But as time went on, my message became more personal, and I
“Terror from the Sea,” 2011
decided to focus on using the bear and the rabbit as metaphors for myself. I still occasionally come up with new ideas based on animal mythologies, but they’re few and far between. Your career seems to be speeding up, we’re seeing so much of you out there in art world. Is that changing the way you are working? It’s definitely making me think about how I should handle my career. After a show, I always feel burnt out but I find myself right back to work on the next show. It’s been an exhausting couple of years, so I’ve decided that it’s about time I slowed down on the art shows by picking up on the retail side of things. I’ve been looking at apparel, lifestyle goods, small run collectables, toys, and customs as a way to earn enough money so I can take my schedule down to at most one major show a year. I just opened up an online store at Big Cartel (lukechueh. bigcartel.com) and will be using it to start selling directly to my fans and collectors. Speaking of your toys, how do you feel about them? Are they a part of your core art or are they ancillary products?
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I think the toys I’ve made have been a very important part of my career. They originally served to introduce my paintings to a new scene, while at the same time giving fans a chance to own something a little more interesting than a 2D print at an affordable price
tag. Personally, I like to look at my “toys” as an extension of my artwork; a compliment to my paintings, and a vehicle for self-promotion. To be honest, I can’t make a living just selling toys. The percentage I make from a sale is minimal, but I completely accept it because the job of the toy producer is that of a gambler and, as a gambler, I believe they should be paid if they play their cards right. As an artist, I end up benefiting whether the product was hot or not, as long as it’s true to my artistic vision. How did your first toy come about? My first toy, Possessed, was produced by Munky King. It was based on the painting I created in 2005. It was originally supposed to be produced with another — now defunct — company, fortunately that company had reservations, and forfeited the project. Around that time Munky King was still just a retail store with thoughts of moving into production. When Possessed’s original producer gave up the rights to the project, I took it to Munky King, and the rest is history. Target is an amazing toy. What was its genesis? Thank you! Target was based on a painting I created for my first gallery solo show, [the one] at Gallery 1988. As the painting illustrates, my bear is standing in front of a firing squad,
Bitch - Golden Fleece Edition, 2014
bullet holes littering the wall behind him. To insure that his execution is pulled off without a problem, he draws a target on his belly, marking where firing squad should aim their rifles. There were a couple narratives that came to mind while developing this idea, but the one that makes the most sense is this: The bullet holes behind the bear were meant for him, but the inept firing squad obviously couldn’t get it right. In his disgust, he grabs a brush and marks where the shooters need to aim. I can imagine the bear saying to himself, “…if you want to get the job done right…” (Deeply exhales) What about the Bitch toy? How was it inspired? It seems a little bit of a departure from your normal style. (Laughs) The Bitch toy was based
Target - Black, 2012
on a painting I created in 2007. I guess it’s different because it doesn’t feature any of my major characters, but narratively I think it’s very much in line with all my other paintings. The idea came around when I was thinking of the idiom “a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” it was my attempt at turning the idea sideways. When I first created the painting, Patrick Lam of Munky King was in love with it. However, he and I were hesitant to create the piece because of the sexual content. After several years had passed, Bitch still resonates as one of those ideas we’d love to see, so we decided to take a chance and make it. When I look at the finished piece, two narratives come to mind. The first starts with the bottom wolf, dressing up in the fleece to go hunting, but then getting jumped by the top wolf. Or maybe the top wolf has a thing for
sheep, and doesn’t realize that the sheep is actually a wolf in sheep’s clothing. The second narrative has the top wolf asking the bottom wolf to wear the fleece for him, like a boy asking a girl to act out some sort of fetish that the girl is obviously not into. Either way, the bottom wolf is the bitch. The finished product is one of my favorite toys. I love it not only because Julie B [of Pretty in Plastic] did such an amazing job sculpting it, or because Munky King really pulled all the stops in making it, but simply because you don’t have to be a Luke Chueh fan to enjoy it. So what’s next from you, toy-wise? 2015 is probably going to be my biggest output year ever. With Clutter, we are working on releasing a project we are calling Dissected. It’s a sculpt of a head with half of its face removed to reveal a human skull, the idea basically illustrating the fact that my bear [character] isn’t a bear at all. It’s a human with the visage of a bear. Meanwhile, Munky King will be releasing a couple new projects. The first is my smallest project to date: a keychain/zipper-pull/phone-charm called Hung. And the other is Headspace, right?
“The Prisoner (Revisited),” 2011
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“The Leak,” 2011
I know that’s been highly anticipated. What can you tell us about it? Its origins? I like to think that art fans are inherently interested in knowing what makes an artist “tick.” From their upbringings and inspirations, to their technique and methodology. The Headspace series is my attempt to illustrate the things that influenced me, and to give credit to the things that I grew up with, and excited, and inspired me. The base image is of my bear, removing his head, as though it were a mask, to reveal all the various things inside my head. When I conceived the series in 2011, I started with illustrating all my main characters, but then I opened it up to a few artist references, I added a Banksy reference and a very subtle Mark Ryden reference, and pop culture references, specifically Star Wars. In 2012, I brought the series to Munky King to be made into an art toy. What makes this series unique is how we plan on selling it, and the potential for expansion. As for now, we’re planning on offering a “starter pack” featuring a body with two heads. Then we are considering packaging all the other head designs as blind boxed pieces. Now, here’s where it gets interesting. We’ve been thinking of offering stores the opportunity to have their own exclusives by making their logo into a sculpted head that could fit on the body. For instance, later this year, Rotofugi will be hosting the Headspace sequel, and as such we’ll be offering an eye-patch Lincoln 32 | Clutter 24
Headspace - prototype, 2014
head as a Rotofugi exclusive. Finally, we can also make small run resin heads as limited edition “convention exclusives,” and then even open it up to custom designs. That kind of uniqueness seems like a good way to keep up with the changing art scene. You’ve been in the art toy community for over a decade now, so how have things changed and where do you think they’re going? Today’s art toy scene is very different from the scene I started in, and if I was to I attribute this change to one thing, then I’d have to say it was the 2007 recession that made this a pale reflection of what it was. Before, artists and companies were looking to make the biggest and most ambitious products that they could. Nowadays, I’m forced to reassess the direction my productions are going, I feel like I need think even more strategically than I have in the past. For instance, I
can’t just make big runs of expensive pieces anymore. Small run resins are becoming common place, coupled with small, affordable pieces. I had a friend/producer tell me about his experience at the Korean Art Toy Fair, and he was telling me how big ambitious pieces simply didn’t sell. However, cute, small, and cheap were the name of the game. Also, I feel like Asia is going to be a big market in this movement, but if we want to be successful there, we need to think differently… That is unless you’ve got mad publicity and are internationally renowned, like KAWS.
For more information on Luke Chueh, please visit: www.lukechueh.com
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MEZ MARKOWITZ, THE PRESIDENT OF MEZCO, TALKS ABOUT MAKING ONE BADASS STREET JUDGE INTO 1:12 SCALE!
What exactly is Mezco’s One:12 Collective? What makes it different than other 6” figure lines? The One:12 Collective is a 1:12 scaled high-end collectable figure. Our goal is to bring something new and exciting to the collectable market. With all the retro type product being pushed these days our directive is to offer something that propels collecting forward. As much as I enjoy and understand the idea behind retro styled product to me it is partly like offering rotary phones in a smart phone era. We are striving to craft as dynamic a figure as possible in the scale we are working in. The 1:12 scale is one of the core collectable scales alongside 1:6 and 1:18. We are blending a mixed media collectable that has loads of articulation as well as tons of accessories, something never done before in this scale the way we are doing it. Implementing highly detailed sculpts, incredibly articulated bodies, tailored outfitting, and numerous accessories alone sets the One:12 Collective apart from any 6” scaled figure.
After the initial One:12 Collective release - Batman: The Dark Knight, based on Frank Miller’s iconic design why opt for a sophomore outing based on UK comic sensation Judge Dredd? Judge Dredd seems like a perfect next step in showing off what the One:12 Collective can achieve in terms of detail and presentation. The figure looks fantastic and it is exciting to have him up as our next project. The One:12 Collective will be offering a slew of brands that cover a range of genres. What features does the Judge Dredd figure have? What makes him special? Our Judge Dredd figure will feature a specially made outfit allowing for the figure to be posed while keeping the leather-like style of his uniform, over thirty points of articulation, over twelve unique accessories, and a display base. As for what makes Judge Dredd special, that is all about the character and the rich universe that he lives in. Were any of the Judge Dredd
illustrators involved in the design of this figure? Yes, the talented and incredibly helpful Ben Wilsher was very involved with designing the figure. Ben is a super nice guy and was excited about working on the figure. He was kind enough to take time from his schedule to really flesh out the general look as well as assist with some finer details. Between Ben and Josh Sutton of ERA Sculpture LLC — who did a fantastic job on both Dredd and Batman — I think we knocked out a extremely compelling Judge Dredd figure that will make fans and collectors very happy. When will it be available? The Judge Dredd One:12 Collective figure is up for pre-order now on many e-tailer sites, including our own mezcotoyz.com, and will ship in July 2015. For more information on Mezco, please visit: www.mezcotoyz.com Clutter 24 | 37
“The Entomologists Daughter,” 2014
If Mab Graves’ pop surrealist art isn’t enough to stop you in your tracks, sparking a “moment of strange lovely” and making you want to find out more about her at all costs, then the fact that she lives in a converted 1800s tavern in Indianapolis, that her studio is possibly the coolest place on Earth, and that “Mab is short for nothing, it’s just short, it’s just Mab” surely will. Drawing inspiration from Big Eyes artists, such as Keane, passionate about classic literature, and deeply in love with all things art, Graves lives and breathes her craft, sometimes working in her home studio for days at a time without setting foot outside. A self-taught artist, Graves has been painting her Waifs, beautiful girls that have the ability to tug at your heartstrings while eliciting childhood memories and reminding you of innocence lost, since 2009. With devoted fans in over 56 countries, she’s already lined up 12 shows for 2015 and we just couldn’t wait to catch up with her and chat about all things Mab Graves.
Let’s go back in time for a moment. Was the decision to pursue art as a legitimate career a difficult one to make? My entire life I had been well aware and told over and over that “artist” was synonymous with “bartender” or, most likely, “starving,” so I never even set it as a goal to paint full-time. I planned on working a day job — forever — and painting my nights away — forever. I was shocked when my work started to take over more and more of my time and I could afford to let it. I had to start cutting back hours at the day job until finally, I was sleeping four or five hours a night and I realized I just couldn’t do both anymore. It was scary when I finally gave notice because working for yourself is never a sure thing. The ups and downs are nail-biters. It can still be scary sometimes, there’s a lot of pressure, but I try never to let my paintings know about it! (Laughs) I talk about it when they’re asleep!
Do you remember a specific moment when you thought, ‘Damn, this might actually work’? Between juggling both jobs and working my brain into pudding, it snowballed over me when I wasn’t looking and there was never a chance to really think about it. It was starting, then it was growing, then it was just off and away on its own and I was struggling to catch up and stay on board! It completely surprised me. Being a self-taught artist, what’s the hardest challenge you’ve had to overcome? Did you ever consider going to an art school? I feel like art is a lot like math. You can struggle and struggle over multiplication, but the minute it clicks in your head and you understand the formula, you can multiply any number in the world. Art is the basically the same: the minute your mind clicks with the formula of making what you see in your head come out of your hand, you’ve got it.
New mediums always present new challenges, though. I promised myself that if I ever got stumped or came across something I couldn’t figure out on my own, then I would go to school, but so far it hasn’t happened! (Laughs) If I had gone to school I probably would have learned some shortcuts or more streamlined processes, but I have a sense of pride that no one gave me anything and I learned it all on my own. How would you describe your
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“Blue And The Brontosaur,” 2013
ladies, your Waifs, to someone first discovering them?
When people see your work, what do you hope strikes them, hard?
To me, my Waifs are symbols of the innocence and fragility we have all had a connection to at one point in our lives. For most of us, it’s gone now, but the moment we see it, we recognize it. We all remember a time when we were so small and the world was alive with strangeness and wonder and with the uncertain bliss of innocence.
Each piece is different; I’m always telling different stories. I paint because these little souls need to come out of me and they need to be alive, but I don’t really have any goals or expectations about what anyone else gets out of them. It’s so lovely to hear people’s reactions and see the things they connect to!
My painting style has been cobbled together from inspirations of an entire life. Growing up in the late ’80s and ’90s was cartoon mania, but my love for Big Eyes all started with a passion for anime in my teens. I loved the ability to convey expression and feelings without the grounding of any sort of reality. Then I discovered the Big Eye pioneers, like [Margaret] Keane, Igor Pantuhoff, and Eve — they were hugely inspirational. Also, I’ve harbored a life-long obsession with Russian painters. My grandmother had some of those little black lacquered boxes with the miniscule paintings on them — all fairytales and all utterly magical — and my love for teeny tiny details sprang from them. 42 | Clutter 24
Seeing as you’re so inspired by literature, what are your three favorite books that everyone should absolutely read, no excuses?
Easy. Geek Love, Lolita, The Night Circus, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Grimm’s Fairytales, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Blackwood Farm… Oh, wait! Did you say three? If you could enter one of your most recent paintings and have it come to life, which one would you choose to visit?
One of my favorite pieces ever is “Blue and the Brontosaur.” I fell so deeply in love with her that she broke my heart as I was painting — I had to keep her. Every now and then you create a piece that you know
there is no way on earth you can part with. She could become a real girl and live with me any day. Is it true you live in a converted 1800s tavern?!
Yes! It was a burned out shell when we found it. We took three years of blood, sweat, and tears renovating it. It’s an absolute dream.
I want to visit! (Laughs) If I did, what’s the raddest thing I’d find — and possibly try to steal? It’s the weirdest, most amazing place on the planet for me — I’d rob me blind. Most of my “coolest” treasures are really just silly and sentimental to me. I have my where-it-all-began basket of crayons from babyhood, a vintage big-eyed Lefton Poodle paint brush holder, the amazing hardwood palettes my dad made me, the barristers cabinet stuffed with crazy toys, but above anything: That. Wall. Of. Insanity. Steal the rest — just leave the art. What’s the best part of living in Indianapolis?
I live in my tavern like a little sequestered hermit most of the time — I only leave a couple times a
“Fliegend” (detail), 2014
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week — but when I do go out, people in this city are so nice. It’s like the friendliest, coolest population ever. It’s great to have really genuine, honest conversations without namedroppery or fakiness. Outside of all things art-related, what gets you most excited?
Okay, outside of art-related things… Wait! There are things OUTSIDE of art? (Laughs) I am an intensely boring person if you take the art out of me. It’s my passion and my obsession. Weekly I get so inspired that I go to bed giddy because I can’t wait to get up the next day and keep going. Sometimes I’m so in love with it my chest hurts. It’s blinding in all the most beautiful and painfully wonderful ways. All of my passions lead right back to art. All except one, I guess: I have a four-year-old nephew who is my favorite person in the known universe. I would sever my hands for that little monster! What fun projects are you currently working on?
I have 12 shows scheduled for this year already. I have a solo show at Auguste Clown Gallery in April that I’m getting really excited — and insanely nervous — for, and this fall
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I have an exhibition titled Children of the Nephilim, which will be a series of paintings involving dinosaurs, black-winged Waifs, and sherbetcolored worlds — I can’t wait to get it finished! Please finish this sentence: Mab Graves is…
The ending to this one changes every day, but today, Mab Graves is so tired and so inspired. She is slowly dying from poor ventilation and too much passion. For more information on Mab Graves, please visit:
WELCOME TO NEO-TOKYO, BUILT ON THE RUINS OF OLD TOKYO IN 2019. GRIPPED BY THE CONSTANT THREAT OF GANG VIOLENCE, THE CITY IS HOME TO WANDERING SAMURAI TIGERS WHO BARE FORTH SHINING KATANA BLADES INSTEAD OF DEADLY CLAWS. CONSTANTLY SCRUTINIZING THE CITYSCAPE FOR THEIR RIVALS, SHARPLY DRESSED YAKUZA PANDAS, WHILE SKULLHEADED WARRIORS STAND READY TO PROTECT THEIR RED-SKINNED ONI OVERLORDS IN SKYSCRAPER TOWERS. WELCOME TO THE WORLD OF...
Grimsheep figures - hand-painted one-off versions, 2014
Where does the name Grimsheep come from? Why did you choose it for your moniker? That name is 20 years old now, I needed a name for a character in a MUD [Multi-User Dungeon, a real-time, text-based role-playing video game] I was signing up for. Its origin actually comes from a couple of musical sources… In Montreal, at the time, there was a local band call Grimskunk. I liked the name and was trying to think up alternatives to skunk. I am also a Pink Floyd fan and realized that if I used Grimsheep it fit perfectly with the theme of “Sheep” from the album Animals. I started using it whenever I needed a character or login name because I’d grown fond of it… also, it was never taken. I remember seeing custom work from 48 | Clutter 24
you in 2008 or so… When did you start and what got you into it? I got my first Munny for Christmas in 2007, painted it, and showed it off on the Kidrobot forums in January. I had seen some customs on art forums a few years before that, but the one time I tried to track down the figures I ended up at Kidrobot but there was only like one thing available on the whole site. I bought my first Dunny in 2007 after moving to Maine and discovering them in my local music store. That Christmas my wife got the whole family a big haul from Kidrobot and I guess that was that. Your customs have several recurring elements, especially skulls, as well as animal base designs. Is there a specific reason you gravitate towards these things?
I see a lot of skulls in art, and especially in the vinyl toy scene. I think they are just one of those things that many people are struck by. I’m not sure if it is the stark beauty and simplicity of a skull or a connection to the core of our physical body. Maybe it’s our fascination with our inevitable demise. Whatever the case, I love drawing them. As for the animals, when I was a kid my favorite books were Richard Scarry books and I’d spend hours drawing the characters from them. Since then, a million cartoons and comics — like Rocket Raccoon and Usagi Yojimbo — have influenced me. Plus, it is way more fun to draw animals with guns and swords than people. Funny that you mention guns and swords, as you have an affinity for
Grimsheep figures, 2014
creating customs with them as accessories. Where does that come from? It certainly can’t be easy to create those tiny accessories for your pieces… (Laughs) I think it must just be the 14-year-old in me that won’t grow up. The final product is rewarding but it’s definitely not easy and they do take a lot of time to make. I do think they add a lot to the customs though, and it makes up for the fact that I don’t usually do much sculpting on the customs themselves. There’s also a lot of Japanese influence in your designs. Where does that come from? I grew up on giant robots, bad ninja movies, great samurai ones, and what limited anime I could find at the local
movie rental place. Mostly the widely distributed stuff, like Akira, Ghost in the Shell, Ninja Scroll, and the like. I have long been intrigued by Japanese culture and find the aesthetics so beautiful. Your Grimsheep figures, from Happy Panda Toys, were teased back in 2011 but only released last year. Why the delay? Rich approached me in 2009, so it was actually five years until they saw the light of day. After a pretty lengthy back and forth with the factory through all the steps of production, and as we neared completion and teased the release, the factory fell off the face of the earth. Completely disappeared never to be heard from again, taking with them all the molds. Luckily we had test pulls and were able to find a
new factory and basically begin again. Much credit goes to Happy Panda Toys for seeing it through after seeing a couple years of work and investment go down the tubes. When you designed these figures, what was the single most important aspect or element? Was it their modular nature? For me, the most important aspect was that I create something that had enough detail to stand on its own as a production piece but still keep it simple enough to be a good platform for customizing. Doing the modular thing was actually Rich from Happy Panda Toys’ idea. I had sent him a handful of sketches, all of which he liked, but suggested we do the sheep as it seemed appropriate for my first toy. I agreed, but not long after he Clutter 24 | 49
initial Grimsheep figure design sketch, 2009
asked what I thought about doing some of the other heads so that we could include them as alternates and allow for three very distinct editions. So did you and Rich decide a lot of the elements of the figures together? Or did one of you take more of the lead in the situation? Rich was all about letting me see my vision through. After suggesting we do the sheep with extra heads, he gave me free reign to do whatever I wanted. I understand that the figure’s head fits on a full-size Munny as well. Was this intentional or a happy accident? Just a happy accident, but one that were indeed happy about. For the release of the DIY version, you did a custom show at Designer Con this year. Who selected the artists 50 | Clutter 24
involved? Were you happy with the results? I made a list of about fifty artists whose work I love and many of whom have been supportive over the years. Rich then added a few more. It’s such a hard thing to come up with a list when there is so much talent out there, and a lot of camaraderie between artists within such a small and unique community. I know there are a few I missed that I really regret but hopefully I’ll get a chance to do it again. As for the results, there is no better feeling than seeing customs on your own figure by artists you love. They were all amazing and I couldn’t have been happier. Will there be more versions of your Grimsheep figure in the future? Or perhaps just additional heads and accessories?
It hasn’t been discussed at length but I think — if I get the opportunity to do more production work — that I’d like to do something new. Of course, more heads would be awesome! So have you gotten bitten by the production bug? Or is customizing still your passion and priority? I would love to do more production stuff and feel I’ve learned a lot in the past five years since this began. Plus, I still need to scratch production Dunny off my to-do list! That being said, customs really are my passion. Production work is great, but when I’m painting a custom I do feel like I’m creating art that someone will appreciate for a very long time.
For more information on Grimsheep, please visit: grimsheep.net