Clutter Magazine Issue 43 Five Points Festival 2017

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5PT 2016


OFFICIAL GUIDE Clutter 43 - Five Points Fest | 1

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5PT 2016




Monster Maker Article by Barbara Pavone

On The Cover Robot Vs Greasebat By Jeff Lamm








Artist’ Alley by Brian VanHooker

Tokyo Jesus Article by Nick Curtis

Introducing.... Article by Miranda O’Brien







Why So Special? Article by Nick Curtis


Article by Hermit Owl Alleh



The Man, The Machine by Seth Fisher


TOYS 101
















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TEAM CLUTTER Seth Fischer Contributing Writer

Miranda O’Brien Editor-in-Chief

Jason Ryule Technical Coordinator

Josh Kimberg Managing Editor

Nick Curtis Contributing Editor

Twitter: @Trustpigs

Matt Dorcas Advertising Sales

Brian VanHooker Contributing Writer

Connor Donaldson Producer

Barbara Pavone Contributing Writer

Twitter: @ThePavoneReport

Niall Anderson Contributing Writer

Brittany DiPeri Design Associate Melanie Alexrod Design Associate

GUESTS Pete Fowler

Paul Budnitz

Galen McKamy

Mark Nagata

Ricky Wilson




We are always on the lookout for new contributors and team members. To get involved, please drop us a line at with how and why you would like to be involved with what we do.

Send review samples for consideration to:

Telephone 212-255-2505 (Mon. - Fri., 10am - 6pm EST)

Clutter Media Group 163 Main St. Beacon, NY 12508 USA

LEGAL The publishers would like to thank everyone who has furnished information and materials for this issue. The contents of CLUTTER MAGAZINE reflect the opinions of respective contributor or interview subject, and are not necessarily those of the publisher. All copyrights/rights to images (photographs, design) writing, and likeness are property of the respective owners. Every effort has been made to reach copyright owners or their representatives. All other material is owned and copyrighted by Clutter Studios. Nothing may be reproduced in part or whole without prior written consent from Clutter Studios. The publisher will be pleased to correct any mistakes or omissions in the online version of this issue.



SUBSCRIBE NOW! 8 | Clutter 43 - FIve Points Fest

WELCOME! Welcome to what we hope is your new home away from home! Everything about the Five Points Festival was designed and curated to be the kind of art toy festival we would throw, if we could throw one big massive art toy festival, and we are throwing one… so yeah, here we are! The Five Points Festival is a collision of toys, comics, and counterculture curated by us at Clutter, presented by Midtown Comics, and sponsored by Playcrafting. We’re two days and nights of comic artists and writers, toy artists and designers, illustrators, posters, prints, apparel, food trucks, and craft brewed beers – and we’re honored and excited that you’re part of our very first show!

SHOW HOURS The first Five Points is May 20th -21st, 2017, kicked off by the Designer Toy Awards on May 19th!

Saturday, May 20th 10:00 AM – VIP & Media Preview 11:00 AM to 8:00 PM – Open to the Public

Sunday, May 21st

We’re looking to create something different with the Five Points Fest, and build a home for artists and communities who don’t currently have one on the East Coast, so please relax, enjoy, and discover something new.

10:00 AM – VIP & Media Preview 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM – Open to the Public

We could not have done this without our amazing partners at LeftField Media, they have shared our vision of making an event that everyone can feel proud to be a part of since the day we met. So a HUGE indebted thank you to Greg, Peter, Kelly, John, The Laurens (s’up Dabbs), Sam, Jess, Paul, Ben, Michelle, Becky, Bob and everyone else who had a hand in pulling this off. Here’s to many more crazy years together!

Registration opens each day at 8 AM!

This weekend, we’re all family. - Miranda & Josh

DON’T BE A JERK! Five Points is an open celebration of art and its creators, and harassment of any kind is the opposite of the community we want to be. If you feel uncomfortable or harassed, please speak with a staff or security member so we can make it right. If you engage in harassing conduct at Five Points, you could risk losing your badge or being removed from Five Points without refund.


A LITTLE BIT OF HISTORY We’re building a counterculture festival inspired by one of New York’s most storied neighborhoods – the Five Points of Old New York. Five Points was an area of 19th century Lower Manhattan very close to where the the Five Points Festival takes place today. The Five Points of old was a den of extravagance, lust, art, and outcasts; and while the Five Points of old is long gone, we know the independent spirit of historic Five Points is still alive in the rebel artists of today, and the Five Points Festival welcomes them home. Five Points also stands for the five areas of art and life we all love and wanted to bring together - Designer Toys, Comic Artists and Writers, Food and Beer, Street Art, and NYC!!

DESIGNER TOY AWARDS! Clutter is proud to have brought the 7th Annual Designer Toy Awards, fueled by Lagunitas, to its new home at the Five Points Festival! The world’s premier accolade for designer toy artists and the industry around them, the Designer Toy Awards gathers together the brightest stars of the designer toy world for a night of celebration. This year’s awards, held at Webster Hall and hosted by Academy Award-nominated writer, director, and producer Morgan Spurlock, kicked off this year’s festivities with a bang. A HUGE Congratulations to all of this years nominees and winners!


Alex Sanchez

Amanda Louise Spayd

Amy Chu

Amy Reeder

Andrew MacLean

Annie Wu

Ben Templesmith

Brandon Montclare

Bryan Lee O’Malley

Chris Ryniak

Chris Uminga

Chrissie Zullo

Tuck into some of our favorite food trucks gathered from across NYC by our friends at Live Fast. Right in the middle of the Five Points courtyard, you’ll be able to feast on Korean BBQ, mac & cheese, empanadas, falafels, grinders, and more!


Sip up a pint from some of our favorite breweries from around NYC and beyond. Art comes in many forms, and a tall, cold glass of craft beer is definitely one of them. Special thanks to our friends at the L.I.S.A. Project for bringing the bar together!



SIX FIVE POINT EXCLUSIVE BEER The Five Points Festival is very excited to pour an exclusive beer brewed just for us by Brooklyn’s Sixpoint Brewery inspired by art from Jason Freeny! Brewed in a very limited batch, be sure to visit our beer garden early to get a taste. A double IPA blended with sour cherries, it’ll cure all your worries!

Christian DiBari

Christopher Hastings

Clay McCormack

Cliff Chiang

Corin Howell

Cory Levine

Dan Slott

Dave Perillo

David Gallaher

Gary Ham

Greg Capullo

Huck Gee


We’re honored to welcome over 50 invited comic guests to the Five Points Fest! From mainstream to indie and everything in between, and you’ll be able to find them all weekend in our Artist Alley!

BOOTH #359

MIDTOWN COMICS MEGA SIGNINGS! Our friends at Midtown Comics have brought comic royalty to Five Points and are presenting mega signings all weekend from their booth. While most of our comic creators will appear both days in Artist Alley, a few will have limited, ticketed signings at Midtown...

HOW DO YOU GET TICKETS? Tickets for these signings will be limited in number and given away for free to Five Points attendees. Midtown Comics signing tickets will be distributed from a Midtown ticket booth in the Five Points courtyard beside our food truck food court and beer garden. Ticket distribution will begin each day at 11:15 AM. Tickets for all of the day’s Midtown signings will be available at this time, and you may claim ONE signing ticket each time you’re in line.



12:00-1:00: Mike Hawthorne & Matthew Rosenberg 1:30-2:30: Nick Spencer 3:00-4:00: Bryan Lee O’Malley 4:30-5:30: Greg Capullo & Scott Snyder 6:00-7:00: Dan Slott

11:30-12:30: Mike Hawthorne & Matthew Rosenberg 1:00-2:00: Bryan Lee O’Malley 2:30-3:30: Greg Capullo 4:00-5:00: Nick Spencer


Ian Glaubinger

Ivan Brandon

James Romberger

James Tynion IV

Jason Freeny

Jeff Dekal


Khary Randolph

Leslie Hung

Joe Harris

Jamal Igle

James Groman

VALIANT ENTERTAINMENT Valiant Entertainment is a leading characterbased entertainment company, owning the largest independent superhero universe in comics. With more than 81 million issues sold and a library of over 2,000 characters, including X-O Manowar, Bloodshot, Harbinger, Shadowman, Archer & Armstrong, and many more, Valiant is one of the most successful publishers in the history of comic books. Today, the company’s characters continue to be forged in publishing, licensing, film, video games,

and beyond. Valiant consistently produces some of the most critically acclaimed comics in the industry and has received numerous industry awards and accolades, including a Diamond Gem Award for Comic Book Publisher of the Year!


BOOTH #355

BOOTH #445

JACK KIRBY MUSEUM Join the Jack Kirby Museum to help celebrate what would have been the 100th Birthday of Comics Legend Jack Kirby! Kirby (1917-1994) is widely recognized as one of the most influential and prolific artists in comics. He co-created, with Stan Lee, such enduring characters as Captain America, Fantastic Four, the X-Men, Hulk, and hundreds of others stretching back to the earliest days of the medium.

Lower East Side, just blocks from Pier 36, the home of the Five Points Festival, and we couldn’t be happier the Jack Kirby Museum is kicking off their summer-long 100 Days of Kirby tribute at Five Points! Randolph Hoppe, Director of the Jack Kirby Museum, will showcase books, prints, and art that bring Jack Kirby’s creative journey to life and help spread the word on one of the comic world’s most important legends.

Kirby grew up in Manhattan’s

Magdalene Visaggio

Matthew Rosenberg

Mike Hawthorne

Mike Henderson

Mike Lilly

Morgan Spurlock

Nick Spencer

Patrick Thomas

Peter David

Ricardo Lopez

Rob Bruce

Rodney Ramos

BOOTH #243

CLUTTER / FIVE POINTS SIGNINGS Stop by Clutter’s booth and not only can you pick up some awesome Five Points Festival merch, including Gary Ham’s exclusive Dunny, but you can also check out exclusive releases by Luke Chueh, The Botts, Splurrt, and Czee! We also have an amazing line up of guest artists stopping by to say hi and sign your goodies! **

Above exclusive Gary Ham Five Points Festival Dunny! Below exclusive Five Points shirts, left designed by Scarecrowoven. Right Splurrt Masterwork Cadava Kid exclusive.



11:30 Splurrt Drop (Lottery) 12:00 - 1:00 Simone Legno 1:30 - 2:30 Gary Ham & Jeff Lamm 3:00 - 4:00 Huck Gee 4:30 - 5:30 TBA

12:00 - 1:00 Jeff Lamm 1:30 - 2:30 Simone Legno 3:00 - 4:00 Gary Ham 4:00 - 5:00 TBA

BOOTH #139

MPH: THE YARD myplasticheart, kaNO, Boundless Brooklyn, and ChrisRWK have teamed up to bring you The Yard, where you’ll find the best in limited edition designer toys, DIY kits, one-of-a-kind art pieces, and much more. Pictured right the exclusive Blueberry and Raspberry Negora by Konatsu.


Ron English

Ronald Wimberly

Ryan Cady

Scott Snyder

Sean Galloway

Sean Gordon

Simone Legno

Stéphane Roux

Steve Ellis

Tana Ford

Tara McPherson

Tini Howard

TOY ARTISTS Five Points Fest is excited to bring you some of the most talented toy artist, designers, and manufacturers from all over the world! From the West to East Coasts of the US, Japan to Korea, Singapore to England... We are honored to present an international line up of exclusive releases, signings, and art! Check out the full list of vendors on page 50!

BOOTH #143

LEV’S HALL OF FAME Israel “Lev” Levarek, owner of the iconic New York designer toy store Toy Tokyo, has been collecting rare toys for decades. He was one of the early forces behind the Western designer toy movement, helping to popularize now legendary artists. Five Points is honored to present Lev’s Hall of Fame, featuring highlights from his personal collection. Stop by and see some of Lev’s favorite pieces representing artists from all over the world.


**Like the Midtown signings, all the Clutter booth signings will be ticketed. Stop by the Clutter ticket booth nearby our food trucks each morning beginning at 11:15 AM for a chance at tickets. You may get ONE ticket each time you’re in line.**

Craft Beer; Art or Science? By Matt Dorcas

Craft beer is amazing… And not just because I love to drink it! You would think that because i’m a big fan, I understand how it’s made, right... WRONG! So I went on a mission to find out! I spent two afternoons with some pretty serious hobbyists; Mike Weeks and Sean Kolvenbach. They both have day jobs, but on the weekends it’s all about the barley and hops, and they make some damn good beer. They will be the first to admit they make some crap beer too, but lucky for them, they work in small batches of five to fifteen gallons at a time, so no big deal when a batch goes south After spending about 30 minutes with these guys, I understood the dynamic of the duo – Mike is all about the science, and Sean is all about the Art. Interestingly, Mike has been dabbling in home brew since 1993. He’s a full time engineer, which means that when I watch him brew, it’s systematic and precise. From the temperature of the room, to the timing of every step, it is controlled and methodical. He loves craft beer and you can see it. When he is out drinking with friends and finds a beer he likes, his brain starts to break it down; “How can I make this? What goes into it? How does it become a great beer?” - that’s how the passion began. And now that he’s made great beer, when he finds beer that could be better, he knows how to tinker with its recipe to take it to its full potential. Mike loves the challenge and immediately wants to get to work. In contrast, Sean was a snowboarding and skate rep who is all about experimenting and exploring. He spends time with the aroma and taste of the grain. He gets the science too, but leaves a lot of the calculation to Mike. Listening to Sean talk about beer is poetic. When he described the gravity of beer (my mind went to thinking of Newton and the Apple, but gravity in this case refers to sugar densities), I was immediately engaged. His poetic rendering made the beer seem magical. I wanted to drink it right then and there, a black double IPA. It won’t be ready for another two weeks, but I didn’t care. He gave me a pull of the hoppy goodness, and it was amazing! Sean says it’s important to 18 | Clutter 43 - FIve Points Fest

taste along the way - just like a good chef, you need to know what tastes good and what tastes bad. When Mike started brewing, resources were limited and he discovered most of his systems the hard way. With the growth and success of craft beer, the internet has become a tremendous resource – you can even get your Masters in brewing online. And these guys say this is the golden time for craft beer. They believe we are going back to a time before refrigerated trucks. A time where your local watering hole was the place to go for a cold beer, and it was brewed right there. As a home brewer you are under very strict federal guidelines. Limited in the number of gallons you can produce (different in each state) for a start. A home brewer is also not allowed to sell their beer, and what is made needs to be consumed on the property it was brewed - so if you are looking to make a real money , this might not be a good fit for you. If Mike was to take “the next step”, he would need to find a commercial space to brew. Once in a commercial space he could start the federal application process, which could take up to a year. Most brewers who begin this process usually purchase their buildings, otherwise you could be paying rent for a year and not be able to sell a drop. It can be a difficult and expensive process to go pro, so when I asked Mike if he is headed in that direction he gave me a simple “you never know”. For now he is happy brewing and drinking with friends and either way, I’ll drink to that!

The following is basic primer of terms that you might commonly uncover while reading further regarding the designer toy movement.

A ABS, or Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene, is a form of rigid plastic from which toys can be produced out of at the factory level. Known for its hardness, toughness, and glossy sheen, ABS has a smooth surface that typically does not lend itself to showing intricate details. Due to the plastic being injected rather than poured into molds, pieces cast in ABS maintain more consistency in production than those made out of PVC. A recognizable example of this material being is LEGO building blocks. An accessory is an additional piece that comes with a designer toy, either to be placed on or near the figure for display purposes. Called an omake, or extra, in Japanese, these elements aren’t usually essential to the figure’s design but rather serve to compliment and supplement the piece. An Artist Proof (or AP) is one of several copies of a mass-produced esigner toy release that the designer receives from the manufacturer or producer. Typically limited to 10 to 25 copies, 20 | Clutter 43 - FIve Points Fest

the artist embellishes these pieces in some manner — from simply signing & numbering them to turning them into a micro edition of custom pieces — before selling them as artist proof copies.

B Blind box and blind bag are terms used to describe a series of designer toys, with multiple designs, that are sold packaged in either a box or bag, respectively. The packaging completely obscures the contents from view, causing the purchased design to be random and not decided by the buyer.

C Chibi is a Japanese slang term for a short person or small child, though it is used within designer toys to indicate either a smaller rendition of a previously released figure or an original piece that conforms to the chibi style. Chibi releases tend to be cute and simplistic, though the latter in not a required element. (See also kawaii.) Custom figures, also known as handpainted (or HP) designer toys, are those that have been treated like a

blank canvas by an artist. Through a variety of methods, most commonly painting, the artist applies their own design scheme onto the figure. Usually unique pieces of art, a micro edition of a custom can be made using the same design scheme, though each one is still individually hand-crafted and/ or painted. Chase is the name given to a hard-to-find blind boxed toy. Very limited edition within an already limited editions line, these are often advertised in silhouette, unnamed, and/or with a “?/??” as its ratio of availability. Colorways refer to when a toy of the same design is painted several different ways. Often, different colorways of a single toy are created in order to fulfill the minimum order quantity (“MOQ”) for a factory order. By creating multiple colorways, collectors can choose their favorite color variation by personal preference or may even desire multiple variations. Also, due to limited quantities, certain figures with rare colorways become highly collectible

D A Deluxe (or DX) figure is a version of a Designer Toy which either indicates

scheme applied, or any combination of these. Frequently limited to a set number of pieces produced, a micro edition of customs can be considered a new edition or colorway, though this is not common. (See also open edition and original colorway.)

G that: it includes additional extras, like accessories, or it has been completely re-sculpted to be larger and/or more detailed. Designer toys, also known as art toy and urban vinyl works, are lowbrow or pop art pieces. Typically sold primarily on the basis of the artist or designer’s name, these emulate the production methods of traditional toys though designer toys are usually intended to be display collectibles rather than pieces that emphasize functionality or playability.

Golden Ticket is the name given to any special win notification included with a blind box series, typically for an additional Designer Toy or piece of art that is exclusive to Golden Ticket winners. Sometimes there are Instant Golden Tickets, meaning the additional piece is already included inside the blind box(es).

The edition or colorway denotation on a Designer Toy is used to indicate one of several things in regards to a previously released figure: the piece being cast in a different color of production material, the piece having the paint application scheme applied in different colors, the piece having a completely new paint application

Keshi, or keshigomu, is the Japanese term literally for eraser, but within designer toys it refers primarily to micro and mini figures cast in a

A header card is a common form of packaging for designer toys. Typically printed, though sometimes hand-drawn, a header card is a piece of folded thick stock paper that is attached — usually stapled — atop the plastic bag which contains the piece.

Kaiju is a Japanese term that means strange creature, though it specifically indicates any of the Japanese movie monsters. While a truly accurate kaiju Designer Toy would be an artist’s interpretation of one of these classic cinematic terrors, the term is often


Kawaii is a Japanese word meaning cute. It is used within designer toys to indicate any pieces that are inherently cute looking, specifically ones with minimal details and including elements such as hearts, flowers, stars, or rainbows. Kawaii pieces are commonly either super deformed or chibi. A recognizable example of this style would be Hello Kitty.


K A D.I.Y. (Do-It-Yourself, or DIY) figure is a Designer Toy that is sold unpainted with the primary intention that the piece will be customized.

used to indicate neo-kaiju Designer Toy releases. A recognizable example of this style would be Godzilla or Mothra toys.

colored hard gum. A recognizable example of these rubber-like figures is the M.U.S.C.L.E. toy line of the ‘80s. Kitbashing is derived from the term for using parts from various garage and/or model kits to make one single piece. Similarly, in Designer Toy terms, it denotes one piece made from the parts of several figures, the resulting work being used either for a custom or as the prototype for molding and casting.

L A lottery or raffle in Designer Toy terms primarily indicates a free-to-enter drawing from which the winners will be given the chance to purchase a limited, typically micro edition, figure. Principally used for high demand pieces, this system is generally considered a more fair manner in which to sell figures that would normally sell out within a minute or less.

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Lowbrow art, or pop surrealism, is a form of pop art that derives inspiration from underground cultural movements, such as comix, punk music, and hotrod detailing, and usually conveys a sense of humor through the work. A lucky bag is derived from the Japanese tradition of Fukubukuro, a customary New Year’s grab bag filled with random contents at a discounted price. The Designer Toy version, rather than being comprised of leftover stock, is typically a blind bag that usually contains test pulls, exclusive micro editions, and other rarities.

N Neo-kaiju is a term meant to indicate new kaiju, or designer toys inspired by the Japanese movie monsters but not actually directly interpreting any of them.

A platform, or platform figure, is the term for a Designer Toy figure’s unique shape and form. While it can specifically refer strictly to figures intended for paint schemes by a variety of designers, such as Dunnys and Androids, the term has also been used for any figure that has multiple editions.

M Marbled indicates an edition of a Designer Toy figure has been cast in two or more colors of material, resulting in swirls or patches of differing coloration that have not been painted onto the piece.


Micro edition denotes an extremely limited edition of a Designer Toy. Typically is signifies that less than 10 pieces were produced in this variation. A micro-figure is any Designer Toy that is less than, but not equal to, 3” in height. A mini figure is any Designer Toy that is roughly 3” to 5” in height. Mixed parts indicate an edition of a Designer Toy figure that has multiple, individually cast parts — such as head, body, arms, legs, etc. — and that one or more parts have been cast in different colors of the material. Typically each and every cast part is in a different color, though that is not a requirement. 22 | Clutter 43 - FIve Points Fest

Open edition indicates an edition of a Designer Toy release that is not limited to a specific number. Though open edition releases aren’t strictly limited in quantity, there is no guarantee of unlimited availability; frequently self-produced open edition pieces will become no longer available after a set period of time or when the mold is no longer usable for casting the pieces, while production pieces will not necessarily have more made after the initially ordered quantity is sold out. Original (or OG) colorway is typically the debut edition release of a Designer Toy or, in some instances, the first mass-marketed version of the figure available.

P A paint master refers to a copy of the figure that has been hand-painted as the baseline for the factory or another specialist to replicate the paint scheme from on a micro edition or mass-produced release.

Plush or soft sculpture are designer toys made mainly or completely out of fabrics and other materials typically associated with stuffed animals. A point of articulation on a Designer Toy is the jointed area between two cast pieces that is capable of being rotated, such as the head, arms, legs, etc. Some designer toys are cast as a single piece or have been designed so that the multiple pieces interlock together and are unable to be rotated, thus they have no points of articulation. Pop art is a movement that emerged in the 1950s which is noted for including imagery from popular culture, such as advertising, comic books, and other familiar ‘modern’ designs. A recognizable example of this style is the works of Andy Warhol, especially his Campbell’s Soup pieces. A prototype is the base Designer Toy figure sculpted out of clay or wax before being molded for production.

ABS and the high level of sculptural detail retention of PVC. Resin is soft enough to sand and cut as well as sturdy enough to hold weight, though the finished pieces require primer for painting and are more brittle than the other mentioned materials. A recognizable example of this material being used are the bootleg garage and model kits which gained popularity in the early to mid-’80s.

S Sofubi, sofvi, or soft vinyl, is a wasei-eigo (an English word coined

PVC, or Poly (Vinyl Chloride), is a soft form of plastic that toys can be produced out of at the factory level. Often referred to simply as Vinyl, this material is known for its relative cheapness, resilience, and malleability. While this plastic lends itself to showing high levels of details, the pliancy of the material results in each pulled piece having a slight distortion to the shape of the figure as opposed to ABS’s consistency. A recognizable example of this material being used are plastic dolls, such as Barbie. (See also sofubi.)


limbs, though these are not required elements. (See also kawaii.)

T The test pull or test shot is the first singular copy or group of pieces successfully cast for a production piece. Standardly cast in whatever colored material is cheap and on-hand, these are sent to the artist unpainted for approval. To-Scale Figures are designer toys produced in true ratios to what they represent if it existed in real life. Thus terms like 1/6th Scale Figure and 1/12th Scale Figure are used to indicate pieces that are one-sixth and one-twelfth, respectively, the size the real life figure would be. Typically to-scale figures feature many life-simulating points of articulation and come with sewn clothing as well as various accessories. A recognizable example for this style of figure being used would be scale model kits.

in Japan) derived from the Engrish of Softu Binyl. An exceedingly pure form of PVC, sofubi is uniquely made through a variety of molding and production techniques by Japanese master craftsmen. While sofubi denotes the material a Designer Toy is made of, some people use the term interchangeably with kaiju or neo-kaiju styles. A recognizable example of this material being used are vintage Godzilla toys. Sprays is a slang term for paints applied to a Designer Toy by airbrush.

Resin, within Designer Toy terms, primarily references a synthetic two-part liquid compound that, when mixed together, self-cures into a cast form. Ideally suited for self-production use, resin has a similar hardness to

Super deformed (or SD) is used to indicate a design with an oversized head disproportionate to the body. Whether an original piece in this style or a rendition of a previously released figure, typically these versions are small and chubby with stubby

V Vinyl is a common slang term for PVC.

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What are designer toys? Since the dawn of cave painting, art and technology have always been intrinsically tied. Without film, we wouldn’t have The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari or Citizen Kane. Without the printing press, we wouldn’t have had Toulouse-Lautrec’s prints. And if it wasn’t for silk screening and a healthy dose of attitude, we would not have Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Diptych. Advancements in technology have always brought about new forms of art, and our generation is no exception. Computers have brought about an age of digital art, and, as for sculpture, materials like vinyl, resin, and sofubi are being used to bring art into the world of toys.

MC Supersized by Ron English and Secret Base

The most basic answer to the question “What are designer toys?” is that they are a modern art form where factory techniques are utilized in order to create the artist’s vision. In truth, there are many answers to the question of what designer toys are, and, just like any definition of “art,” the answers presented lie very much in the spirit of “art is in the eye of the beholder.” The umbrella which the term “designer toys” covers encompasses a wide array of types of art. Not only that but the umbrella itself has several different names. And while the term designer toys primarily covers original artist creations, it doesn’t necessarily exclude licensed properties in some instances. So while the world of designer toys may be a bit complicated to understand, the common thread throughout is an emphasis on the artist or designer behind the “toy.” First, there are several different names for designer toys; the other commonly used nom de guerres are art 24 | Clutter 43 - FIve Points Fest

toys, toy art, urban toys, urban vinyl, and vinyl toys, and though they are often used interchangeably, they do each have different connotative meanings. Designer toys or art toys simply refers to artistic toys. The terms urban vinyl and vinyl toys specifically link back to the birth of the art form, with Michael Lau’s Gardener figures (see 1:6 scale toys) and his contemporaries at the time. Toy art is the name given to the genre by the fine art world and was first used in Simon de Pury’s auction house to describe a new art form which many collectors were unfamiliar with. Though the origins of the movement behind designer toys themselves has a few different iterations, the culture which birthed collecting in its modern incarnation, be it of designer or mainstream toys, found its origins in the Star Wars franchise. George Lucas’ expansive universe was the first property to embrace in-depth stories about their most periphery

of characters. From Han Solo all the way down to Salacious Crumb, each character had a name, a story and, most importantly, a toy. Whether you were a Star Wars fan or not, these sales techniques imprinted on us to think the way we do about collecting those little plastic objects.

Now, just because something features a licensed property, doesn’t necessarily mean it isn’t a designer toy. If a mainstream character is reconceptualized by an artist, like Ron English’s Simpsons series or Jason Freeny’s Bugs Bunny: Anatomical Rabbit, it may be considered an art toy, but even then some in the designer toy world won’t consider that art simply because it is based on a licensed product. Either way, licensed properties consume a very small space in the universe of designer toys; think of them as Pluto is to our solar system. Maybe some are art, maybe not, but regardless the world of designer toys does not revolve around licensed characters, it revolves around the artists. From a historical context, it is easy to understand what a designer toy isn’t. A designer toy is any toy that is sold based on the name and direct authorship of the artist. If there is ever any question about the authorship, a designer toy can be

Qeezer Qee by Nic Brand & Toy2R

Mainstream Star Wars figures are not considered art. Though they may be designed by someone and they are based on the artwork of Ralph McQuarrie (among others), they are a product intended for mass consumption based on a licensed property. In and of themselves, the designer toy community does not see these as art. Largely speaking, designer toys does not refer to licensed properties because the toys themselves are not the original creation of an artist, and even in cases where they were, like Transformers, the designer is not focused upon. Barbie and G.I. Joe are two of the most important and successful toy brands in history, and obviously, someone designed them (Ruth Handler for Barbie and Don Levine for G.I. Joe), but as cool and important as those toys are, they are considered toys,

as they are a product, made collaboratively by a toy company, for the mass public.

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understood in term of the intention and whether or not the artist’s vision is the central focus of the objects expression. The world of designer Toys is complicated, and a wide variety of objects can fall under this definition. Designer toys are almost always limited. Sometimes they are a single, hand-painted piece, sold in a gallery or auction; these pieces are where the toy is treated like an artist’s canvas and something new is crafted upon it, which is known as a custom. Usually, these are one-of-a-kind and can even be used as the blueprint for a more widely released figure. Also included under the designer toy umbrella are some small run toys. Often these are made of resin, have a set quantity being produced, sometimes signed by the artist. These toys are made by hand and there is high level of attention to detail. Also considered designer toys can be some mass produced items, oftentimes they come in blind boxes but not always and usually are made from vinyl. Intended for display rather than play, they are fairly affordable, and though they are usually limited, they have a higher number of items produced compared to other designer toys. What keeps these toys in the realm of art is still the artist, who is still the central voice in the design.

Vinyl by Toy2R

Frank Kozik’s PoTaMuS

Metal by Fully Visual

To the right we have a variety of versions of Frank Kozik's PoTaMuS design, each manufactured in a different material. There are two versions cast in traditional sculpture mediums (Porcelain and Metal) as well as the exact same design in Vinyl.

Porcelain by K.olin tribu

“Historically, designer toys take mass manufacturing techniques, usually reserved for producing high volume runs of product, and applies the sensibilities to producing higher end multiples of an art object. The artist works within the constraints of the process to create a beautiful and collectable piece, turning the purpose of these methods on its head. “More recently artists have started to use more home grown and DIY techniques to produce similar effects; Less mass market techniques, but the same ethos. “I believe that ultimately designer toys will continue to evolve as a medium for artists. However, a danger stems from commercialization with a focus on profit and mass production, which is at odds with the roots of this industry. Ultimately this scene is driven by and supported by the collectors. I think sometimes the artists forget how important not only direct to collector sales are, but also the secondary market, without which there would be no industry.” Miranda O’Brien Editor-in-Chief Clutter Magazine Forest Warlord by Bigfoot x Kuso Vinyl Painted by Skinner 26 | Clutter 43 - FIve Points Fest

Keep it Indie! By Pete Fowler Back in the late ‘90s, I noticed, during trips to Japan, something new emerging. I collected Ultraman monsters, Doraemon, Ampanman, and anything else that interested me. But when I saw the first Michael Lau and James Jarvis toys, I knew there was something going on outside the usual merchandised toys from cartoons, films, etc. I tried to hunt down a Lau figure but soon realized that they were like gold dust and other people, like me, were desperate to get their hands on this new wave of toys from artists and illustrators.

design and creating a world where my characters existed was unlimited room for my imagination to roam.

This led me, in a roundabout way, to creating sculptures inspired by these figures that put my work under the noses of Sony Creative Products. This meeting started me on my way to designing toys myself, firstly with SCP then to the company I ran, Playbeast. My Monsterism range was fun to

I think it’s about the artist’s vision and what they can create within the constraints of the material and I for one, salute the indies for bringing back the art and ‘garage’ side to toys which I feel is greatly needed in a world of licensed characters and brand collaborations.

Photo: The Hang Gang

For me, designer toys should be something that avoids the big companies and should be done for the art and creative ideas. Obviously, these need to be financially viable, but I think the balance between art and commerce is being rebalance here and there and that can only be a good thing for the scene and the collectors and fans of it.

Back in the day... By Paul Budnitz, founder of Kidrobot When I opened the very first Kidrobot store in San Francisco, Huck Gee and I used to sit behind the counter cleaning the glass, hoping someone would eventually come in and buy one of our toys. Eventually a person would walk in from the street, look at the toys in the glass cases for a while, and finally ask, “what are these things?” I’d carefully reply that they were designer toys, created by artists in limited editions. Very special, very beautiful things. Then they’d say, “Yes — but what are they from?” I’d patiently explain that they weren’t from anything — not from TV shows, cartoons, movies, video games, or comic books. Just works of art that someone had made up. “Then why would I want one?” they’d ask, and stomp out of the store. Over time more people have got used to the idea that things can be beautiful just for what they are, as opposed to what they are related to. I think that’s what’s most wonderful to me about designer toys — they only rely on themselves for their appeal. In order for a toy to work, it has to stand on its own. That challenges us, because when we see something new, we are forced to stretch a little, and make the world a bigger place.

Big Mouth 8” Dunny by Deph, 2006

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The Empress

While the name Tokyo Jesus has become synonymous with the artist himself, he created the term to describe the post-apocalyptic world his art depicts. As someone that has sculpted his own figures for resin casting and hand-painted a couple of designer toys, will the dystopian vision of Tokyo Jesus survive being produced onto the iconic Dunny form? As one of five artists in the J RYU curated and Kidrobot manufactured Arcane Divination series (see issue 40), Tokyo Jesus was enlisted to create three Dunny designs within the theme of Tarot’s Major Arcana. While the series won’t be released until July of this year, we’ve been given invaluable insight into this artist’s three upcoming production pieces in this exclusive interview.


an you explain your Tokyo Jesus world and aesthetic to those that might not be aware of it?

Tokyo Jesus is the name of the story and world drawn by me, Sayu[ru Ishiyama]. People often ask me, “what does Tokyo Jesus mean?” Tokyo Jesus is the name of A.I. in the story/world, which was named by scientists in Tokyo. Even though names such as “Tokyo” appear in the story, the story takes place in the world after nations have disappeared. It [also] has no direct relation with the Christian Jesus. Eastern and Western expressions, cultures, and philosophies are often expressed in my work through multiple media, such as sculptures, drawings, paintings, and designer toys. The main themes of the world are life & death, sanity & madness, nature & machines, science & religion, and hope & anxiety. I am planning on developing comics or graphic novels of the world in near future. What was your reaction to being invited to be part of this Dunny series? To be honest, I can’t remember how I reacted at first… I got too excited when I received the email. (Laughs) I’ve always wanted to be involved in a Dunny series, so I am honored to be a part of the series directed by J RYU, who is a wonderful artist. Were you worried about working on an iconic form like the Dunny? I wasn’t worried since I’ve been mentally training myself so I’d be ready whenever I received an offer. (Laughs) When I tell people about this, they doubt my sanity, but I’ve always believed in making dreams into reality by imaging a realistic situation and preparing for it. I have achieved a lot of dreams this way, so I highly recommend it. Which tarot designs did you select to work on? Why did you choose these? I chose three designs: The Empress, Death, and Judgement. I

Death by Tokyo Jesus

Moon/Sun by J*RYU, The Empress by Tokyo Jesus, Wheel of Fortune by J*RYU

The Fool & The Heirophant by Jon-Paul Kaiser

High Priestess by Camilla d’Errico

The Hermit by Godmachine, The Hanged Man by Jon-Paul Kaiser, The Magician by Godmachine

The Lovers & Temperance by Camilla d’Errico

Judgement by Tokyo Jesus The Devil by Godmachine

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Death (Chase Variant)


often express women in special destinies, skulls, and life & death in my works, so it was natural for me to pick Empress and Death. I wanted to do Judgement because Tokyo Jesus is the story of the world after the [final] judgment, in a way.

the truth or not. I initially thought this design was going to be difficult for mass production, but surprisingly it got accepted without any major issues.

Can you explain how each of your designs represents the card you were depicting? Let’s start with the Empress…

As a sculptor, how did you find working on a preset form like the Dunny?

She’s a woman who possesses a cold look and strong will. I used a female figure to symbolize the strength of life, and skulls to express how fragile life is. I chose to design a stateless atmosphere with Asian and Japanese makeups and hair style and a Western cape. How about for Death? My first design [for Death] was rather conservative, and J RYU told me that I should do whatever I wanted to do. So I did. (Laughs) Death has always been an important theme in my work, so I am so happy to be able to work in this design. And I am grateful for Kidrobot accepting this design for the series. And, finally, Judgement? This is the only Dunny with an accessory among my three designs. I believe that when people judge, they mostly rely on their sight, so I designed this Dunny and the accessory hoping it would provoke people to think if they are actually seeing

I started working on three plain drawings as soon as I got the offer but it was hard to visualize the design, so I used some Dunnys in my collection and used Magic-Sculpt to customize them. This helped me to design my image on the platform in realistic ways. I did not feel any limitation because Kidrobot and J RYU gave us artists creative freedoms in many ways. Do you feel these designs fit into your Tokyo Jesus world? No doubt. I believe my designs will make both Dunny fans and Tokyo Jesus fans happy. With your first production pieces done, can we expect more from you in the future? Yes, of course. I started out as a sculptor for toys, so I believe I work well with designer toy projects. With requests from fans, hopefully, there will be more projects like this. Please send requests to Kidrobot for more Tokyo Jesus products! (Laughs)

For more information, please visit: Kidrobot: Tokyo Jesus:

Artist: 64 Colors

Munny DIY by Paul Budnitz + Tristan Eaton & Kidrobot

What is a Custom? In 1917, artist Marcel Duchamp took a porcelain urinal, placed it on its side, signed it with the pseudonym “R. Mutt” and forever changed the world of art. Fountain, as the urinal was titled, was intended as an antidote to what Duchamp referred to as “Retinal Art” which is art that only pleases the eye, but does not challenge the mind. Fountain is what became known as a “readymade” which, to put it simply, is an ordinary found object which is altered (or even not altered) and presented as art. The impact of the readymade on the art world was tremendous, as it challenged and expanded the definition of art, and the legacy of it still carries through to today; in 2004, Duchamp’s Fountain was voted as the single most influential artwork of the 20th century by 500 British art world professionals. A custom toy is a readymade. The process of creating a custom toy, in the simplest of terms, is taking an existing toy and modifying it in order to make it your own. Customizing on what is known as a “platform” is tremendously popular in the designer toy community. Much like the stretched canvas provides a platform for a painter, the platform toy provides the blank canvas for a toy artist. 34 | Clutter 43 - FIve Points Fest

Artist: Luke Chueh

There are two main categories of custom toys: one is where an existing toy is customized to become something new, the other common form is when a basic, blank, do-it-yourself (“DIY”) platform is used as a canvas to create an artist’s vision. The process of customizing a pre-existing toy can involve everything from painting the figure, adding additional sculptural elements, or even taking material away to alter the appearance of the original design . Anything really can be “customized.” By drawing a mustache on a Superman figure, you are altering that toy to some extent and making it your own. Now, few would consider Mustache Superman art, unless it was done by say Banksy, but it makes the point. For designer toys, usually there is a much more involved process to bringing to life an artist’s vision, but the basic principles behind customizing are to take a pre-existing found object and using it to execute their concept.

We couldn’t continue to discuss custom toys without focusing on the most popular platform toy – the Munny. Produced by Kidrobot, and created by artist Tristan Eaton and company founder Paul Budnitz, this iconic design has become the foundation piece of customizers arsenal of tools. It’s chubby, characterized, human-esque shape provides the base for endless options and imaginations. Both the Munny platform and the Dunny were inducted into MOMA’s permanent collection of Architecture and Design in 2006. Of course, Kidrobot’s Munny is not the only platform toy in the marketplace, Huck Gee’s The Blank, Bigshot Toyworks’ All City Style, and the Mad*L by Mad are just a few. Most artists and manufacturers will, in fact, produce a blank version of a figure in hopes to extend the life of that design. In more recent years some of the big box toy companies have tried to jump on the toy customizing bandwagon. Purchasing and customizing a “blank figure” is no longer something that is unique to the designer toy world.

Moeru Kokoro by Artmymind Platform - The Blank by Huck Gee

Another form of customizing is “kitbashing,” wherein pieces of different model kits are combined with each other or a toy to create a custom design, a practice commonplace in creating movie props. Though customs are usually one-of-a-kind, a customizer may make “multiples” by hand-crafting the same design more than once, sometimes making minor alterations to each piece to keep them unique. A wide range of art can fit under the umbrella of custom, but the core concept involves taking an existing item (a.k.a. ‘found object’ or ‘readymade’) and turning it into an artist’s own creation. Handmade, hand-painted, handsculpted, each one is as individual and unique as a painting. This art form provides a level playing field for artists big and small, so why not try your hand at one, you might just find your calling!

Its a F.A.D by JéRYU Platform - 20” Dunny by Kidrobot

Artist: Kathie Olivas Platform - Munny by Kidrobot

Kitty Oasis - by Jeremiah Ketner. Platform - DIY Bear Head by Luke Chueh

Ida Mae Bunny by Gretchen Lewis. Platform - Bedtime Bunny Blank by Peter Kato Clutter 43 - Five Points Fest | 35


Chris Ryniak is on a very important mission: to give life to at least one monster a day. Whether it be through his Morning Scribbles, limited edition resin figures, or vinyl toy releases, Chris is constantly striving to bring a little extra happiness into the world and make people smile with his adorable monsters. They come in all shapes and sizes (some even wearing awesome pizza costumes!) and snagged Chris two 2016 Designer Toy Awards, including the fan-voted Toy of the Year. We hunted him down in Ohio shortly after the ceremony to talk daily doodles, sculpts, and studio oddities. Churblefurb 38 | Clutter 43 - FIve Points Fest

Let’s start with a walk down memory lane! (Laughs) Were you always creative, even at a young age, or did you require a bit of a push to embrace your artistic sensibilities?

I’ve been creative for as long as I can remember, which is a decent amount of years now. It’s weird to remember clearly what I was doing over 35 years ago. My parents never pushed me, but they would encourage whatever I was interested in. I know I drew on everything — walls, books, my clothes. If anything, I probably needed someone to stop me! Do you remember the first critter you ever created, whether in 2D or 3D?

Oh boy, no way, not the very first! I hardly remember ones I did three years ago. It was probably a fish… or a frog… or a turtle… or Chewbacca! I do remember that I used to make monsters out of Play-Doh and I would sculpt the organs inside first, then build the skin around it. Then I would methodically dissect them. I was weird. (Laughs)

What prompted you to publicly start sharing your creature scribbles back in 2011?

A friend of mine at my old day job was looking through my sketchbook and asked me why I never showed it to anyone. My thinking at the time was that it wasn’t “finished” work, it was just process sketches and roughs for paintings or sculptures. But it turned out that was what people wanted to see. So, basically, something I was doing every day and keeping to myself has become what I’m probably most known for now. You still draw monsters every day — why is this ritual so important? And how long does a Morning Scribble usually take?

It keeps me disciplined. It’s sort of like forcing myself to exercise. I know it’s good for me and it keeps my skills improving, but it’s also a satisfying and attainable goal that I can accomplish every day. I typically give myself 45 minutes from concept to posting them online. Sometimes, when I decide to do something that is more complicated or I’m just enjoying the way the drawing is going, I will give myself more time, but I try to be as strict as possible. Are there ever days when it proves hard to dream up a new critter or are they constantly parading through your mind?

YES! Oh my gosh, yes! Some days, my mind is completely empty. I have a backup plan for those days, though: I just make a monster wearing a costume of something really dumb, like a slice of pizza. Funny enough, those often turn out the best. When you design a new critter, do they immediately get a name, personality, and backstory in your mind?

They get a personality based on what they are doing, but I’m trying to capture a moment in

Morning Scribbles Clutter 43 - Five Points Fest | 39

Monster Clay. There is no process work, no setup time, no armatures, no fussiness. I can just grab a pile of clay and start on it. Do you ever dream up critters that you simply can’t translate from mind to paper (or sculpture) the way you’d like?

Actually, no. I tell people that drawing is my mutant power that I can summon to do whatever I want. I’ve been an illustrator for so long and have done so many different things that it’s really second nature at this point. There are a lot of things I just don’t draw because I don’t want to, like spaghetti, for example. Who wants to draw all those parallel lines?!

Unicorn Suit

time rather than create a world in a single image. I only really name a critter if it gets sculpted or made into a sticker design. I draw a lot of really similar characters, but don’t want to lock myself into having to be consistent with recurring specific characters so I keep their identities open-ended. In addition to drawing, you paint, sculpt and design toys — is there a formula for the way you divide up your time between all these mediums? Are they prioritized in any particular way?

Drawing is always my top priority every day. After that, I tackle things in descending order of importance by deadline. There’s no real science to it, but it can get pretty hectic in my brain and in my studio when I have a lot of projects going that require different skill sets. If you could only work with one medium for the next month, which would you choose?

However, there are times when I can’t translate a drawing into a sculpture or a toy because of manufacturing limitations. I get a lot of comments on drawings where people will say “Make this a toy!” without them knowing how the process works. If I had unlimited funds to translate more of my characters into production toys, I would. I love this recent quote from you: “What I want is to give people a break for a second. To look at something that might make them smile.” Is this something that’s consciously in your mind when you’re creating?

It’s a 100% conscious decision. The world is kind of a mess and people’s lives are tough; the last thing I want to do with my work is to remind people that. There are so many things that divide and polarize people — why should I contribute to that, even if I do disagree with someone? I have my own perspective on what’s going on in the world and in my own life, but I’m making a decision to try to actually find a middle ground with people. I’m really careful with my characters to not include things that are very challenging

Hand Painted Smidgens 40 | Clutter 43 - FIve Points Fest

Fuzzlethump, Grubthum and Octopup

because people already have enough to deal with. I’m trying to give them a vacation from that worry. I’ve benefitted greatly from work that was purely from the minds of storytellers. Work that didn’t confront the world the way it is, but rather created new worlds. That’s the beauty of being an artist: I get to create the world that I want to see, a world where people can put aside their differences and laugh seems pretty good to me. You and your partner — the awesome Amanda Louise Spayd — collaborate a lot. Is it ever tricky blurring the lines between personal and professional? How do you strike the right balance?

Yeah, we’re gross. When we’re collaborating on work or planning projects, we rarely disagree. We both really enjoy the ideation phase of projects, so that’s when we have the most fun with the work because the possibilities are limitless and the reality of all the hard work hasn’t set in yet. I think we have a pretty good work-life balance. I just need to remember to not talk about work first thing in the morning. I’m a morning person and I will prattle on about all of my ideas before her brain is awake. I’m annoying! What’s the best piece of feedback or artistic advice Amanda has ever given you?

That it’s okay to not work so much. That’s more existential than artistic, but it applies to art. Left

Lemon-Bellied and Duckweed Snappers Clutter 43 - Five Points Fest | 41


Hubbard Jr.

to my own devices I would probably never stop.

California than we do where we all live.

You currently live in Ohio — what’s the artistic scene like there? Do you find it’s conducive to creativity or is there anything you’d change about it?

I’d love for there to be more of a community here, but unfortunately, I don’t have the time to cultivate it. I would love for a shop/gallery to open up here that could host events and shows for the art and toy scene, but I don’t think this market could sustain it. I hope someone proves me wrong, though!

For us, it’s almost nonexistent. We don’t show our work here and there isn’t really a community of collectors of our type of work. We have some friends who work in the scene that live nearby, but we’re always so busy that we see them more in

42 | Clutter 43 - FIve Points Fest

If we were to visit your studio, what’s the absolute coolest thing we’d find?

Nightshade Catwort

Army of Clawmpers

That’s a long list! Amanda and I have a sizeable collection of oddities and antiques. We have a really unique assortment of taxidermied animals and animal skeletons and skulls. We also have a growing collection of antique secret society funerary and parade ribbons and prosthetic eyes. Coolest? That’s pretty tough to decide, but I am partial to my articulated Macaque skeleton — it looks like a little person. You’re very active on Patreon — what first drew you to this platform and what’s kept you around?

more drawings! Finish this sentence, please: Chris Ryniak is…

… a hot dog connoisseur, donut aficionado, and pizza enthusiast. You can keep up to date with all of Chris’ work by visiting:

I first heard of the Patreon from Shing Yin Khor, who was using the platform before me. I really have to thank her for her guidance early on because it didn’t fully make sense to me at the time. I liked the idea that I could offer my community of fans the opportunity to support me for the free content that I post every day. I stick around because I love the company itself and believe in what they are doing for creators. They created a way for people to help creators make a living. I love having a place that I can interact with my most dedicated fans and collectors that isn’t wide open to the Internet. I do my best to share exclusive content with them because they deserve it! What’s next?

Everything! More production toys, more resin, another show in Japan, a coloring book, all the merchandise I can afford to produce, and a billion

Caption Goes Here

Clutter 43 - Five Points Fest | 43

Gardener Figures by Michal Lau

What are 1:6 Scale Figures? Of all the different terms for types of designer toys, 1:6 scale is the easiest to figure out how it got its name: the toys are simply 1/6th the size of the basic human form, ranging from about 10 to 12 inches. While the name is easy, the rest can be quite involved. Stretching back to the G.I. Joes of the 1960s, the birth of the designer toy movement in 1999, and into today, the 1:6 scale action figure is coveted for its remarkable detail, extensive articulation, and intricate design work. Like every art form, be it abstract expressionism, rock music, etc., the designer toy movement has a few different variations on its origin, but one of the most prominent evolutionary tales began in Hong Kong in 1999, with Michael Lau’s Gardeners series. Lau was a designer who took a pastime between friends, customizing old 12” G.I. Joe and Action Man toys, and turned it into an art form. After receiving a positive response for ten characters he presented in a gallery show, Lau took 9 months to create 99 characters that he named Gardeners after a comic strip he worked on by the same name. The characters were styled heavily on American hip-hop and skateboarding culture and have in turn influenced the culture of those communities. Lau is the reason why the word “urban” is still so deeply tied to the designer toy movement. Lau, along with contemporaries like Eric So, Jason Siu, Tim Tsui, and a group known as Brothers Worker, transformed the 1:6 scale action figures into an art form. Today, the 1:6 scale platform is a highly collectible medium for both licensed characters and original works. Though 1:6 simply refers to the size, there are several aspects that are common among these toys. Due to the size, there is an opportunity for intricate detail and realistic paint application not attainable on smaller toys, which has been known to result in toys being mistaken for actual photographs of the character they’re based on. 1:6 scale figures are also notable for the multiple points of articulation, which can match the human range of motion far greater than smaller toys. Accessories tend to include highlydetailed weapons,

46 | Clutter 43 - FIve Points Fest

Sawyer by Crystal Jade Vaughan

alternate heads, and interchangeable hands. Perhaps the biggest thing separating 1:6 toys from mainstream actions figures, aside from size, is the clothing. Often made from cloth and painstakingly designed to mimic real-life clothing, figures come with everything from a full three-piece suit all the way to Spider-Man’s full body get-up. Perhaps best known in the 1:6 scale is the work of Hot Toys, who have specialized in bringing incredibly detailed toys from some of the biggest properties out there, including Marvel, DC Comics, Star Wars, and many others. Though Hot Toys has helped to popularize the 1:6 platform through licensed products, companies like Fools Paradise and threezero have been a presence in the art toy world by bringing to life the work of artists in the 1:6 medium. Today, there is no artist more prominent in the 1:6 scale than Ashley Wood. Praised for his levels of articulation, finish, design, and accessories, Wood’s original characters cross the boundaries between sculpture, art toys, and action figures. In 2008, Wood teamed up with threezero to create 3A, which has pretty much single-handedly revitalized the medium of the 1:6

scale designer toy.

MUST & STORM by BrothersWorker





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Alexander Lansang All Nighter Productions Amanda Scurti & Wendy Xu Amit Chauhan Amy Chu Amy Reeder Andrew MacLean Annie Wu Are You Dying? Arielle Jovellanos Ashley St.lawrence BEER & COOKIES COMICS Ben Bishop Ben Kahn & Kathleen Kralowec Ben Templesmith Bill Walko BlahMamus! Brandon Montclare Bronx Heroes CHOD Chris Hastings Chris Uminga Chrissie Zullo Christian DiBari Clay McCormack Cliff Chiang Cody Andrew Sousa Comic BETA Corin Howell Cory Levine Cubeecraft & Glen Brogan Dave Fox David Gallaher DChiuArt Dwayne Velasquez Eddieinthecity Designs Epyon5 Fabian Lelay Fabrice Sapolsky + Will Torres Feast© First Law of Mad Science Gabriel Pinto Giovanni Valletta Graig Weich of BeyondComics.TV Isaac Goodhart Ivan Brandon Jamal Igle James Romberger James Tynion IV Jamie Fay Janet Sung Javier Cruz Winnik Jeff Dekal Jerry Ma

ARTISTS’ ALLEY By Brian VanHooker In 2018, DC Collectibles is looking to make a big splash in the realm of collectable toys, with their new line DC Artists’ Alley. The new, artistfocused vinyl statue line will see the merging of toy art and some of DC’s most iconic characters. Here’s what DC has to say about the line: “DC Artists’ Alley is a new graphic and stylized PVC collector statue line from DC Collectibles based on designs from today’s cutting edge artists including Chris Uminga, Sho Murase and Hainanu “Nooligan” Saulque. Channeling the popular comic convention experience, DC Artists’ Alley brings unique, artistic viewpoints to the DCU through highlydetailed, limited edition PVC figures.” Excitingly, the designs will debut at the Five Points Festival in NYC, where the designer toy community will be the first members of the public to get a peek at the line. We spoke with DC Collectibles Executive Creative Director Jim Fletcher to find out more. So, what was the motivation for DC to enter the world of art toys? For years, at different cons, I’ve always visited artists’ alley and been impressed by the variety of artwork and artists I’ve seen. We’ve been looking for new places for our products to live, and we don’t really have anything like this line. There’s a lot of interesting vinyl art out there and so many || Chris Uminga Batman illustration ||

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interesting people and exciting things happening that we wanted to explore that. We’re big fans of Clutter and we were trying to pick out artists that we liked, and tried to figure out which three people had distinctive, unconventional styles that we could actually produce in a plastic based art form. I know for me personally, with art toys, I’m always buying stuff in San Diego that I don’t know what to do with once I get home.

Were there any specific artists that attracted you to the medium? The guys working on this are our art directors Brian Walters and Travis Hastback, and we have always been interested in the work of artists like Pete Fowler, Joe Ledbetter and Gary Baseman. We also worked with Klim Kozinevich at Bigshot Toyworks a while back to develop a line called Uniformz. We gave our characters these kind of blocky bodies, and it was the first time really that we explored the vinyl space, that’s when we first got interested in a lot of the art that is out there. There’s so many great artists out there, I like giving them the opportunity to personalize our characters to a degree never seen in our mass produced toys.

What’s the first wave going to look like? The first wave will feature 6 characters, two from each artist. Catwoman and Poison Ivy by Sho Murase, Joker and Harley Quinn by Nooligan and Batman and Superman by Chris Uminga. We wanted to start off strong, but eventually we’ll explore our B and C level characters too.

What brought you to those artists? I’ve known Chris Uminga the longest time through his Facebook forum, but Nooligan I just met last year. We were like “oh my God, this stuff is great” and he was one that I just kept in my rolodex until, something came up. Sho Murase was another artist we found in artists’ alley at SDCC.

Can you explain how the different styles were adapted? We went to people who we thought would represent the line in cool, diverse ways. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Sho Murase’s work, but she has amazing linework. They have a

|| Chris Uminga Superman illustration ||

|| Chris Uminga Superman 3D renders ||

graceful beauty and simplicity of style through really striking yet simple silhouettes. Her’s was probably the most difficult to create as a toy because it’s super two-dimensional, so it was fun to interpret this very flat artwork in a three dimensional space. Chris Uminga’s stuff is much more naturally… toy-etic, if I can make up a word. His characters are really captivating and playful. They’re not only cute, but also delightfully creepy. And Nooligan has these quirky, fun character designs, that have really energetic gestures and engaging personalities. Nooligan’s work was interesting to translate to a sculpture, he uses so many intersecting planes, such as how the Joker’s nose actually attached to the face.

From the artist’s perspective, how much freedom were they given to play with the characters? What were the guidelines or restrictions put in place? We had some really very basic guidelines. We wanted the characters to be at least recognizable and we wanted to make sure they were producable – because we actually have to make it, that was a big deal, but outside of that, it was pretty open. What we figured out was that if we let these artists play with the DC characters, they go to amazing places.

So, using Batman as an example, what would the guidelines be for an artist interpreting The Dark Knight? For Batman specifically, if it was just a bat symbol, with legs and ears, that would probably be viable, though probably not what we would have wanted [laughs]. But for Batman, really it was – he’s got to have a cowl, he’s got to have the bat symbol somewhere, and probably a cape. As far as restrictions go, that’s pretty much all we gave them. Also though, the people that we chose, we’ve seen their work for years, so we kind of knew what they were going to look like to some degree.

Is each piece going to be a standalone sculpture?

|| Murase Catwoman Illustration || || Nooligan Joker 3D reders || 58 | Clutter 43 - FIve Points Fest

I’m glad you asked that! Actually, that was one area the artists had a lot of fun with, posing each character was one of the most interesting parts of this process. How to convey the most personality in each character, and are they going to interact with each other or don’t they? They’re each doing three characters at some point, so wanted to be sure that they work together, to a degree.

So where should we expect to see these? Well, we’re going to premiere them at the Five Points Show because we wanted to show the art toy community that we’re going for something more out-of-the-box. This is a very different kind of thinking for DC characters, we couldnt be more excited to get them out there and share this new line! As for where they’re going to be sold, at Toy Fair earlier this year, behind closed doors and not for press, we showed some retailers the prototypes and got a great response, all the way from major retailers to local comic book stores, they were really interested in exploring their own variant figures. And that’s the way the line is going to work really, we’re not looking to mass produce ten thousand of each figure. We’re looking to limit each [figure] for different retailers with different colorways, it won’t be open-ended. Each retailer could potentially have their own variant.

|| Nooligan Harley Quinn 3D reders ||

That was something we were curious about, were your plans to go the more traditional route for toy-selling, or if it was going to be more in the vein of toy art, with limited numbers, and different colorways, and it being sold as artwork instead of just toys, and it sounds like you guys are looking to kind of blend the two approaches, is that right? That’s correct, yeah.

So what’s DC’s commitment to the Artists’ Alley line? Well, it’s going to be interesting because it’s the first time we’ve really tried something like this in this area. All of the work we’re premiering at Five Points will be coming in 2018, and based on that, we’ll figure out what the next steps are. But we’re going to give this a huge push and really put a lot of promotion behind DC Artists’ Alley. This has the potential to go on for years, as long as people buy into the idea of getting multiple versions of this character or that character.

For more information on DC Collectibles please visit:

|| Murase Poision Ivvy Illustration || Clutter 43 - Five Points Fest | 59


I ran to my computer with a gleeful smile, tearing through the internet like a Christmas present. I had my most recent assignment from Clutter Magazine and began researching Special Ed Toys immediately. And what could be more heartfelt than a company dedicated to benefiting special education needs kids with their releases. Then I saw Special Ed Toys’ works and my heart sank. They most certainly weren’t aimed to help kids with special needs. But through my delving into the impenetrable history of Special Ed Toys’ secretive founder, I wasn’t able to unearth what made him so special… Thankfully, I was able to ask. So, to paraphrase Winston Churchill, you are a bit of a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. Your website doesn’t give a lot of insight into the man behind the art, but you do sign your pieces “ed”. Is your real name Ed? And, if so, what makes you SO special? First off, I’d like to start this interview right by letting you know that I’m a straight-forward kind of guy. I strongly believe that full transparency is an integral part of being a respected artist in this or any other legitimate art scene. So, to answer your question: yes and no. Technically it’s the middle name of my “artist name”, so… sure, why not? But, in order to make this harder

than it has to be (that’s what she said), the whole “Special Ed” thing started from a certain special someone, whose name eludes me at the moment, who used to say to me “you’re special,” wait a few seconds, then finish off the sentence with a very loud “Ed!” all the while laughing uncontrollably. Needless to say, it felt like a warm hug followed up by a knee to my tender area. So, when I started making this terrible stuff, I wanted to convey that same feeling to my collectors with something that made them feel all excited and happy at first but was then quickly replaced by a painful sense of remorse radiating throughout their entire being. And what better way to brand that feeling than under “Special Ed Toys”? Plus, “Ed” is an abbreviation

Trump Wars: Darth Trump, collab. with Time Bandits, 2016

proper. It was an SDCC exclusive from DKE Toys, limited to 20 pieces, that sold out like hotcakes in a pancake-loving town. What really fascinated me about these was the phrase on the backside of the card, “Quality Sold Separately”. For those of us that missed it, where was the quality sold exactly? I don’t know if you meant that as just a metaphor, but they do love them some pancakes down there. There’s that one place just outside the convention center that always has a line wrapped around it longer than the terrible Funko line of people waiting to buy not-so-exclusive exclusives that are soon to be available at Target and Walmart with slight sticker variations on them. But to answer your actual question, it’s still in the works. I can pump the terrible stuff out with no problem. When it comes to my “Quality Sold Separately” release, however, I just can’t seem to get it right. The person I’m paying to cast it keeps catching air bubbles everywhere and the cardbacks keep printing askew. It’s definitely a head-scratcher of a release, but it is coming. As of now, I’m looking at a release date of 2083, so be sure to hold your breath and have your wallets ready.

of my actual middle name. I’m sure that answered none of your question, so… Yes, I am “Special.” “Special Ed.” You hit the scene running at 2015’s San Diego Comic-Con with your Protesttrooper (aka I Find Your Lack of Faith Disturbing), but your tagline is “Making terrible ‘art’ and even worse decisions since 1983.” Were you born in 1983? Or was that the first year you made art? Or was it the year that bad decisions debuted in your life? More often than not, taglines and slogans are more clever than the actual meanings behind them. I’m by no means an exception to this. That was, in fact, the year of my birth and I’d like to think that I’ve been making terrible art, decisions, and everything in-between since then. Onto discussing the Protesttrooper

To satisfy the continued demand for the Protesttrooper, an online 2.0 version and DesignerCon exclusive 2.5 version were created. Listed as having “5% (give or take) new artwork”, in the form of faux vintage price tags, I think we all knew this was a cash grab to capitalize on the piece’s popularity. Was it after those sold out super quickly that you began sleeping on a bed filled with $100 bills? Well, I’m glad you all figured it out because that’s exactly what it was. It was my first of many attempts to capitalize on the popularity of an already existing piece in the form of little to very little variation. But, to be fair, Nick… Nicholas… Nicothy. To be fair, Nicothy — ah, that sounds weird. Are you okay with being called Nick? (Nick nods) Alright. To be fair, Nick, $20 bills get lumpy after a while but $100 bills tend to keep a nice firm texture. So whatever keeps those $100s coming in and filling up my mattress I will continue to shamelessly exploit. Shifting gears from your unlicensed Star Wars works to something done in collaboration with the creator, you and Good For You Toys partnered to transform Luke Chueh’s Boba painting into the Drink Boba’s Boba non-action figure with Chueh’s approval and involvement. Depicting Boba Fett drinking a boba tea, or bubble tea, this project must’ve really felt special to you. I mean, you’re a HUGE boba tea fan, right?

E.T. The Excavating-Terrestrial., 2016

First off, it’s boba, not bubble tea. If Luke were to hear you say that he’d kick you right in your boba balls. I’m referring to the actual boba balls in your tea, not any other kind of balls. He’d ruin your boba tea drinking experience in a heartbeat. With that said, yes. I love bubble tea. But I love working with an iconic artist like Luke Chueh even better. To say that it was an interesting and inspiring experience would be an overused, but very true, cliché. And the fact that Luke and I, in collaboration with my buddy and pin artist Holden Taylor, have continued his boba series in the form of limited edition enamel pins is the extra topping on an already overflowing pink-colored boba tea! Now how’s that for a cheap plug?!? The 2015 DesignerCon was a big one for you, releasing not just the Protestrooper 2.0 and the Drink Boba’s Boba but also debuting your second original figure concept: Alien vs Predator. Depicting two ‘80s icons that touched the world in very different ways, it included interpretations of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and Michael Jackson. This is a safe place, you can be honest… How

deeply did this piece “touch” your wallet? My Alien vs Predator series has been one of my most successful — cha-ching — and one of my most controversial releases to date. In fact, I received my first proper hate (e)mail a month or so ago, shortly after releasing my latest variant at ComplexCon, from a DJ Ritty. He said, and I quote, “This item shows NO CLASS” and “there’s a special place in hell for people like you.” He then ended the email with, “Jam on!” I won’t lie, it affected me deeply. I felt I had to reevaluate my AVP line altogether. What I thought was going to be my last variant in this already long, drawn out series became just another variant in the continuation of this long, drawn out series. Look out for the “Jam on!” variant coming very soon. Thanks again, DJ Ritty!

I will neither confirm nor deny that statement. I will say this, though: as much as I enjoy wearing gray t-shirts and black jeans just like Dov, I just can’t rock sandals the same way he does. With that said, no. Dov Kelemer of Dov Kelemer Enterprises is not the entity behind Special Ed Toys and thus carries no liability of any kind for any of my blatant bootleggery or outlandish claims. Did Dov ask you to ask me in order to clarify this ongoing rumor? He did, didn’t he? Don’t worry, Dov. You’re off the hook now. The 2016 New York Comic Con once again saw a flurry of activity from you, debuting the HipHop Wars: HipHop Trooper interpretation, the Trump Wars: Darth Trump collab with Timebandits, and the Salacious Protestor original run. Now for the question on everyone’s mind: these releases featured your internal catalog numbers — Ed. 00007, Ed. 00008, and Ed. 00009, respectively — but what happened to Ed. 00006? Do you hate the number 6 or what? I mean, you also seemed to skip Ed. 00013, so I’m wondering if there’s some sort of counting disorder you have that we should be aware of… Actually, I preemptively did that in order to give you a cheap, yet satisfying, “gotcha” moment for this inevitable interview. Not really. That was actually me taking on more than the logical side of my brain could process at one time, which lead to me completely skipping an entire release number. I can count just fine, Nick. After all, I do have 10 fingers and 10 toes, so until I get past release number 20, my counting will not be to blame for such slip-ups. Now, as for Ed. 00013, the joke is on you! I did release my E.T. The Excavating-Terrestrial under that number so… Ha! I just released it out of sync because it was for an iam8bit gallery show that got pushed back a few weeks and I had already gotten the cards printed. So,

The Evil of Thriller Night: Zombie Dance King, 2016

After that, aside from releasing the ultra-limited Alien vs Predator - Close to Midnight Edition at Clutter Gallery’s (In)action Figures 4, you seemingly went dormant until 2016’s SDCC. There you debuted the Action MC collaboration with Ron English, your Our Only Hope & For The Empire two figure set, and the Start Wars: Che Trooper - Winter of ‘59 Edition run with Urban Medium, all exclusive to the DKE Toys booth. It’s time to come clean… Are you, in fact, DKE Toys’ head honcho, Dov Kelemer?

Alien vs Predator - P.Y.E.T. Edition, 2015

yeah, I’m special but not that special. Back to those NYCC releases, though, I’m curious about the Salacious Protestor pieces. On the card back to the Protestrooper works, you listed several other protestor non-action figures as forthcoming. There was a severed Luke Skywalker hand, which was released at the 2016 DCon, as well as a Jawa, Shadow Trooper, and Ewok. What dirt did Salacious Crumb have on you to land him from not even being on the radar to being the second protestor figure? Well, aren’t you the clever one, actually doing your homework and whatnot? Anywho… it was a combination of my love for Salacious Crumb and my straight up dumb, but fortunate, luck of coming across a significant amount of brand new, factory sealed Salacious Crumb figures from the ‘80s. That’s right. Those Salacious Protesters are actually vintage, re-purposed Kenner action figures. Even though it was pointed out on several occasions that those were customized figures, most people, much like myself, don’t pay attention to minute details such as this. But the funniest thing about it is that they were probably worth more before I ripped into them and forever sealed their fate as a terrible and overly “punny” bootleg. But, it’s what I do. I never claim to be a “resin slinger,” a sculptor, or a talented human being in any sense of the word. I make terrible bootlegs by any means necessary. Following a Halloween appropriate zombie Michael Jackson online release, The Evil of Thriller Night: Zombie Dance King, you parodied the popular Netflix show Stranger Things for Xpanded Universe’s Upside Down Art Show. Creating the Bootlegg’s Stranger Things Brand: Eleven action figures in very limited amounts, there was a regular version and upside down variant which each 64 | Clutter 43 - FIve Points Fest

featured completely different backing cards and even figure colorations. A very smart ploy to get people to buy two copies of the same figure by making them just different enough… Very smart indeed. I’m sorry, was there a question somewhere in that blatant attempt to discredit me as an actual artist who respects his fans and paint me as just another money grubbing no talent ass clown? I’ll have you know, sir, that although I am a no talent ass clown, I do in fact respect my fans. So, if there are no questions, I’ll just use this as an excuse to talk about my collaborative Eleven figure with my buddy Carlos Espinoza of MOC Toys, who did the card art, and the all too talented George Gaspar, who created the original sculpt. While working on this set, we had noticed that my other buddy and fellow bootlegger, Killer Bootlegs, had already released his own Eleven figure and that my other pal from Super Secret Fun Club was working on one himself, so we decided to really keep it under wraps as to not step on any toes, and to keep it within the fashion I’m used to doing things: taking the original concept and turning it into a pun-filled train wreck. This was definitely one of my more fan-driven tribute pieces than a “clever” mash-up piece. Quite honestly, I was pretty worried that it would do poorly because I had made the run sizes so small, 11 of each variant, which led to the price being more than what I’m used to charging. But, to my surprise, it sold out and now I can’t wait to drop our next Stranger variant that I think people will really dig. To celebrate your Alien vs Predator being a finalist nominee for the Designer Toy Awards’ Toy of the Year, you released a commemorative The Evil of the Thriller Edition of it at 2016’s ComplexCon. But, the

Bootlegg’s Stranger Things Brand: Eleven (upside down variant), 2015

Bootlegg’s Stranger Things Brand: Eleven, 2015

question remains, how many stacks of those $100 bills you sleep on did you have to give to the DTAs to secure that finalist position? C’mon, we know bribery must’ve been involved! You know how people talk about sleeping their way up to the top? Well, I’ve discovered that, for me, not being a handsome and/or talented individual also goes a long way. Maybe it’s because they wanted to avoid me offering them any “special” services in exchange for their votes that they went ahead and voted me in as a finalist in two categories! But, whatever it was, I’m still super grateful and completely honored! Thank you, Clutter and all those awesome judges who voted for me! The checks are in the mail! Lastly, at the 2016 DesignerCon, you finally did the Severed Limbs: Luke Protestor with Janky Toys and returned the Trump Wars line with a new Darth Trump edition and the Empress Hillary addition. But what really caught my eye was the one-of-a-kind HipHop Trooper: Mini Protestor figure, mixing your HipHop Trooper rendition with the Protesttrooper in LEGO mini figure form. Did you just do this to torture LEGO fans, making them fight over this singular piece? Before I go on to answer your actual question, I’ll drag this out a bit and point out the fact that the Severed Limbs: Luke Protestor is actually one of my all time favorite pieces. It was actually one of the first collaborations I committed to doing shortly after releasing my original Protesttrooper. I had already assigned a severed Luke hand to my upcoming protest figure line before seeing Chris [of Janky Toys]’s work, which is what really blew me away! I guess terrible minds really do think alike. And, actually, one of our very first conversations kicked off with us saying how much we needed to make this mash-up asap. As you can tell, we were both very quick to make that happen! Sense the sarcasm? But, seriously though, it was a project that was a long time coming and I’m glad we finally did it. Plus, Chris found a way to present one to Mark Hamill himself, who absolutely loved it! Anywho, enough of that geek out session and on to what you actually asked me. The one-off trooper was definitely a teaser for fans of my protest line, and it was pretty well received since it didn’t sit around for longer than a few minutes after I announced it. And whether I like it or not, I will always be known for my Protesttrooper, so paying a little homage to the thing that kicked off my brand is my way of sort of bringing it full circle. I’m currently working on releasing a small run of my original colorway Mini Protesttroopers very soon. And, who knows, those may wrap up my protest line for a good while (or just plain for good)… So if you’re looking to shovel more of your money in my direction in exchange for poorly made action-less figures, then I would definitely keep an eye out for them. Any who, are we done here? I’ve got more terrible toys to make and these puns aren’t going to overuse themselves.

For more information please visit:

Clutter 43 - Five Points Fest | 65

Hailing from Brooklyn, NY are Locknesters! A high-end puzzle sculpture company that could find its home on the pages of any interior design magazine. Marrying brand new digital techniques, with an eye for detail and hand finishing, Locknesters are bringing a sense of play to their objects; making them not only beautiful but also unique. With two new designs set to release, we caught up with them to find out the history of the project.

Tell us about Locknesters, where the idea came from, and how it came to be. Locknesters are really the embodiment of my interests in details and connections. Growing up I was always interested in assembling things and the way small objects fit together to form larger ones. The toys we make are all about how geometries fit together, so designing their pieces was an immediate fascination for me. In architecture school I was often more interested in working out very specific parts of a building proposal, and not so worried about the overall design. You take advantage of new technologies such as 3D printing in your product, tell us a little about why you chose that route, and how it helped you get from idea to market. The use of the printer initially came out of my background as an architecture student - it was a fast way to go from digital model to prototype. When moving to market, we had to find a way to finish the raw 3D prints that would make them smooth and pleasing to touch. Today the 3D printer is the first part of our manufacturing process, the pieces then get barrel tumbled and polyurethaned to achieve a polished final look and feel. You create beautiful silhouettes with simple design, and amazingly creative packaging, how many iterations of the design did you go through? Thanks! We start by creating the base digital model of the figure, and then digitally cut it up into pieces. Next we make physical prototypes and tweak the digital model to create better fits between the pieces. 3D printing really helps in this phase as we can create multiple iterations and make

adjustments quickly. We often have to tweak the design of any given piece two or three times before it fits just right. The packaging was actually born out of necessity. We were looking for some system that would hold the figure together during shipping. When I was playing around with our vaccuum former I developed a technique to create the loose looking vacuum form. Once the scale and form of a figure is set, we create durable casts that are used for vacuum forming. Do you manufacturer in the USA? We do! We’re very proud to design and manufacture our toys in Brooklyn, NY. It’s great to have control over the manufacturing process so that we can stay agile and keep making Improvements. Also doing all the phases in the same place really helps us speed up the design process. What is your dream for Locknesters? We’re thrilled to debut Dog and Dinosaur at Five Points! I’d really like to develop a custom character for Locknesters, been kicking around ideas for what that might be. I’d also like to keep looking into different material process, possibly creating a high-end line out of metals. There’s so much possibility when designing toys that have multiple pieces. It would be fantastic to have a toy that could be different figures depending on how you assemble it, or perhaps a more generic set of pieces that gives the user the freedom to assemble new creations.

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What is Blind boxed? The McDonald’s Happy Meal has always been an exciting way to get a toy. The joy you feel at seeing a property you’re enthusiastic about being featured in that box, and the anticipation when you order the meal, hoping to get the toy you want. Even the disappointment felt getting something you didn’t want just fuels the determination to return next week and try again, and again, until you get the satisfaction of finally attaining that sacred piece. This roller coaster of emotions is exactly the same experience felt when collecting blind boxed toys. Essentially, the Happy Meal toy is a blind box (unless you ask the attendant what toy they have this week, but where’s the fun in that?). Blind boxing figures is a popular model in the selling of designer toys. Now, just because something is in a blind box or blind bag does not necessarily mean that item is a designer toy. In fact, blind packaging figures has been popular in the mainstream toy industry for some time. Blind boxing simply means the item being purchased is obscured by its own packaging and can only be revealed by opening the package. Usually, the toys being sold are in a series, and are linked by a similar theme (be it they are all part of the same property, or a design by the same artist, or sometimes several different artists with the same theme as a subject matter). In addition to the items being obscured, another element commonly used in blind boxing is the varied rarity of toys distributed, which is usually portrayed in a ratio. For example, a package may say that a certain toy

The 13 Dunny Series by Brandt Peters & Kidrobot

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King Tut 8” Dunny by Sket One & Kidrobot

has an availability of 1/6, which simply means one in every six boxes contain that given toy. Chase figures, in blind box terms, refers to toys with less availability than the other toys in that set; oftentimes a chase figure’s design is represented only in silhouette, unnamed, and/ or with a distribution ratio of “?/??.” A good example of a blind box series are Kidrobot’s many different series of Dunnys. To use a recent example, Kidrobot recently released a series of blind boxed Dunnys designed by Brandt Peters named The 13. The boxes are all exactly the same, leaving you no idea of what’s inside. On the packaging, all of the designs are shown along with their availability. The most common pieces, like The Mad Butcher and Mr. Gloom, have an availability of 2/20, other figures are more rare, like Diablo with a 3/40 distribution. While the chase figures, like the silhouette wearing the pointy hat, has an availability of 1/80, making it much harder to find. The blind box is commonly used to sell designer toys because it helps to fuel the collecting community ingrained in the designer toy movement. The mystery, the anticipation, the joy, and even the disappointment are all part of what makes collecting blind boxes exciting and popular. Because everyone has a “favorite” design or designs that they want, the aftermarket for blind box toys is all part of that community. Be it outright buying the toy one wants on eBay (often for an inflated price) or connecting with other collectors via forums and conventions to trade one piece (or multiple pieces) for another, reselling and trading are all part of the community aspect of the designer toy world.

The Process... By Galen McKamy Former Creative Director for Kidrobot The process of Blind Boxing from inception to shelf is a calculated process. Many collectors and fans understand pieces and parts of what it takes to produce a blind box series. There truly is a process going on here (at Kidrobot) 18 months before a release. We take into account what the fans want firstly. We track the blogs and boards, we reach far outside our walls for opinions and insights into new artists and customizers who might cap a series nicely. There is a delicate balance of what designs go into a blind box series. We look for the right balance of dark, funny, edgy, and cute. Choosing the artists is the most exciting part. Of course we love to work with our OG artists, but we are always looking to bring in new talent to pepper into our series. The artists are the ones that really transforms our canvas into their world. The outcome results in an average of 15 designs, all completely different and special to our fans in their own right. We have a broad demographic of fans that we need to excite; from a fifteen-year-old girl in Harajuku dressed up like Rainbow Bright with KISS face paint, to the thirty-something in Toledo, Ohio blasting Slayer. This does mean that you can’t always make everyone happy. It’s a sad truth to this niche industry. The most exciting part of my job is witnessing a Dunny release. We start to slowly, or rapidly depending on the source, leak images. Bits and pieces of information are

Mao & Mrs. Mao by Frank Kozik & Kidrobot

released to engage the fans and collectors. We refresh Instagram pics and blog posts to see what the response is. There is an internal all staff meeting here at Kidrobot headquarters the morning of a Dunny release. You can tell it’s release day because everyone, from accounting to sales to design, is happy like it’s “the first of the month.” We give a brief overview of the artists and the theme of the series, then pass around cases of Dunny. Everyone receives a blind box, a box of mystery. After we all tear into our boxes like it’s Christmas, the whole office begins the trading process. Just like when we were kids, trading up, trying to lock down that rare chase figure. At the end of the day we are all young at heart. Blind boxing is a uniquely engaging way to collect beautiful vinyl art toys, that pays homage to your youthful excitability.

Lunartik in a Cup of Tea by Matt JOnes

I give a small warning to all collectors, these are quite addictive and it's a bit like gambling, but the good thing is there normally under $10.00 a pop which is good for everyone's pocket. I like to compare blind boxes with oysters, they're not much to look at from the outsides, but open them up and there sits another pearl to add to your growing collection! Happy hunting!

- Matt “Lunartik” JOnes ( Clutter 43 - Five Points Fest | 71



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Beast (Shadow Colorway) 2016

If you are an avid designer toy fan, chances are you’re already familiar with the works of Brent Nolasco. His masterpieces tend to stand out thanks to Nolasco’s liberal use of wildly vivid color patterns that seemingly have no pattern at all. In fact, if there is any consistency in Nolasco’s work it’s that there is no consistency in terms of what to expect – a trait that, oddly, makes his skillful works of art all the more familiar. Normally this would be where we would plug his latest gems, but by the time you read this, he’ll probably have another ten out in circulation that he hasn’t even dreamed up yet. It feels like every time I go online to check out the latest toy or gallery news, your name pops up. You are an absolute machine when it comes to releasing something new and awesome. How difficult is it to maintain a high level of creativity or is it simply a case of the more you work the easier it is to stay creative? For the last two years, I have been on attack mode working on my resin projects. I had a large body of work that I wanted to get through in a short

amount of time, and I’ve been doing this for so long that it becomes second nature. The more deadlines and chaos I have just drives me harder, it’s like a challenge. I like pressure and obstacles, it pushes me to be a better artist. I don’t have the leisure time to linger on projects - it’s a “now or never” state of mind. Once you get the ball rolling, it’s like a domino effect. Ideas and visions cross my mind and I pick and choose what I want to do. I still believe that I don’t have Clutter 43 - Five Points Fest | 75

The Eliminator “Blank Gray”, 2016

enough life left to get to all my ideas. How much of your time is spent working, whether finishing products or conceptualizing? I am always working on something, every day. I have multiple projects going on all the time, in various stages of completeness. No two days are the same, so it is always exciting. I could be sculpting for two hours, next painting or working on a run of figures for a release, then I may work on a custom for a show. And that’s just the physical work - it doesn’t include the business side, social media and DMs [Direct Messages] to get to. Then you throw in keeping up with projects for production – I spend less time conceptualizing, and more time planning and keeping things on task. Coming up with ideas and creating the art is the easy part, planning and keeping on task takes the most time. With your characters, what comes first, the visual aspect or the backstory regarding who or what they represent? The visual always comes first. I see or pick what I want to do, and start designing. I keep it very loose in my head. I like to have the breathing room so that I can be creative. When I start sculpting, there is room for

freedom. The back story is always the last part – I’m more into designing it. I sometimes don’t know what it is all about or why, I just want it to look aesthetically pleasing, and make sure that the design is able to be pulled in resin. By the time I am done with the figure, I am ready for the next project, so I make the name, and let the audience decide for themselves the interpretation. You grew up in So Cal [South California], but when you graduated High School, you opted to spend a year in Detroit to study. Did you choose the location or the specific school and why? I looked at a couple of schools and visited them - UCLA’s art program, Art Center of Pasadena, but after visiting The Center of Creative Studies in Detroit, it felt like home. I wanted a change and was looking for an experience outside my comfort zone. It was also a great way to find my voice as an artist. I knew that there was much more than just Long Beach to conquer. I was going from beaches to city life. Detroit is a tough city where you either sink or swim. It definitely built some character and toughened me up. That landscape really influences some of the industrialism in my work. The beauty and fascination of factories and urban landscapes combined with nature conquering it all. Tell us a little about The Dark Descendants, its world, and the relationship of each of the characters within that world. The Dark Descendants is a concept that I have been working on for a while. When the idea first started, all the figures were skull-based. It started a couple of years back with my skull birds. The sculpts were pretty big - using antlers and found objects to build elaborate birds. I had never seen anyone produce anything like what I had envisioned before. Midway, the concept grew, but I felt that my sculpting ability wasn’t there, so I put the project aside. Now I am re-introducing it, it has had time to grow into a more manageable size that is able to be produced. The Dark Descendants’ world is now different. It is still based on skulls but with multiple pieces, and more complexity.

ZIGGY Shadow Edition, 2016

The storyline is more “catch phrases” instead of a narrative like “Search Destroy Repeat” and “Eliminate Everything”. I

wanted the narrative to be the interpretation of whoever is looking at it. If there WAS a storyline, it would be that The Dark Descendants is based on a time before the elimination of all living things on Earth. The Eliminator receives orders to annihilate every living thing that walks or breathes, to become the superior race.” It’s not the most uplifting concept, but reflects how some humans interact with others. “Cast of Shadows” & “Rise of the Fallen” are just phrases up for interpretation. Is there a specific order in terms of the progression of releases in The Dark Descendants line? Yes, they were released according to the narrative in my brain. First The Eliminator, then Doomsday etc. For now it’s an open line, so that anything can happen for releases. I am currently working on the third installment that should be out by the end of the year. Doomsday is such a great figure, what is his story? Doomsday is an evolution of some of my past and present works, but also a rebirth of what is to come. It’s the next step in the narrative. After The Eliminator destroyed everything in sight, you think it’s over, but Doomsday is a sign that it isn’t the end. There’s more pain and suffering to be had. It makes the path through the aftermath to the unknown. Does everything start over or is it the end? I was hoping to get my hands on one of the Do Not Fade Away resin hearts, but my fingers weren’t quick enough. I wish I could say congrats on that sell-out but it pains me that I don’t have one proudly on display. It’s also a pretty big leap away from your typical style. What was the influence behind it? Do Not Fade Away is a project that I always wanted to sculpt. In my paintings, I always included hearts as a symbol of life. Making a 3D figure was always a goal. I also wanted the piece to be my own DIY platform. Since I had other ideas for the piece, I am currently working on the next phase of it. The first release was made to be more of a a design object than a figure, so that you could incorporate it into your living space. I was in the mood to try something new and take a break from my other work so that I could come back refreshed, with a clean palette.

The Dream Weaver, 2016.

I’ve read somewhere that one of your musical influences is the Grateful Dead. As a fellow deadhead, the name of the song Clutter 43 - Five Points Fest | 77

Not Fade Away, is preceded by the line “love Is real”. Is there any correlation between this particular piece and the song? If I wasn’t an artist, I would want to be a musician. A lot of the music that I listen to drives my art, so I am always looking for new music to be the catalyst of new ideas. Not Fade Away by the Grateful Dead is a prime example of music influencing my art. Titles and lyrics always find their way into my artwork. Since I have made such a large volume of art throughout the years, I start to run out of names and titles. Do Not Fade Away is open to interpretation. I wanted it that way. It can be love or mortality. I want people to be able to pick, and make the piece into their own so that there is a connection with. And as they say “there is nothing like a Grateful Dead show” - the community and joy and escapism achieved there - who wouldn’t want to share it? Blessed Blessed Oblivion... another brilliant concept. I always liked “death moths” so I wanted to make my own. It was kind of a side project to break things up. I wanted more of a wide range of releases this year, rather than focusing on one design. I looked around at other interpretations, and they all looked the same. Also, there were not a lot of resin figures, mostly pins and stickers, so making a figure in resin was a no brainer. I wanted to make a 3d design that can be displayed in multiple ways so that every angle has some design element. Most of the designs that I’ve seen were just on the front, and not the back. Was there a particular artist that first turned your head and pushed you into exploring the art world even deeper, or was it more a gradual thirst over time? Art has always been a journey for me. Seeing different art inspires me to do new things or opens my mind to ideas. I have enjoyed seeing some shows in person like the classics - Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, and Takashi Murakami. I see art but I don’t try to copy it, It opens me to see something else and directs me to do my thing. I am more looking at their technique and style to see if I can use that it my own way. I was lucky enough to grab one your Originals from the now defunct Gag Me With A Toon show from WWA gallery in Culver City. I love your particular style of painting but it seems as if you prefer to work with 3D products.

Top: Beast (Orange), 2016, Middle: Blessed Oblivion, 2017 Bottom: Doomesday. 2017 78 | Clutter 43 - FIve Points Fest

I started as a fine artist – drawing in high school, and then I taught myself how to

paint with acrylics. When vinyl toys came out, it translated well, onto that base. I got bored of painting and felt that sculpting would be a challenge. From there I taught myself how to sculpt, and what works and what doesn’t when casting figures. Right now 3D work is more interesting to me and I get to use a different paint style for each piece. Are there any other mediums you are interested in tackling? I definitely want to learn 3D rendering for designing toys, instead of sculpting from scratch all the time. Sometimes sculpting limits me, but I can pretty much draw whatever comes to my mind. Digital would be able to offer more complexity to my work. I really loved the Barse release last year, but, like most of your releases, the run was extremely low. Has there ever been a moment where you wanted to mass-produce something to satisfy your rapidly growing fan base or do you pride yourself on the intimacy of small-run “individually customized” products? Right now I like working on small runs of figures instead of mass-producing things. It’s a little more intimate. My attention span is short when working on a figure, so right now I have the freedom to create and make something in a 2-3 month turn around, where production could take a year or more. I have a few people who pull my resin: TaskOne, Jacob Jams, and Dead Hand Toys. That way, I can stay busy and not have to wait for long turn-arounds to continue my work. I am always open to it though, It would be another adventure that I’d welcome. Tell us a little about your process. I always work things out in my head first. I generally come across things, or see something that I like and I gather the idea - Or I’m filling in a gap that may have been overlooked. I’m always pulling from lots of things to come up with something new. A color can bring up an idea, or a technique may give me a new approach. I generally mull over something for a while and may scribble it down on paper. Then I write the “recipe” down for what I want to do with the project. So far my favorite clay is Aves epoxy sculpt. I feel comfortable using it. With it, I know that it takes 3 hours to harden, so I am pushed to do whatever section that I am working on in that time frame. Sometimes I pre-sculpt pieces like teeth, eyes, horns, that are ready to be added on. I work on the piece in stages. Some of the bases, under the clay are made of foam, aluminum foil, armature wire, or pieces of wood cut to the shape I need. With things that are going to be cast in resin, I have to consider that it may need to be broken

The Eliminator Mixed Parts Colorway, 2017

down into multiple pieces in order for it to be pulled. What do you do when you need to take a break? Listen to music, go out to eat. I hang with my wife and kids - my three favorite people. We all love to go to concerts together, day trips and adventures, cities, galleries, friend’s houses. Sometimes we are really social, and other times, our very favorite place to be is at home. You can’t beat that feeling of loving the home and family that you have built together. What should we expect this year from you? Every year is different for me. I don’t try to project what I want to do for the year so that it doesn’t categorize me or hold back what can be done. I try to keep each year open and free to develop & explore. I may pick a few topics that I want to do, but keep the rest open to fill in the blanks and try new things. This year’s main project was the Dark Descendants and to have multiple figures in that series. Other projects will vary from that and explore different styles and methods. Right now, I am focusing on the techniques that I want to accomplish (for instance, I want to capture “movement”, or a different painting style). I don’t like repeating ideas or styles. I wait to see what connects first and then, I start that. To learn more please visit:

Shogunasty (Afterglow Edition) by BigManToys

Basics of Bootlegs and (In)Action Figures The term bootlegging first originated in the 19th century, when smugglers concealed bottles of liquor in their boots while trading with Indian tribes. In 1919, prohibition was enacted and the practice of bootlegging spread across the United States to supply alcohol to the people. The word eventually came to mean the illegal dealing of goods, and today it is often applied to piracy of music or movies. For the designer toy community, the term ‘bootlegging’ has a very specific meaning; a genre for creating toy art based on licensed properties without permission. To understand bootlegging, it would be helpful to first understand one of the most widespread materials used in the creation of designer toys: a substance known as resin. Resin is a liquid substance that can be poured into a mold, hardening into a relatively archival objet d’art. “Resin is the lifeblood of the bootlegger. It gives their ideas form and their lives meaning. He who controls the resin, controls the universe.” - The Oracle Boot Leg

Care Grizzly Bears (Rainbow) by Falcontoys

Resin is popular in the designer toy world, as most other plastics require factory-level machinery to manufacture a piece, while resin can be poured in one’s home or studio fairly affordably. The process involves creating an original object out of clay or any other material, then creating a mold of that form, usually out of silicone. The two components of resin are then mixed together and poured into the mold, then the resin hardens into a rigid plastic as a result of an exothermic chemical reaction. Once removed from the mold, a hardened object is formed and can be reproduced. This process is often what is used by artists who want to make multiples of their sculptures or designer toys. As for bootlegging within the designer toy community, the name itself is a bit of a misnomer. They are not the cheap variety packs of action figures often seen at flea markets where it is clear that no mainstream toy manufacturer had a hand in creating them. Those toys are referred to as “knock-offs.” Bootlegging, however, while not technically being “legal” is something different in the world of toy art: within a Warholian art sensibility, often it is the bootleg that rises to the level of fine art. In the evolution of designer toys, the greatest example of bootlegging is Suckadelic’s Gay Empire series. The slight alteration of a Stormtrooper, with a larger codpiece, poured in pink resin, and doused with a lifetime’s worth of attitude created a brand new concept of what a Stormtrooper could be. The reason this type of art is known as bootlegging is because it builds off of a pre-existing

Alien vs Predator (Close to Midnight) Edition. By Special Ed Toys 82 | Clutter 43 - FIve Points Fest

Motel Hell by Retroband

Homotrooper by Sucklord

property and was not created with permission from the licensor. The reason why this is art, and different to knock-offs, is that it is not intended to interfere with the sale of official Star Wars figures, it uses the artist’s creativity and imagination to create something entirely new (almost). Knock-offs are generally created in order for the broad consumer to buy a cheaper toy, and for the monetary gain of the company producing them. No one buying an ordinary Stormtrooper figure would accidentally buy a bright pink Gay Empire Trooper and mistake it as a genuine figure from the Star Wars line.

Space Madness: Non Solo by Junk Fed

While toys like this have been made without permission, sometimes — depending upon the discretion of the owner of the original work — the artist creating the new toy won’t get into legal trouble. And may even be encouraged to continue,so long as the new work doesn’t threaten the original, strictly serving as an artistic celebration for the fan community. Another type of bootleg occurs when a toy is made of something that has never been made before, termed an (In)Action Figure. Whereas where the Gay Empire alters an existing Stormtrooper toy, an (In)Action Figure is when something completely new is made but without permission from the owners of the license. An example of this is the work created by Retroband, who is known for making toys from movies that never had toys, like the series based on the film New Jack City. These toys are usually created by sculpting onto a pre-existing toy, or made from pre-existing toy parts, to create something completely new and outside of a legal license. Because they are unlicensed, bootlegs usually have very limited runs, which preserves the exclusivity of the artwork and can be a (semi-) effective legal loophole. Tapatío Resin Figure by Scraped Resin Clutter 43 - Five Points Fest | 83

Sushi Kaiju by Paul Shih (Resin)

Mockbat by Paul Kaiju (sofubi)

What is Kaiju?

Ooze Moon X by Rampage Toys (Sofubi)

Kaiju is a Japanese word which translates to “strange creature” or “strange beast.” To the general public, the word kaiju refers directly to a Japanese film genre which features monsters, a subgenre of the larger Japanese genre tokusatsu, which refers to films which rely heavily on special effects. Kaiju films are those that usually feature giant monsters attacking cities or other giant monsters, the single most famous example of which is Godzilla. In the toy world, the film genre kaiju shares a name with a major genre of toys. Because of the heavy influence of Japanese culture on the designer toy movement, and because, unlike mainstream toys, the world of art toys does not revolve around licensed characters, but instead on the imagination of the artists, strange and elaborate creatures and monsters are a very common and appealing means of expression. There are a couple other terms which are sometimes interchanged with the word kaiju for designer toy collectors, and each has their own specific colloquial meaning. Some purists feel that the term kaiju should be used to refer to only characters based on those specific Japanese films, and so a new term was adopted in the U.S.: neo-kaiju, literally meaning “new strange creature.” “Neo-kaiju is a term I came up with in 2002 to describe the kind of toys we were making at Super7,” says Brian Flynn, founder of Super7. “We were taking influence from the classic ‘kaiju’ figures, but doing them in a new and contemporary way. It was first used on the Neo-kaiju Project figures, and over the years the term has come to be used as a definition of any sort of contemporary monster influenced toy — from the cute to the crazy, abstract to traditional with a monster-y filter on it as opposed to a strict artistic or 2d influenced point of view.” Often linked with kaiju is the word ‘sofubi,’ which simply translated means ‘soft vinyl.’” a contraction of the Japanese ソフトビニール SOFUTO BINEERU. Sofubi is an important term in the designer toy world as it specifically refers to Japanese vinyl, which is seen as being the highest quality. Just as Champagne refers only to sparkling wine from Champagne, France, so too does Sofubi refer only to Japanese Vinyl. The reason why this word is commonly thrown in with kaiju is because most kaiju toys from Japan are traditionally made from sofubi. 86 | Clutter 43 - FIve Points Fest

A new term, ‘sofvi,’ has also sprung up in recent years also to connote sofubi. It’s use is mainly as a reaction by purists to isolate the hardcore influencers from what is considered by some a newer and less worthy fanbase. Though kaiju commonly refers to giant monsters, the term is broader in the designer toy world and no specific set of parameters contains it. Though sofubi and kaiju are often tied together, not all kaiju are made from sofubi, or even vinyl, they can be resin or any other type of plastic. And though kaiju conjures up the image of terrible creatures crushing cities, they can also be small, cute, and even friendly. For art toys, kaiju is a broad term which really just refers to strange creatures and the word “strange” means something different for everyone. Just as the appeal of designer toys is the expression of the artist in a threedimensional form, the appeal of kaiju is that it can be almost anything.

M5 Bravo by Jeff Lamm & Unbox Industries (Chinese Vinyl)

Ugly Unicorn One-Off #1 (Happy) By Rampage Toys (sofubi)

Kaiju: A Brief History By Mark Nagata, founder of Max Toy Company

Escaregot by Josh Herbolsheimer & Super7

Both kaiju and sofubi go back to the ‘60s in Japan, when Mattel toys — of Barbie fame — brought the soft vinyl casting process to Japan. This cheap process allowed for such toys as baby dolls to be made in mass quantities. When the first Monster Boom hit Japan in the ‘60s, such shows like Ultraman and Kamen Rider yielded an incredible array of merchandise, including many Kaiju and Sofubi figures. Companies like Marusan, Bullmark, Bandai, and Popy all produced copius amounts of Sofubi toys for Japanese children, many of which now command thousands of dollars in the vintage toy market. Of course, back in those days these toys were simply cheap toys to be played with by kids, and the collector market was nonexistent. For today’s collector, kaiju and neo-kaiju refer to the new wave of toys presently created in Japan. Technically, most of what is produced are not really Kaiju toys. But like the way the meaning of the word otaku can loosely describe fanatic followers, the word kaiju has now become a word that covers a much broader spectrum of toys. Kaiju toys now

Naminori Kaijin “Oron” Clear Ver. by Kenth Toy Works

are mostly artist or creator-driven figures using the same old school sofubi methods of production. There are some licensed sofubi by independent artists, but mostly the bigger companies like Bandai take care of that part of the market. Most of the remaining Sofubi factories in Japan are run by 1 or 2 people, typically in their 70s or 80s. Amazingly, the same folks who casted vintage Bullmark figures in the ‘60s are still doing the same today. Figures are all still hand-casted and in limited quantities, which accounts for the higher price point versus a mass produced toy in China. I am biased in my view point, but the Japanese do have the best quality vinyl (especially clear vinyl), and given the rich 50 plus year history, kaiju toys thrive and will continue into the future for as long as artists and collectors seek them.

Tripus: Father vs Son by Mark Nagata x Max Nagata

Kaiju Vs. SOFUBI?

Bechigon by Velocitron

By Ricky Wilson / Velocitron

The lines between kaiju, neo-kaiju, and sofubi tend to get blurred quite a bit in the minds of most collectors and separating one from the other can be a bit tricky but don’t fret! Here are a few points you can remember to ensure you don’t make a collector faux pas at your next nerd gathering: Sofubi (Japanese shorthand for “soft vinyl”) refers first and foremost to the material the figures are made from and secondarily to the figures made from it. These figures are almost always made via the slush method of production — rotocasted figures (like Dunnys) would generally be classified in a different category. The style of the figure, though, is irrelevant; it could be anything from an anime cutie to a classic Toho monster to a streetwear mascot from the backstreets of Harajuku. So you can describe a figure as “made from sofubi” or say that you “collect sofubi” and be totally in the clear! Sofubi itself tends to be, well, softer than rotocast vinyl (bet you didn’t see that coming) and lends itself to tons of great colors and production styles, from ultra-bright glow-in-thedarks to vinyl with glitter or pearl powder added and even “marbled” vinyl made from swirling several different colors of vinyl together. Collectors prize sofubi for its silky smooth “organic” feel and also its rarity. Slush casted figures are almost always cast by hand and produced in small, limited runs. If you’re a record collector you no doubt know about “virgin vinyl” used in record presses. All the vinyl made in Japanese sofubi factories is also “virgin” — meaning it doesn’t contain ground up bits of previously-cast vinyl — and as such has excellent consistency, color, and feel. Kaiju, on the other hand, refers to a specific kind of character: in this case, a monster. Translated directly the word means something akin to “terrifying beast.” Godzilla, Gamera, and the baddies from Ultraman all fall into this category as do most of the monsters from “hero” shows on Japanese TV (although some purists might contend that

Ultrus Bog by Skinner 88 | Clutter 43 - FIve Points Fest

Earth Wolf by Josh Herbolsheimer

these man-sized creatures are more correctly identified as “kaijin,” or “terrifying people”). Many of the most famous of these creatures come from the Showa period of Japanese history — mainly the 1960s and ‘70s — but you can still see new kaiju in current movies, TV shows, comics, and anime. The monsters in the recent Pacific Rim were (correctly) referred to as Kaiju and there is a very popular manga series currently running in Japan known as Hakaiju that deals with ultra-violent bloodthirsty monsters (highly recommended!). Neo-kaiju are generally interpretations of or riffs on these classic monsters by modern designers. Some are very easy to identify as homages to their source material but others can be hard to identify even to pros; some may incorporate numerous elements from different characters or may have a reference as obscure as a particular texture of skin or even the color of vinyl used to make the figure. Most neoKaiju are strictly labors of love created by artists who were inspired by the heroes and villains of their youth but some very well established (or very ambitious) artists may obtain official licenses to do updates of classic designs. Almost all neo-Kaiju are available as toys only — you probably won’t find them starring in any movies or TV shows — but some Japanese artists go so far as to make lifesize suits of their creations and use them in low-budget fanmade films!

Cadaver Kid by Splurrt

Heirophany by Carlos Enriquez Gonzlez

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Niall Anderson

KESHI-GOMU, a Japanese term literally meaning “eraser,” might be alien to most but chances are that if you’re reading this magazine and are over the age of 20, you would’ve had more than a few of these little rubber guys pass through your hands at some point or another. Emerging from Japan in the 1970s and quickly taking over many a toy collection in the West throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s, these rubbery pocket mini figures have received a massive injection in popularity after a near two decade slump. In recent years, massproduced lines as well as a number of indie outfits have all helped to reignite the passion in these super-collectible, highly playable, and, above all, fun little toys.

An assortment of M.U.S.C.L.E. figures with original can packaging

Originally born out of a desire for

smaller, cheaper, and more collectible

alternatives to the increasingly popular soft vinyl kaiju of the mid-1970s, the pocket-sized “eraser” figures

known as keshi took no time at all

to establish a long standing place in

the Japanese toy industry. With their simple, monochromatic appearance, tactile feel, huge selection of color

options, and heavy reliance on tokusatu (special effects laden live action films),

anime, and manga licensing, they naturally appealed to hobbyist painters, completists, and diehard show fans alike. Initial distribution techniques further heightened popularity and scope, with gashapon (capsule) vending machines, ¥100 boxes, fast food meal premiums, and, later, carded packs, quickly setting the industry standard for well over three decades. Fast-forwarding to the present day,

keshi has unfortunately lost a lot of its

ground in the mainstream toy industry, 92 | Clutter 43 - FIve Points Fest

with only a few die-hard lines surviving

of loyal fans hungry for new rubber

and licensed figures. Luckily for us, this

including Zoomoth, Newtervision, and

in a sea of badly designed imitations

most certainly hasn’t meant the end of the rubber mini figure; far from it, as

there have been a number of interesting

new developments over the past decade and a half that have very much kept the spirit of them alive. With such a deep and diverse past, the vintage

collectors market has always remained very healthy in the East, but the future lies with a number of new artists and

producers — working on a slightly more intimate scale, fueled by a strong base

figures — who have begun to emerge, Mokyu, with recent releases ranging

from licensed products, original figures, and, of course, pachi (bootlegs). Similar trends have also been seen in the West in recent years too, with the real heart

of the scene found in the ever-growing indie community which was pioneered by Marty “Godbeast” Hansen through his early Super-Rare M.U.S.C.L.E.

re-castings and, later, with the classic,

Jason Frailey sculpted Clawshine mashup. Alongside Godbeast’s output, the

An assortment of Mystical Warriors of the Ring, S.U.C.K.L.E., and OMFG Series 2 figures

likes of Rampage Toys and Nama Niku’s

likes of Unbox Industries, Fantastic

has an even healthier indie community,

of new artists and, inevitably, the revived

offering up their takes on the classic

Fights, Newtervision, Moqkeshi, and

early bootlegs encouraged a huge swell interest in pocket mini figures has also lead to some very interesting, larger

Plastic, and even The Super Sucklord monochromatic 2” figure.

scale factory produced lines too.

As with the mass-produced lines, keshi

Skirting on the edge of designer toy,

popularity has lead to an explosion of

mainstream, and pocket mini scenes, October Toys’ community-based line OMFG set a new standard for mass-

produced pocket mini figures back in

2011. Largely drawing inspiration from the Americanized keshi of the mid to late ‘80s both in terms of style and

presentation, the majority of recently

released lines have been produced in

China using a similar hard PVC as the

original M.U.S.C.L.E. Usually released in

comparatively small runs, with colorways often running between 80-200, these types of figures almost always come

packed on a blister card or in a Bandaistyle trash can for added authenticity.

This industry has seen continual growth over the past couple of years, with the

and pocket mini figures’ increase in

talent in the self-produced scene as

well. Unlike the previously mentioned

with outfits and brands such as Onion Nerdone pushing the boundaries in

terms of both creativity and authenticity of production, blending traditional style

with unconventional mediums, including soft vinyl and hard resin, to dazzling effect.

series though, the self-produced

Similar to the indie/self-produced

original Eastern keshi culture, largely

— community now spans a worldwide

creations tend to rely heavily on the characterized by their soft rubbery

feel over the hard, American-style PVC, and are limited to runs of anywhere between 10-200 pieces, dependent

on the choice of either hand-cast or

sub-factory-led production. Brought to the forefront in the West by the likes of Ironmask, Eric Nilla, and, recently, Metal Monkey’s Universe of Violence

(UoV) series as well as a steady flow of releases from The Disarticulators, this small but dedicated scene continues to flourish. Not surprisingly, the East

figures, the pachi — or bootleg

roster of A-list artists, ranging from Healeymade and his conceptual

M.U.S.C.L.E. & M.A.S.K. mash-ups, Triclops with their wholly bootleg-

embracing B.A.S.T.A.R.Ds, and, of course, Buff Monster’s recent Melty Misfit take on Cheap Toys. Aside from these

resin produced figures with their art

toy leanings, there are still a number of artists staying true to the original

medium, with the likes of Nama Niku

and Eric Nilla’s recently released Pachi Man, Brown Noize’s Ashurashine,

An assortment of pachi figures Clutter 43 - Five Points Fest | 93

An assortment of one-day license figures from Zoomoth, Shamrock Arrow, CMP, and Outer Rim

and my own [Tru:Tek’s] 2012 released

festivals in Japan and have just one

show properties in beautiful keshi form.

old through kit-bashed keshi, original

the day of the event! Spearheaded by

the one-day licensing obviously makes

H.U.S.T.L.E line evoking the feeling of

sculpting, rubber casting, and a plethora of authentic colors.

Easily the most highly regarded of all indie keshi right now are the one-day license pieces, fully licensed rubber

figures that are sold exclusively at toy

restriction: all stock must be sold on

Zoomoth with their securing of various

Capcom, Nintendo, and Konami licenses, including Metroid and Castlevania, the

practice has since boomed in the East, with the likes of Mokyu, Shamrock

Arrow, Outer Rim, and CMP taking

on a variety of manga, anime and TV

Unfortunately, the whole premise behind it very hard to collect these toys in the West, with these figures being factory produced usually in numbers between 100-200 per color.

Finally, as pocket figures were originally produced in a plain monochromatic rubber to encourage hobbyists and

miniature fanatics alike to paint their figures, it comes as no real surprise

that the custom keshi/mini community is still thriving today. With the likes

of Monsterforge, Ersico, and Plastic

Playhouse producing some of the most

interesting pieces in the West, customs from these guys can range from

straight-up mini figure re-paints to one-

off kit-bashes to even wholly re-sculpted figures, with themes often borrowed

heavily from the pop culture of the ‘80s and ‘90s.

Hopefully all these various nostalgia-

tinged little guys, which are very much

in the spirit of M.U.S.C.L.E. and Monster in My Pocket, will remain a feature in

the Art Toy industry for quite some time Space Creatures in original blister packaging Photo: Todd Franklin/

to come.

Special thanks to MinifiguresXD for the huge chunks of info that made

“Nama King” Photo: Nama Niku

up a good portion of this article, and to Nama Niku, Neato Coolville, and

Zoomoth for the additional images.

Please Note: This is a heavily edited and abbreviated version of the Keshi 101 article that first appeared in Clutter Magazine #21. An assortment of pieces from Nerdone and Newtvision 94 | Clutter 43 - FIve Points Fest

100 | Clutter 43 - FIve Points Fest

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