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LIKE TOYS, LOVE CLUTTER

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ISSUE 39

SDCC 2016

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KING KORPSE • ANDREA KANG • BIGSHOT TOYWORKS • • MISS MONSTER • VINYL CRYPTIDS • • SCARECROWOVEN • PLUS:

DESIGNER TOYS 101’s


LIKE TOYS, LOVE CLUTTER

ISSUE 39

CLUTTERMAGAZINE.COM

39

SDCC 2016

FREE

KING KORPSE • ANDREA KANG • BIGSHOT TOYWORKS • • MISS MONSTER • VINYL CRYPTIDS • • SCARECROWOVEN • PLUS:

JAMES GROMAN x INSTINCTOY 49

DESIGNER TOYS 101’s

On The Cover

King Korpse Article by Nick Curtis

King Korpse By James Groman & Instinct Toy

ART

TOYS 101

BIGSHOT TOYWORKS

18

DESIGNER TOY DICTIONARY

TAYLORED CURIOSITIES

28

Curiouser & Curiouser Article by Barbara Pavone

Article by Brian VanHoooker

10

WHAT ARE DESIGNER TOYS? 22

SCARECROWOVEN

36

Neon Nightmares by Josh Kimberg

WHAT IS BLIND BOXED?

34

WHAT IS KAIJU?

72

WHAT IS A CUSTOM?

68

WHAT IS KESHI?

80

MISS MONSTER

Today’s Folkart Article by Marc DeAngelis

50

Less is More by Marc DeAngelis

56

COPYRIGHT

60

Frequently Asked Legal Questions... Article by Brian VanHooker

Doing The Monster Mash Article by Seth Fischer

VINYL CRYPTIDS

ANDREA KANG

76 Clutter 28 | 9


TEAM Miranda O’Brien Editor-in-Chief

Jason Ryule Technical Coordinator

Barbara Pavone Contributing Writer

miranda@cluttermagazine.com

jason@tradeincool.com

Twitter: @ThePavoneReport

Josh Kimberg Managing Editor

Matt Dorcas Advertising Sales

josh@cluttermagazine.com

matt@cluttermagazine.com

Nick Curtis Associate Editor

Brittany DiPeri Associate Producer

nickcurtis@cluttermagazine.com

brittany@clutterstudios.com

Marc DeAngelis Website Editor

Niktia Volchik Studio Coordinator

marc@cluttermagazine.com

niktia@clutterstudios.com

Nick Carroll Art Director

Brian VanHooker Contributing Writer

nick@cluttermagazine.com

brian@clutterstudios.com

SethFischer Contributing Writer Niall Anderson Contributing Writer man-e-toys.com

GUESTS Pete Fowler

Paul Budnitz

Galen McKamy

Mark Nagata

J*RYU

Ricky Wilson

monsterism.net

paulbudniz.com

kidrobot.com

maxtoyco.com

j-ryu.com

velocitron.org

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

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

A ABS, or Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene, is a form of rigid plastic from which toys can be produced out of at the factory level. Known for its hardness, toughness, and glossy sheen, ABS has a smooth surface that typically does not lend itself to showing intricate details. Due to the plastic being injected rather than poured into molds, pieces cast in ABS maintain more consistency in production than those made out of PVC. A recognizable example for this material being used are LEGO building blocks. An accessory is an additional piece that comes with a Designer Toy, either to be placed on or near the figure for display purposes. Called an omake, or extra, in Japanese, these elements aren’t usually essential to the figure’s design but rather serve to compliment and supplement the piece. An Artist Proof (or AP) is one of several copies for a mass-produced Designer Toy release that the designer receives from the manufacturer or producer. Typically limited to 10 to 25 copies, 12 | Clutter 39 SDCC

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

B Blind box and blind bag are terms used to describe a series of Designer Toys, with multiple designs, that are sold packaged in either a box or bag, respectively. The packaging completely obscures the contents from view, causing the purchased design to be random and not decided by the buyer. (For more information on blind boxes, please see the article What Does Blind Boxed Mean? on page 60 of this magazine.)

Custom figures, also known as handpainted (or HP) Designer Toys, are those that have been treated like a blank canvas by an artist. Through a variety of methods, most commonly painting, the artist applies their own design scheme onto the figure. Usually unique pieces of art, a micro edition of a custom can be made using the same design scheme, though each one is still individually hand-crafted and/or painted. (For more information on customs, please see the article What Is A Custom? on page 34 of this magazine.)

D

C Chibi is a Japanese slang term for a short person or small child, though it is used within Designer Toys to indicate either a smaller rendition of previously released figure or an original piece that conforms to the chibi style. Chibi releases tend to be cute and simplistic, though the latter in not a required element. (See also kawaii.)

A Deluxe (or DX) figure is version of a Designer Toy which either indicates that: it includes additional extras, like accessories, or it has been completely re-sculpted to be larger and/or more detailed.


Designer Toys, also known as Art Toy and Urban Vinyl works, are lowbrow or pop art pieces. Typically sold primarily on the basis of the artist or designer’s name, these emulate the production methods of traditional toys though Designer Toys are usually intended to be display collectibles rather than pieces that emphasize functionality or playability. (For more information on Designer Toys, please see the article What Are Designer Toys? on page 18 of this magazine.)

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

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

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

K A D.I.Y. (Do-It-Yourself, or DIY) figure is a Designer Toy that is sold unpainted with the primary intention that the piece will be customized. (For more information on D.I.Y. figures, please see the article What Is A Custom? on page 34 of this magazine.)

E The edition or colorway denotation on a Designer Toy is used to indicate one of several things in regards to a previously released figure: the piece being cast in a different color of production material, the piece having the paint application scheme applied in different colors, the piece having a completely new paint application scheme applied, or any combination of these. Frequently limited to a set number of pieces produced, a micro edition of customs can be considered a new edition or colorway, though this is not common. (See also open edition and original colorway.)

Kaiju is a Japanese term that means strange creature, though it specifically indicates any of the Japanese movie monsters. While a truly accurate kaiju Designer Toy would be an artist’s interpretation of one of these classic cinematic terrors, the term is often used to indicate neo-kaiju Designer Toy releases. A recognizable example of this style would be Godzilla or Mothra toys. (See also sofubi; for more information on kaiju, please see the article What Is Kaiju? on page 70 of this magazine.)

Keshi, or keshigomu, is the Japanese term literally for eraser, but within Designer Toys it refers primarily to micro and mini figures cast in a colored hard gum. A recognizable example of these rubber-like figures is the M.U.S.C.L.E. toy line of the ‘80s. (For more information on keshi, please see the article What Is Keshi? on page 82 of this magazine.) Kitbashing is derived from the term for using parts from various garage and/or model kits to make one single piece. Similarly, in Designer Toy terms, it denotes one piece made from the parts of several figures, the resulting work being used either for a custom or as the prototype for molding and casting.

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

Clutter 39 SDCC | 13


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

N Neo-kaiju is a term meant to indicate new kaiju, or Designer Toys inspired by the Japanese movie monsters but not actually directly interpreting any of them. (See also sofubi; for more information on neo-kaiju, please see the article What Is Kaiju? on page 70 of this magazine.) A platform, or platform figure, is the term for a Designer Toy figure’s unique shape and form. While it can specifically refer strictly to figures intended for paint schemes by a variety of designers, such as Dunnys and Androids, the term has also been used for any figure that has multiple editions.

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

O Micro edition denotes an extremely limited edition of a Designer Toy. Typically is signifies that less than 10 pieces were produced in this variation. A micro figure is any Designer Toy that is less than, but not equal to, 3” in height. A mini figure is any Designer Toy that is roughly 3” to 5” in height. Mixed parts indicates an edition of a Designer Toy figure that has multiple, individually cast parts — such as head, body, arms, legs, etc. — and that one or more parts have been cast in different colors of the material. Typically each and every cast part is in a different color, though that is not a requirement. 14 | Clutter 39 SDCC

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

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

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


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

S

Whether an original piece in this style or a rendition of a previously released figure, typically these versions are small and chubby with stubby limbs, though these are not required elements. (See also kawaii.)

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

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

R Sofubi, or soft vinyl, is a wasei-eigo (an English word coined in Japan) derived from the Engrish of Softu Binyl. An exceedingly pure form of PVC, sofubi is uniquely made through a variety of molding and production techniques by Japanese master craftsmen. While sofubi denotes the material a Designer Toy is made of, some people use the term interchangeably with kaiju or neo-kaiju styles. A recognizable example for this material being used are vintage Godzilla toys. (For more information on sofubi, please see the article What Is Kaiju? on page 70 of this magazine.)

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

Sprays is a slang term for paints applied to a Designer Toy by airbrush. Super deformed (or SD) is used to indicate a design with an oversized head disproportionate to the body.

V Vinyl is a common slang term for PVC. Clutter 39 SDCC | 15


Nick Curtis

MC Supersized by Ron English and Secret Base

Countless times in the past, I've begun some sort of romantic relationship with a girl and — eventually — the topic of my passion for "Designer Toys" would emerge. The majority of the time, mention of this is met with a blank stare behind which the gears of her mind are churning and pondering: "He's into what now?" This, of course, is followed by a lengthy attempt to explain this scene and I've always wished there was a more concise information source for new comers; a "Designer Toys 101," if you would… We’re going to start extremely simply: What are Designer Toys? The two words, separately, surely are recognizable: A “Designer” being any person who takes artistic inspiration & applies it to practical subjects, such as producing the cover image for a book, outlining the structure of a piece of furniture, or sketching the appearance of a piece of clothing, while “Toys” are those things we played with as children, whether it was G.I. Joe action figures or Barbie Dolls. So, in the most broad strokes, “Designer Toys” are toy-like pieces created with modern art sensibilities; think of them as utilitarian art sculptures, if you will. “Designer Toys” can be confusing because it is a term used to define an entire industry rather than one specific product. Typically “Designer Toys” are limited in the amount made, anywhere from a couple of thousand copies all the down to only one piece produced. The term doesn’t even denote a specific material that the piece is crafted in, as “Designer 18 | Clutter 39 SDCC

Toys” can be made out of just about anything, though the two most common materials are: Plastic, known as Vinyl, and Resin, a synthetic liquid that hardens once set. What compounds the problem of understanding Designer Toys is that these are the same materials commonly used in making ‘traditional toys.’ This immediately begs a singular question: What makes Designer Toys art while normal toys are not? The short and sweet answer would be emphasis on the artist. Most people would be pressed to remember that Hasbro released G.I. Joe, let alone that Don Levine was the original driving force behind the concept, or that Mattel released Barbie and that Ruth Handler is commonly credited with their creation. But, in the world of Designer Toys, the artist’s name can be as much — if not more — of a selling point than the actual toy itself.


By comparing and contrasting the 'traditional fine art' world with that of Designer Toys, perhaps the similarities will become more clear. We'll start with a fine art piece, maybe Edvard Munch's The Scream, something so iconic everyone can relate; an original painting that has such broad appeal that it has been reproduced in a variety of formats, from inclusion in books to being emblazoned on cooking aprons. Now that single piece of art, as I said before, can be placed on a variety of things, though they aren't all "art": Functional Items You can easily find images of The Scream on just about anything, including coffee mugs, cooking aprons, and other functional items. And I mean functional in the sense that being viewed as art is not their primary purpose. No one mistakes a coffee mug with a painting printed on it as a piece of art, right? Most of the items in this category are relatively inexpensive and meant for mass consumption and use.

The Original Painting There’s no two ways about it, the original painting of The Scream is art. It is a one-of-a-kind hand-made piece; and if the painter did do multiple copies of the same image, which certainly did occur, they varied slightly because they were completely done by hand. This is, without a doubt, art.

Qeezer Qee by Nic Brand & Toy2R

Display Items This would be your poster or desktop display reproduction of The Scream. While still mass-produced and available readily at an affordable price, these items start to blur the lines regarding whether they are art or not. While you’d certainly laugh at someone that invited you over to view their art collection when all they had was a series of $10 posters on their walls, those displayed images serve no purpose other than to be looked at and enjoyed for the art they reproduce.

Limited Edition Items These are items with The Scream on them that have a higher production value and, thus, higher perceived resale value. Things in this category could be Giclée (a very specific form of inkjet printing technology) posters or screenprints, though these are usually produced in set limited quantities and are sometimes even signed by the artist. While they are not art in the sense that they are an original painting, they are considered high-end display items and they have historically even been resold at art auctions.

. Functional Items These would be your “normal” toys, like G.I. Joe and Barbie. Do people collect them and display them? Sure, but they are intended to be played with. Just like those coffee mugs with the painting printed on them are meant to be used though I’m sure some people display them.

Limited Edition Items Small run production pieces, hand-made resin figures, and the sort would all reside here. Most have a set quantity being produced and some do come signed. More care and attention is typically taken in the making of these, producing higher quality Designer Toys.

Display Items Here are where a lot of the mass-produced Designer Toys would reside. They are intended to be displayed, viewed, looked upon like highly affordable art. The main difference would be that Designer Toys tend to have a much better resale value than traditional art display items would.

The Original Painting The only real correlation that can be drawn would be to custom figures, pieces that literally treat the figure like a canvas and the artists crafts a new piece on it. Most are one-of-a-kind and are sometimes even used as the blueprints for production figures. Clutter 39 SDCC | 19


So now that we’ve hopefully shown that Designer Toys truly are pieces of art, what exactly attracts an artist to want to produce them? Designer Toys — to me — are the logical progression of the reaction against the classical institution of art… Think about Pop Art, specifically the work of Andy Warhol: to understand his work, you didn’t need to have studied art theory for half your life or read some dissertation on his intent, you merely had to know what a Campbell’s Soup Can was. Art for the masses, art that every average Joe could comprehend... No one questions whether Andy Warhol’s works are art; they might question the validity of that art, but it’s commonly accepted that he was an artist who created art. So why would Designer Toys be regarded any differently? They are a format that keys into a childhood nostalgia that almost everyone shares (having toys) while elevating the design to something far more artistic and inspired.

To the right we have a variety of versions of Frank Kozik's "PoTaMuS" design, each manufactured in a different material. There are two versions cast in traditional sculpture mediums (Porcelain and Metal) as well as the exact same design in Vinyl. So why would some be considered art and the other not?

Vinyl by Toy2R

Frank Kozik’s “PoTaMuS

Metal by Fully Visual

In fact, for this design, the vinyl format almost seems more appropriate, embracing the playful caricature nature of the piece while still twisting the nostalgia with the inclusion of the cigarette and anarchy symbol. And while it's wonderful that high-end materials can be used to produce the same design, Kozik has crafted a cultural commentary that almost begs to be owned by the common man… who might not be able to afford the Porcelain or Metal versions but can surely splurge on the Vinyl format if he so desired. Porcelain by K.olin tribu

A truly modern art for the masses medium: Designer Toys.

“Historically, Designer Toys take mass manufacturing techniques, usually reserved for producing high volume runs of product, and applies the sensibilities to producing higher end multiples of an art object. The artist works within the constraints of the process to create a beautiful and collectable piece, turning the purpose of these methods on its head. “More recently artists have started to use more home grown and DIY techniques to produce similar effects; Less mass market techniques, but the same ethos. “I believe that ultimately Designer Toys will continue to evolve as a medium for artists. However, a danger stems from commercialization with a focus on profit and mass production, which is at odds with the roots of this industry. Ultimately this scene is driven by and supported by the collectors. I think sometimes the artists forget how important not only direct to collector sales are, but also the secondary market, without which there would be no industry.” Miranda O’Brien Forest Warlord by Bigfoot x Kuso Vinyl Painted by Skinner 20 | Clutter 39 SDCC

Editor-in-Chief


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

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

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

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

Photo: The Hang Gang

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

By Paul Budnitz, founder of Kidrobot When I first opened the very first Kidrobot store in San Francisco, Huck Gee and I used to sit behind the counter cleaning the glass, hoping someone would eventually come in and buy one of our toys. Eventually a person would walk in from the street, look at the toys in the glass cases for a while, and finally ask, “what are these things?” I’d carefully reply that they were Designer Toys, created by artists in limited editions. Very special, very beautiful things. Then they’d say, “Yes — but what are they from?” I’d patiently explain that they weren’t from anything — not from TV shows, cartoons, movies, video games, or comic books.  Just works of art that someone had made up. “Then why would I want one?” they’d ask, and stomp out of the store. Over time more people have got used to the idea that things can be beautiful just for what they are, as opposed to what they are related to.  I think that’s what’s most wonderful to me about Designer Toys — they only rely on themselves for their appeal. In order for a toy to work, it has to stand on its own. That challenges us, because when we see something new, we are forced to stretch a little, and make the world a bigger place. Clutter 39 SDCC | 21


BIGSHOT TOYWORKS

INTERVIEW BY BRIAN VANHOOKER

Even if you haven’t heard of the name Klim Kozinevich, you have undoubtedly heard of his work. A dominant force in both the mainstream and designer toy markets for decades, he’s been a part of some of the most iconic designs on both sides. He’s the creator of All City Style, was trusted to redesign Mr. Potato Head and My Pet Monster, and oversaw the sculpts on countless projects for Kidrobot. A longtime friend of Clutter, we decided it was time to sit down again with Klim and see what he’s been up to lately.

Y

ou’ve been in both the mainstream and designer toy businesses for years, but can you give us a quick overview of your background for those who don’t know?

Well, I’ve been making toys for a little over twenty years now. I’ve been working behind the scenes in production and development for pretty much everybody from Hasbro to Mattel to Fisher Price. I’ve done a lot of toy-related development for different artists and brands. As for designer toys, I’ve been doing stuff in the designer toy scene since like 2001. I’ve 24 | Clutter 39 SDCC

had a lot of fun working with Kidrobot and Frank Kozik. We have a common aesthetic for stuff and have had a lot of fun over the years. My company, Bigshot Toyworks, is primarily a service provider for the entertainment industry where we take peoples’ characters and brands and turn them into commercial products, whether it’s toys or games or whatever. We also make our own stuff, where either we partner up with different artist friends or just things I brainfart, like the FUnicorn or the Four Horsies of the ‘Pocalypse or a number of other things we have cooking right now. Can you tell me a little bit about the Four Horsies of the ‘Pocalypse?

Sure! Because everything we do is always covered under a non-disclosure agreement, I’m always struggling with what can I show people that I’m working on so that they don’t think I’m dead. I used to just post pages from my sketchbook, but then I had to stop because it takes so long to come up with something original and then, like two months later, you see someone come out with something that’s


What else are you working on now?

Well, we’ve got a lot of really exciting things cooking with Kidrobot. The Horrible Adorables we did just shipped and that was so much fun. [Jordan Elise Perme & Christopher Lees] were so easy to work with, their style is really nice. Their aesthetic was very different from mine; generally, I like stuff that’s really chubby with big eyes and really expressive, but their stuff has their own unique look and we really had to adjust to their aesthetic.

Opposite: Little Maddie, 2014 Top Clockwise left to right: General Tso’s Nightmare by Frank Kozik, 2016 Klim Kozinevich Tangled Twins & Foxolotl by Horrible Adorables, 2016

just like your design.

We were like, “How the fuck do we do all those scales?” Ultimately, we ended up doing it exactly the same way they do it by hand, where each scale was placed on the 3D model individually. I think at one point Kidrobot asked, “Isn’t there like a button you can press?” and, unfortunately, there wasn’t. It came out really nicely, and I was so glad they went with the larger size for that.

So [when] I stopped doing that, which sucks because I enjoy it, I said: “Let me come up with something that no one would rip-off because it’s so stupid.” What about a My Little Pony and Cthulhu mash-up? I did a quick sketch and sent it to one of my sculptors, who did a mockup, and we were just laughing about how stupid it looked and it was such a weird juxtaposition. We posted it on social media and people really liked it.

Anyway, we’re working on a lot of crazy stuff with Kidrobot, like the Death Dealer, the Anatomy Bugs Bunny, and the General Tso vinyl.

Eventually, it blew up and I decided to do a Kickstarter for it. It got funded and, during the production of that, we decided to launch another Kickstarter as that was shipping, so that’s when we launched the Four Horsies… And that one got funded too! We produced those and now we’re working on a board game for it.

(Laughs) Well, because we do a lot of branding and mascot development, we’ve spoken to the Colonel Sanders people about doing some stuff and I put together some pitch materials about what a really cute Colonel Sanders toy would look like. And then there’s the General Tso piece we did with Frank Kozik, which was pretty fun. But no, there’s no unhealthy fascination with the Colonel. (Laughs)

A board game?

Yeah, it’s tough because board games aren’t really my thing, but it’s fun. It’s basically all fart jokes.

That General Tso vinyl is such a great design, it’s hilarious. I’ve noticed, there’s a number of Colonel Sanders items designed by Bigshot Toyworks, is there a reason for that?

Is it a conflict to do a parody of something and the actual something?

Well, there is some stuff we would never take Clutter 39 SDCC | 25


on. Like we do a lot for Disney, so we’re not going to do porno Stormtroopers, as much as I’d love to. But the Colonel thing is a parody, plus a collaboration with Frank, and it was just fun. Honestly, if there were issues there, someone would have told us and it would have stopped. So you’ve designed toys for a number of company mascots, can you describe the process of adapting a drawing like that into a toy?

Our process is centered around the idea that most people only have one view of their character and sometimes, if all you draw is the one three-quarter or one front view of your monkey or chicken-head or whatever, you don’t know what the other sides look like. Then, when presented with the side view, you may be like “That’s weird, I didn’t expect this, can we add this change? Can we add some more hair? Can we add some balls here?” And that can get a little frustrating, so there’s a lot of wrangling that I do to reel that in, but it’s also really cool because we get to define someone’s iconic character in a 3D space. Can you talk about some of your favorite mainstream toys you’ve worked on?

Actually, some of my favorite stuff from mainstream toys we’ve done never made it to market. Really? Like what?

We did an entire line of recycled plastics and wood products for Playskool that was mindblowingly awesome, as well as some other stuff, but as for stuff that did get made… I redesigned Mr. Potato Head to the most recent version. Wow! What was it like changing something so iconic?

One of the things I’m really good at is maintaining the integrity of the original and 26 | Clutter 39 SDCC

updating it in a way that you can’t really tell it’s been updated. Like, I did My Pet Monster for Toy Max in 2001, and people would get so excited but they don’t notice that it’s got a completely different nose, a completely different face; he looks much friendlier, where the original had his pickled-dick nose. He was really fucked-up looking. And that’s still my thing, to update classic characters, like we did with My Little Pony and the NesQuick Bunny. So how does an independent person or company go about making their own toy?

Well, for an independent person who’s trying to get their feet wet in the industry, I’d say the best thing to do is to try out some resins, small run, hand-made, and gauge your fan base and see what’s possible. Years ago, there were instances where somebody would be talking to me with their kid crying in the background, and they’re talking about taking out a second mortgage because they believe in their children’s book, and they think it would make a great toy. You can hear in their voice that they believe in their project and their design is pretty cool, but they shouldn’t be taking out a second mortgage to make a toy to support a book, and it’s kind of fucked up that there are people out there who would take your money and tell you that it’s a good idea. To me, that’s just unethical. My goal is not to make your one toy. My goal is to make your fifth or sixth toy, or to help develop your entire line that we can build together as a brand, not

Above Right to Left: Four Horsies of the ‘Pocalypse: Calamity, 2014 Four Horsies of the ‘Pocalypse: Ghost, 2014


and I’d get glimpses of these photos that these kids had of trains that they’d painted. I got to know some of those guys and we were just hanging out, when I was thinking out loud and said: “Somebody should make a train that you can paint on.” And they all liked it and it just kind of stuck with me.

Above Right to Left:

just a random one-off.

Anatomical Wabbit by Jason Freeny, 2016

What would the cost be of making your own toy?

Four Horsies of the ‘Pocalypse: Ghost, 2014

It depends. There are some things that cost like $600, and others that cost $9,000 to $15,000. It all depends on artwork and the complexity of the piece. But unless you have a movie or TV show to support the brand, you’re going to be stuck with 10,000 boxes and using them as furniture. Really, it’s all about being aware of the market for your product.

FUnicorn - Gold, 2014 Colonel Sanders proposed redesign, 2014 All City Style customs by Louie “KR.ONE” Gasparro, 2015

Can you talk a little bit about All City Style?

Yeah, so, I went to the High School of Art and Design in Manhattan back in the mid-’80s, and back then the trains were just covered in graffiti. In the morning, all of my friends would meet up outside, opening their sketchbooks,

In 2002, I was working with some people who had connections in China and we had an opportunity to make the blank train. Then Lev [Israel Levarek] at Toy Tokyo and Aidan [Onn] at Playlounge both stepped up and agreed to have [gallery] shows, which were tremendously successful, and we’ve been making those trains ever since. What do we have to look forward to from you in the near future?

Oh man, San Diego Comic-Con should be pretty awesome. We have a pretty rad piece from Jermaine Rogers and more stuff from Kidrobot, especially, well… I can’t talk about it too much, but there’s this one piece that’s part of the Dunny series that people are just going to lose their minds over. It’s definitely one of the craziest things I’ve ever done. For more information on Bigshot Toyworks, please visit: BigshotToyworks.com Clutter 39 SDCC | 27


Curiouser & Curiouser BY BARBARA PAVONE

Since participating in her first custom toy show, Heavy Metal Qee, at Forbidden Planet in London four years ago, Penny Taylor and her Taylored Curiosities have garnered attention far beyond the British Isles. Inspired by childhood trips to designer toy shops, Taylor now creates her own unique pieces while also teaching art to the next generation of dreamers. Her most notable series to date, The Feelings, features hand-sculpted and plush personifications of human emotions, which are meant to act as talismans for those in need of a pick-me-up. A lover of green tea and snails, Taylor is currently on the move from Weymouth to London and working on an exciting new project involving dollhouses for Feelings. We caught up with Taylor to unearth the history behind these sweet emotion monsters and to find out where they’re headed next. 30 | Clutter 39 SDCC


Opposite: (left to right, front) The Feelings: Calm, Focus, Fretful-Nag, Anxiety, and (back) Worry the Aromatherapy Plush, all 2016

L

et’s start at the very beginning — when did you first begin dabbling in art?

A very good place to start! I just about managed to stop myself from breaking out into song. I have been creating art from a very young age. I recently found some plush toys I stitched together from scraps of felt when I was about six years old. They look very sorry for themselves, but it’s funny to look back and visually see my journey. I think my greatest creation as a child was the cardboard city I made. It was the size of our coffee table and each block of flats and houses had working doors and windows, complete with clay beings that resided there. When I was a little older, my dad began taking me to Kidrobot and Forbidden Planet in London whenever we would visit. Growing up in a tiny seaside town, these were like heaven for me. Each time he would let me choose a blind box toy to add to my collection. I used to say that one day I would have my own toys in a Kidrobot shop — something I am still aspiring to. What was your main inspiration for creating The Feelings?

There are so many emotions that people are struggling to deal with daily and I want to raise awareness and remind them that we all have feelings and it is normal to feel overwhelmed at times. You’re not alone — there’s someone close by feeling the same way. It’s part of being human.

and back in 2009, I created a creature called Worry. A small, wonky gray creature that I scented with lavender. I am a natural worrier and I know it is a big issue for a lot of the people around me. I made Worry to be the perfect shape to fit in a human hand and lavender is known to calm the nerves. The response to this character was overwhelming. I still have my own and the lavender still smells wonderful. Worry has altered slightly over the years but the simple gray, the wonky eyes, and the cute appeal have remained.

Above: untitled, 2016 Below: The Feelings series, 2016

Are there any new Feelings you plan to introduce soon?

I have quite a few to introduce in my activity book, which will be available in my online store in July, and I am excited to see what people think of my new characters. Because they are based on emotions, they each have

Worry’s have traveled far and wide — all around the world — to live in new homes and relieve people of their anxiety. Over the years, they have been joined by other Monster Emotions, each with its own issues and personality. This is an ever-growing family. What was the first Feeling you ever brought to life?

I dabbled in plush toys of various designs Clutter 39 SDCC | 31


their own color, shape, and concerns in life. Although these beings are named after their emotions, they are in no way negative. They are the personification of an emotion from my imagination and are created to act as talismans for human emotions. Tell them your concerns — a problem shared is a problem halved. Of all the Feelings that exist today, which one is dearest to you?

Fretful-Nag is a character I thought about for some time. I had the shape and specific color in my head, but I couldn’t find the right words to name it and make it whole. I eventually settled on Fretful-Nag, as it is that feeling you get sometimes when you wake up and feel full of fret. It stays with you for a while and really makes you feel that something is hanging over you, but when you finally search your brain, you 32 | Clutter 39 SDCC

realize it’s a leftover feeling from a dream and there’s actually nothing to worry about. It’s a feeling very close to my heart and I do have a soft spot for this little guy. You recently shared some touching fan feedback on Instagram — it must be surreal to know your art is having such a positive, uplifting impact on people’s lives?

It was very humbling. It’s always nice to know that my work is liked but to hear that it has made a difference and helped someone is on a completely different level. I definitely hope that my small pieces of art are helping. I think of them as my little workers: Each has a job to do when I send them out. To find out they are doing well at their jobs is really brilliant.

Above:: The Feelings Dollhouse prototype, 2016


Going through your Instagram feed, I also noticed that you have quite the passion for snails — how did that start? And where do these little guys live?

Snails are hilarious! We had some really bad storms at the start of the year and a baby snail somehow found its way inside the house. It had a slightly cracked shell and I didn’t have the heart to put it back out to brave the weather, so I kept it and called it Puck. I have two now, as I released Puck when he was big enough and his shell had healed. They live in an aquarium with vents and soil and eat my vegetable peelings, which is handy. They’re quite curious and like human attention. My recent Lethargy Feeling is loosely inspired by my snails. Who are some of the peers you look up to most?

The first people I met back in 2012 at the Heavy Metal Qee show in London — the first show I exhibited at — were some of the most accepting and awesome people I’ve met so far in life. I don’t get to as many gatherings as I once did, but I am moving closer to London this summer, so I will definitely be at more of the toy events. ToyCon UK in April is an inspiring event full of art and originality and a great excuse for us all to get together and party after. This year’s show had an official after-party, a not-so-official after-party and then a small party in the hotel bar till the next morning. To name a few of these wonderful people, there’s Dan Perry [Jazzy Dan] who opened the door for me by inviting me to take part in the Heavy Metal Qee show, Gary ‘Bluefrog’ Boon, Ian ‘Uncle Absinthe’ Rout, Jon-Paul Kaiser, Andy Hung and Gary Rozanski of The Toy Chronicle, [ToyCon UK organizer] Ben Hart, Benny Kline [of Tenacious Toys], Andy Heng [of TOYSREVIL], and Vincent Yu [of myplasticheart], who all do wonders promoting this part of the art industry and supporting us independent artists.

my art up. I used to be a real perfectionist, to the point of never being happy with anything I produced. There’s a lot of art in my house that I have never shared.

Above:

What’s the #1 lesson you try to teach your students?

The Feelings Dollhouse prototype (detail), 2016

untitled, 2016 Below:

I am much happier with my work since I learned to let go and working in a school has been the best for teaching me that. It’s also something that I try to share back with my students. They can be very self-doubting and hard on themselves and I can see how I used to be, so together we work on being more comfortable with our work. I couldn’t imagine not teaching now that I have been a part of this world!

By day, you work as an art teacher — what is that experience like?

I get to surround myself with art pretty much full-time. I currently teach senior school art, so from ages 11 to 16, but am about to start a new job in September where I will be teaching ages 11 to 18. I adore teaching. The children I work with are so curious and I like seeing the world from their point of view. I have learned a lot through my students and it has definitely affected my personal work. I’ve learned to let go and free Clutter 39 SDCC | 33


If you were forced to take a month-long break from art, how would you pass the time?

I actually was forced to take a month-long break when I partially tore a ligament in my knee. I couldn’t put any pressure on it, so I was homebound and unable to move about to access my art supplies. I watched a lot of box sets, like Supernatural and Orphan Black, and read a lot of books. The Miss Peregrine series by Ransom Riggs being my favorite of the time. If I was forced to do it again, but with mobility, I would most definitely head off on an adventure and visit lots of different places around the U.K. I love going to new places. What does your workspace look like?

I am currently based in a small seaside town called Weymouth. It’s on the south coast of England in Dorset. It’s very picturesque and we are spoiled for landscape here. I create from home, so all my art supplies are organized into square shelving in my living room, but once I move this summer I am hoping to build a proper studio in the garden. If we were to pay you a surprise visit, what’s the wackiest thing we’d find?

box. I keep meaning on casting them in clear resin to wear as jewelry.

Above:

Probably my collection of random things. Every time I venture out into the world, I come back with something — it makes my family laugh. I have jars full of buttons and string, sticks and stones, leaves and seaweed, beach glass and shells, most of which ends up incorporated into my creations. I even have a few dead bees in a

Can you reveal any details about the projects you’re currently working?

Below:

I will be having a solo show in August 2017 that will consist of my own dollhouse designs. Each one will be individually painted and furnished and will contain some of my Feelings characters. I always wanted to make my own dollhouse and it has worked well with my range of Emotion Monsters. The houses are just as wonky and unique as all my other work as they represent the subconscious mind. I am really excited about it and hearing people’s thoughts. I will have one piece at ToyCon UK next year to give an idea of the work I am creating. I am also in the midst of working on an exciting project with OHM beads, turning the Feelings range into wearable charms. That is something to look out for in the new year and is another step that I have always wanted to take with my work that is now becoming a reality! Finish this sentence, please: Taylored Curiosities is…

…a green tea-drinking kook, creating odd beings to aid in times of emotional overload.

For more information on Taylored Curiosities, please visit: tayloredcuriosities.com 34 | Clutter 39 SDCC

The Feelings, 2016

untitled works, 2016


Nick Curtis

In the previous article you were given the most general of explanations regarding what a Designer Toy is, but entering the world of Designer Toys is one fraught with words and phrases that the new collector might not understand, one of the most common likely being “Blind Box” (or “Blind Boxed”), a term that gets thrown around like it’s going out of style. But fear not, it’s actually quite easy to understand, especially if you remember the days of buying McDonald’s Happy Meals. “Wait, what?!? McDonald’s Happy Meals?” you might proclaim. And yes, McDonald’s Happy Meals — in the most simple terms — are blind boxes. When you’re a kid, the reality is that what you really want is that toy in the Happy Meal, but McDonald’s makes five or six toys with a similar theme that are randomly inserted into said Happy Meal. So, until you buy the Happy Meal and open it up, you don’t know which of the toys you’ve received. This is the heart of Blind Boxes. A Blind Boxed Designer Toy indicates that multiple designs for the piece were produced and randomly packaged in boxes, so you have to buy the box without knowing the exact contents (that being the ‘blind’ aspect). For instance, let’s say that the same figure has been produced in five colors (which we call “colorways”): Red, Blue, Green, Yellow, and Black. If that figure is then Blind Boxed, you buy the box without knowing which color you’ll receive… and, assuming there is an even distribution of colors, you have a one-in-five chance (one figure in the box, five total possible colorways) of getting a specific color in your box. But, typically, Blind Boxed releases aren’t evenly

Dunny 2011 Series by Various Artists & Kidrobot

King Tut 8” Dunny by Sket One & Kidrobot

distributed. It’s usually more like this: As an example, let’s look at the Sket-One designed “King Tut” 8-inch Dunny (pictured above). On the left in the back is a picture of the Blind Box, then there’s the Regular Figure (pictured on the right in the back) and the Chase Figure (pictured in the front). A Chase Figure (or Variant Figure) is usually one that is produced in a lesser quantity, making it more rare to randomly find. This rarity is denoted by ratios, which is that mathematical thing you might recall from your classroom days; but in this instance, it’s easy. The Regular Figure has a 4/5 ratio, or a four-in-five chance; meaning that for every five boxes packaged, four of them contained this figure. That final fifth box contains the Chase Figure, indicating you only have a 1/5 (or one-in-five) chance of blindly buying it. Not that tough to grasp, right? Unfortunately, the above example was a rather simple version… most Blind Boxed series have over 10 different figures each with their own ratio. But even though that might seem daunting to figure out, just take a breath and think it out. It’s actually far easier than it seems.

36 | Clutter 39 SDCC


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

Mao & Mrs. Mao by Frank Kozik & Kidrobot

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

Lunartik in a Cup of Tea by Matt JOnes

“I give a small warning to all collectors, these are quite addictive and it’s a bit like gambling, but the good thing is there normally under £10.00 a pop which is good for everyone’s pocket. “I like to compare blind boxes with oysters, they’re not much to look at from the outsides, but open them up and there sits another pearl to add to your growing collection! “Happy hunting!” Matt “Lunartik” JOnes (www.lunartik.com) Clutter 39 SDCC | 37


NEON NIGHTMARES BY JOSH KIMBERG

The 1985 film The Explorers is the story of a sci-fi obsessed boy who has a recurring dream which reveals the blueprint of a spaceship. For most, the film was just a fun fantasy adventure, but for a young boy named Dave, it would become a metaphor for his life. In addition to an obsession with sci-fi, Dave latched onto horror movies, skateboard art, comic books, and video games. All of which combined together in the young daydreamer’s mind to create his own kind of blueprint, but instead of schematics it consisted of brightly-colored skulls, freaks, and monsters, which would later become the signature style of the artist known as Scarecrowoven.

T

he first questions really has to be why Scarecrowoven?

In all fairness to my fans, I’ve given a lot of contrary explanations as to why and where it came about. But, in truth, when I was a kid, I quickly identified that bands for some reason were given license to pull names out of the air and identify themselves, but not so for visual artists. So for me, it kinda started when I noticed how Walt Simonson signed his name; he made it look like a dinosaur and that started the juices flowing and I thought to myself, “I don’t even need to sign my name, I could just make up a symbol or something,” which I did for like ten years. Then, later, when Todd McFarlane, Dale Keown, and Rob Liefeld started to really explode in the comic world, I sincerely thought that their names were so badass that they must have made them up. The funny part was that I was way too old to believe this. I think maybe it was just what I needed to believe. So, I came up with a name to and I’ve been using it both in visual art and music ever since. Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.

I’m 6’3” and I like long strolls in 38 | Clutter 39 SDCC

the forest. My diet consists mostly of ammonia, helium, methane, and hydrogen similar to the gasses found in the atmosphere of the Jovian planets of Earth’s solar system. I have a prehensile tale. I reproduce through osmosis. I have no understanding of both simple and complex mathematics. And I have massive anxiety 97% of the time. So, if you meet me and I’m weird, it’s just because of that. You are best known for your use of vivid colors and for your super tight line work, is that a predominantly ’80s influence?

Growing up, for all I knew, Cru Jones from Rad lived down the street and delivered my paper every day, and Jaws was a documentary film. I took movies, music, and comics really seriously, which got me in trouble a lot because I was definitely a daydreamer. I’m a little trapped in that era for better or worse, so naturally I think it’s where my work derives from. Your imagery is usually super dark and creepy, but somehow the use of bright colors lifts and makes it more accessible. Is that juxtaposition intentional, or was it a happy accident?

I think so… In the ‘80s we had so many incredibly inspiring and original ideas that blossomed in front of us and my mind was very susceptible and malleable at that time, being a kid. To watch video games evolve from the arcade to the Atari 2600 to the Nintendo, or [to] watch Star Wars in the theater for the first time with the rest of the world really left its mark on me creatively, and I don’t think a lot of kids growing up today will have that.

Yeah, that’s exactly what it is. It goes without saying that I love monster movies. Couple that with technicolor movies and the print limitations of comics and skateboard art in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Again, even video games, because of the technological limitations, used unshaded, bright, solid color. So I think those are the fundamental elements that formed my color theories.

I think the movie, The Explorers is almost a metaphor for what it was like for me in a lot of ways. For my personality, there was no way to be surrounded by so many things and not dream and not want to do big things.

Real life horror and violence isn’t in any way cool or entertaining to me, so I think my color palette removes you from the reality of it a bit. That’s not to say it shouldn’t make you feel something or provoke something, but


when it’s contained within the art itself there is a border between it and real life. So really, I guess, it’s both unintentional, because I grew up with it, and intentional at the same time, because I’ve sustained it. I could go on in book-length about my color choices. I am kind of a color nerd; I honestly just look at Pantone books sometimes for fun. Having said that, I’ve been toning it down a bit lately which has been equally rewarding. What was the worst job — in general, it doesn’t have to be art — or project you’ve done? And what lesson did you learn from it?

Well, from big clients to small clients, I’m lucky and thankful for each and every gig that I get. I’m in an incredible position that I’m a working professional artist with a wife, kid, and house. Sometimes I’ll get hired

to do neon colored monsters, but somewhere in-between it turns into black and white woodblock prints. It can be pretty funny sometimes the way work transforms. When did you learn about the art toy world?

them. It’s an amazing feeling to be part of it and make them. I couldn’t be a happier person. What was the inspiration for Yugla the Glorg? Are you planning on making more?

Well, toys are the one thing I’ve collected my entire life, so it’s safe to say I was definitely there when it took place at least as a collector, but making toys always seemed to be something far off in the distance. They were made in factories by giant companies and making toys, as much as I wanted to, didn’t really seem obtainable.

Yugla, as it will become more evident in the future, is a culmination of the things in pop culture I love and that covers everything, from cartoons to video games. Both visually and the mythology that I’ve developed for him, I think, are a response or reaction to everything that’s accumulated in my mind since I was a kid. So, in a way, he’s my baby before I had an actual human baby. Or, maybe, he’s just me?

I don’t think it was until people started to ask me to paint their toys or do collaborations that I realized I could be doing this stuff myself affordably, which has been such an amazing gift. I’m so passionate about toys and the culture that surrounds

I have turnaround drawings for a full-figured original Yuga the Glorg “Chinese” matte surfaced vinyl figure. He’s 10-inches tall and everything I want him to be, the release date will more than likely be around 2017 and well worth the wait. Eyes will be Clutter 39 SDCC | 39


crying gleeful puss.

it myself.

Did you cast that piece yourself? Do you sculpt?

Having said that, I just tag team with a sculptor these days when I’m producing toys, like the “Yuga the Glorg” vinyl or my current “Midnight Moon Glorg” sofubi we are working on, which I might add should be coming out by the end of the year if all goes as planned.

Yeah, all the Yugla “boots” and masks I molded and cast myself. It’s an interesting topic, I went to school for photography for a little while and multiple professors described my work as three-dimensional, which sounded artsy at first, but they were right and encouraged me to take sculpting classes, which I had already done. It’s weird, I think sculpture comes to me more naturally than even drawing or painting, and I know I’m really good and have confidence when doing it, but I shy away from it for a few reasons. The first being that it’s much easier to hold a pencil to paper than it is to prepare clay and all the tools needed to sculpt properly and far less portable than drawing. The second reason is that it really pisses me off, I get so stressed out when I sculpt, I think I need a week of mediation for every hour I spend sculpting. So, it’s unfortunate because I could get a lot more toy work done if I just did 40 | Clutter 39 SDCC

The custom Dunny you created for the DTA Show last year was killer! Do you enjoy customizing?

I do, and I loved doing that one in particular because there was so much surface area being as large as it was. I get asked to do a lot of private commissions on vinyl toys, but they are usually in the 6- to 10-inch range so I don’t get to spread my wings as widely as I did for that one. I get caught saying this pretty often, but I think it’s important to assert, the great thing about that Dunny and all toy art is that it can’t be downloaded, it can’t be put on a sticker, T-shirt, or print. It totally exists within itself. I think that’s the clear distinction between

illustration and toy art and it’s a really special thing that I think resonates with people that collect customized toys and those who create them. There is a far more personal connection between the artist and the collector that you can’t reproduce with T-shirts. What do you collect?

Where do I start? Comics, anything Star Wars. Hot Toys are the world’s worst addiction, which are fed to me intravenously. Vinyl toys, sofubi, action figures, vintage non-VHS video formats, vintage video games, metal lunch boxes, vintage movie posters, Ben Cooper masks… a lot. I keep everything on display in my studio. I don’t believe in storing collectibles away somewhere, you might as well not have it, right? My studio is my sanctuary. What other artists do you admire?

As far as illustration goes, my big thing is my brush work, so I’m always attracted to other artists whose use


of the brush. I respect Mike Allred, Charles Burns, Michael Cho, and [Evan] “Doc” Shaner, all dudes that have amazing composition, brush control, and don’t need a thousand brush strokes to communicate. I wish I could do that, but I always keep adding lines! Coincidentally, all of those guys have a real classic style to their illustrations, but, at the same time, add enough modern elements to make their work completely original. People like Steph[anie] Buscema, John K[ricfalusi], and Jonathan Adrian blow my mind with the way they use 1950’s animation sensibilities; vibrant crazy colors and control of gouache and cel vinyl.

or “I could paint that.” My response has always been, “then paint it and shut up!” The point is that they did do it instead of thinking of doing it or complaining that they could do it. That’s why art can be so gratifying and build your self-esteem; no one else on Earth created that artwork except for you. Stick figure monsters are cool sometimes, but you’ll do better to arm yourself every way you can as an artist. So, can you talk about any of your upcoming projects with Mondo?

I can’t say much since we are still

in development stages, but I will say it’s one of my favorite things I’ve been involved in in a while. It’s toys, and it’s licensed properties, so, for me, it really is a dream gig. It’s everything I love about being an artist. We’ve been working on it for a few months now, and all I know is that when the dust settles, minds will be blown.

For more information on Scarecrowoven Toyworks, please visit: scarecrowoven.com

What advice would you give a young Dave? Anything you would have done differently?

I should have listened to Chuck Mosley: Don’t waste your youth doing nothing! I spent a lot of time not working hard and expecting success to come to me without putting the time in. It was cool and all to roll around in Japan in my twenties, but I would literally spend weeks in video game arcades in Shibuya. Having said that, I was really happy at the time, and I’m really happy now, so… What’s the biggest mistake you see young designers making?

I think there is a lot of ironic art out there. The majority of people can’t draw, so when they see poorly rendered art they immediately relate to it and champion those who are doing it. I’m not saying that this kind of art is bad, and I’m not even saying what I have to offer is better by any means, but I think it also creates a trend of artists or designers who want to break in without certain basic art skills. So when people come to me and want advice, I always tell them to stop drawing monsters and start drawing landscapes and apples. Buy some books on human and animal anatomy because they will be a thousand times more versatile than the guy that can only draw stick figure monsters. Nothing bothers me more than the dude at an art gallery that says, “my kid could paint that”

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BY NICK CURTIS

A

s the beast-god regained consciousness, the realization of a sharp pain grew in its chest. Without looking, he could feel cavernous wounds covering him, but for the moment he could remember nothing of how they got there. Then, abruptly, twin green lizard-like horrors filled his mind and he bolted upright. Nothing was forgotten now. He recalled the smallest details. Their massive forms rivaled his own, striding towards him upon powerful hind legs. Of forelegs they had almost none; only claw-like members good for nothing save to lift food into their mouths. And their mouths:Â red apertures filled with pointed, carnivorous teeth. He had dealt with similar meat-eaters before, they usually scattered before the thunderous din of his clenched hands beating his deep breast, but these were unlike the others. One

Opposite:

appeared like a fallen foe, its broken jaws wagging as its torn hide lumbered forth, and the other was coated in an oozing slime, dozens of eyes peering forth from the liquid splashes. Both should have been stretched out in death, their meat feeding lesser creatures, but neither relented in their movements. Standing their ground defiantly on either side of him, their teeth bared and gleaming, they lunged in unison. Falling off his balance, the beast-god whirled backward, head over heels, twisting his body in ways not intended. Broken, trapped, the meat-eaters had their meal, the slime covered one accidentally pouring its liquid hide into a newly opened chest wound on the beast-god. Remembering all this, he battered his breast exultantly, roaring his defeat. He was Kong no more. Whatever he was, he wanted revenge.

James Groman’s Rotten Rexx and Hiroto Ohkubo of InstincToy’s Liquid Vincent are the two meat-eaters in question, but to develop a shared foe for their creations the two artists collaborated on something wholly new: King Korpse.

King Korpse concept illustration by James Groman, 2015

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How did you two first meet? Hiroto Ohkubo: I was attending DCon [DesignerCon] in 2014. At that time, my InstincToy’s booth was right next to Lulubell’s booth, where Rotten Rexx was being sold and James was there. That was the first time we met. James Groman: I remember Hiroto coming into the booth and admiring my hand-painted Ultimate Rexx we had there — the very first Rotten Rexx figure that I ever painted, mind you! HO: The coating, design, everything about that figure was just so attractive. I really wanted that Rotten Rexx, so I entered the lottery. Since James has a lot of fans, I thought that it would be difficult to win but luckily my name was the first one to be drawn. JG: It was so great that he won the lottery and was able to purchase it! He gave me one of his Liquid Eroded Vincent figures, which was more than gracious of him. Such a quality piece of work! From sculpture to packaging, an amazing presentation! Did winning that Rotten Rexx lead to InstincToy produced a couple of colorways for the figure? And was that experience of working together the beginnings of how did the King Korpse collaboration come about? HO: As soon as I got that [Ultimate] Rotten Rexx, I became one of James’ fans and a collector of the Rotten Rexx. There were many Rotten Rexx releases from Lulubell after that, but I thought — in comparison to what I got at DCon — that the coatings were not attractive at all. So I began talking with Lulubell, as I wished to make an exclusive Rotten Rexx color under the InstincToy label. JG: When I heard that he was doing a short run of fully decorated Rexx’s for InstinctToys, I knew — based on the quality of the Vincent I received — that the quality of the figures would be top-notch. When I finally received two of them, they exceeded my expectations! He had followed my hand painted deco faithfully, and included a number of metallic paint hits. I was so excited that I contacted Hiroto-san about them. HO: I was so glad to hear that James liked our exclusive, so I took the opportunity to ask James if he wanted to collaborate with me on something new. JG: I, of course, jumped at the opportunity. HO: And that is how the collaboration began.

What attracted both of you to doing a King Kong inspired piece? HO: First of all, while we knew we were going to work together, we did not start out with a clear idea of what we were going to do. I had a story in mind involving a “battle between rival monsters,” I’d wanted to make something like that for a while. In considering Rotten Rexx and InstincToy’s Vincent, and how these two figures’ designs draw inspiration from a Tyrannosaurus Rex, the idea of creating something with a King Kong theme just came into to me. So I proposed making this gorilla to James. JG: I was so excited! I had formulated a similar idea earlier, as a follow up to Rexx. As I say time and time again, the original 1933 King Kong is my favorite film of all time, and the idea of a corpse Kong standing alongside his ultimate reptilian rival, Rotten Rexx, on my toy shelf was too great to pass up. I did one sketch of the idea and sent it off. HO: When James showed me his King Korpse sketch design, I loved it immediately. What was the process for creating the basic model? My understanding is that James sculpted it by hand and then all the parts were 3D scanned for Hirotosan to refine and adjust. Is that basically correct?

Above: Kng Korpse packaging illustration by James Groman, 2016


prototyping. I thought that this method would be advantageous, particularly when it came time for InstincToy to work their magic. HO: I was able to edit them using 3D modeling techniques and optimize them for the subsequent manufacturing process. JG: He would then send me multiple, full 3D sculpted turns of Kong as they got him ready… I would then send notes, suggestions, and sometimes just compliments as I saw this project evolve into what it is today. Speaking of what it is today, whose idea was it to place the Liquid Eroded Heart, an evolution of InstincToy’s Ice Liquid, into the removable rib cage? JG: I actually had sculpted an exposed heart in the chest cavity, and never would have proposed anything like a removable rib-cage and heart. I would have thought any company would have thought it much too expensive to produce, so imagine my surprise when Hiroto proposed these added features! HO: I wanted a true collaboration with James, with something from James’ design and something from InstincToy as well.

Above: King Korpse 3D render turnarounds, 2016 Below: Hiroto Ohkubo at his InstincToy’s office with various Rotten Rex pieces and the King Korpse prototype, circa 2016.

JG: Yes, I sculpted the initial pattern over the span of a couple months, sending photos of my progress periodically for notes and suggestions from InstincToy. The sculpture ended up very large and we had many concerns about shipping the finished sculpture overseas. I prefer making rubber molds of my figures and having resin casts shipped to companies in other countries, but, as I said, King Korpse was huge. HO: So James made a 3D scan of it in the USA and sent the files to me. JG: Thankfully I’d come across a local Ohio company that did 3D scans and rapid

JG: He took it to another level by adding the idea of a tie-in with his Liquid Eroded line of figures, particularly his Vincent dino. HO: I made sure not to change the basic design of King Korpse, but balanced out the collaboration by hiding a Liquid Eroded Heart under the rib instead. Did either or both of you encounter difficulties collaborating on a sculpt when you’re on completely different sides of the world? HO: We did not encounter any difficulties at all. JG: I agree, this was an amazing collaboration. HO: I think that our minds were in sync throughout, that we clicked very well while working on this. JG: I also think that we were both had a mutual respect for each others work, and what the other wanted to accomplish, which is always the best foundation for any collaboration. I come from a background in toys, working with large corporations where you are usually just one voice of many, and your idea is not always the one that gets initiated, or even the best idea sometimes. What is great about this amazing designer vinyl toy movement is, that the creator is king. Yes, we have to keep in mind making our toys manufacturable and


tooling ready, but it’s more about individual artists ideas and design. In the case of King Korpse, it was two parties with a background in producing fun, original works teaming up to make something that benefitted from each of their creative backgrounds while maintaining a respect for each others own, individual ideas. King Korpse is something like 31 individual pieces, including the chains and manacles. That’s a massive amount of moving parts! What are some of your favorite aspects that having all that articulation allow? JG: As you may have gathered, I went a little nuts sculpting King Korpse. When doing a lot of these sculptures myself, I usually only do one view of the figure in the sketch stage, then make up details on the sides and back as I go… sometimes I may change the structure of a figure slightly while I sculpt, or even add details that were not in my original design sketch. I very much appreciate the efforts

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that Hiroto made to maintain the integrity of my original sculpt as he readied it for manufacturing, even adding extra parts and features that I never would have done myself. HO: I wanted to show the story of the “battle between rival monsters” through this design, so I made sure it had as many moving parts as needed to give maximum possibilities for expression. I thought, “regardless of what this figure costs, I want to make it the best.” JG: Usually a company is changing things to make a project cheaper and more cost effective, which means losing details. It was so gratifying to have a collaborator that was adding features and details I never would have thought possible. It is every creator’s dream to have this happen. Below:

Considering this is a battle partner for James’ Rotten Rexx and InstincToy’s Vincent, can we assume it will have a similar size?

King Korpse concept illustration by James Groman, 2015


HO: Yes. The sizes of both figures were taken into consideration and, while the sculpture that James made was 40cm tall, I thought a height of 32cm was the best size for King Korpse. JG: At 12 inches [tall], King Korpse is exactly the same height as Rotten Rexx. These guys are going to look amazing on a shelf next to each other, like a pair of nightmarish prehistoric book-ends. I can’t help but notice that the King Korpse sculpt has battle damage on the back, specifically, bite marks…

Below: King Korpse master sculpt by James Groman, 2015-16.

JG: Yes, we both thought from the very beginning that it would look great if Kong looked like he had battled either Vincent or Rexx at one time, and even died from those wounds… Based on suggestions from Hirotosan, I added a number of very specific wounds and scratches. The idea being that King Korpse had been in battle with Rotten Rexx and/ or Vincent, having teeth and claw marks that

would have been inflicted by these creature’s talons. Hiroto even suggested having broken claws still embedded in Kong’s shoulder, which I thought was great, since Rotten Rexx actually has a broken claw on his right forearm. HO: I thought this battle damage would spark collectors’ imaginations about the battles between the monsters. When can we expect the debut version of King Korpse to be released? And are there any plans for special editions, perhaps a two-pack with Vincent? HO: We are trying to set the King Korpse releases for July. Hopefully, we can finish it in time for our Wonder Festival booth in Japan and, before that, for James to bring it to the Xenoplasm show in Melbourne… JG: Yes! For those who don’t know, the Outré Gallery in Melbourne is putting together an amazing show on July 8th with a multitude of some of the best talent in the designer vinyl industry. It is a kind of introduction to the western/eastern designer vinyl toy world for Australia. We are hoping to have a painted King Korpse debut there alongside some other items I am cooking up! Given how amazing it seems this experience has been for both of you, are you already discussing future collaborations? JG: (Laughs) We had just started discussing the idea of some new collaborations the other day. I have a vault of concepts and ideas, with new ones being generated every day. I plan on pitching InstincToy some of them in the coming weeks, as soon as I clear my plate a little. I am actually interested in hearing his ideas as well. HO: I want to work on many more collaborations with James, as I think he is a special artist and InstincToy is proud and happy to work with him. JG: (Smiles) The King Korpse project has been such an amazing and artistically gratifying experience; I look forward to any and all new projects in the future with Hiroto-san and InstincToy. King Korpse is a career highlight, and one of the most complex releases I have been involved with in a while. It is going to be a tough one to top, but I always love raising the bar, so who knows what could happen!

For more information concerning James Groman & InstincToy, please visit: jgroman.blogspot.com & instinctoy.com Clutter 39 SDCC | 49


LESS IS MORE THE BUNNIES & BEARS OF ANDREA KANG BY MARK DeANGELIS

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Most minimalistic images make an striking impression due to their stark nature set against today’s climate of sensory overload. But once that initial shock fades, those images are reduced to cheap thrills. There’s a constant refrain that “less is more”, but really, the saying would be more accurate if it were “less can be more”. Making a lasting impression with a simple design requires plenty of artistic skill and judgment. In other words, only a subset of minimalist artists’ work is instantly recognizable. Andrea Kang’s illustrations and designer toys are sparse, unadorned, and muted, but are anything but forgettable. Her simple shapes and blank backgrounds leave breathing room for the emotion — or lack thereof — expressed by the animals and children. Whether stoic, sad, serene, the subjects’ ambiguous emotions are where the complexity lies within Andrea Kang’s work, forcing the viewer to create a backstory and making the work memorable. Clutter Magazine sat down to ask Andrea about her love of wildlife, the polarity of creating both designer toys for collectors as well as children’s toys for corporations, and dreams about faceless white rabbits.

Opposite: Bubblegum Bears, 2015 Above: “Bedtime Bear” series, collab. with Peter Kato, 2015

Y

ou have two degrees from RISD — a BFA in Industrial Design and an MA in Teaching, Art + Design Education. What was your experience at one of the most prestigious art schools like? Do you like living in Providence?

dreaded class critiques.

It was intense, but I had an incredible time! We called it the “RISD Bubble.” It was just a really inspiring environment to be immersed in. I felt lucky to be surrounded by so many talented artists from around the world and where my only objective and responsibility was to experiment and create art. Soon enough, I also realized that there would be plenty of allnighters ahead of me and angst about trying to get projects perfectly completed in time for the

Some fans might not know that you’ve designed a lot of traditional toys, for brands like Hasbro, as opposed to art toys. What are the pros and cons of designing something for Hasbro, for example, over something for a designer toy brand?

I do like living in Providence; it’s a very charming city. Since the city was all new to me at that time, there were lots of places to explore like an abandoned amusement park and hidden ponds in the woods.

A pro of working with a traditional toy brand is that I can step in and help re-envision the

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direction of a brand. Whether it’s updating the design’s look or creating new products, I like tackling the challenge that’s presented to me. I feel a con would be that I don’t have much control over the final direction that product or brand goes due to the hierarchy structure that exists in a corporate environment. There are also more limitations on what can actually be produced due to things like safety regulations and needing to design for the masses. When I’m working with designer toy brands, I have much more freedom and can push my vision further. These companies can typically take more risks. As a result, they can help pave the future direction for toy design rather than having to design just with the current trends. You’ve mentioned that you had wanted to be a toy designer even back in middle school. Do you think the 12-year-old Andrea would be psyched to learn that she achieved her goal?

Oh definitely! At that age, I thought that being a toy designer was super niche, that like 100 people designed all the toys in the world. So yes, I would have been ecstatic! Your style is minimalist but distinct. How do you do so much with so little?

Mostly by experimenting with shapes, ambiguous forms, color, and proportions. For example, straight lines drawn vertically downward from eyes become tears and a simple frown can change the mood of a piece instantly. Additionally, I like to play with the angles of the eyes and face details. This can be very subtle, but in fact impacts the characters’ temperament and personality tremendously. I think by keeping the backgrounds minimal, I also allow the viewer the opportunity to place the characters where they want. By doing this they may be able to reference a more personal experience or memory. Sometimes very little can say even more. Your social media accounts are named after your adorable Pomeranian, Harlow. What’s the story behind you and Harlow?

She’s my little muse, the dog I always dreamed of having, and the inspiration to some of my characters. I try and incorporate some of the qualities she possesses — like being sweet, cute, magical, melancholic, and angsty — into the creatures I design. Speaking of Harlow, most of your art’s subjects are animals. Have you always loved wildlife?

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energies. I even remember as a kid being afraid to walk on the grass because I didn’t want to step on the ants. Your animals are adorable, but they look like they’re sad. How come?

Some are sad, but others are stoic, angry, angsty, and quietly content. I like portraying cuteness, but with an underlying emotion. I think that initially when something is cute, people automatically assume that it is happy. But what I want the viewer to see when they take a closer look at my animals are the complex feelings of the characters. I want to capture glimpses of emotions that may be quickly overlooked or hidden, highlighting feelings of uncomfortableness, anxiety, or awkwardness. You usually stick to drawing bears and bunnies, but you sometimes use foxes, dogs, and humans. How do you pick which animal to draw?

Usually, it’s just what I feel like drawing at that time and I will choose [which animals to draw] depending on the theme or situation. I draw bears and bunnies probably because I have personal connections with both animals. As a child, I had an extensive plush teddy bear and bunny collection that helped inspire me to be a toy designer. Thanks to my mom I even have a bunch of drawings that I did between the ages of three and six years old of bears and bunnies that she neatly kept in two binders for me. I

Above: “I Found a Bear,” 2016


works, I did a lot of cut paper pieces and watercolors. I’m kind of on a kick now of painting with gouache onto wood panels. I like the chalky matte aesthetic it has. It sort of even reminds me of cut paper being pasted onto wood. Otherwise, I like drawing with fine tip micron marker pens. It’s pretty rare to see cut paper used to such great effect. How did you get into using that medium?

I got into cut paper as I used to work a lot with fabric and plush. To me, the paper had similar qualities to the fabric, where I had many different textures and patterns I could choose from. Cutting patterns out of fabric is similar to cutting pieces of the paper. When I translated my work into cut paper art, I liked the tactility it brought to the piece. It just felt like an intuitive transition. Have you ever thought about producing your cut paper pieces in multiples? Maybe using die-cut processes or something along those lines?

Above: “Bubble Bear I,” 2013

sometimes reference those drawings because I like the naivety the character designs have. There’s also a recurring dream that I’ve had off and on that’s filled with faceless little white rabbits. What are some tools you use for your illustrations? A lot of your drawings use fine tip marker, right? What are you into at the moment?

I use a wide range of mediums. In earlier

I have thrown the idea around. Through my travels, especially overseas, I’ve seen some really beautiful die-cut stationery and cards. I think that I could explore that direction with new products for my shop at some point in the future. You’ve collaborated with Nathan Jurevicius and Peter Kato in the past. Who would you like to work with in the future?

There are too many to choose from, though I have spoken with artists like Muxxi, Bubi Au Yeung, and Stickymonger [Joohee Park] about possible collaborations in the future. You always have fun customs for NYCC. Do you have any ideas for NYCC 2016?

If all goes as planned, I may be releasing a new figure this year. It’s all a secret for now so you’ll have to wait and see! What’s next for Andrea Kang?

At the moment I have a couple of new toys I’m working on as well as a small plush knit line. I also have another solo show happening at PIQ in Grand Central in November. Other than that, every day seems so unpredictable that I’m not quite sure what’s next myself!

For more information on Andrea Kang, please visit: instagram.com/harlow_bear

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DOING THE MONSTER MASH

BY SETH FISCHER

Anyone unfamiliar with the works of Melita Curphy, also known as Miss Monster, has deprived themselves of one of the most dedicated and charismatic artists in the toy world today. From her extremely intricate masks to her wildly elaborate dolls, the care put into the creation of each piece is reflected by their panache, and thankfully the art world has really begun to take notice. From collaborating with Sideshow Collectables on their first ever original property to teaming up with Glitch Network to create an action figure, versatility is just another in a long list of overwhelmingly impressive traits. And right at the top of that list is that she’s a monstrously talented designer currently at the top of her game.

L

ast time you spoke with Clutter in 2011, you had what seemed like a thousand random projects going on. It seems like you’ve been busy since then.

It’s been a busy few years! I jump from medium to medium so much it’s hard to list them all, but, over the last year, I have been focusing a lot on more toy and art object casting since finally getting a pressure pot. It has allowed me to get a little more elaborate with my sculpts and cast in translucent urethane. It’s pretty fun since things can glowin-the-dark, have metal foil embedded into them, all kinds of bells and whistles.

It also allowed me to make smaller work, so I got into the 1/6 customizing game too. I’ve also been trying to step up my mask sculpting game and make stuff that’s a little different. This past winter, Larry — my boyfriend of almost ten years and shop assistant — and I moved to Southern California. That took about a year of planning, packing, and making as much work as I could to save up and do it the “right” way. So, yeah… whew, we have been busy! You partnered with Sideshow Collectables for their first ever original property: Court of the Dead. First off, congrats! How did this pairing come about?


Thank you, I’m really happy to get to work with them, Sideshow is a really nice company to work for. My work got some attention from one of the art directors at Sideshow when I was at Monsterpalooza. Sideshow brings their mind-blowing Court of the Dead display there every year. We started talking and he asked if I wanted to do some illustrations for them, so, of course, I said yes. I got to visit their office last year and meet some of the other artists who work full time on CotD. It was pretty humbling seeing the quality of work that is involved. They wanted me to brainstorm some possible ideas for further merchandise for CotD since I used to be sort of a one-person factory — making my own barrettes, shirts, accessories — and that was very fun! What is the process like working with them? Opposite: The artist wearing her forthcoming Robodogman Mask, circe 2016 Bottom: Hand-painted Sentinel Masks, 2016

Each character’s lore and personality is very thought-out and established, so they wanted me to be faithful with the look, tone, and design. I like that, though. I thought it was cool when I was asked to do a correction on the way I drew a character’s hand — she wouldn’t hold her hand like that, more like “this.” And they were right, it worked! Every part of the illustration helps tell a story about these characters and I love that they care about those details.

You’ve also recently teamed up with Glitch Network on an action figure based on your Seraphim mask. The design was completely insane in a good way. Who approached who?

So I made the Seraphim mask as a purely personal project. I had hit a point where I felt like I never got to put a lot of time into pieces because at a certain point you can’t indulge any longer, you just have to cut the cord and get it done. It sounds harsh but when this is how you earn a living, you have to be realistic. So at that time I felt like I had let that balance tip too much and was just cranking things out and making a lot of safe, easy work. I wanted to make something that I allowed myself to languish on, something that was really out of left field for me design-wise. If people didn’t like it and it sold poorly, then: oh well, at least I did something just for myself. So I sculpted this thing, spent a ton of time on it, and really enjoyed pushing this design. Once it was ready to start casting I offered it as a blank mask kit like I always do and it sold the worst of all my masks! People LOVED it but it didn’t sell well at all! I was pretty bummed and started to feel pretty silly for spending all that time on it, but then out of nowhere, I got a message on Instagram from the Glitch guys. I knew their work from their God Complex series. I love independent


1/6th [scale] toys and their designs were so different and beautiful. So I started to talk to Bryan [Lie] through email and, woah, these guys are really going to make this into a toy! So, in the end, doing something different and risky paid off for me by opening the door to having a dream fulfilled! Why the name Dissonance?

We tried to find something simple but mysterious that suggested a struggle or battle. The story is a classic hero tale of good versus evil, but also decisions that can lead to personal struggle or dissonance. Is there a backstory to this particular figure?

I wanted to use the idea that this character is a hero who transforms, like a tokusatsu Kamen Rider-type thing. So I made up an alien critter who is intelligent and can merge with the main character to give them wild abilities. I intended the character to actually be a woman, despite her transformed state being pretty ambiguous, the old Metroid surprise reveal! The guys at Glitch used this idea to build a whole world. They went more for a “gods/ spirits in a world where certain types of people can merge with these beings” sort of fantasy/ science fiction. It’s really involved. I can’t wait to see how the comics come out! Are there any other companies out there

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you would love to partner up with or do you prefer to keep as much autonomy of your work as you can?

I definitely would not say no if I ever got approached by ThreeZero to collaborate on anything, but that’s a high aim and probably best left to daydreams. In your bio, you speak of how your dolls all come complete with their own unique story and personality. Do you remember the very first one?

My mom still has him! He’s turquoise with a rubber face, [as I] hadn’t learned about proper urethane casting yet. Amazingly, the face hasn’t rotted off after all these years. I hadn’t started to write stories for the dolls at that time, so he’s nameless and story-less. For your own independent projects, do you prefer to keep runs extremely limited because of the amount of work and care that goes into each piece?

Yes, that is one reason. The other reason is that I get bored after spending too much time on one design, especially if it is a really involved and complicated design that takes a lot out of me. I want to move on and improve. Sometimes I will fall in love with a design for a while or a design might be really popular and I want more people to get a chance to have it, but I also want my pieces to be treated like they are special and feel like they had love put


Opposite: The artist’s home studio, circa 2016 Above (left - right): Dissonance, 2016 The artist with her Robodogman Mask, circa 2016

into them so their owners can really treasure it. Was there ever a desire to create something that could be mass-produced in order to attract a wider audience?

Yes and no. Maybe not attract a wider audience since I don’t think my work has a wide, middle road appeal, but I guess to benefit fans or attract potential fans who can’t afford a $300 mask but would still like to own some work. Mass-producing something is also a wise step financially. If I can generate income by having a third party do all the work and make money while I’m not working, that’s smart. But I’d still want to make sure it’s a product I can be proud of! What’s the most random thing anyone has every said to you about your work?

I think the funniest/oddest reaction I ever got to my work was at some Steampunk convention. I had one of my owl masks on my table [and] a tween-aged girl with a shitty look on her puss came up to my table and sneered at the mask. She picked it up and went, “Ugh, so, like, what does this DO?” and I went, “It’s a mask. It goes on your face.” And she sneered again, set it back down, and stalked off. Made me so happy I never had kids.

detach yourself to prevent becoming overwhelmed?

It is really hard to detach. My home and [my] studio are the same thing, so there is always a temptation to work. I go through periods where I get really good at putting work down and having a life. Gardening helps me. I’m still being creative and constructive but it’s something I’m brand new to and has nothing to do with my usual activities. How often do people send you in photos of themselves wearing the masks? How about the shirts?

Not often at all, actually. I’d say of all my orders I mail out, I hear back or see photos from maybe five percent. It’s kind of a bummer since I work so hard but I try not to take it personally. It makes it even more special when I do get to hear something nice from a buyer! What’s next for you that you can talk about?

I’m pretty mean to my art. I love it, but I’m also really critical of it, so the older it gets the more I see all these flaws. I wish I had held on to one of the Attack The Block dolls I had made, though. I have been meaning to make one for myself, but… time and motivation.

Right now I am building a life-sized wearable helmet of my Robodogman character. The Robodogmen are 1/6 customs that I have made [of] these robots [who were] built to wage war but decided they didn’t want to be that anymore. They have these neat wedge-shaped toothy heads that I thought I might be able to fit a human head into if I made a life-sized one. So I sculpted one over a lifecast of my own face and the proportions worked out! I had to make a prototype to cut up to make sure the jaw could be hinged to move and [be] easily taken off and on. I think I have it figured out and will be able to release blank kits sometime this summer.

What do you do when you need to decompress from working? Is it important for you to be able to sort of

For more information on Miss Monster, please visit: missmonster.com

Any pieces you’ve sold that you wish you would have held onto?

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PRESENTS

FREQUENTLY ASKED LEGAL QUESTIONS FOR THE TOY DESIGNER BY BRIAN VANHOOKER

Lawyer Munny

A HANDY GUIDE ABOUT BASIC LEGAL ISSUES PORTRAYED ENTIRELY WITH CRUDELY DRAWN-UPON MUNNYS.

DISCLAIMER: Clutter assumes no responsibility for any legal decisions you make as a result of this cartoon. The following characters are Munnys and have no formal or informal legal training.

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A: A symbol, word, or words used to identify a brand, for example:

Q: What is a trademark?

Registered Trademark Symbol It lasts for 10 years and can be renewed indefinitely.

Q: What is a patent?

A: A patent protects an invention.

Crazy Scientist Munny

Finally! I have done it! I have created a Teddy Bear that can make smoothies!!

A patent would grant Crazy Scientist Munny the exclusive right to his invention for 14 years.

Q: What is a license or licensed Product? A: Licensing is an agreement between two or more parties where one party rents or leases an intangible asset to another party for a defined time period and under defined terms.

Toy r Manufacture Munny

I allow you to make smoothie bear action figures. Clutter 39 SDCC | 63


Q: What is an unlicensed product?

A: A product made without permission of the copyright owner. An example of which is a “bootleg” or “knockoff,” which is a counterfeit version of an existing product.

Pirate Munny

Argh, I be makin’ me own Smoothie-Bears. Another example is an original item made without permission from the copyright owner.

Q: Is a bootleg ever okay?

WELL, SOMETIMES.

SEE, WHILE NOT BEING LEGAL OR LICENSED, SOMETIMES A COPYRIGHT OWNER IS COOL WITH FANS OF A PROPERTY CREATING AND EVEN SELLING BOOTLEGS IF THEY DON’T SEE IT AS HARMFUL. SOMETIMES CREATORS EVEN SEE IT AS HELPFUL. BUT BEWARE,IT IS STILL ILLEGAL

64 | Clutter 39 SDCC


Q: What is a copyright?

A: The exclusive legal right to intellectual property that you have created.

I will name him “Mr. Smoothie-Bear” So where Crazy Scientist Munny may patent the design of a smoothie-making plush doll, the character and image of “Mr SmoothieBear” himself would be copyrighted.

Q: How long does a copyright last?

1. Everything before 1923 is in the public domain.

2. Everything published between 1923 and 1977 is covered for 95 years from the date of publication or 120 years from the date of creation, which ever expires first.

WELL, IT DEPENDS

3. Everything after January 1st, 1978 is covered until the death of the creator plus 70 years.

*U.S.-based copyright*

MYTH!

IF I MAIL MYSELF A COPY OF MY WORK, THAT’S AS GOOD AS A COPYRIGHT. NO, THIS IS UTTER BULLSHIT. MAILING YOURSELF SOMETHING OFFERS ZERO LEGAL PROTECTION, COSTS YOU POSTAGE, AND MAKES YOU APPEAR DESPERATELY LONELY. Clutter 39 SDCC | 65


Q: What is considered a parody? Rebellious Artist Munny

A: Parody is a creation used to make fun of something as criticism or commentary.

Look! I’ve made a “Mr. Shitty-Bear” Action figure.

Q: What is a cease and desist letter? A: A document demanding a party stop doing something (cease) and to not begin again in the future (desist).

I demand you stop making “Mr Shitty-Bear!”

MYTH!

IF I DON’T MAKE MONEY OFF OF SOMETHING, THEN IT IS NOT A VIOLATION. NOPE! JUST BECAUSE YOU DON’T PROFIT FROM SOMETHING DOES NOT MEAN IT IS NOT A VIOLATION. IT MAY MEAN PEOPLE WON’T CARE AND IT MAY COME INTO PLAY WHEN IT COMES TO DAMAGES, BUT IT IS STILL, TECHNICALLY, A VIOLATION.

66 | Clutter 39 SDCC


Q: What is fair use?

A: Fair use is the limited use of an original work used in order to parody that work. It must be transformative in nature and does not require premission.

F**K YOU DUDE! I only copied “Mr. Smoothie-Bear’s” stupid face! All of the rest is original.

Q: What is the limit to “limited” and how much do you have to transform something for it to be considered “transformative”?

NO ONE F**KING KNOWS!!!

THESE LAWS ARE PURPOSEFULLY VAGUE AND ARE HANDLED ON A CASE-BY-CASE BASIS.

IF I MAKE “X” NUMBER OF CHANGES OR CHANGE AT LEAST “X” PERCENTAGE OF AN ORIGINAL WORK, IT IS COVERED UNDER FAIR USE. SORRY, THERE IS NO MAGIC NUMBER OR PERCENTAGE; IT’S ALL SETTLED IN COURT.

MYTH!


SO, WHETHER YOU ARE CREATING AN ORIGINAL WORK OR ARE PARODYING AN EXISTING WORK, YOU DO HAVE LEGAL PROTECTIONS. CLUTTER RECOMMENDS THAT YOU FILE YOUR COPYRIGHTS, TRADEMARKS, AND PATENTS, AND, IF YOU GET SUED, CALL VOLUNTEER LAWYERS FOR THE ARTST... NOT LAWYER MUNNY.

story of Crazy Scientist Munny vs Oh, so you’re wondering what happened in the Munny apologized for hurting Crazy Rebellious Artist Munny? Well, Rebellious Artist Munny acknowledged Rebellious Artist Scientitst Munny’s feelings and Crazy Scientist ... Actually, after years of legal battles, Munny’s right to parody his work... Okay, not really killed Rebellious Artist Munny before Crazy Scientist Munny went mad and shot and wish it could have ended differently. turning the weapon on himself. We’re sorry. We

THE END


Munny DIY by Paul Budnitz + Tristan Eaton & Kidrobot

Nick Curtis

Before we tackle what a custom is, let’s discuss one specific platform — or basic toy design — that ties in directly to this: the Munny. Created by Tristan Eaton and Paul Budnitz, the latter of which founded Kidrobot the company that releases these vinyl figures, talking about Munnys can become difficult as one might actually be talking about any of five designs that are part of “Munnyworld”: the “Munny” proper is made to resemble a man, the “Bub” is a stylized hippo, “Trikky” is a cat, the “Raffy” is a giraffe, and “Rooz” is meant to be a baby kangaroo. But they are all part of Munnyworld, a series of solid color vinyl figures that are called Do-ItYourself (or DIY) Designer Toys, meant to be a blank canvas upon which any artist can express themselves using almost an unlimited number of mediums. 70 | Clutter 39 SDCC

Now let’s put terms like ‘Custom’ and ‘Munny’ over to the side and instead talk in general art terms: anyone can go into an art store and buy a blank canvas, and while its form and texture might be interesting, it’s still simply a blank canvas. But when someone paints on that blank canvas, it magically becomes art, yes? Obviously, the skill of the artist determines certain things, but even a child’s finger painting is still technically art. In these terms, the Munny is the blank canvas and the term ‘Custom’ denotes the painted form. And just like there are countless ways for an artist to express themselves on a conventional canvas, the same holds true to those “customizing” a Munny… Above we have what the blank Munny looks like, but opposite are other pieces by artists using their skills and crafts to modify — or customize — that base form into something entirely new. They’re creating a threedimensional painting, if you will. By using everything from intricate line drawing to detailed painting, sculpting or sewing additional elements, the artist reforms the vinyl figure into whatever they want. A customizer can even make a series of the same custom — or “multiples” — hand-crafting the same base design several times to sell a limited edition quantity of their work. So a custom is a unique piece of art that is handmade, hand-painted, hand-sculpted, hand-whatevered; even when “multiples” are made, each one is an individual ‘painting.’


Artist: Kathie Olivas

Artist: 64 Colors

Artist: Luke Chueh

By JéRYU (Best Customizer, 2nd Annual Designer Toy Awards) Customizing is the practice of an artist reinterpreting a shape or form and modifying it, resulting in a new piece of artwork that conveys the sensibilities of their individual style as well as retaining elements the original platform’s design. These new artistically melded pieces are commonly referred to as “customs.” There are two common subcategories in the customizing world.  One subcategory is D.I.Y. (Do It Yourself), where stripped down, basic, and blank forms are made available to be customized through painting, sculpting, and mixed media.  Common platforms include Kidrobot’s array of Munnyworld offerings and Toy2R’s Qee line.  The other

“F.A.D 20”Dunny” by JéRYU

subcategory is customizing existing collectibles, where an artist will take a fully realized idea by another artist, and then do their own version. These are commonly one-off collectibles or showcased in “custom group shows,” art shows where a multitude of artists are asked to do their take and vision on one artist’s platform so that an array of interpretations and styles are presented. Metaphorically speaking, I consider customizers and customizing to be akin to the practice of a cover band doing a rendition of another band’s original song with the results being the novelty of hearing a new version of a familiar or existing tune. The original song has its fans but these

“Good Night, Sweet Dreams... XO” by JéRYU

“So Goff” by JéRYU Clutter 39 SDCC | 71


If you’ve ever seen (or at least know what) a Godzilla film is, then you already know what kaiju is. Some people would argue this example, but — to be honest — it is accurate. Kaiju is a Japanese word that means “strange creature” and was originally coined to describe movies and television shows staring monstrous beasts that were modeled after conventional animals, insects, household items, pretty much anything. One of which, the most famous of which, most certainly is Godzilla. As I said, the term comes from the Japanese entertainment industry, particularly that part known as tokusatsu (trans. “special filming,” which meant to imply any film or television show that relied heavily on special effects). These tokusatsu films were divide into three main categories: ”But what does this all have to do with Designer Toys?” you might be thinking. Well, the Designer Toy community embraced the term Kaiju to describe any strange or outlandish character done in that Japanese style, such as:

Mockbat by Paul Kaiju

yōkai (trans. “strange apparition,” which indicated supernaturally based productions including ghosts, demons, or the sort);

kaijin (trans. “mysterious person,” which indicated

super-human masked individuals… think either super-hero or super-villain based); AND

kaiju (trans. “strange creature,” which indicated giant monsters).

Sushi Kaiju by Paul Shih

Kaiju toys are slightly difficult to nail down in terms of consistent factors. You could say they had to be actually made in Japan (as Paul Kaiju’s “Mockbat” at the top to the right is), but Jeff Lamm’s “M5 Bravo” (on the bottom to the right) was actually produced in China. Maybe they have to be made out of vinyl, except Paul Shih’s “Sushi Kaiju” (in the middle to the right) is actually cast in resin. Even paint job isn’t a factor, as the “Mockbat” and “Sushi Kaiju” are handpainted by the artist while the “M5 Bravo” has sprays applied at the factory… though any of these could also be sold unpainted without affecting their being Kaiju. So how do you identify Kaiju Designer Toys? The simplest method I can use is this: close your eyes and imagine the figure as a giant, rampaging through city streets, wreaking havoc in it’s wake. Now have it fighting Godzilla. Did it look like it fit? If so, it’s safe to call in Kaiju. Or, as some people prefer, Neo-Kaiju. To some purists, the term Kaiju should only be applied towards Designer Toys directly based on the creatures from these style films and thus a new term — Neo-Kaiju — was adopted. Literally meaning “New Strange Creatures,” Brian Flynn (founder of Super7) explains that: “Neo-Kaiju is a term I came up with in 2002 to describe the kind of 74 | Clutter 39 SDCC

M5 Bravo by Jeff Lamm & Unbox Industries


toys we were making at Super7. We were taking influence from the classic ‘kaiju’ figures, but doing them in a new and contemporary way. It was first used on the Neo-Kaiju Project figures, and over the years the term has come to be used as a definition of any sort of contemporary monster influenced toy —from the cute to the crazy, abstract to traditional with a monster-y filter on it as opposed to a strict artistic or 2d influenced point of view.” When you’re investigating Kaiju and Neo-Kaiju, you might come across the term Sofubi, which literally means “vinyl” in Japanese. Sofubi indicates — within the Designer Toy world — the high-quality, soft vinyl that is cast in Japan; and it has likewise come to be used as a catchall term for all Japanese vinyl releases, whether they are Kaiju or not. Let me reiterate: while all traditional Kaiju (and most modern ones) are cast in Sofubi, there is no set style necessary for casting in Sofubi; Kidrobot could make a Munny in Sofubi if they wanted. So it is erroneous to treat the term Sofubi as if it were interchangeable with Kaiju,

Nick Curtis

though the two do have a shared history and can be linked together. Regardless of what it is cast in or what you call it, these Designer Toys will appeal to anyone with a passion for mutated monsters and curious looking creatures. While these surreal beasts might not be everyone’s pleasure, they will certainly satisfy those that seek things more outside the norm and embrace absolute weirdness.

Escaregot by Josh Herbolsheimer & Super7

By Mark Nagata, founder of Max Toy Companyw Both Kaiju and Sofubi go back to the ‘60s in Japan, when Mattel toys — of Barbie fame — brought the soft vinyl casting process to Japan. This cheap process allowed for such toys as baby dolls to be made in mass quantities. When the first Monster Boom hit Japan in the ‘60s, such shows like Ultraman and Kamen Rider yielded an incredible array of merchandise, including many Kaiju and Sofubi figures. Companies like Marusan, Bullmark, Bandai, and Popy all produced copius amounts of Sofubi toys for Japanese children, many of which now command thousands of dollars in the vintage toy market. Of course, back in those days these toys were simply cheap toys to be played with by kids, and the collector market was nonexistent.

fanatic followers, the word Kaiju has now become a word that covers a much broader spectrum of toys. Kaiju toys now are mostly artist or creator-driven figures using the same old school Sofubi methods of production. There are some licensed Sofubi by independent artists, but mostly the bigger companies like Bandai take care of that part of the market. Most of the remaining Sofubi factories in Japan are run by 1 or 2 people, typically in their 70s or 80s. Amazingly, the same folks who casted vintage Bullmark figures in the ‘60s are still doing the same today. Figures are all still hand-casted and in limited quantities, which accounts for the higher price point versus a mass produced toy in China.

For today’s collector, Kaiju and Neo-Kaiju refer to the new wave of toys presently created in Japan. Technically, most of what is produced are not really Kaiju toys. But like the way the meaning of the word Otaku can loosely describe

I am biased in my view point, but the Japanese do have the best quality vinyl (especially clear vinyl), and given the rich 50 plus year history, Kaiju toys thrive and will continue into the future for as long as artists and collectors seek them. Clutter 39 SDCC | 75


Bechigon by Velocitron

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

Ultrus Bog by Skinner 76 | Clutter 39 SDCC

Earth Wolf by Josh Herbolsheimer

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

Cadaver Kid by Splurrt

Heirophany by Carlos Enriquez Gonzlez


VINYL CRYPTIDS TODAY’S FOLKART BY MARC DeANGELIS

Clutter Magazine has compiled a dossier of unexplained creatures cast in plastic or sewn in plush. They’re not just toys and they’re not just art; they’re totems representing our modern fascination with the unexplained, as well as that combination of curiosity and fear when faced with the unknown.

{ Bigfoot } If the US has a national cryptid, it’s Bigfoot. As if he even needs an introduction, the Bigfoot is a six- to nine-foot-tall, bipedal primate covered in coarse, dark hair or fur. Often sighted in thickly wooded areas, there have been countless sightings all across the country, but the Pacific Northwest is considered the main hotspot for Bigfoot activity. The cryptid’s fame skyrocketed with the infamous Patterson-Gimlin film, frame 352 of which has been ushered into pop culture iconography. Pictured: Treehugger Dunny by Kronk / Bigfoot One figure / Urban Big Foot by Ron English.

Folklore is an essential part of human culture. Sharing stories is a way to pass down lessons from one generation to the next, a way to entertain each other, and a way to preserve history. And while the term connotes tales from the past, we’re creating new folklore every day, from comic books to urban legends to true-yetextraordinary tales.

O

ne particular topic of modern folklore heavily adopted by the designer toy community is cryptozoology, the study of unconfirmed or unidentified animals such as the Chupacabra and Yeti. Whether they are real creatures or misidentifications is hotly debated, but what isn’t questionable is the enthusiasm that our community of artists and collectors has for cryptids. David Horvath, Frank Kozik, and Kronk are just a small sampling of artists who have lovingly created three-dimensional interpretations of eyewitness accounts. “As a child, I always felt it to be really funny that people who believed in a religious being or spiritual plane would then balk at the idea of an alien,” says David Horvath. “While some may know Sun-Min [Kim] and I from Uglydoll or Bossy Bear, our crowning achievement, to us, was seeing our Mothman sofubi, which was made in Japan, inducted into the Mothman

78 | Clutter 39 SDCC


{ Chupacabra } Keep an eye on your farm animals and pets if you’re living in Latin America or even parts of the US. The Chupacabra (Spanish for Goat Sucker) is said to be the size of a medium to large breed dog, with either leathery skin or a scaly green covering. But its defining characteristics are long fangs, large red eyes, and spikes down the spine. Sightings began in 1996 in Puerto Rico and continue to this day, with the cryptid reported to drain their prey of their blood, leaving puncture wounds on the body. Pictured: Chupacabra by Sara Martin.

{ Flatwoods Monster } The Flatwoods Monster is the subject of one of the strangest cryptid or extraterrestrial sightings reported. The story took place during 1952 in Flatwoods, West Virginia. Three boys saw lights in the sky followed by an apparent UFO crash. A group went out to investigate, finding a putrid gas and a humanoid being. The Flatwoods Monster was said to be about 10 feet tall and have glowing eyes and a spade-shaped cowl. The section below the torso was apparently encased i n a robotic armor. The scared group ran away but suffered allergy and flu symptoms for days after their encounter. Pictured: Flatwoods Monster by Dream Rocket / Flatwoods Monster by Marmit.

Museum’s permanent collection in Point Pleasant, the town in West Virginia where the sad but true events on Silver Bridge took place.” The duo’s fascination with cryptids doesn’t end with producing toys. “While working on Uglydoll, we spent a lot of time developing an animated series based on cryptozoology — which we are still working on — using toys as a storytelling vehicle to poke away at various directions we wanted to take.” Coincidentally, both Horvath and Kim were interested in cryptozoology, even as children. “Sun-Min and I were both deeply into cryptozoological entities and stories of such at a very young age and we both had the same related books as children. We were fascinated with the unknown and the obscure nature of each tale and their very rich back-stories.”

There are so many art toys based on cryptids that, like the monsters themselves, it’s hard to keep track of all of them. However, to Horvath, one series stands out among the crowd, like the bright red eyes of the Mothman. “I think the best cryptozoological series of toys came from Medicom and their ‘Great Mystery Museum’ mini figure series. UMA — or Unidentified Mysterious Animals — are a very popular subject matter in Japan, with so many books on the subject available even today. Medicom did a great job at covering almost all of the obscure, dark corner ‘true tales’ and created figures based on the eyewitness testimony and most widely known versions of each creature or event.” So why are we, as collectors and creators of designer toys, so drawn to cryptids? “I think these figures resonate with collectors because they are the physical embodiment of those feelings of wonderment one has over these Clutter 39 SDCC | 79


{ Loch Ness Monster } Everybody knows the Loch Ness Monster. Nessie has been a part of pop culture since the 1930s and is thought by true believers to be a descendent of plesiosaurs, giant marine reptiles from the Mesozoic era (66-252 million years ago). Reports often describe a creature with a small head, very long neck, and humped body. Nessie is likely one of the most photographed cryptids, though these photos have all of course been called into question by skeptics. Pictured: Loch Ness Monster by Awesome Toys.

{ Mothman } In 1966, residents of Point Pleasant, West Virginia began experiencing strange lights in the sky, visits from odd “men in black”, and, creepiest of all, encounters with a six- or seven-foot tall winged creature with glowing red eyes. Often seen near an abandoned TNT plant, it was said to take flight and chase after witnesses, keeping pace with them as they sped away in their cars, and going so far as to follow one woman all the way back to her home, peering through her windows. Some considered the Mothman to be an omen, as its disappearance coincided with Point Pleasant’s Silver Bridge collapse, which killed 46 people. Mothman sightings continued, with reports of the creature scaring German miners out of a work site just before a cave-in, and at Chernobyl, just before the meltdown. Pictured: Kaiju For Grown Ups Mothman by David Horvath / Mothman by Dream Rocket.

tales,” says Horvath. “These are not toys from a movie or a show, but from the dark corners of our reality and foggy childhood memories. The toys seem to, at least for us, embody some of that excitement and wonder. We’re working on some new [characters] even today, still very much in wonder over these incredible stories.” “Yetis provide a sort of blank canvas since so little is known about them, allowing me to make it my own,” says Shawn Smith of Shawnimals when asked about his Yeti Ninja plush. “Yetis, Sasquatch, Skunk Apes, Bigfoot, and other forms of this creature are also mysterious and misunderstood. As such they are a reminder that nature will take over when civilization eventually crumbles and we will all become Yetis again.” One artist is such a huge fan of the bipedal giant that it’s incorporated his nom de brush. “Twenty two years ago I set out to make all things Bigfoot my life’s work and naturally I wanted to design my own Bigfoot figures to come to life and wreak havoc on humanity,” says Bigfoot One. “My Bigfoot figures are influenced by the culmination of all my favorite 80 | Clutter 39 SDCC

elements on this planet: nature, magic, cartoons, elusiveness, and the personification of plants and animals in a humanoid form.” Sara Antoinette Martin, the creator of Kidrobot’s El Chupacabra, also finds that the vague nature of cryptids lends to more flexibility when designing a toy: “As an artist, you are free to imagine what this debatable beast looks like. All you have are traces and whispers, drunken hallucinations.” As for her cryptid roots, Martin explains, “I had been obsessed with the Loch Ness Monster since I was about nine or ten years old. My family went on vacation that summer and I checked out every book they had in the library to bring with me that summer. I’ve always just been into mysterious monsters that may or may not exist: regional and local mythologies and legends, secrets of rural areas, the mysteries of the natural world, the fact that we don’t know about everything on this planet. That’s what I like about cryptozoology.” And when it comes to the Chupacabra itself, a certain TV show sparked Martin’s interest. “I know exactly where I learned about the Chupacabra. It was


{ Kappa } The Kappa is basically a Ninja Turtle, but from ancient Japanese folklore rather than 1980s America. Living in the rivers and lakes of Japan, the shelled, bipedal reptiles are said to lure people and animals toward the water and drown them. While tales of the Kappa are thought to simply be a way for adults to warn children of the danger of drowning, sightings continue to this day. Pictured: Death Kappa Sama / Kappa Shonen by Cometdebris.

{ Yeti } The Yeti is Bigfoot’s Himalayan cousin, having been spotted in Nepal, Bhutan, China, and more. While the ape-like cryptid has a place in Nepal’s pre-Buddhist mythology, sightings by natives and mountaineers continue to this day. Even better, pieces of evidence such as enormous footprints have been found and documented. TV host Josh Gates and his team of adventurers even found fur which contained DNA from an undocumented primate. Pictured: Gama-Go Big Yeti / Yeti Android.

from an episode of The X-Files. From there, I researched it, but that’s where it started. A lot of things for me started with The X-Files.” Clutter Magazine also asked Loren Coleman, a foremost researcher in the field of cryptozoology and the Director of the International Cryptozoology Museum, where he thinks this fascination stems from and how the creation of these items relates back to ancient civilizations. “At the International Cryptozoology Museum, the world’s only cryptozoology museum, founded in 2003, in Portland, Maine, we have many items in the collection that some patrons call ‘toys.’ A few people don’t comprehend why these items are in the museum, but we consider them significant cultural artifacts evidencing the impact of cryptids on modern society, in North America, Europe, Asia, Australia, and all over the globe,” says Coleman, who proudly displays Horvath’s Mothman vs. Flatwoods Monster set and GamaGo’s Big Yeti behind museum glass. “Our visitors readily acknowledge the importance of tribal art and anthropologically-

collected artifacts reflecting animals which are yet to be confirmed by science. But some folks don’t understand that ‘toys’ in our modern Western and Eastern societies also can be a way to capture and recall — in our overly intellectualize culture — the cryptids. Bigfoot, Nessie, Chupacabras, and scores of other unknown animals are memorialized in souvenirs, fluffy toys, and the new wave of vinyl and plastic toys,” he elaborates. “And the ‘locals’ are the ‘natives’ who are seeing the ‘modern monsters.’ As an extension of our culture, our ‘toys’ have become our tribal way to remember them and pass them on to our children, our peers, and others inside and outside our society. All such artifacts are significant and important.”

For more on cryptozoology, Clutter Magazine recommends reading Loren Coleman’s Cryptozoology A-Z, an encyclopedia detailing nearly 200 unexplained and unconfirmed animals. Clutter 39 SDCC | 81


Niall Anderson

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

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

Originally born out of a desire for

smaller, cheaper, and more collectible

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

known as keshi took no time at all

to establish a long standing place in

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

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

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

keshi has unfortunately lost a lot of its

ground in the mainstream toy industry, 82 | Clutter 39 SDCC

with only a few die-hard lines surviving

of loyal fans hungry for new rubber

and licensed figures. Luckily for us, this

including Zoomoth, Newtervision, and

in a sea of badly designed imitations

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

there have been a number of interesting

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

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

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

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

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

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

re-castings and, later, with the classic,

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


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

likes of Rampage Toys and Nama Niku’s

likes of Unbox Industries, Fantastic

has an even healthier indie community,

of new artists and, inevitably, the revived

offering up their takes on the classic

Fights, Newtervision, Moqkeshi, and

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

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

scale factory produced lines too.

As with the mass-produced lines, keshi

Skirting on the edge of Designer Toy,

popularity has lead to an explosion of

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

produced pocket mini figures back in

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

presentation, the majority of recently

released lines have been produced in

China using a similar hard PVC as the

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

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

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

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

and pocket mini figures’ increase in

talent in the self-produced scene as

well. Unlike the previously mentioned

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

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

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

series though, the self-produced

Similar to the indie/self-produced

original Eastern keshi culture, largely

— community now spans a worldwide

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

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

on the choice of either hand-cast or

sub-factory-led production. Brought to the forefront in the West by the likes of Ironmask, Eric Nilla, and, recently,

Metal Monkey’s Universe of Violence

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

figures, the pachi — or bootleg

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

M.U.S.C.L.E. & M.A.S.K. mash-ups, Triclops with their wholly bootlegembracing B.A.S.T.A.R.Ds, and, of

course, Buff Monster’s recent Melty

Misfit take on Cheap Toys. Aside from

these resin produced figures with their

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

medium, with the likes of Nama Niku

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

An assortment of pachi figures Clutter 39 SDCC | 83


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

and my own [Tru:Tek’s] 2012 released

festivals in Japan and have just one

show properties in beautiful keshi form.

old through kit-bashed keshi, original

the day of the event! Spearheaded by

the one-day licensing obviously makes

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

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

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

figures that are sold exclusively at toy

restriction: all stock must be sold on

Zoomoth with their securing of various

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

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

Arrow, Outer Rim, and CMP taking

on a variety of manga, anime and TV

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

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

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

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

of Monsterforge, Ersico, and Plastic

Playhouse producing some of the most

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

straight-up mini figure re-paints to one-

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

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

Hopefully all these various nostalgia-

tinged little guys, which are very much

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

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

to come.

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

“Nama King” Photo: Nama Niku

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

Zoomoth for the additional images.

Please Note: This is a heavily edited and abbreviated version of the Keshi 101 article that first appeared in Clutter Magazine #21. An assortment of pieces from Nerdone and Newtvision 84 | Clutter 39 SDCC


Clutter Magazine Issue 39 - SDCC 2016  

The July SDCC 2016 issue of your indispensable guide into the world of art toys, counterculture, and underground art. Cover art and intervie...

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