LOVE TOYS, LOVE CLUTTER
WELCOME Welcome to issue 20! This year, 2014, finds us celebrating 10 years of Clutter!!! We couldn't be prouder to have made it so far. THANK YOU to everyone who has supported us along the way, though I'll save the big thank you declarations for our actual 10th anniversary issue. We hope you enjoy the content of this, our second FREE issue. As usual, we had a blast putting it together and I want to thank everyone involved in putting it together.
In issue 19, the Mutant Vinyl Hardcore article on page 52 accidentally omitted part of the answer. In full, the final question and answer should have read: Any other comments or shout-outs? It goes without saying the fans who support my brand, and to the other artists who have helped get me here. But I need to give the biggest shout-out to my wife Jaclyn. If you have been to any of my events, she's usually there with me. She has changed my life and has given me courage to face my fears, supporting me through thick and thin. She talked me off the ledge when I wanted to quit, when my depression was at its worst. If you’re a fan of my toys, thank her. She’s my final critic and the brains behind the operation. Sorry if this is corny to readers, but I never have a forum to give her her due. Thanks for letting me do this here.
Peace, love & vinyl fumes, Miranda.
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"What Have I Done?," a custom of Luke Chueh's Target
PLEASE OR: HOW CARSON CATLIN BECAME THE PLASTIC SURGEON OF CUSTOM TOYS BY MARC DEANGELIS
Carson Catlin has carved out a name for himself in the world of custom vinyl toys. Along with markers, brushes, and paints, his kit includes X-Acto knives, a Dremel rotary tool, and a heat gun. Bringing negative space to Designer Toys, his subtractive synthesis has hit countless toys, from popular D.I.Y. platforms like the Munny to in-demand production toys like Luke Chueh’s Target. But the question remains, what gives Carson his edge… As a very accomplished motion graphics artist, you've clearly got design chops. How did you develop these? Did you go to art school or are you self-taught? Well, thank you, I appreciate that. I am 100% self taught. I had some minor inkling toward drawing and art, but it wasn’t until Toy Story that I knew what I wanted to do. How did you first get into Designer Toys? Do you remember your first experience with one? A co-worker of mine collected vinyl and I would tease him about it all the time. One time while we were out to lunch, we went by a local designer vinyl store called “Poptopia.” I picked up a Munny and was intrigued with the idea of customizing it. It wasn’t until a year later that I took the plunge and started customizing like a mad man. Were you more attracted to the designs themselves or the idea of customizing?
"Mofo," a custom of Kronk's Badass
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What a great question. I would say both.
A lot of time I am hesitant to customize something because of how it looks as is, but with all my pieces there is an underlying respect for the original form, meaning that you can always tell what it was. What was the first toy you customized? It was the aforementioned Munny, and all I did was sketch a pattern on [that] I did a long time ago when I was bored. A year later I had the opportunity to do a show and decided to take a knife to it. Do customizing and motion graphics share any similarities in terms of creativity or workflow? Only in creativity. When I do motion graphics I am a slave to the client’s direction. I am given opportunities to be creative but overall I have no control. With my customs, I can do whatever I want, and I love that. My first Carson Catlin memory is when you posted a Runny Dunny on the Kidrobot forums. A lot of people have
Left to Right: "RWB," a custom Kidrobot Munny "Honoo," a custom of Leecifer's Honoo (the Flame) "Metwin," a custom of Paul Kaiju's Pollen Kaiser
dripped paint onto toys before, but yours had something special. How did you add that "something extra"? I completely ripped it off of Holton Rower’s technique from the Tall Painting video. And that’s mainly the reason I stopped doing those so much. I have a hard time putting something out there that isn’t 100% mine and I felt those pieces were kind of counterfeit. Was there a particular moment when you thought, "I should cut holes in these things?"
can be very tricky. When we first met, you mentioned that you have the process of designing and cutting up the toy down pretty good. Did it take a lot of trial and error to get the kinks out? Some. I started by cutting the vinyl cold and developed tendonitis. During lunch with Jeremy Madl, he recommended using a heat gun. I never looked back. Now things cut like butter.
Honestly, it makes no difference. The only benefit I would ask for is less detail in the sculpt so that I could work in more patterns. You're heavily modifying production toys as well as platform toys. Do you ever get any flack for this? Not really. The feedback is usually supportive. I had a few people ask me not to customize something rare, but that's about it.
What are the logistics and pitfalls when cutting? When you're customizing with paint and you mess up, you can just use some acetone or paint over the mistake. But if you mess up while cutting, I'd imagine you'd have to start from scratch.
Your Reticulated Boxes have been a hit. Have you considered creating a character-based production toy?
I'd imagine that you'd need some prior experience with the tools used to reticulate the toys. How did you develop the skills to cut such perfectly geometrical shapes into the figures?
Over-cutting is my biggest concern. I only run into that when the piece has different thicknesses. Most of the time I can play the mistake off or glue it back together.
Do you have a collection? Is it difficult not to grab one off the shelf and start cutting?
Lots of practice. Lots. I have always been familiar with an X-Acto knife from building models planes back in the day, but to cut a piece of vinyl is a whole different story. Dealing with inconsistency in the thickness
Most platform toys don't have many flat surfaces. Is it difficult when working with something as round as the head of a Munny, as opposed to something a little more flat like a MAD*L?
For some reason, I was always interested in breaking the surface in some way or another. Maybe because my painting skills are not up to snuff.
Not really. I’m not sure how well my work would translate into a character. But anything is possible.
I do. Not a big one, but it's still pretty rad. Sometimes I do pull one for customizing, but nowadays [my custom toys are mainly] either for a show or for a commission and those pieces are already provided [by the organizer or client].
Is there a toy you've always wanted to reticulate but haven't gotten around to yet? I really wanted to do one of those big My Little Ponies. I had some great ideas for that. You release a lot of customs and go to a lot of the cons. How do you balance your day job as a motion graphics artist, having a family, and creating and promoting these customs? It's a battle, for sure. My number one priority is my family. That trumps everything. The only times it really gets crazy is right before a con. Other than that, I do my best to balance it out. Anything else you want to mention? Anything upcoming? All I can say is getting into the scene has been one of the most rewarding and enjoyable experiences I have ever had. I am truly thankful for that. As for the future? Who knows…
Check out more of Carson's work at memakepretty.com Clutter 20 | 11
ONE PART 80s HORROR FLICK, ONE PART BOOTLEG ACTION FIGURE, COMPLETELY...
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As middle-aged gorehounds might recall, there was a magical time when the ominous titles we loved moved from being relegated as bootleg VHS fodder found through zines to proper celluloid reels for cinemas. During this 'Golden Age of Horror Films' — the '80s — there was delight for connoisseurs in discovering the latest splatter flicks in theatres and on video store shelves. Those nostalgic for this time, as well as the toys of their youth, can relive the pure pleasure now with the releases of Retroband. Following the mantra "making toys I wish they had growing up," Aaron Moreno — as Retroband — mines from a mountain of fading fright films for inspiration, hand-making action figure objets d'art that harken back to this Golden Age. Issuing forth G.I. Joe and Star Wars size (3¾") pieces derived from the likes of Creepshow, Halloween III, Motel Hell, Night of the Creeps, and Silent Night, Deadly Night, Retroband is a horror aficionado's dream come true. Or, if you miss out on one of his ultra-limited resin releases, potentially a nightmare. Tell us a bit about yourself? What sort of art background do you have?
Nick Curtis Retroband
I've been an active artist since 2001 but have been painting most of my life; started with graffiti and took off from there. As I became older, I studied fine art and graphic design in college. After I found out college wasn't my thing, I started focusing on painting and finding myself in this art world. I automatically knew this was what I was meant to do in life, so I went by the alias stncl.07
and painted under that name for over 10 years. I later became a known local artist here in my city [San Antonio, Texas], co-owned a gallery, and showed all throughout the nation. Wow, sounds like you were doing really well. Why did you shift away from the graffiti work and more into the Designer Toy scene? After graffiti, I started cutting and designing stencils. I did that before going into this toy scene. I wanted a break from painting but, most importantly, I told myself that I wasn't going to limit myself to any particular craft. So I decided that if I had an idea, I was going to go forward with it. I actually wanted to design furniture before taking on figures! So what inspired you to begin making action figures that, as your tagline says, you wish were available when you were a kid? It was two things, actually. As my son got older he became more into collecting action figures, more interested in variants, limited pieces, etc. I had to sell all of my collection when he was very young and money was tight, so it gave me great pleasure to know that he had an interest in a Clutter 20 | 15
passion I once had. One day, as he was playing with his toys, he asked me, "Hey Dad, what kind of toys did you have as a child?" I showed him and he wasn't really impressed. I started to think, what if I could go back in time and make the figures I wish I had from films I personally loved? Yeah, Star Wars was cool but I didnt love it as much as Dawn of the Dead as a child. The second thing to inspire me was later that week, I finally had time to catch a film I've been wanting to see called Beyond the Black Rainbow by Panos Cosmatos. The soundtrack and visuals really caught my eye. The last scene in the film blew me away and I fell in love with the entire story. The light bulb went off and Retroband was started. So did that light bulb going off come with the name Retroband or did that come later? I was actually going to go by Resin Rejects, meaning rejected toys that were never made because of the movies they were based on, kinda like when Kenner made a "too scary" Alien. But I later found out that Resin Rejects was used by a few other toy artists. I still wanted to go by something that defined what I was doing in a sense — retro figures and this "bootleg toy" craze — so 16 | Clutter 20
I thought of retro films/toys and illegal contraband… Retroband. Is Retroband just you, a one-man operation, or do you have help? I know you've enlisted the talents of some other artists for your backing card art in the past… It's just me for the most of it, but I hire my very close friend Gabriel Hernandez (a.k.a. Safari, a.k.a. Worthy Enemies) from Austin, Texas to do my [backing] card art. We go back before Retroband, when we were in a art collective known as 3VC (Third Vision Collective). He's extremely talented and I'm extremely grateful for having him by my side. I don't think there's anything he can't do! I've also worked with the amazing Cody Schibi — also from Austin, Texas — for my Father (from Creepshow) release, which is one of my personal favorites and I still get emails about availability on that figure. I was following him on Instagram and met him once at a local event. I had asked him if he'd be interested in doing a release with me and he jumped onboard. I was super excited not only to work with him but that he shared the same passion as I do when it comes to vintage horror. Let's walk through your process a bit… Do you start by choosing a film? Or do
you get inspired by some of the action figure pieces you have around? Or is it a bit of both? I always go off a film, [choosing] films that I personally loved as child. So I start off by sketching out all the details that make the character and, once I have that, I start sculpting on the hardest part first. If I can find a part from an existing figure then I'll use it, but most times that's just accessories or hands. I noticed that by mashing figures up, you have to rely on existing figures thus not being able to truly produce what your envisioning. This didn't fly by me, so I started sculpting. For other artists this may work just fine, but since I'm working off of characters from films you NEED to really pay attention to details and color. So instead of trying to find a certain head or body on eBay, I'm adding and taking away off clay. So most of your figures are original sculpts as opposed to being repurposed parts? I do end up changing the entire sculpt by the time I'm done. Everything has been modified in some way, but I would say 85% would be sculpt. I'm learning new techniques along the way and sculpting on a 1/18th scale is no easy task. I've actually had to make my own
tools for body work and face detailing, but I enjoy every minute of it. I think that's when I have the most fun: zoned in, adding and taking away over and over, and not leaving until the job's done. How long does it take you to get the job done? From design to sculpting, molding and casting to handpainting… plus, of course, packaging design and creation. It really varies, to be honest. Some releases take longer than others, but for the most part it's usually 1½ to 2 months. I like to take my time with things, because if I can not represent it to the fullest, I won't be satisfied so I won't tackle that particular film. Have you started work on a figure only to abandon the release? If so, will you share what the figure was? I tend to start on a character and then get bored and start another, so I have a lot of pieces lying around. It's also a way for me not to forget an idea when I have it. I can't really say what they were, as they'll eventually be releases. Speaking of eventual releases, do you see yourself branching out, creating figures from other genres or decades?
Making horror figures is just my passion for the genre. I do plan to take on different genres, but '80 and '90s era is where I feel comfortable at the moment. Those were my golden years. Let's get a little more specific about your releases: Why did you choose the life-size, rubbery Creep (from Night of the Creeps) to be your initial outing? I wanted to show different types of mediums, not just resin. I didn't want to limit myself, so I decided to make something that if the buyer did decide to open it, the figure would be interactive as well. They initially were going to come in a bag of 10 to 15 Creeps with a header, but it would've been too expensive so I decided on carding them with a blister. I know it's like picking a favorite child, but what is your favorite figure you've released so far and why? I love them all. If I had to choose one, it would most likely be Jordy (from Creepshow), it's what started it all when it came to figures. I must have spent weeks with trial and error, throwing so much money down the drain. At one point I realized that this isn't going to be a walk in the park and maybe I should've stuck to painting, but I love a
challenge. Once I FINALLY got it down, I didn't even want to sell any of them the day of the launch. Speaking of Jordy, he's one of the only figures — well, him and Vincent from Motel Hell — to have had variants. Are you planning more variants for figures in the future or is this more of a natural, 'when it feels right' decision? You can definitely count on seeing more variants in the future. I usually have to plan ahead on variants, because if I need a particular medium — like gravel, flock, or Jordy's moss — I can't go down the street and purchase it; 99% of the time this city doesn't carry it, so I need to order it online. You have such great attention to detail. Similarly, your figures come with accessories, which I love. Do you go out of your way to come up with something to package with each figure? If so, why? Absolutely. I personally think it's important, especially since I really want to pay tribute the best way I can. Even if I have to spend over $1,000 to get specific blisters made. It's the little things, the details. I remember as a child seeing Junkyard and Mutt (from the G.I. Joe line) and caring less
about the figure, but to come with a billy club, MAC-10 with silencer, and a ROTTWEILER! Man, that shit was so fucking gangster to me. I remember those figures! So good… While your work is completely hand-made pieces of art inspired by movies, are you interested in doing mass produced, officially licensed pieces for films? If so, any that would really pique your interest? No, not really. I enjoy what I do and I wouldn't trade it for the world. I have much respect for handmade craftsmanship. I do have a couple of licensed projects coming this year and the only person handling them is me! A couple of licensed projects in the works?!? Were these things you went out of your way to get or were you approached by them to work together? They contacted me. Let me just say it's an absolute dream to be able to work on these projects. I must have read the email at least five times before replying! I'm happy to say we've developed a great friendship since. Speaking of things that must've excited you, it must've felt great when Alex Pardee posted about your Creep
release and even called it "the Holy Grail of DIY horror memorabilia"… The day he posted it on Instagram, I was FLOORED! To others this may not mean much, but art is my life so this meant the world to me! I've followed Alex for a long time, reading Juxtapoz and seeing him in art [web]sites and magazines; to me, he was one of the most high profile artists, no doubt. I then later got an email from Alex wanting to collaborate and that's what really opened my eyes and made me pursue my dream. That was the "Bunnywith Vintage Packaging" release for Pardee's Bunnywith exhibition at Gallery1988, right? How was that? Working with Alex was an absolute honor! One day I'm seeing him in magazines, the next we're working together for his show at Gallery1988. Wild! Alex is crazy talented and an extremely hard worker. The Bunnywith project was by far the most fun I had working on a project. We were both on the same page from beginning to end. Are interested in doing more collaborations in the future? If so, any artists or projects that you'd be particularly keen on?
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Oh, for sure. I'd like to travel, so any project that involves traveling. Artists I'd like to work with? Panos Cosmatos (film director), Com Truise (musician), or even Mark Jenkins (urban artist); such great direction in all their craft. Speaking of craftsmanship, let's go full circle back to your stenciling. You've been releasing huge stencil sprayed stickers of iconic horror imagery, is that your way of keeping your figurative foot in the door in terms of stenciling? I would say so. When I started working on figures, I didn't really have time to paint anymore so I decided to paint these stickers in order to feed my paint addiction. It worked out quite well! The fans enjoy them and nothing beats the smell of paint in the morning. In fact, you've merged your graffiti background with your current toy making ways regularly, stenciling unique themed images on the side of the boxes your pieces are mailed in… What inspired you to do that? It's wonderful, making the box itself a beautiful gift to receive! Yes, I wanted to show everyone what I was capable of and, also, it's something that I personally would've enjoyed receiving myself. But people often ask me why I paint on my boxes… As a child I specifically remember Tom Savini dress up as The Creep unloading packages from the back of the truck in the film Creepshow 2. I would envy Billy every time I’d watch that scene! My heart would race when ever I received any package at home as a kid. I’d always fantasize that my package would 18 | Clutter 20
animate and come to life just like the film. The art on the boxes is my effort in making that happen for those who felt the same way. It is wonderful and your dedication shows. I've heard that Retroband is now your full-time job and you've even rented a dedicated studio space for working on it. Congrats on the success! Does this expansion of your operation mean that you'll exploring other projects beyond what we've already seen — perhaps some completely original works? Absolutely and THANK YOU! It's located in San Antonio's arts district, Blue Star. I always wanted to pursue art, whether in painting, designing, or toy production. I just love to create, I think about it constantly. Oh yes, I'm not stopping with Retroband. I have two major projects coming up that I'm extremely excited about and I'm also working on an original line that is giving me anxiety everyday! It's hard for me to keep a secret when it comes to my work; I just want to share it with the world. Any hints or clues as to what we can look forward to? Books of Blood! And you can definitely expect to see more larger work in the future from [my backer] card artist, Worthyenemies, and I. Do you have a lot of communication and feedback from your fans? Do you rely on their suggestions and comments to help you steer the Retroband ship? The fans are absolutely fantastic! I'm
extremely grateful for having such a supportive following. I'm all about the fans! Well, speaking of fan input, what are the chances of you making a Zombie vs. Shark Battle Pack inspired by Fulci's Zombi 2? HA! YES! With detachable arm! That can definitely be done.
For more information on Retroband releases, go to: retrobandtoys.com
Fine Art Soft Sculpture
Shoppe Est. 2007
s o i C ur
lanacrooks.storenvy.com Social: @lanacrooks Web: lanacrooks.com
Limited Edition Designer Plush
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by Barbara Pavone
Six years after its release, we take a walk down memory lane with six of the stellar artists behind 2007’s Tattoo Dunny Series. It’s safe to say that when Kidrobot approaches a new series of Dunnys, they do so with all guns blazing. Which would explain why, in 2007, when they had the brilliant idea of marrying the tattoo and Designer Toy worlds for the first time, they reached out to 12 of the finest tattooers in the country. Complete with mini tattoo machines, these 10 Dunnys and
2 chases brought together influences from the realms of music, illustration, fine art and, of course, tattoos, creating the most street cred-worthy vinyl toy collection around. We recently decided to get our retrospective on and look back at this ace collaboration with help from some of the brilliant artists involved. We also saw it as an opportunity to poke around and see what they’re up to these days…
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BJ BETTS From studying art, graphic design, layout, you name it, at a vo-tech high school, to being involved in Philly hip-hop culture as the “the graffiti guy of the crew” and even taking on a military career, BJ Betts is as interesting as they come. Never straying too far away from art, it was “seeing my uncles and grandfather with pin-up girls on their forearms and eagles on the chest, you know, real man stuff” that first introduced Betts to tattooing, but it was a surprise request that had him picking up a tattoo machine for the first time. “I got a call one day from a good friend of mine that happened to get some tattoo stuff in some crazy trade of some sort, asking me if I was still drawing and painting and if I was interested in coming over and trying it out, as in, tattooing him. I thought the idea was ridiculous,” remembers Betts. “Long story short, my girlfriend at the time, now my wife, said, ‘Go over there and tattoo him! What do you have to lose?’” So that’s what Betts did and, since then, he’s gone on to become the King of Lettering. “I had NO idea it would end up like this!” he laughs. “I’d love to tell the success story of how this was my goal from the start and that I knew all along it would be this way, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth.” So how did it happen? “I remember seeing amazing tattoos, say, a heart with a banner and the heart and banner would be flawless, but when it came to the name in the banner, it absolutely sucked and ruined the whole tattoo. That was the story for most of the tattoos that I saw.”
“I think that most people are a product of their environment and at that point in my career the few artists at that shop were doing a Japanese style of tattooing, which was very visually appealing to me and I did my best to pursue that avenue.” “I still did quite a bit of lettering and definitely enjoyed it, but was a little taken back when people would look through my entire portfolio full of large Japanese tattoos with only a few pictures of lettering and request lettering. After a few years of that happening, I thought the writing was on the wall, so to speak.” Opening Trademark Tattoo in 2007, Betts admits “it’s tough dealing with 15 different attitudes, personalities, problems and general dismay of employees on any given day, but it’s worth it. It’s a great feeling watching artists come into their own and continue to flourish, knowing I had something to do with that.” Hearing about the Tattoo Dunny Series “through the tattoo grapevine and knowing most of the artists involved,” Betts soon
BJ BETTS IS...
"a hard-working father, husband and self-employed, self-made maniac that has a unhealthy obsession with dogs, art, sneakers, tattoos, cupcakes, and life.” jumped on board and although “having to narrow it down to just one was a difficult task,” he finally arrived at an awesome Japanese-inspired lil’ dude, but says, “Being my own worst critic, I’d do something completely different now!” A self-professed “huge fan of vinyl toys”, Betts lists Huck Gee, Ron English, Frank Kozik, and Dalek among his go-to guys and makes yours truly super jealous, naming the Siemens' Too Many Cell Phones Gold 8” Dunny and “a few full unopened sets [like] the Azteca and Tattoo Series sets” as some of the coolest pieces in his possession. “It’s a great, inexpensive way to enjoy and support your favorite artist [and] there are so many different sizes and options available that it makes it super easy to have
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a great collection that doesn’t take up that much space and can be easily displayed and enjoyed,” he says of Designer Toys’ meteoric rise to fame and adds, “for me, I’ve always loved action figures and vinyl toys and I guess part of it is still the Big Kid factor!” Always working on something new, Betts has a few projects with sneaker companies, a line of tattoo pigment, as well as a new book in the works; Twenty-Six, which will not only take a look at the history of tattoo lettering, but will also include 26 tattooers “that I feel have had a solid impact on the tattoo industry as a whole - past, present and future.” Learn more: bjbetts.com
“My introduction to Kidrobot and the world of vinyl toys came about when I started tattooing a young gal named Nichole East who, at the time, went by the title of The Baroness,” says tattoo visionary Joe Capobianco who calls himself a “lover of cool art” rather than “a full-time collector of vinyl toys.” “I've never been one to collect any one thing just to have it, I do however have quite a few limited pieces from names such as Junko Mizuno, The Baroness, Beast Brothers, Craola [a.k.a. Greg Simkins], and a bunch of limited edition Munnys and Dunnys, just to name a few,” he says. From “drawing Frankenstein('s Monster) and the Werewolf in an old notebook” at the young age of “six or seven” to becoming one of the most highly respected tattooers around, Joe Capobianco is a name that’s synonymous with outstanding art. In addition to being the mastermind behind Hope Gallery Tattoo in New Haven, Connecticut, he can also list reality TV personality — he’s a judge on Oxygen’s Best Ink — and toy designer as his fortes. When it came time to work on the Tattoo Dunny Series, Capobianco wanted “to keep it recognizable as both mine and tattoo related,” so after “a bit of screwing around with ideas,” he arrived at the Lady Luck/ Miss Fortune idea, which, admittedly, doesn’t look like the darker Capobianco
work of today. “At the time, I was known for doing much more traditional-looking pin-up pieces on skin and that sort of translated into what I did on paper as well,” he explains. “My newer style, Blood Puddin’, is something that developed on its own, as my tattoo clientele tastes changed from cute to dark and creepy, but always with a cute pin-up vibe.” Reflecting on the finished series, Capobianco admits Grez and Eric Merrill's Dunnys stuck out the most to him and speaking of vinyl toys’ claim to fame, he says, “it's crazy how these things just happen to take off, but there are just so many to choose from and own, plus the wide variety of artists makes you wanna run out and buy ‘em!”
JOE CAPOBIANCO IS...
“a guy who's been fortunate as hell in his life, love, and job.”
In addition to his Dunny, Capobianco also teamed up with Kidrobot to release a mega successful figure called The Bride back in 2010 and is now “in the process of releasing a second 8" figure with a play on The Bride. This will not be vinyl but resin and available in much more limited runs of colors and themes, as well as blanks for personal customizing.” “2014 should also see a project I'm working on with Steady Clothing and I should mention the currently airing third season of Best Ink!” Learn more: joecapobianco.com Clutter 20 | 23
NICK BAXTER Dropping out of college to pursue a tattoo apprenticeship in an effort to become a fulltime artist might sound like an unthinkable move for most, but for Nick Baxter it was all pretty clear. “It was an art form that fascinated me as a rebellious teen and seemed like a great way to have a career making art, so I went for it,” says Baxter, who today tattoos by appointment only in a private studio in Austin, Texas. “I had no reservations, I was completely and maniacally committed to the dream of making it happen, but making that commitment meant sacrificing relationships and some areas of my personal growth in order to stay focused on the goal at hand,” he admits. “Always focusing on artistic concepts and traditional rendering disciplines, which manifests in everything I do and have done in the tattoo medium,” Baxter is no stranger to meddling with a list of mediums so long, it’s almost hard to keep track of. It’s therefore no surprise that he jumped at the chance to collaborate with Kidrobot.
NICK BAXTER IS...
“the universe expressing itself through a human form haphazardly referred to as ‘me’.”
“I was flattered to be included in that series of toys because I’d only seen really cool and creative stuff from them,” he says. “It sounded like such a unique marketing opportunity, as well as a fun little experiment in toy design, which is something I had never done before then. Or since, for that matter.” “It’s important to be expanding my artistic skills and knowledge, so that I can bring that fresh energy, experience and know-how back into tattooing in order to make better tattoos,” he explains of his constant pursuit of new artistic outlets. Without much of a brainstorming process — “I knew right away I wanted to make a political statement with the toy and I also wanted to stretch the boundaries of the medium and make my design unique by experimenting with what they would actually let me do with the thing” – Baxter arrived at an impressive decapitated Dunny. “The character represents the archetypal greedy businessman or politician and is symbolic of my rebellion against a
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materialistic, thoughtless, over-consuming lifestyle that those people tend to promote at all costs,” he says. “All the symbolism included in the design is pretty obvious once you understand that part of it.” Not a collector himself, Baxter laughs, “I do obviously own the entire tattoo Dunny series” and counts Civ’s piece and the “pretty outrageous and slightly lewd and offensive one by Matt Rinks” as his favorites. That said, Baxter admits vinyl toys do often “spark a sense of childhood joy in me. They offer a way for us adults to recapture and appreciate the child-like wonder and joy of imaginary worlds and characters that helped us all cope with life and become the adults we are today. They offer a soothing respite from our often serious and stressed out lives!” Not to mention, “being a painter, I love seeing paintings get brought to 3D life, like the Todd Schorr characters.” Looking to the months ahead, Baxter hopes to “release an e-book version of my instructional oil painting book called Sharp Focus Realism in Oil. The first printing in 2010 was a limited run of 2,000 red foil-embossed hardcover copies with a fancy dust jacket and those have now officially sold out. Aside from that, I’ll just be doing the usual painting and tattooing and hoping to line up another solo show of new work somewhere.” Learn more: nickbaxter.com
“Being the crafty dude that he still is, my buddy built a tattoo machine like you would in prison — Walkman motor, Bic pen, a screw, and a spoon — and we tattooed all the punk rockers and gangbangers with it,” remembers Starai of his introduction to tattooing. An apprenticeship eventually followed and, nowadays, you can find Starai working at his own shop, Chicago’s A+ Plus Studio, as well as preaching the deliciousness of meat. But more on that in a moment. “I guess I'd heard of Dunnys before, but it was still pretty early when they contacted me for the tattoo series — ‘04 or ’05, I think — and they’ve certainly gotten more and more popular over the years, so thanks, Kidrobot, for involving me in the project before I became the has-been I am today!” he laughs. Sending in a variety of ideas, most of them food related — “I was still pretty active with comedy food-based rap group The Diner’s Club then” — Starai’s final design is an ode to all things meat. “Who doesn't love a BBQ?” he asks, making a rather solid point. “And ‘Meat’ was also my tag name in high school, which in turn was responsible for my expulsion!” Asked to name his favorite Dunnys from the
KEVIN STARAI IS...
“getting fat.” series, Starai starts with a disclaimer — “I'm not competitive with art; tattoo shows are singlehandedly dismantling and ruining our business, buuuuut that's for different interview” — before eventually settling on “Matt Rinks and Dave Fox. I always loved their tattooing as well.” “It was neat to be able to see all the different spins the artists put on their own, it's pretty ingenious,” he says. But the former Garbage Pail Kids and Wacky Packages collector is quick to add, “I'm sort of a hoarder, so I don't have a lot of the Dunnys, as it could seriously become a problem, especially with the blind packaging.” Nowadays, it seems the only thing he’s willing to obsess about is the future of his tattoo studio, although he admits, “I’m hoping I can take a vacation soon. I haven't had one since the shop’s doors opened!” Learn More: aplustattoo.com Clutter 20 | 25
DAVE FOX Influenced by album covers and cartoons — “I always dug the old Bugs Bunny and Looney Tunes, especially the Tex Avery stuff, [and] Iron Maiden albums always had the best artwork” — Dave Fox decided to turn his love of Cracker Jack tattoos and pin-ups on bikers’ arms into a career in his early twenties “pretty much because I thought it would be awesome to be the guy doing those pin-ups.”
Crediting Kidrobot’s massive success to its ability to “feed on a lot of people's youthful interest in toys and action figures, but presenting them with a kitschy yet artistic product that is very collectible because of limited runs and series with different artists,” Fox is definitely a fan of the movement and laughs, “I kinda wish I had bins full of them in my basement instead of action figures!”
Sacrificing “most of my other interests and any kind of decent social life” in order to be hyper-focused on drawing, painting, and tattooing, Fox eventually landed at True Hand Tattoo in Philadelphia.
With a retrospective book under his belt — “I think the book came at a good turning point in my career where I wanted to push forward in some different ways with my art and tattoos” — Fox is currently working on “trying to finish painting my first set of tattoo flash in seven years, a lot of which is for practice, then hopefully recording another LP with Curse of Samsara, which is a progressive death/thrash band, and maybe one with Brain Candle, which is a spacey/ doomy metal band.” Because as much as he’s married to visual art, there’s just something about music that’s a little “more visceral and social”.
Having been a big fan of action figures and other collectible toys in his childhood — “I have about 20 bins of in-the-box action figures piled up in my basement” - Fox needed no convincing to collaborate with Kidrobot. But although he pitched three ideas, Fox admits he had his fingers crossed for one particular design all along. “At the time I was getting a kick out of ‘80s hair metal and the lifestyle it represented and I also did a rocker painting, I can't remember if it was before or after the Dunny, so I'm stoked they made my rocker; I still get a laugh out of it,” he says.
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Learn more: davefoxtattoos.com
DAVE FOX IS...
“drinking the sweet nectar of life, one bitter endeavor after another.”
ERIC NEWMAN First exposed to tattooing in 1985 when, at just 16, he trekked over to the Lower East Side – “at that time that section of Manhattan looked like Beirut” – to get “tattooed by an old-timer that worked out of his apartment” while the craft was still illegal, Eric Newman learned the hard way that you always get what you pay for. But, in an unforeseen turn of events, the experience also ended up completely shaping his future.
“When I was 18, a friend took me to Shotsie Gorman’s shop in Haledon, New Jersey to see if he could fix the tattoo,” remembers Newman. “When I walked in, his tattoo studio looked like no other I had ever seen before: it was kind of a combination of an art gallery and a hair salon, and the walls were adorned with a lot of custom drawings and this sparked my interest tremendously.” Accepting an apprenticeship with Shotsie in 1992 after finishing his second year at the The Kubert School for illustration,” Newman figured, “if the tattooing didn’t work out, I’d go back to school.” That was 21 years ago. Recently experiencing a full circle moment, he returned to work at Shotsie’s, the shop where he got his start and was once “working from 10 in the morning to 10 at night and not getting paid. Forget about going out with friends on a Friday or Saturday night, I had to work,” says Newman, remembering his tattoo roots.
ERIC NEWMAN IS...
“a working artist.” So what sparked the move? “I was working at my last shop for four years and I wasn’t getting along with the owner and wasn’t very happy, so I reached out and was able to come back and work at Shotsie’s,” he says. “It’s definitely surreal to be working in my very first booth where I did my first tattoo.” After Newman’s client, Nichole East (a.k.a. The Baroness), got a job working for Kidrobot, he soon began hearing all about vinyl toys, something he had previously known nothing about, and when he was eventually approached to participate in the Tattoo Dunny Series, there was no doubt about his answer. Nor what he was going to create. “I wanted to do this cat that I had on my business cards [based on] my black cat Onyx, or Onnie, who I had for 18 years. Oh, she was mean,” he laughs. “I put a
fishbone on its chest because, of course, a cat would have that. I remembered in old cartoons the alley cats would have broken tails with a bandage, so I threw that in as well. Even gave him one eye. A real fierce, cantankerous and scrappy tomcat.” After more than two decades of tattooing, Newman credits “patience” as his key to success. Given a chance to take a break from it all and swap places with any artist working in any other medium for 24 hours, he’d turn into “character actor Dennis Farina. I think it would be fun to play Avi from the movie Snatch, plus, nobody says ‘fuck’ like him on film. Genius.” Learn more on Facebook Search Eric Newman Tattoo
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visceral visions By Josh Kimberg Images courtesy of Doubleparlour Melvins
Doubleparlour — the inspiring husband and wife duo of Ernie and Cassie — have been bringing their raw, emotive, and even humorous interpretation of sculptural art to the Designer Toy world for years, toiling away at craft fairs and on Etsy. With child-like imagination and an unfashionable sensibility, their punk rock and esoteric influences bring to life characters and monsters that can be at once dark and damaged while simultaneously serene and whimsical. It’s their clarity of vision and wellbalanced desire to create together that has given us all a new brand of art toys to collect and covet. Last year, at the 3rd Annual Designer Toy Awards, they were recognized by their peers in a most overwhelming way: winning the Break-through Artist trophy. This honor, for the first time, was accompanied by something very special… a production Dunny designed by the winner. Clutter 20 | 31
Let's start with the obvious: Where did the name Doubleparlour come from? What does it mean to you? We mulled over a few names before settling on Doubleparlour… it just seemed to suit us. The double stands for the two of us… and a parlour is a place to entertain and enjoy good company. We create art for that same purpose, to entertain and to invite the viewer to participate in the narrative. Also, we live in a flat with a double parlour (two living rooms separated by sliding pocket doors); it is a very cool feature of our place.
Were you both always into art, even as children, or was it more something you grew into? Ernie was more into playing music — punk and classical guitar — until about 8 years ago, when he took a printmaking class and that got him all hot and bothered about creating art. Cassie started drawing with intent around the age of 6. Her first series was breeds of dogs made with crayons referenced from the encyclopedia.
How did you two meet?
Is Doubleparlour your full-time jobs?
sculpting and Cassie does most of the painting.
When did you realize you could work together?
Ernie used to work as a pastry chef, [but] now he is a full-time, self-taught artist. Cassie works full-time at a hospital and does art on evenings and weekends.
Is there a secret to your collaborative success?
Working together as Doubleparlour evolved out of our first project together in 2007. We collaborated on a series of paintings, our first online release. Shortly after, we started sculpting in polymer clay and then moved on to Magic Sculpt as our primary medium. It is pretty great to work together, we are constantly bouncing ideas off each other. Of course we bicker from time to time, but most of the time Ernie behaves himself.
Do you think these occupations influence your art? If so, how? For Ernie, his previous occupation as a pastry chef gave him the perfect set of skills for shaping and working with resin. He works with the resin as he had with pastry dough… a very transferable skill. We mix and work with the resin on a marble cutting board and use pastry tools sometimes as well. For Cassie, her current occupation at a hospital is totally unrelated to her work as an artist.
Your pieces are seamless, making it impossible for most to comprehend that two people worked together on them. How do you divide up the work in creating your creatures? In general, Ernie does most of the
Lots of love and patience. After six years of working and learning together, we have developed sculpting techniques, a color palette, and a style that is Doubleparlour. Whenever one of us figures out a technique, for example, it becomes a shared skill. I think that is the secret, we work together towards creating each character, instead of competing with one another.
It's great that you've found such a balance with one another. Do you think your marriage influences your art? It overlaps and intermingles in various ways… we are constantly talking about art and planning the next step of a project. It is really nice to share our creative life with our life as a couple, to have a partner in crime, someone with similar aesthetic tastes and sense of humor. It feels like the journey is richer.
Do you see your work as fine art or art brut? Does it matter to you? I don't know, probably somewhere inbetween. It really doesn't matter, we just love what we do. File us under affordable art.
You used to hand mold every piece, now you've added resin casting. Is this part of making your art affordable? We are always thinking of more efficient ways of producing figures. We will always
We met in San Diego in our twenties, Ernie was in a punk rock band and Cassie was just finishing college for Fine Art, her primary focus being painting. We moved to San Francisco about 17 years ago.
create hand-sculpted one-off figures, but we added cast figures to the mix about 8 months ago and it is instant gratification to have a finished figure in a few minutes. There still is the sanding and painting, but this cuts the work time down tons. Though it is fun to photograph an army of figures, we are not big fans of repetition. We limit our multiples to an edition of 5 or less.
Why do you prefer your figures to be one-off originals or small run, hand-painted resins? We tend to like artwork that is unique and not mass-produced, so we like the figures that we make to be one-of-a-kind or limited to small runs. Besides that, we don't like to keep doing the same thing over and over again.
That explains the vast diversity of your creations. Are your creatures entirely imaginary or are they grounded in your personal lives to some degree? Probably, but that is buried in our psyches.
Creating art is a much cheaper way to exercise our demons than therapy. [Ultimately,] they are completely imagined. The great thing about creating monsters is there are no rules, they can have all kinds of porportions and body parts.
Since there are no rules in making monsters, are your creatures formed in your minds before you start? The creatures or monsters are sometimes formed in our minds before we start, but they usually evolve as we create them since we don't sketch anything out beforehand. We build each figure in sections with Magic Sculpt, starting with the head or torso. We let that section dry and then keep building and sculpting, letting it dry in-between sessions, allowing us to work on a section at a time without messing up another part. So each figure can take a few days to a week or so to complete the sculpting [alone].
which you tend to radically re-sculpt? Do you usually just start working and see a creature manifest as the work evolves?
to characters and personalities that are thoughtful and curious and sometimes devious and secretive.
We usually stare at the piece for a while and decide what elements should stay and what we want to restructure. We have done a few group shows now customizing Fonzos and a Loligag figure, and we love seeing what the other artists come up with when everyone is given the same platform.
Your figures definitely have personality to them. Have you ever thought about telling stories â€” in comics, animated films, or whatever â€” with your creatures? If so, what sort of plot do you imagine it being?
Many of your characters have a melancholy, ambivalent, or contemplative expression on their faces. Is there a specific message or emotion you're trying to convey with them?
Actually, we have done this twice now for gallery shows, we created storylines for the characters to participate in. The first story was based on a turf war between Bashlus and Bog ruffians, which was for Spoke Art Gallery. The last solo show we had was at Modern Eden Gallery, [for which] we wrote a story about the people and creatures that lived in a house with a
They are pondering their existence and situation, hypothetically. We are drawn
Does the same process apply to when you create custom figures,
Doris Sugar and the Gang
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storefront. The father and daughter that lived there were ventriloquist doll makers and also gastromancers, people known to use guttural voices that supposedly come from spirits or ghost. There were creatures that inhabited the forest near the house and creatures that lived underneath the building. We created sculptures for all of the characters in the story and then created a comic book with the complete story and drawings of the sculptures. We gave out the mini comic books free at the opening and then with each sold sculpture.
The names for your figures tend to be quite unique. What inspires these? Thanks, we try and find names that fit the personality of the figures. Some of our names come from baby naming books, usually French, and we tend to gravitate toward words with double letters in them. Also, sometimes, we make up words. Or piece words together. For example, we took "oh deer" and scrambled it to create the name Doreeh, which was for a figure with a girl's head that had closed eyes and taxidermy deer antlers.
Where does your visceral vision come from?
We tend to gravitate towards art, films, books, and music that has elements of gloom and doom, which inspires us to make sad, defeated, and hopeless characters in human or monster form. But we also add a lot of humor in our work to balance it out. We are infuenced and inspired by other artists, movies, stories, and nature. We have way too many favorite artists to name, but here are a few: [the Canadian comic book artist] Jason, Marcel Dzama, Brothers Quay, and Julian Crouch.
What do you collect in general? 34 | Clutter 20
We collect affordable art, vinyl records, comic books, and vinyl toys.
What does your workspace look like? Are there special items in it that are there purely to inspire you? Messy! No, not too bad. There are sculptures in various stages of completion. There are lots of two-dimensional art on the wall and vinyl toys for inspiration. There is resin, mold-making and casting supplies, paper, wood, antiques and miniatures, animal bones… and always music!
Since music seems important to you, what are you listening to these days? Lots of black metal! Grrrrrrrrr! Inquisition, Inter Arma, Vhöl, Year Of No Light, Skeletonwitch…
And you mentioned vinyl toys… Which 'Designer Toy' artists do you buy pieces from and enjoy owning? Some of the toy artists we collect are: - Velocitron, who does designs from horror movies instead of monsters based on Ultraman [creatures]; - Skull Head Butt's series based on blackand-white horror and monster flicks; - Shirahama's Kumons… we don't normally collect a figure in different colorways, but Kumon is an exception; - Luke ["Grody Shogun"] Rook, especially his very creative, inventive mashups of Grody figures and anything he can get his hands on; - Sunguts' cute and mischievous little figures; and - Blurble's Sparrow figures.
x Beginning in 2013, the Designer Toy Awards were honored to partner with Kidrobot, granting the winner of the Break-through Artist category the added reward of a production Dunny to be released the following year. That a cornerstone of the industry like Kidrobot would trust one of their iconic and time-honored platforms to a collaboration with emerging talent in this fashion is thrilling to all involved. In its inaugural year this honor was bestowed on Doubleparlour, whose production release is already underway and slated for release by the end of 2014.
You won Breakthrough Artist at the Designer Toy Awards last year! Congratulations! How did it feel to receive that recognition for your work? Thank you! We were blown away with winning the Breakthrough Artist category. It was so exciting and a huge honor, we were so humbled and thrilled with the win. It was really nice to receive the recognition for our work, so many great artists were nominated also in that category, we really didn't expect to win.
As part of that award, you have the chance to work with Kidrobot to make a production Dunny. How’s that going? Are you completely re-imagining the Dunny? Kidrobot has been great to work with. We have submitted our design and can't wait to see the final product when it is finished. We can't give away any details… it will have to be a surprise!
After these accomplishments, what are the next milestones or achievements that you want to strive for artistically? Artistically, we just want to keep pushing ourselves to create new and interesting characters. We feel very lucky to have reached the point we are at, and hope to keep making art that is meaningful and embraced by our friends and collectors.
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IN FOR A WORLD OF SPLURRT
andy b :: kaijukorner.blogspot.com Joe Merrill, aka Splurrt :: Instagram/Twitter @Splurrt Mecha Brain Cadaver Kid
plurrt toys possess that unique quality of being both gruesome and endearing - not in a saccharin-sweet “edgy” style, but in a genuine, authentic way that makes it easy to relate to the characters. Whether they’re stitched-up corpses, figures with eyeballs dangling from their sockets, or creatures that might have walked out of a Lovecraft-inspired hieroglyphic, Splurrt figures are personable and familiar. You’d be more likely to invite them over to watch a game than chase them out of town with a pitchfork. Joe Merrill is the mind behind the growing pantheon of Splurrt characters. Originally from Ohio, Joe went to art school in Columbus, where he majored in commercial arts. Shortly after graduating, he moved to New York to pursue a career as a modern day 'Mad Man,' though he suggests the current world of advertising is a far cry from the puerile indulgence of Don Draper and crew. And so Joe, who lives in the Big Apple with his wife Joanna and cat Lexi, indulges in another passion: toy making. 38 | Clutter 20
ver the years, Joe has made the long climb from making resin toys to having his toys produced in soft vinyl (aka sofubi) in Japan. That slow and steady progress encapsulates much of what makes Joe a successful indie toy maker. He seems to take a long-view approach to the craft, releasing new toys at a manageable pace, with versions sold online, at galleries and shows, and through collaborative efforts. Undaunted by new challenges, he takes on different figure sizes, experiments with mashups, and participates in multi-maker efforts to create dynamic toy hybrids. Joe sees his toys as toys, but he also has a serious manner and a commitment to his characters. He puts a lot of thought into their forms, back stories, and connections to one another. And Splurrt figures aren’t static either, as Joe is fond of making “evolved” and variant incarnations of his figures, with explanations to back the changes up. In a way, Joe’s character reflects the nature of his toys: complex, multi-layered, and always evolving. I caught up with the man himself, and we talked about life in the Splurrtiverse... Clutter 20 | 39
Give us the run down on how Splurrt got started. When I was in college I became interested in character design. I was your typical broke college student, so I didn’t really buy any toys, but once I graduated and had a job, I began to collect Japanese toys. Fast forward a few years, and I was fully immersed in collecting neo-kaiju. Then I decided I wanted to make my own toys. So what exactly does Splurrt mean? One night, when I was trying to decide on a name, I was watching the episode of Futurama about Slurm cola, and I really liked the name Slurm. The name Splurrt was inspired by Slurm, and I liked it because it was ambiguous. Was it gross, juvenile, sexual, a verb, all of them… none of them?
Japan. I feel just from studying and making toys, I am extremely critical. So when I look at indie toys, at times I am very impressed, and other times I just see a bunch of flaws and things I would have done differently.
When I started making resin toys, I knew a few other resin makers who were in the same boat, making resin out of their garages. But no Americans were making Japanese vinyl yet. I feel like even just seven years ago, collectors were much more vocal with their criticism.
What was it like transitioning from toy collector to toy maker? Did it change the way you look at indie toys? It was frustrating, because I wanted to make and sculpt the toys myself. I was always critical of my skill, and I weighed my figures against what was being done by the pros in
Presently, because I’m still a collector and on forums, people see me as very accessible. That has its pros and cons. On the one hand, there are people who collect
Hardcore's Sludge Demon DX body.
Did that shift affect your relationships with collectors and toy makers?
A lot of resin stuff was seen as amateurish and not belonging in the world of Designer Toys. You could get a new asshole chewed posting stuff on forums like Skullbrain, but I feel like people were pretty nice to me even when they didn’t care for the figures I was making. That was probably because I was a genuine toy collector and not just there trying to peddle my goods.
Bone Usir DX head on on Mutant Vinyl
Joe Merrill holding one of the first painted
my figures, and I also see those people as friends. I enjoy talking to them about my toys or anything else, and I enjoy being a collector and just shooting the shit with everyone about all the new toys. There are a lot of guys out there who play by the rules, and they don’t want to intrude or ask anything of you. But on the other hand, there are guys who don’t have those boundaries, and I’ve learned I can’t really do favors for toy collectors because, if you do, they will always want more. I’m more inclined to help out long-time collectors who love everything I do — that core collector group that has been there from the start — as opposed to guys who just want this one character or this one colorway, or they just want it because it’s hot, or it’s more about the excitement of scoring a new release and the endorphin release… It just gets too time-consuming trying to please or help everyone. I used to be too nice, but learned you have to set boundaries. Sounds like a lot to navigate. So what characters currently inhabit the Splurrt universe? My staple character is Cadaver Kid. A hermit necromancer brought his corpse back to life to have the experience of raising a son. Though he is horrendous in appearance and is a monstrosity, he is really just happy to be alive again and possesses the innocence of a child. Diggler is his pet and is ravenous and ferocious, but his stumpy limbs keep him from being a genuine threat. I just finished a new skeleton figure that is actually Cadaver Kid’s big brother. His spirit is determined to occupy his old deceased body and watch out for his kid brother. I have variations of Cadaver Kid, the Cadaver Twins and Mecha Brain Cadaver Kid, and I have an evolved form of Diggler, where he finally has the physical tools necessary to be the beast he is at heart. I also have the Usir who doesn’t really exist
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in the Cadaver Kid story, but was created using the Diggler body. Plus there’s a bone Usir head that will be coming out for MVH [Mutant Vinyl Hardcore]’s Sludge Demon DX. And finally I have a new line — the lab mice — which is being produced by Rampage Toys and which should be out in a couple of months. They are inspired by bizarre military and secret government science — stuff like animal/human hybridization and psychic operations. Thanks for the great run down. When conceptualizing and designing new toys, what are your major sources of inspiration? My tastes and inspirations are always in flux. I’d say though more so than visual sources, I’m influenced by ideologies, theologies, philosophies, conspiracies, history and mythology, UFOism, and occultism. The weirder, the better. Do you see your figures as linked to one another, in terms of shared characteristics (such as personality, physical details, etc.)? I see similarities in textures, proportions, and scale. I am also really into facial features and conveying emotions or expressions with my figures. So, I think all of my figures have very visible personalities. You’re interested in metaphysics, so let’s consider your toys from that perspective. Besides the soft vinyl that creates their form, do you feel your toys inhabit other energy levels? Do you see them as imbued with other metaphysical characteristics? Let’s get weird(er). Many cultures out there believe certain objects are infused with special energies that are inherent or created by the crafter. Japanese swords come to mind. I do feel like my original clays are charged with my energy. The thing is they then have to go through two stages of molding where they are out of my hands. I wish there was a way I could handle the entire process. It would be interesting to see
"My tastes and inspirations are always in flux. I’d say though more so than visual sources, I’m influenced by ideologies, theologies, philosophies, conspiracies, history and mythology, UFOism, and occultism. The weirder, the better." if the vinyl felt different. I go through certain visualization and meditative exercises with my characters. And maybe there is residual energy from intense focus sessions that stick around in some etheric realm. I have met Cadaver Kid in a very lucid dream. That’s amazing. It seems like we interact with toys so much that they eventually start to return the favor. So how would you characterize your bond with your toys? Are they mostly items you make and sell? It sounds like it’s deeper than that. They are much more than just a product, but I’m having a hard time explaining the bond I have with them. They are very important to me. How sensitive are you to criticism of your toys? Not sensitive at all. I think what the world of Designer Toys is lacking is thoughtful and constructive criticism from collectors and other makers. I actually take criticism to heart and have changed sculptures in the past because I thought the criticism was valid.
The shipping is always the worst. The sculpting is my favorite part. Since you started making toys, what would you say your biggest lessons have been? I’ve learned to be patient, from taking the time needed to make a quality sculpt, to waiting months to see wax and then more months to actually hold the vinyl. I’ve also learned to be critical of my own work and ability and to be honest with myself about where I can improve. Any regrets or mistakes you wish you could take back?
Prototype of Lab Mouse figures
but fewer runs, because I look back and there are just too many colorways for the normal collector to track down. On top of that, because of their run sizes, they are very difficult to find. But I’ve been doing this for seven years, and I’m learning. Sometimes you need experience, and I’ll apply what I’ve learned to the future. Working in advertising and moonlighting as a toy maker, do you find yourself applying any of your professional skills to your toy making, and vice versa? The Designer Toy market is really small, so when you’re trying to put out release info or
other news, you don’t really need to do a lot of advertising like in larger industries. If you develop a decent social media following, just posting on those channels and getting picked up on larger blogs is enough. I also want to leave my work at the office. I get home, I’m tired, and I don’t want to do graphic design or work on a website or promotional material or make a new graphic. I just want to sculpt and paint. I would be more interested in understanding how you can expose more people to Designer Toys and bring in new interest, and not just target the people who are already buying.
Man, Andy, there are lots of things I would go back and do differently. I always see spots in sculpts I wish I could change. No toy is ever perfect to me, but I accept that is how it is, and I’m trying to change my mindset with my sculpting, to embrace the imperfections I have in my mind and see them as adding to the nature of being a toy. Evolved Diggler Beast
Aside from that, I think if I had a chance to do things again, I would have followed a very different release model. I would have focused on larger
I hear what you’re saying. There doesn’t seem to be much appetite (or openness) to thoughtful criticism, and I’m glad to hear you’re bucking the trend. Let’s move on to the toy making process. How involved are you in the various steps — designing, sculpting, painting, etc.? I design the toy, I sculpt the toy, I often paint the toys, and I create and print the header cards. Plus I handle the shipping for all the releases I sell through my own store. I do pretty much everything but pour the wax and pull the vinyl. I think you have a much stronger connection with and pride in the final product when you are doing the job yourself. What are your favorite and least favorite parts of the process?
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Prototype of upcoming figure (still unnamed)
There’s no data out there, but it would be interesting to see how many collectors come and go, and what collector growth is really like, because I think things are growing but not substantially or quickly. How often do you release new versions of your figures? I have a handful of vinyl characters, so I do quite a few releases rotating through the arsenal. But the Cadavers seem to be the most in demand, so those get released most often. I’ve done a lot of collabs with smaller runs of 12-15 figures. Sometimes in the past, when there were a lot of collab releases going on, there was a release every other week. But in general I’d say there is probably a release every month. You have to order a lot of vinyl at a time (enough for a half dozen runs), or you will be waiting on the factory, and your schedule is going to get stalled. Can you tell us about some of the collaborations you’ve been part of? So many… I’ve had a ton of guys paint my 42 | Clutter 20
toys and do header art. There are so many talented painters and illustrators I’ve met just being a part of this world. One of the most recent was BLObPUS. Having him paint my figures was a trip. Two of the first Japanese toys I bought (which got me into all this) were his toys. Now I’m working on a crazy new figure with Paul Kaiju and Rich Montanari of Mutant Vinyl Hardcore. And I have a new head sculpt coming out for Rich’s Sludge Demon DX. Both of those guys are as talented as it gets, and, as I mentioned earlier, Rampage Toys is producing some new minis for me which I’m really excited about. I think that partnership will be very beneficial to both of us. Also, Jon Malmstedt of Rampage Toys has a long history of doing beautiful paintwork on Splurrt toys.
larger numbers to a wider audience. One that comes to mind is Round 5, who create Ultimate Fighting Championship figures. I think it would be very cool to collaborate with them and do a mass-produced fight figure. I’d also be open to collaborations with entertainment companies or artists outside of the toy world. I want to make Splurrt and what I do bigger than just toys. In terms of run numbers, people often talk about maintaining a balance — not too many (to avoid oversaturation), but not so few that the toys are impossible to get. Is that something you can ever nail down, or is it always in flux?
Is there anyone you’d love to collaborate with but haven’t yet?
Back in the heyday of neo-kaiju, I heard makers were doing runs of 300. There wasn’t competition like there is today. I regret the release model I followed — rapid, peppered runs of 10-15 figures, and only rare releases in sizable runs.
There are still quite a few guys in Japan I would love to work with. At the top would be Kazu Akamatsu of Marmit and Karz Works. I’d also be interested in working with a larger toy company and making something that is not sofubi and which is available in
When I think about it, I feel like that model has become very popular, and I don’t think it is a good thing. People lose interest and stop keeping track of releases. Just trying to pay attention becomes overwhelming. But honestly, I think there is a lot of marketing
of limited or micro runs, and it’s not done to drive interest. It’s because there are so many toys out there that a lot of people just have a hard time selling through runs of more than 10. I think if you release a character in large numbers, but that character only gets released a few times a year, then that is the best way. Fans know they are only going to have a few shots, and even though the numbers are much bigger, they will jump on the opportunities they have. Going forward, what release method do you think you’ll focus more on? Frequent micro runs? Less frequent larger runs? Some other mix? Large runs and fewer releases. I’m sure a micro run will still squeak out now and again. Things come up, events happen, collabs happen… you end up with extra vinyl. Plus, it’s fun to get a new vinyl color and spray paint on it. You want to experiment and try different things. When you make a figure, it’s a creative journey and effort. But then it enters a new stage as it becomes a product. Do you enjoy that aspect of toy making – the selling, marketing, and customer service? Not at all. I wish I could make the toys and let someone else I trust handle the marketing, selling, and customer relations. Moving forward, do you see yourself putting more or less focus on Splurrt collabs and paint runs done by other people? Definitely less. It’s been great working with so many talented guys and seeing their take on my figures. But now, I want to take full
control and make the figures they way I envision them. You’ve exhibited at toy shows, like New York Comic Con, and galleries, like FOE and Toy Art Gallery. In this age of insta-everything, when it’s so easy to do your own marketing and selling, what role do these shows play? In your opinion, why are they still so popular? Designer Toys mostly exist online, so I think people just want to enjoy the few chances they have to experience toys in the “real world” and have fun with their virtual friends. As far as galleries go, I think the presence of toys in gallery environments is a very good thing. It highlights the artistry behind the medium and elevates them above being mere toys. Well put. Pulling back the lens a bit, what’s your take on the state of the indie toy scene? It is very saturated right now, with a lot of people trying to make toys. I honestly think a lot of work that’s being done isn't great, or even interesting. Social media makes it easy to quickly get your name out there. With resin, it's so easy for people to make their own toys, and we are seeing more and more people jump in. I think it’s getting hard to sift through all of what is out there, and the really good work isn't getting the attention and exposure it deserves. If you could snap your fingers and change one thing about the way indie toys are made and sold, what would it be? That's an interesting question. I've never
thought about it outside of my own brand. I would just say I think right now quantity is beating quality, and I'd like to see it the other way around. How do you see the scene developing in the coming years? I honestly have no clue. If you asked me what I thought it would be like five years ago, I never would have been close to an accurate prediction. I think more people will keep getting involved. The possibilities for growth are endless, but we need the right people interested who can grow the Designer Toy field — people who are smarter than me. Have you ever thought of transitioning to becoming a full-time toy maker?
plus new heads and parts for the Evolved Diggler. I’ve also got some new ideas in the sketchbook that I’m excited to get to. I really want to do an original standard sized toy. Actually I have wanted to try my hand at going even larger and maybe trying to do a larger fiberglass sculpture. I’ll just keep cranking and will keep my eyes open for interesting opportunities. Nice. Looking forward to seeing the new figures, and the fiberglass idea sounds really cool! Any other thoughts or shout-outs? Of course I have to thank my beautiful wife Joanna for her support and honesty over the years, and for putting up with my couch potato-ness when I get in a groove.
I could probably get by making the jump, but I wouldn’t want to be in a position where I felt forced to work quickly and release a lot of figures just to pay the bills. If I were to lose the passion or excitement and it stopped being fun, I wouldn’t enjoy that.
Shout out to Kaiju Korner, the best blog for coverage of all the shows and events you wish you could have been to.
I like trying new things that interest me, which may not necessarily be the most profitable moves. I also like having the freedom to take a break if it’s needed. I would be interested in working on Splurrt full-time, but I would want it to be bigger than just toys, and I’m not sure what that would be at this moment or how to get Splurrt there.
And of course, shout out to the fine folks at Clutter for their continued support of what I do and really their continued support for the whole Designer Toy scene.
Speaking of future moves, what’s on the horizon for Splurrt? I’m excited that some new sculpts and figures are on the way, and the line-up is expanding. I’m trying to focus on sculpting right now and getting even more new stuff done, like new heads for the Cadaver Twins,
Shout out to Velocitron for all of his help over the years and for opening the gates to Japan.
For more information on Joe's upcoming releases, visit www.splurrt.com
Assorted Cadavers (Twins, Mecha, and Kid)
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THE ART HUSTLE
BY NICK CURTIS
Helmed by Simeon Lipman, The Art Hustle is part of a new renaissance in trading cards, re-envisioning the chipboard collectibles as part of the lowbrow art scene. Each 2.5" x 3.5" card features an artist or their art on the full color front with interesting factoids about them on the reverse, placing an emphasis on more than just what the art appears to be but on who the artist expresses him- or herself to be. Produced by The Cardhacks and manufactured by Sidekick Labs as limited edition works themselves, The Art Hustle is the perfect blending of the nostalgic experience and the contemporary interest. Where did the concept of doing art-centric trading cards come from? And, more specifically, why focus on modern lowbrow artists? I’ve been a card collector since I was a kid, mostly sports cards. The thrill of opening wax packs and scoring one of my favorite players, or the discovery of a new player I hadn’t heard of always excited me… hell, it still does! I grew up in a very art-centric household, so I was exposed to tons of art books and trips into the city for visits to galleries and museums. I was interested in the art, but I was fascinated by the artists; the lives, their stories, the faces behind the artwork. As I got older, I became interested in contemporary art and artists who were working in a context that meant something to me personally. One of those artists is The Sucklord, who became a great friend and collaborator. We had discussed our love of trading cards, and one day he mentioned that our mutual friend Tom Lichtman (SideKick Labs) had figured out a way to replicate the wax pack production process and therefore could
manufacture a trading card set in the vintage style which we were so passionate about. The Sucklord had the brilliant idea for a biographical card set, Suckpax (which I think is absolutely genius), and my mind immediately went back to my card collecting days. What if there was a trading card set filled with contemporary artists, built like the baseball card sets of my youth. The collector would open a pack and find cards of artists they knew, and perhaps of some they were discovering for the first time. There would be cards featuring their artwork, and maybe even an autographed card or original art. The basic structure of what became The Art Hustle was crystal clear from the moment it was conceived. I wanted the set to feature artists I felt were relevant in this time and space, artists who were working today in a variety of mediums. Is there a specific process you go through when selecting who to include in a series? Do you try to make a balance of disciplines (x number of toy designers, painters, sculptors, etc.)? There has never been a set formula for selecting artists. We do try to balance the disciplines however, and hope that collectors are exposed to a wide variety of artists and disciplines. You seem to have a great breadth of knowledge concerning contemporary art in a multitude of styles and mediums, from street art to Designer Toys, photography to sculpture. Do you actively try to keep abreast of the entire art scene or do you also rely on advice from trusted compatriots? I’m no expert on contemporary art. I’m drawn to what interests me, and because I’m in NYC I’m fortunate to have access to so many great galleries and shops, constant exposure to evolving street art, and the opportunities to meet the
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great people who are involved. Without a doubt, their influence has helped make it possible for The Art Hustle to exhibit the wide variety of artists and mediums. This is what makes this a living project, and one that organically grows and represents what’s going on in real time. How long does it take to assemble a full series? From selecting artist to actual release, what's the rough timetable? The entire process takes about a year. It’s a lot of work for everyone involved, but I think the final product makes it all worthwhile. By curating the series, you have the pleasure of seeing everything as it comes in and working with each of these fantastic artists. What's your most memorable moment from putting everything together? We’re so appreciative and humbled by the fact that the participating artists made the time and effort towards this project, so honestly the most exciting moments are always opening the returned envelopes to see what’s inside. One of the most memorable moments was when we received our first package of completed artist Signature and Original Art cards for
48 | Clutter 20
Series 1. It was from Ron English, and he did some wonderful pencil sketches. After opening that package and seeing Ron’s completed cards, it was clear to me that this concept would indeed work. Another highlight was working with one of my all-time heroes, Al Jaffee, who was always my favorite MAD Magazine artist. His agreeing to participate in this project was an incredible honor. Having a legend like Al in the set, who inspired me and legions of artists, was a thrill. Speaking of signature and sketch cards, bonuses you might find inside packs, some of the artists have really gone above and beyond to try and re-envision what a sketch card is. Any stand outs that immediately come to your mind? From Series 1, Matt Doughty from Onell Design made some great cut-out cards, and The GODBEAST made beautiful layered paintings with various glosses. MONSTREHERO sculpted card-sized resin reliefs, as did Series 3 artist Scott Wilkowski. Series 2 exhibited a lot of experimentation. Charles Krafft really broke the mold when he used the sketch card space as a surface for his very realistic-looking “Human Bone China” bugs to inhabit. Gary McIntire, an artist for Lego, created Lego mosaics which he pasted to the cards. LASH of Mutant Vinyl Hardcore made etched metal cards with oxidized and enameled details. Scott Tolleson used Formica samples in place of the cards, which gave his paintings a unique texture. Series 3 saw Elizabeth McGrath sculpt trophy animal heads attached to the sketch cards (we made a redemption card for those), and JéRYU did some incredibly detailed sculpting on his as well. Metal Man Ed made fantastic metal cards with polished out text and designs. Ritzy Periwinkle constructed
some cool fold-out cards. The list could go on and on really and it’s hard to stop because so many artists went above and beyond! While the signature and sketch cards tend to steal the show, you've actually come up with some creative special inserts to include with each subsequent series. Do these naturally evolve or is it a long process devising added extras that will 'wow' buyers? The extras that are included in the series are things that we would be excited about finding if we opened a pack, and are reflective of special inserts seen throughout the history of trading cards. It’s important to us that The Art Hustle’s inserts are substantial in substance as well as being cool. Working with SideKick Labs we were able to turn these ideas into tangible collectibles. There are Error and Variant cards sprinkled throughout the packs, like special hidden treasures. Was this always intentional or did it evolve into a regular addition to the series? One of my favorite aspects of card collecting has been the discovery and acquisition of errors and variation cards. When building the set, we wanted to pay homage to some of those great “mistakes” of trading cards past. However, as is the nature of creating materials for print, unintentional errors and variations have certainly cropped up. It’s all part of the experience. The Guess the Hand contest card is one of the most interesting and unique added extras. Where did that originate from? The Guess the Hand card and contest have been so much fun to produce. The
Art Hustle is meant to be fun and there’s a playfulness that’s present in all the series. We also wanted it to be an interactive experience, and one that gives back to the collector in various ways. There is a tradition in trading card sets to offer collectors a chance to win something. We thought presenting people with a chance to win a work of art by a participating artist was pretty great. It really came together when we were able to film the Series 1 Guess the Hand mystery artist, The Sucklord. Not only did he pull the winner’s name out of his helmet, but also created the prize while we were in his studio. It turned out to be both personal and entertaining. The Series 2 mystery artist, Skinner, made an incredible video for the occasion, filming himself pulling the winner’s name and also showing off his musical and comedic skills. The Series 3 Guess the Hand contest is still active, but it will be another great addition to the tradition. [It has since been announced and the mystery artist was Junko Mizuno.]
What's the holy grail of The Art Hustle collector? Or, more simply put, what are some of the rarest cards out there and, of course, why were they made in such small numbers? With only 300 boxes issued for Series 1, and 500 for Series 2 and 3, it’s all relatively scarce in comparison to major trading card issues. That being said some of the rarer cards (for various reasons) include: SERIES 1 Appro Nation (R2D2 variant) #163A: Travis Louie (uncolored stars on back) TAH: The Art Hustle (promo card distributed at the 1st Annual 2nd Ave Card Convention) The RAMMELLZEE Signature Card Maria TOOFLY Castillo Signature Card contacted)? SERIES 2 #233A: Attaboy (black border, regular issue) #300A: Toysrevil (black border, regular issue) SERIES 3 #496A: Mishka NYC (variant) KONATSU Signature Card There are, of course, others... With The Art Hustle Series 1 & 2, you used chipback cards but Series 3 used white cardstock. Why the shift? Was it a decision you made or was it more a matter of availability? Among the distinguishing features of Series 3 is the use of the color yellow (Series 1 used red, Series 2 used blue). We wanted the
yellow to really pop, so we decided to try the white backed cards to make this happen. We’re all for trying new things and are open to letting the set evolve as needed. The use of white card stock also has its interesting place in the evolution of trading cards. Fleer and Donruss were card companies that both began producing baseball cards in 1981. To differentiate themselves from Topps, they used white cardstock as opposed to the Topps chipback. The Art Hustle 4… Any teasers of what you're thinking for the next series? No teasers, but like each preceding set, it will have it’s own unique flavor. Who are the top one or two artists that you'd love to include, but — to this point — have been unable to participate (or be
We’ve been very fortunate that so many of the people we’ve invited to participate have said yes, but there are a few that couldn’t because of prior commitments and time restraints (Shepard Fairey, Kehinde Wiley, Ryan McGinnis, David Horvath, Mark Ryden). Obviously Banksy would be an exciting addition to the series, as would Jeff Koons, COST, REVS, Invader, JA, the list goes on and on.
You can learn more about The Art Hustle by visiting: thearthustle.com The Art Hustle is distributed exclusively through DKE Toys, dketoys.com
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Building the Empire:
"Dear Mind Powers Work Our Leaders"
The Sculptures of Mike Leavitt Steve Strong Shannon Dodd
As a fan of parody art, I was excited to find that Mike Leavitt, the man behind the "Art Army" original sculpture series, was having a solo exhibition at the Jonathan Levine Gallery in New York City. My enthusiasm was not only because this would give me the opportunity to see his work firsthand, but it would also give me a chance to ask him a few questions. His show "Empire Peaks" presented mash-ups of notable personalities and iconic Star Wars characters, blending biographical and fictional realms effortlessly. Where do these concepts originate? when did they begin? and who is Mike Leavitt?? Let's find out… 52 | Clutter 20
Where did the title "Empire Peaks" come from? Okay, the title "Empire Peaks" came from me searching for a thread, a theme through all the characters I was designing. Basically, I mashed up a bunch of different people in sketches and that's where I started from, so I had all my little thumbnail sketches and then I actually did a little back-and-forth with the gallery — kind of like a design collaboration — after which most of the series was set. The thread that ran through all these characters was that each one had their own empire of some kind. Not necessarily that they each built an empire or owned an empire, but maybe they were involved in taking down some dynasty or some big rebellion or something like that. It was a similarity that I found with all of them and I wanted [the title] to suggest things changing over time… I first thought of "Empire Falls" and then, as I was working on it — rising and falling and ebbing and flowing and all that kinda stuff — I landed on "Empire Peaks" and it just seemed right.
Why Star Wars and not Star Trek? Those are the two really big sci-fi franchises — both having movies, cartoons, television shows, etc. — so why did you pick Star Wars to parody? Was it because there are more iconic Star Wars characters? I just tend to fall in the Star Wars camp. I was born in '77, so by the time Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi came out, they hit me at the exact right age. And,
during those years, Star Trek was basically in reruns and The Next Generation hadn't come out yet; it was a kinda bad Star Trek decade! I loved watching the old '60s Star Trek reruns, I definitely enjoyed them, but not nearly as much as Star Wars. So, it's really the nostalgia. And I also like that there's more of an aesthetic diversity in the designs of the characters. I mean, yes, there's a lot of great aliens in Star Trek, but there's not as much variation to the designs that I can visually play with.
With the world offering so many notable figures —both past and present — to choose from, what was your selection process like? There's so many people you could've picked to put into these Star Wars characters, so why did you choose the eighteen that you chose? My selection process has been a big part of my work for ten years solid, ever since I started making [the Art Army] action figures. There's always been an element of me trying to document history, trying to play some quasi-anthropologist. So, I guess, I feel like I'm doing more of the same of what I've already been doing. It comes down to me trying to objectively represent something, whether it be a historical movement or certain players in the scene. I think for this show, it was me trying to objectively represent modern history and the architects of modern civilization. [Charles] Darwin would be the oldest one, but he's still crazy relevant today, which is bizarre. So
relevancy was a big thing. Aesthetic is also important. I wanted to select people that lend themselves to some design, something to work with visually. If they are identifiable was also a big one.
A similar yet different question, was there a particular science or method of who you matched up with who? For example, you mashed Chewbacca with Darwin and Wickett the Ewok with Michael Jackson. Picking the mashups was pretty organic, like most of the way I work. I knew who I wanted to play with. I knew I wanted to play with Michael, but I actually sketched him out as Yoda first. I used sketches and thumbnail drawings to work out a lot of iterations. I actually sketched out 80 different characters and there ended up being 18 made for the show; in other words, 75 percent of my designs were tossed out the window. So, it's really less about me coming up with the pairing — "Oh yea, I should make Michael Jackson as Wickett" — and more about me trying various ones, being able to look at the drawings until one of them grabs me. Michael Jackson as an Ewok? I was kinda like, "Yea, that's good and better than the other ones!"
Was there a mashup you wanted to do but didn't have the time? It's funny, actually there were only going to be 17 in the show, but Mike Tyson as Darth Maul was that piece and I found the time. I
"Wars Make Not One Eye Blind"
"To Destroy Life is Planet Luck"
"To Be My Only Hope Forgotten"
"Dream a Free Us or Die"
"We Can Pay a Successful Yes Price"
"No House Divided a Mystical Energy"
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"A Secret Entrance in the Mirror"
had a couple weeks left [after finishing the 17th piece] and I thought, "I just gotta do that piece." When you look at other shows that I've done, it usual happens like that: I'll be "finished" with the show, but there's one or two pieces left I wish I did and I'll bang 'em out. The whole time I'm thinking there's a reason why I didn't do that last one, like it wasn't going to be that good, but I swear to God it always ends up being one of the best ones. It's really weird.
"You Don't Rebel Walk Scum Away"
With all the sculpting you’ve done, is there any one sculpture you regret selling? Like, “Man, I really wish I kept that one for myself. I really wish I didn’t sell that and that was mine again.” That’s hard to answer. I taught myself to let go materially of my work a long time ago. I really like some of the earliest figures that I did, like Frida Kahlo and Jackson Pollock. Actually the first Jackson Pollack, it’s the second Art Army [figure] that I did, and he’s really small and really nerdy. I’ve really improved my style a lot since then, he was just a few blobs of clay thrown together, but I captured him just enough. It was a really good little piece, the size of G.I. Joe, but it's Jackson Pollack. That’s the only thing I can think of off the top of my head where it would be nice to actually have my piece because it was the second one I ever did.
"To Bind the Galaxy Prison First"
54 | Clutter 20
That perfectly segways into the next question: Before Art Army was established, what was the first
"Think 6 Million Forms of Communications"
"The Chances of M.C. Squared Survival"
"Silence is No Good Argument"
"We Will Rip Out Revenge Hearts"
art piece you made and sold?
When I finished college, I started doing these artist training cards, which were actually part of my senior thesis, and I started making money off of those right before I finished school. I’d sell them at parties. I’d actually go out to parties, people would be drinking and getting drunk all around me, and I’d be sitting in the corner drawing. I'd have them packed up and wrapped with bubble gum, sitting in little stacks, and they were fucking awesome. Everyone would be geeking out on this shit and I’d sell them cheap, like $5-10 apiece, and it worked out really well. I started making a couple hundred bucks a night. It wasn’t sculpture, but there was kind of like an installation, performance element to them because I was conscious of the fact that me sitting there drawing was helping sell these things. So I’d go out to street festivals in the summer and do the same gig, a little more professional with a box and signage. Sometimes I would wear a costume, so that was my first sales experience.
So what’s next for your Art Army?
The next path for the Art Army is pretty undetermined at this point, I will be perfectly honest with you. We just released the first vinyl toy, which took three years specifically devoted to getting that one vinyl toy out. So far the results of that release are more or less mixed. It has been really solid, really good. I had sculpted two more prototypes for the same company to do in the series, but we’re not even sure if we will get to
those. It is really up in the air right now and that was supposed to be the next path for the Art Army. I am resigned to the fact that I will probably be sculpting more one-offs for the Art Army, I just don’t necessarily want to. I have honestly lost some inspiration for that whole series, just because I’ve spent so much time on it and because I have taken the design progression so far, trying too many iterations of these things, one after another. So, at this point, what’s left to do with it?
So what do you see being next for you then?
All I know is that I really want to get comfortable doing 3D modeling. I think that has got to happen and would open up a whole other avenue. If I can start sculpting digitally, bring in my hand touch to the digital work, then the possibilities are exciting. I want to be able to sculpt something digitally on the computer, print it out with a 3D printer, and have it not look machine made in any way. But I want to start playing with it and see if I can get good enough and comfortable enough with it to twist it — whether it’s my fingerprints or making it loose and gesturey — and do something ironic with it.
For more information visit: intuitionkitchenproductions.com
EXCLUSIVE PRINTS / POSTERS / BOOKS ART TOYS & APPAREL
W W W. P O PA G A N D A . C O M
Lewis Carroll, in his book Alice in Wonderland, pondered, "Who in the world am I? Ah, that's the great puzzle." And the answer, for Camilla d'Errico's characters, is typically obvious: titled en masse Helmetgirls, her kawaii (cute) manga women adorned with unwieldy headgear aren't simply wearing fashion accessories but rather insights into their emotional state. Regardless of if their beautiful bonnets are made from the biological or mechanical, the viewer is immediately overwhelmed by the timeless tales her characters portray; stories of heartbreak and innocence, of loss and vulnerability. With skill, care, and artistry, d'Errico weaves the world her Helmetgirls reside in, a world that is conveyed with a single look… or headdress.
I understand there's an amusing tale behind how you got into the art scene. Something about quitting a regular, steady job to pursue comic work after attending San Diego Comic-Con?
I’ve been attending SDCC since 1998. That’s a whole lot of time to see this convention grow and balloon into the media beast that it is today. My reasons for going to SDCC seem to evolve as the con evolves. First the highlights were the publishers and the networking; I would get to meet so many editors and
It was more like I found my calling
creators. Then slowly, as the convention
when I attended my first San Diego
expanded, it became about meeting
Comic-Con! Opening the doors and
the artists who attended. Meeting
walking into the hall was like seeing
your peers is an incredible experience,
the light at the end of the tunnel and
putting a face to a name and having
walking towards it, without serious
a chance to know who you admire
bodily harm mind you, it was an
on page is great. Then SDCC blew up!
epiphany for me. I had just graduated
It became about seeing what new
high school, so although I didn’t
and incredible projects were coming.
quit a job, I knew that I could never
Crossing the sea of people has become
have a fulfilling life being a barista
so overwhelming for me that I don’t
or receptionist, I just had to be a part
even go out of my booth and explore
of this nerdy world. The funny part
the con anymore. I have a bigger
of the con, was the fact that I was
reason to stay in my booth, because the
one of maybe ten girls attending. I’ve
highlight for me is even more incredible
never seen so many guys turning their
then seeing any celebrity: it's meeting
heads in disbelief, it was like they saw
fans. I mean, can you imagine that
a unicorn in a forest… but who could
transition? I used to go as a fan and
blame them, that was before Robert
now I have people who come to see
Downey Jr. and his sexy self brought
me! It's all worth it to see them and be
Iron Man to life and made girls aware
able to have precious moments with
of comics as something appealing. Girls
people who support me and allow me
just didn’t look at a drawing of a guy
the opportunity to create art. I know
in tights with a hammer and picture
everyone says this, but seriously, I have
Chris Hemsworth. Now cons are filled
the greatest fans in the world! This past
with girls and I hope many of them are
SDCC my Costa Rican fans brought me
seeing the comic world as a potential
coffee and chocolates and we’ve made
career the way I did.
a pact to do the zombie run next SDCC. And I now have girls (and the occasional
You still regularly attend the conventions — including San Diego Comic-Con — and I'm curious what the highlight is for you each time? Obviously, meeting the fans has to be great, but I understand you've actually started having girls show up dressed as Helmetgirls too; that must feel amazing!
Helmetgirls in Wonderland:
guy) cosplaying as my characters. How utterly cool is that? I can just imagine what the next convention will bring. Who knows, maybe in 5 years I’ll have my own movie, starring Ian Somerhalder as Kuro, to highlight the con! A girl can dream, can’t she?!?
What's the story behind your Helmetgirls characters? While petite anime women wearing gargantuan steampunk headgear isn't specific to you, there is something about your vision that make them uniquely expressive. I think every artist can make a unique statement with any subject matter by expressing a part of him- or herself in that artwork. I definitely didn’t invent steampunk and cute girls with
Through the Looking Glass of Camilla d'Errico By Nick Curtis Clutter 20 | 59
shojo (romantic manga) books and it was the beginning of the end for me. As a hopeless romantic, let's just say that the Japanese and angst could give Shakespeare a run for his money. And down the rabbit hole I went.
giant gear, but when I draw my girls
I'm really interested in the tale of Tanpopo, the Faustian myth seen through the d'Errico looking glass. Where did the idea come from of having this emotionless girl attached to a machine who sells her soul in order to experience 'normal' human feelings?
I am tapping into my viewpoint, my ideologies, and my subconscious, so by
I’ve always been interested in the
that alone I am expressing something
origins of emotions. So when it came to
original. I hope I don’t sound too artsy,
dissecting the concept of what makes
because it’s a simple process for me: I
a person good or bad, it came down to
think about an idea I want to explore,
how we make our choices and would
I draw it in pieces, and then put them
we make the same ones if we had no
together with ink or paint.
control over our emotions. Can we see
You're obviously very influenced by anime and manga in general, but are there any specific creators or works that you feel shaped your aesthetic more than others?
the world the same way if what makes us “human” is absent. Tanpopo is young and arrogant, she has an immense amount of knowledge, but despite that, she doesn’t feel complete, she’s missing the core of her humanity. We all seek the meaning of life, and to Tanpopo she has a clear path to that ultimate
60 | Clutter 20
Anime and manga are definitely where
answer. But for someone who has
I draw most of my creativity from, and
never felt sadness, it's just a concept,
throughout the years artists emerge
to actually feel it, true heart-breaking
that I admire and whose aesthetic I
sadness, it could either break them
find inspiring. In the beginning much
or change them in a profound way. I
of the artwork that I loved was angular
liked the idea of the devil as her guide
and wasn’t too detailed, until I started
because he doesn’t view the world
reading CLAMP titles (X/1999, Cardcaptor
through “normal” emotions, more
Sakura, xxxHolic). They brought a crazy
accurately, he doesn’t see right and
amount of detail into their style. Then
wrong the way a human would. So he
I found Range Murata, who drew
has no moral objections to doing what
rounded and softer and more rendered
has to be done to elicit those feelings
characters, it really opened my eyes to
from Tanpopo. Authors throughout the
the range of styles in anime and manga.
centuries have used the “devil” in this
From there I sought other artists that
way, so the story isn’t about the biblical
stepped outside the standard anime
devil, but rather an antagonist that has
style — Terada Katsuya (Monkey King),
a different perspective that we don’t
Katsuhiro Otomo (Akira), and Yazawa Ai
understand, what we see as “evil” to
(Nana) — which led me to discovering
Speaking of your vision for the devil in Tanpopo, where did the concept of Kuro come from? He's a very unique rendition of the hellish creature…
roads, or the obvious choices then you aren’t being true to life. We’ve all made dumb mistakes, regretted saying things, been happy we took the high road, been
No Ordinary Love.bust
heroic when being apathetic would
(image courtesy of Dark Horse)
have been easier, we are a mix of good Kuro is one of my favorite characters
and bad, so that’s what I’m doing with
I’ve ever created, and it's not just
Tanpopo. To make her human, she has
because he’s a sexy, mysterious boy,
to make human choices.
but because I get to transform him into cute, but evil, creatures. His “poodle” form came from my love of all things anime. Mangas and animes often use token characters that are adorable and seemingly innocent, as Disney used
You do incorporate imagery of the biological — human — merged with the mechanical frequently. What does it mean or symbolize to you?
Jiminy Cricket. They are intelligent and interact with the humans in the story
I love drawing robots and mecha
and are as entertaining to look at as
because they can only exist in my mind.
they are in driving the plot. He was
I’m a big fan of creating imagery that
meant to lure Tanpopo out with his
in one world is real and tangible and in
innocence. Tanpopo is highly intelligent,
ours is not. As a species we’ve evolved
but she’s still a naïve innocent girl, and
into techno obsessed creatures, we can
girls love adorable cute things! So Kuro
barely separate ourselves from it, if at
used “poodle” Kuro to trick her, lower
all. So sometimes I’ll tap into that and
her defenses, and earn her trust. He’s
out will spill a Helmetgirl, she’ll break
such a sneaky Devil.
all the laws of physics and possibly decorum, but it will seem the most
I could obviously be wrong, but I got the feeling you were able to tap into your own emotional history to do Tanpopo. Much of the character's evolution and challenges remind me of what someone goes through the first time they fall in love, perhaps unprepared for feelings they are inexperienced with. Is this accurate? Did you call upon your own recollections of love and heartbreak to make her journey more real?
natural thing in the world.
Your custom toy work always thoroughly impresses me, as you seem to have this unique way of treating the platform like a canvas while still incorporating the shape completely in your finished piece. When it comes to these customs, is this just how your mind thinks it should be done or is it something you have to consider and map out in advance?
Well that’s not something I’ve been asked before and it’s a great question.
I do see each platform as a canvas and
Though I didn’t do that on a conscious
I try to shape my artwork to fit it. I like
level, I think that all authors use their
the challenge because a lot of these
own experiences in the stories they
toys are not human or give the normal
create, purposefully or instinctively.
shapes that define my style. I spend a
Initially the storyline was about a girl
lot of time sketching out the ideas. I
who died and Death came to transition
have a lot of fails too, and ideas that on
her, so it wasn’t based on love but
paper seem good but in practice don’t
to kick off. The painting “No Oridinary
rather my own sense of mortality. But
work out. In the end, they take on a
Love” was chosen, and I couldn’t be
as I re-created the story and extended
life of their own and I’m just along for
happier, it's one of my faves and holds
it to the Tanpopo book you see today,
a very deep meaning to me. I worked
I love toys, I have a huge collection in
very closely with David and the sculptor
my apartment and studio, but it’s the
to get the model to look as closely to
hardest thing in the world for me to
the painting as possible. It was brilliant
produce. My dream is to have my own
that David was so adamant that the
Helmetgirl figure one day. I’ve had
bust resemble the painting as closely as
many companies approach me, but for
they could, especially with the paint job.
one reason or another the toy/figure
I’m very happy with how it turned out
has just never come to fruition. I have
and, though Dark Horse doesn’t have
a couple of leads though, so keep your
a follow up toy scheduled, I’m hoping
fingers crossed for me! And as for the
I definitely wanted to use my own emotional history in the story telling. I suffered the loss of my grandfather when I was Tanpopo’s age and that left a huge hole in my heart. The loss of a parental figure is devastating, and it changes a person much like loosing your first love and the first time you
Dark Horse produced your "No Ordinary Love" bust statuette last year, which I believe is the first statue to be released on one of your designs. How did this project come about? Is it the first of many to come?
realize that you did something mean
more in? Any more of your own figure designs in the works?
spirited and hurtful or something
This was like a dream come true! One
that we do get the chance to make
next production toy I have releasing, it
completely selfless. So in that sense
of my biggest loves is toys. I adore them,
will be a Raaar! [from Dynamite Rex]:
I do think that I am using my own
and I’ve tried over the years to work
experiences to bring her emotions to
with companies to translate my artwork
life. There are so many memories, good
into 3D. My sister and agent, AdaPia
and bad, and decisions that I can recall
d’Errrico, worked with David Scroggy
that I am tapping into. I don’t want her
to surprise me with this project! I had
journey to be simple. Life isn’t simple. If
no idea they were even discussing it,
you make a character take all the easy
when I got the email that it was all set
To the best of my knowledge, you only have a handful of vinyl toys designed by you available: your own Kuro figures as well as a Stitch and Bax Bear design. Is this an area you plan to do
her name is “Melty” and I think she’s going to be fantastic!
For more information visit:
Clutter 20 | 61
#limitededtion #erickscarecrow #customs
Toy Mafia T-Shirt (GID Edition) Available in other colors
Groper by Triplikid
Heirophany (Marbled Edition) by Carlos Enriquez Gonzalez
Beat-Dazzle by Scott Tolleson
The Furry Cup by Lunartik
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Published on Mar 20, 2014
Your indispensable guide into the world of art toys, counter culture and underground art. Included in the pages of this issue: Carson Catl...