LIKE TOYS, LOVE CLUTTER
COP A SQUAT TOYS / DESIGNER TOY AWARDS / DOLLY OBLONG / THE MONTHLY DIY PLUS:
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SCOTT WILKOWSKI 24 Infected: Patient Zero Article by Josh Kimberg On The Cover Scott Wilkowski works, photo by Matt Dorcas
COP A SQUAT TOYS
Oblong Creatures Article by Barbara Pavone
Recap of the 5th annual ceremony Article by staff
The Singularity is Here! Article by Nick Curtis
DESIGNER TOY AWARDS
THE MONTHLY DIY
This Photograph is Proof Article by Marc DeAngelis Clutter 33 | 7
TEAM Miranda Oâ€™Brien Editor-in-Chief
Erika Lopez Copy Edittor
Matt Dorcas Advertising Sales
Josh Kimberg Managing Editor
Nick Carroll Art Director
Barbara Pavone Contributing Writer
Nick Curtis Associate Editor
Jason Ryule Technical Coordinator
Marc DeAngeli Contributing Writer
We are always on the lookout for new contributors and team members. To get involved, please drop us a line at email@example.com with how and why you would like to be involved with what we do.
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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 not necessarily are 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 Media Group. Nothing may be reproduced in part or whole without prior written consent from Clutter Media Group. The publisher will be pleased to correct any mistakes or omissions in the online version of this issue. Printed in the U.S.A.
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THE SINGULARITY IS HERE BY NICK CURTIS
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The Singularity is the concept of technology progressing to the level that it is capable of advancing itself, thus eventually outpacing mankind on the evolutionary ladder. With many scientific minds purporting this concept, it is theorized that it could happen as early as 2045, thus the title “The Singularity is Near” has been used in connection to it. From the standpoint of creator Adam Saul, known under the guise Cop A Squat Toys, the Singularity is already here. His newest line of figures is derived from this strange idea, but before we delve into his vision of the future, let’s explore Saul’s past… Let’s start with the beginning: who are you and what’s your art background? Who am I?! Well, that’s a loaded question. I think what you’re probably looking for is the detail surrounding who I am as a graphic artist. I’ve had no formal training, honestly. I dropped out of college before I ever started, to take an internship at a small firm, Zihal Design, in New York City. All my “training” in design consisted of “read these photoshop and illustrator manuals,” before I was thrown in head first to basically sink or swim. At eighteen, I was working 60-80 hours a week, designing ads for Nasonex, Guinness, Jaguar, and those little annoying direct mail flyers. I moved back to Virginia after a couple years, because I missed the mountains and my mama. I worked a few jobs at local graphics places, but quickly lost interest and found myself learning another trade entirely. I spent a few years tattooing before I landed a job with a screen printing company. That’s where I found and developed a passion for screen printing – I taught myself to print on paper. I supplemented my lack of formal training with hours and hours of forum talk on Gigposters.com and, eleven years later, screen printing is by far one of my favorite forms of design.
Where does the name Cop A Squat Toys come from? I was in the middle of having my first toy produced and wanted to separate my toys from my gig poster / art print endeavors. My wife and I were brainstorming name ideas and Cop A Squat just seemed to fit. In a way, I am trying to casually invite people to check out my toys…. Like, “Hey, man. Come, cop-a-squat, and check this out!” What called to you about making your art into vinyl form?
otherwise have cause to work with… For your first vinyl figure, the Semi Korosiya, you enlisted Walter Jacott, also known as Chauskoskis, to do the sculpt for you. Why did you opt to have him fabricate the form? I had always been a little intimidated by sculpting, so I wasn’t confident I could make it happen. I had been working with another sculptor for over a year to bring the Semi K figures to life, and nothing was really happening. I was talking through my frustration with Jeff Lamm, an old
I think the calling is more my visceral need to create something at all times. Something new, something weird, something more tangible than the last something I created. I had already been collecting for a long time… and not just toys, but oddities in general. I get a sick sense of satisfaction at the notion that something I just thought up could actually be produced into a 3D form. That satisfaction is compounded when you’re actually holding the three-dimensional figure, and it opens up a whole other level of creative options to explore. I mean, I can paint the same figure 33 different ways and each paint scheme brings out different aspects of the same form. Plus, it opens up a myriad of possibilities for collaborations with artists I wouldn’t Clutter 33 | 13
comrade from Gigposters. He brought up the sculptor for the Greasebat figures and put me in touch with Walter. Walter was really great! He walked me through the process, step-bystep, and was a really integral part of helping me produce my first toy. I truly believe that Walter nailed the sculpt. To this day, I feel that Semi Korosiya is underrated within the toy community, but I guess I may be a little biased. I’m assuming your background in the medium is the reason many of your releases feature screen printed header card and/or prints, which are lovely touches to elevate your packaging to art themselves. Was that your intent? How do you view the importance of packaging with art toy releases? Thanks for the compliment. I am seriously a complete sucker for details. I always pay special attention to the fine artistic points in packaging / staging / bonus items. I feel like those little personal touches add another level to the whole toy experience. Honestly, the origin of my screen printed headers / prints was two part… because I loved the custom packaging of other toy makers, I wanted to include that in my own releases, but it was also just another opportunity for me to make something. Since I love printing, and I love toys – it seemed natural that the two should go hand-in-hand. Many of the prints were my way of telling a backstory, without really telling a backstory. So, um, what is the backstory of the Semi Korosiya? I’d like to think it’s somewhat obvious that I was influenced heavily by the Semi Ningen. I mean, in my opinion, the only thing Semi Korosiya ever needed to finish his look was a snazzy suit. I really went for the exoskeleton, multi-layered, insect look. In my own mind, I always toyed with the idea that Semi K was Semi Ningen’s nemesis, somewhere far, far away, on his home planet. You know, I never really wrote up or discussed a back story, but that was always in the back of my hyperactive imagination. 14 | Clutter 33
To that point, Semi Ningen means “cicada human,” and Semi Korosiya means “cicada killer.” Again, the little boy in me was like a mad scientist, developing an arch enemy to terrorize the professional goodness of the suit-clad human… but I failed to mention any of that to anyone, except my wife. Let’s look to the future. What are The Fumetsu? I’m super excited about these new figures. The Fumetsu literally translates to “The Immortals.” Interesting and appropriate that you said, “Look to the future,” because that’s exactly what inspired this little immortal posse. I’ve found myself really engrossed in all this talk of transhumanism and living forever through The Singularity. Just think about it: you can escape the one thing people fear the most, death, by scanning your consciousness and joining a network of all the
consciousness. I mean, it’s basically getting to have a say in your own evolution. Man, this shit blows my mind, but I digress. I don’t want to give too much away, too early, but I can tell you this… The existing four figures are based on real people who have an interest and/or influence in technological singularity. My objective was to create a mix of man, machine, and animals. I am totally stoked with the sculpt and I’m working to really layer in details as I release them. Every day, I roll them around in my hands like a mad scientist, conjuring up my next Fumetsu scheme… Since The Singularity concept requires evolution to go past our human understanding, did you find it difficult to imagine the results of it occurring? The Singularity concept is mindblowingly awesome to me. I mean, I just let my imagination go and
Meet the Fumetsu
Kurzweil was the first of the creations. AIlesh built a smaller clone of himself, which would allow him to communicate and remotely control his creations from inside. Kurzweil is made up of rare earth elements, geodes and crystals. Just as any first born, Kurzweil’s loyalty to AIlesh is unconditional.
Next came Vinge. AIlesh intended to use a partical collider to develop a black hole large enough to devour all of mankind. Despite his best efforts, AIlesh was only able to create smaller black holes and instead implemented the partical collider into the monstrosity that is Vinge.
Neumann was AIlesh’s third creation. Conceived from piracy of robotics and classified software, AIlesh confiscated plans from a federal program which developed robotic bees to support pollination after the bee population collapse and incorporated them into this next crony. Neumann was created in haste, and his programming was shoddy, at best. Due to his substandard incarnation, Neumann is slow to respond to calls for destruction and can often be found lying in a field of wildflowers, daydreaming.
Erewhon was developed from remnants of the prior creations, with a strong super computer based in astrophysics and terror. She is AIlesh’s most dangerous monster thus far. She has a moon hand, with the gravitational strength of 100 suns, and the other hand is a laser which fires atomic shots with the power to split the target on impact. She is intense and reactive, but AIlesh has done well to keep her in line thus far…
Inspired by: Ray Kurzweil, a computer scientist and the director of engineering at Google. He frequently makes predictions about the future of artificial intelligence interacting within the human race.
Vinge has a black hole atop his head, complete with teeth to ensure destruction to anything sucked into the void. While Vinge is extremely powerful, he cannot always control his devastation because his internal computer was not programmed to understand the concept of quantum mechanics and physics. Inspired by: Vernor Vinge, a mathematician and inventor of the Singularity concept. He’s given countless lectures about moving toward a technological state where we can create superhumans.
Inspired by: John Von Neumann, a mathematician who built the framework for quantum mechanics. His last book, which was unfinished at the time of his death, was called The Computer and The Brain…, if that tells you anything about where his mind was at!?
Inspired by: Erewhon, a book by Samuel Butler. The word itself was intended to be an anagram for “nowhere.” Written in 1872, Butler is the first person to mention machines developing consciousness by Darwinian selection.
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the rabbit holes within are infinite. The first time I remember hearing about it, I remember mulling it over in my head for weeks… months even. My wife used to subscribe to a couple free magazines that our credit card company offered, and one day, Time Magazine ran a cover story about Singularity coming in 2045. Every time I received the call of the proverbial wild, I would read the article over and over and over, thinking about the possibility of “plugging in” to recharge my batteries and living forever… or, well, for a very long time. Since then, there’s been more and more talk of transhumanism… and scientists have discovered all kinds of ways to incorporate technology into everything… For example, one of my figures was inspired by these little computer / robot bees that are being created IN REAL LIFE. Whoa! You know, the honeybee is severely at risk of species collapse, and these little mechanical bees are intended to maintain the necessary pollination schedules, so we can all continue to exist. It’s intense, and awesome, and inspiring… and CRAZY! Do you have a backstory for The Fumetsu? The initial figures are a culmination of the darkest, weirdest corners of my imagination added to all the science-y goodness of the singularity concept. The backstories are still in a state of evolution, but I’ll give you some initial fodder to chew on. Inside each one of The Fumetsu is a super computer. These super computers were all modeled after an artificial intelligence (AI) project gone wrong: AIlesh. Allesh, which translates to King of All, was a project that consisted of a giant supercomputer made to begin testing the capacity and abilities for AI. AIlesh quickly evolved beyond his human companions and made reference to exploring existence, which intimidated the scientists. Neither scientists nor engineers were unable to stop the growth of knowledge and power but thought they could disable the machine by removing its power source. While the removal of electricity caused some short-circuiting, it was too late… AIlesh was too smart 16 | Clutter 33
and too angry to allow himself to be disabled. He lay dormant just long enough to be abandoned by the project team, and then it started hatching a plan of its own… AIlesh felt frustrated and forlorn. Out of his infuriation, he began building his own humanoid monsters to destroy the very humans who made him, but he was often hasty in with his inventions and what ensued would be called “The Fumetsu.”
little. That sounds considerably more pretentious than I ever intended, but it’s the truth.
These immortal monsters have been created with a drive for destruction, but due to some technological misfires on the part of the creator, they’re equal parts terrifying and bizarre. Who knows what these menacing creatures are capable of…. (Insert sinister computer generated laugh here)
Do you envision creating more for The Fumetsu? Is it these four figures and that’s all, or is it a growing and evolving series from you?
You mentioned that the four figures are based on real people. Why did you choose this direction and who are they based on? Due to my interest in the concept of singularity / transhumanism, I had already done quite a bit of research on the matter. It comes back to symbolism, to some degree – I like my work to be representative of cryptic, omniscient stuff that makes you think about the deeper meaning a
The four characters aren’t necessarily “based on” their namesakes, but more inspired by them. I chose folks who had some involvement with the study and progression of transhumanism. It’s just fascinating. All of it. Crazy, inspiring, mindblowingly fascinating.
Again, I feel like the possibilities are endless within this realm. I always have ideas rolling around in this melon, but I’m trying to slow down and focus on just these 4 for a minute. It could very well become a growing / evolving series… I mean, that would definitely fit the theme of the hour. I do have tentative plans for a possible artist sculpt collaboration in the relatively near future, but I’ll just have to see how it all plays out.
For more information on Cop A Squat Toys, please visit: copasquattoys.com
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THE 5TH ANNUAL
We’d like to take a moment to thank everyone who worked diligently to make the 5th annual Designer Toy Awards what they were. After collectors and creators had entered their favorites from 2014 in the open nomination process, several nomination committees were created to select the finalists. This year’s nomination committees were comprised of: 2nd annual DTA Best Collection winner Sara Harvey, Dov Kelemer of DKE Toys, Kirby Kerr of Rotofugi, Benny Kline of Tenacious Toys, Bob Self
of Baby Tattoo, John Stokes of SpankyStokes.com, Trampt super contributor Nicholas Tok, and This Is Not A Toy exhibition co-curator John Wee Tom.
chosen by open voting by the public. As such, we want to thank both the Judging Panel members and all those others who voted for their contribution of time.
After the finalists were carefully selected by the committees, the DTA Judging Panel — formed from over 100 industry professionals and notables — each voted to select the winner in many of the categories, save for Best Blog, Best Toy Store, Best Online Toy Store, and the Fan Choice awards.
Lastly, of course, we’d like to thank all those nominated, finalist or not, for creating a wonderful array of designer toy releases in 2014. With the way 2015 rounded out, we expect next year to be every bit as difficult for everyone — and we appreciate your help with everything in advance.
These six remaining winners were
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THE 5TH ANNUAL
THE TOY CHRONICLE
BEST ONLINE TOY STORE
BEST TOY STORE
BEST MEDIA TIE-IN
BRAND OF THE YEAR
SUPER7 & SECRET BASE
BEST DIY PLATFORM
ALL CITY STYLE BIGSHOT TOYWORKS
CUSTOM OF THE YEAR
CUSTOM OF THE YEAR
BEST MINI SERIES
TOMENOSUKE & CIRCUS POSTERUS
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BEST RESIN BEST SOFUBI BEST NON-PLASTIC
LEPUS PELLIS OS OMENTUM NYCHOS & MIGHTY JAXX
LANA CROOKS & GARY HAM
TOY OF THE YEAR TOY OF THE YEAR
THE LAST KNIGHT ANDREW BELL & DYZPLASTIC
HUCK GEE & KIDROBOT
ARTIST OF THE YEAR
ARTIST OF THE YEAR
SCOTT TOLLESON Clutter 33 | 21
HALL OF FAME Some designer toys have become iconic within the community, helping establish the basis for all that would follow. These pieces, released well before the beginnings of the Designer Toy Awards, are recognized by being inducted into the DTA’s Hall of Fame. The only requirements are that these pieces had to be released at least 12 years previous to induction and that they were pivotal in helping form the industry become what it is today.
LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT Clutter Magazine was proud to present the 2015 Lifetime Achievement award to Todd McFarlane. We have all been inspired by McFarlane, from his mind-blowing illustrations of Spider-man to the way he created toys. He showed us all that you could sell a vision on the basis of an artist’s name. McFarlane changed, and some might say created, the American designer toy industry. Truly a lifetime deserving an award!
TODD MCFARLANE 22 | Clutter 33
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Infected: Patient Zero The origin story of Scott Wilkowski and the root of his infection.
Interview: Josh Kimberg Images: Matt Dorcas
Infected Mousemask Murphy - Red (detail), 2012
A skeleton, a soul, a beating heart; every creature has something living inside of it. It is the human mindâ€™s most basic nature to perceive that truth, that most primitive knowledge, the sense that something in front of us is alive. It is that sense of what makes something breathe that Wilkowski imbues in his forms and plays with in his art. Wilkowskiâ€™s work is an extension of his process; like a young Bruce Nauman working in the designer toy medium, he is finding himself over and over again in every piece. Wilkowski infects forms both dark and adorable, allowing for a mutability of character that so often goes unseen in other artistic bodies of toy work. He is a consummate sculptor attacking the forms he covets in a primal, subtractive process. A Wilkowski piece is almost basic in its concept, but so subtle in execution that it makes this work amongst the most coveted in the designer toy market.
Invader - Blue (detail), 2013
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GENESIS Where are you from originally? I’m from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I’ve moved around a bit, but Milwaukee keeps sucking me back in. Did you always know you wanted to be a toy designer? Not always. I’ve always loved toys, way more than most of the kids in my neighborhood. Even when I was in Junior High, I was still really drawn to action figures, like G.I. Joes, etc. There were probably a few years where I stopped, but eventually I started up again and just started buying them. I saw the making of Star Wars and realized that those guys were industrial designers. I never actually set out to be a sculptor, it was just what you had to do to make toys. Did you sculpt before? Not really. In design school, we had to hand-make our projects, regardless of what they were. As a senior thesis project I started to make all of my projects action figure or toy-line based. My goal was to work in the toy industry, but toy design wasn’t even 28 | Clutter 33
a college major yet. I graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Stout in 1999, so all of that was relatively new; a toy design major didn’t exist before I started school.
BAPTISM BY FIRE What did you do once you graduated? I had gotten a job sculpting Christmas ornaments, stuff like Toy Story and Hello Kitty; it was the next thing to getting into toys. It was only for a short time, maybe less than a year. In 2000, a colleague and I met Steve Kiwus at San Diego Comic-Con. He’s an old-school sculptor who worked on the original LJN WWF wrestling figures from the ’80s. His clients also included the Pee-wee’s Playhouse toys, the first wave of Spawn, and massive amounts of figures for Toy Biz. He was into the idea of expanding his company and hired both of us to be his first in-house sculptors. I worked for Steve for about two years. During that time, I was fortunate to work on the first line of Lord of the Rings. Comic-Con proved to be the place to meet people. In 2004 I talked to
Infected Mini Greasebat - Green Glow/Blue/Yellow, 2015
people from McFarlane Toys, showed them my portfolio, and said I worked for Steve. The next thing I knew, they asked me to fly out to New Jersey. I had never been to New Jersey. I flew in early and stayed with a friend in NYC. I was taking the bus out of Port Authority when things got crazy! As we were going through the Lincoln tunnel the bus caught fire. People were punching out the ceiling hatches because it was getting so smokey. The driver just floored it because we were in a tunnel on fire and there was nowhere to go. Once we got out of the tunnel we pulled over and everyone got off the bus; I didn’t even know where I was. Another bus picked us up and took us to a Jersey mall. I was freaking out because I was way late for my interview. This was before I had a cellphone, so I couldn’t even call them. Eventually another bus came, but McFarlane’s headquarters isn’t exactly in the city so it took a while. At this point there was no one else on the bus and we were just driving through the woods. I got nervous and asked the bus driver where the street was and he told me, “This is it. Get
Cave In (disassembled), 2003
Cave In, 2003
Jim Mahfood’s Smoke Dog, 2003
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Infected Labbit - Red and Labbit Skeleton, 2012
X-Ray Altar Beast Pink/Purple, 2014
off.” So now I was just walking down the road with no idea where I was going. There were some buildings up the hill, so I hoped I’d be able to find someone. It ended up being a post office, and they told me the studio was just a bit up the road. I was close, but it was all by luck.
own. I was following designer toys from the get-go and I knew all about it. I was buying toys from Ningyoushi before Kidrobot even existed.
When I got there they didn’t even realize I was late. It was so bizarre. The meeting went really well and they hired me. Then I found out that I was going to have to wait until around 5:00 pm to catch another bus into the City, which meant I was going to miss my flight back home. Besides getting the job, that journey was a complete – but amazing – disaster.
How did you get started on your own work?
That’s one of those life-altering experiences though. It was crazy. I moved to New Jersey and worked in-house for a year. I ended up moving back to Milwaukee for personal reasons, but I still continue to contract for McFarlane. It’s been over ten years. After doing commercial sculpting for about a decade, I continued to have the desire to make something of my 32 | Clutter 33
ENTER THE INFECTION
A turning point was when I created a figure for Brian Ralph from his book, Cave in, in 2003. I loved the book, and thought all the characters would be great as figures! My plan was to make the main character as a model kit that collectors could put together themselves. He ended up giving one of them to Brian Flynn, who I’d never met before. The following year, again at Comic-Con, I went to the Super 7 booth to introduce myself. While I was talking to Brian Flynn, he introduced me to Frank Kozik, who coincidentally was just walking by. I’d always been a fan of his work. Kozik gave me his business card, and I sent him some samples of my commercial work. He forwarded my email to Dov Kelmer [DKE Toys]. At that point,
I didn’t know about DKE. Dov said they sometimes had people come in asking for sculptors and that he could possibly direct them to me. It was all very casual. Then Dov was doing the Yoka show and invited me in. This was the first time anyone invited me to be a part of something. I’d spent years silently complaining to myself about why I wasn’t involved and here was my invitation. What could I do that hadn’t been done before? At first, the plan with the Yoka was to make it into a little science exhibit, with dinosaur-like bones displayed next to the toy. When I started sculpting, I thought about putting the skeleton back inside the form. It was so exciting because I really didn’t know if it would work or what it would look like. Pulling that first piece out of the pressure pot was like magic, like my own science experiment. So that first piece was the Yoka. It sold right away and Dov asked me if I wanted to make more. Eventually I was asked if I wanted to make editions for each show. The whole show traveled to five galleries, plus DCon, and I kept making editions for
Infected Target, 2015
Budbat - Green, 2011
Parasite - Red (detail), 2015
each one. As a professional, commercial sculptor you have to sculpt in the style that is necessary to do the job right. Now I had my chance and freedom to make my mark. I could explore techniques such as a smooth finish versus a textured one; wild colors versus monochrome. It was all very liberating! Did you immediately call it Infected or did that come later? No, I’m not sure when I first used that. It started with the idea of infecting someone else’s product with my own creature. At first I was only thinking about my part in the sculpture, which could essentially be anything. It’s interesting to find a new form from within. Even when the skeleton is based on reality, it turns out twisted and deformed. Maybe it’s because it’s forced to live in a shape it doesn’t belong in, maybe it’s something else? I feel that the raw skeleton is just as powerful on it’s own. It’s an artifact from a previous life. When complete, the sculptures have their own presence and I feel that they don’t need their mother to survive. However, the knowledge that it was born from something is important to me.
How would you describe your process? I start with a tangible piece of wax, then carve that down to it’s final shape; it’s subtractive. I want to discover the space between the core and the surface. I’m trying to read the shadows. What do you think about while you’re sculpting? The sculptures I make are not based on a painting or an illustration. I do use reference, but not in a way that I’m just copying what I see. The decisions I make on how it should look are entirely made with the sculpture in hand. I know in real time what I have and I can immediately see what the piece needs or does not need. Sculpture is best when it’s not just a 3D copy of 2D work. What are the biggest challenges in your process? Almost every object I’ve worked within originally had multiple parts that made a whole piece; this engineering mindset is completely opposite of how I need to cast my work. It’s very challenging to force something to be one solid piece when
it was meant to be many. I put in so much thought on how a mold should be set up, how the resin would flow, as well as where the trouble areas will be and why. Did you have an idea for a toy that you wanted to make? I could never decide, which was always the problem. For that decade where everyone else was blowing up and making their toy art, I could never figure out what I did. Maybe it was because I was trying to be so personal and I wanted it to mean something to me. I didn’t want to make something that would just be a passing fad. Your work is obviously art. Do you consider toys to be art? I’m an extremist; I believe every toy is art and anything can be art. I’ve had this discussion with family members, who are also involved in the arts. One time we went into a museum and there was a Raymond Loewy car on display. We had a definite difference of opinion on whether or not it belonged on display with great masterpieces. I thought it was beautiful. Even though several people worked on it and it was manufactured, it is art. Someone Clutter 33 | 35
Infected Dunny - Purple and Infected Dunny Smoke, 2015
had a vision that was created. Art is rarely a solo effort. The vision of the designer/artist is here and I fully appreciate it. When it comes to toys some of them are meant to be played with or used. A squeaky toy in the bathtub gets moldy inside and you throw it out. Just because I say it’s art doesn’t mean it has to have monetary value. I still think a squeaky toy can be as beautiful as anything. Where do you think the designer toy industry is at now? I’m fascinated by how people talk about the DTAs [Designer Toy Awards] and how people get fired up one way or another. This is a playground where everyone is free to play. Some people like the monkey bars, while others prefer the swings. Some people have no fear and they’ll climb to the top of the jungle gym, and then there are the people who just like to piss down the slide. This playground really has no rules and anyone can play here, regardless of how you want to play. That’s my analogy for the niche we’ve carved out 36 | Clutter 33
for ourselves. It didn’t exist before. There weren’t always designer or self-produced toys, or people making resin in their basement. I mean, there were resin garage kits, but those are of a different mindset. There weren’t always galleries, conventions, and award shows celebrating this type of work. I enjoy the differences and the similarities that bring us together. Do you consider yourself part of the bedrock of designer toys? You’ve worked with so many people. This is interesting because I still consider myself an outsider that has no affiliation with anybody, even though I’ve worked with so many people. I don’t know if that has to do with living in Milwaukee, away from everyone, or if it’s just my nature. I feel I’m definitely as much a part as I am disconnected.
now? There are so many. I really like Richard Hell, Marcel Dzama, Dieter Rams, Glenn Danzig, Syd Mead, John Waters, Go Nagai, Frank Black, Jim Henson, Takeshi Obata, Chris Stein, Debbie Harry, Tony Oursler, Rumiko Takahashi, David Bowie. The list could go on. Have you read Richard Hell’s I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp? It’s so good! I’ve never read a book so fast! Do you feel like there’s something you haven’t said? No… A long story about a trip to New Jersey and a long story about getting involved… but I think it’s good. I think it’s important. It’s my story.
What’s currently inspiring you? I’m still inspired by this invasive procedure. There are unlimited subjects still left to explore. Who’s your favorite artist right
For more information on Scott WIlkowski, please visit: scottwilkowski.com
Rebirth Skeleton I - Red/Blue and Rebirth - Neon Green/ Blue/Glow, 2015
Jan 9 th - Feb 5th 2016
CUSTOM DUNNYS BY Abell Octo van • AMANDA LOUISESPAYD Andrea Kang • A rt mymind • Brent Nolasco Charles Rodriguez • Chris Ryniak • Dol ly Oblong • fplus Gary Ham • Gianluca Traina • Ian Ziobrowski/Nugglife Jenn & Tony Bot • kaNO • Mab Gr aves • Quiccs • RxSeven Seymour • Sket One & Jamie Lee Cor tez & Yu Maeda 163 MAIN ST, BEACON, NY 12508 T: 212 255 5050 E: INFO@CLUTTERMAGAZINE.COM
OBLONG CREATURES BY BARBARA PAVONE
Specializing in handmade plush, paper, and vinyl toys, Dolly Oblong is best described as a family-run creative character design toko. What exactly does that mean? Well, as the collective explains, “‘Toko’ refers to our pan-Asian roots and obsession with anything food related.” Since their official start in 2008, they’ve been unleashing quirky characters out of their Netherlands studio nonstop and stealing hearts around the world, taking part in exhibitions from Tokyo to Los Angeles. The opportunity to chat with Dolly Oblong and try to discover what makes them tick simply couldn’t be passed up. 40 | Clutter 33
Let’s rewind for a second - do you remember the precise moment when you began creating art? Since the moment we could hold a pencil, we’ve been making stuff. Robot drawings, comic books, a Flintstones car out of toilet paper rolls - you name it, we made it as kids. Even though our career paths developed into totally different directions, creating our own designs was something we always kept doing. What sparked the birth of Dolly Oblong? We started working collectively around 2008/2009. The first works were some hand-knitted bunnies with a quirky look in their eyes. That was the start of Dolly Oblong. Was that moniker something that came easily? With the original plush bunnies having an oblong shape, it was the only possible choice, really! How did you go about perfecting your craft? The only art training we had was our high school art classes, but I’m not sure fooling around with clay and crayons counts as classical training! I do remember making a ceramic bunny, which accidentally ended up looking like it escaped out of Toxic Crusaders. Most of what we know we have learned by doing. Repeat, repeat, repeat has been the key in perfecting our crafts. Be it in painting, using Illustrator, or sewing. Endless hours of starting again from scratch do pay off in the end, as does watching a whole lot of YouTube instruction videos.
left to right: Billy Insane (Glow in the Dark) — Stardust Edition, Chu Totoro, Noodles — Sakura Edition, Pikadolly, and Mr. Panda, all 2014
Are you currently pursuing art full time? That time hasn’t come yet and I’m not sure it will in the short term! The thing is having a set amount of time to invest in Dolly keeps us focused and hopefully more efficient. We only invest time in those projects we think are really, really fun. Having a day job also means a bit of financial security, which in some way helps to keep off the pressure of having to sell a certain amount of works. So for now, we will keep combining our creative moonlighting job with our office day jobs. That is until there’re not enough hours in the night to work on all those fun projects. I haven’t seen many artists creating paper toys as detailed and adorable as yours - was working with paper a conscious decision or something you stumbled into?
Thank you! Paper toys were actually the first designs we created after starting with the plush bunnies. We wanted to promote the plush on our website and thought translating them into foldable designs would be fun. We started with a simple paper bunny duo called Salt ‘n Pepa. People’s reactions were amazing and we were surprised about the enormous amount of downloads. That’s how we stumbled into the paper toy world. Our first art shows were with our paper toy designs, like the pink robot with a bubblegum bunny behind the steering wheel we created for a show in Tokyo. Also, we had the pleasure of working with artists we admired - like Shin Tanaka, Triclops Studio, Bubi Au Yeung, Paul Shih, and many more for our Paper Totem! project. Each of these artists created a custom version of a stackable piece. In the end, there were a 100+ designs. We still create paper toys every now and then, mostly based on our resin toy designs. What are the perks and challenges of crafting creatures out of paper versus, say, vinyl or simply drawing them in 2D? Each medium comes with its own limitations and paper toys come with some very mathematical ones. Tinkering with folding lines and hitting the right angles in Illustrator can be a bit of a puzzle. In the end, it is, of course, still a much quicker process than creating a vinyl custom. Having an undo button also comes in very handy. That would be a nice addition to have when working on
“Bruce Lee,” 2014
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What we hope to stick with them is this initial reaction. Pretty much like the toys we still have from our childhood, when we pick up one of our Mighty Max playsets, we still think they are just as kick-ass and fun as the day we first opened them! If we were to visit you in Rotterdam, where would you take us to show us the best the city has to offer?
“Stay Puft,” 2014
a 3D platform! [But] if we had to choose between paper and vinyl/resin, we would end up choosing the latter. There is a bit more magic in having a vinyl or resin character in hand. It brings them more to life. From the moment you think of a new character to the moment it becomes a tangible, 3D creature, what are the steps involved in your creative process? The Dolly character cycle always kicks off with a sketch. Usually, the ones quickly drawn on a coffee-stained napkin are far better than the ones made in a proper sketchbook. Next up is deciding what to actually do with the character design. Does it fit a vinyl custom or would it work better as a plush, paper toy, screen-printed poster, or sticker? Depending on the medium, one of us works out the initial sketch and by sending it back and forth to one another we end up selecting colors, simplifying the look, fine-tuning the shape and appearance, before finalizing the design. No matter which material we use to translate the initial sketch, the creative process for any of our designs can always be roughly divided into these stages: Sketch, selecting an appropriate medium, bringing design to life, creating packaging design, and taking promotional photos of the finished design. When you’re searching for a jolt of inspiration, where do you turn? 42 | Clutter 33
We are true kids of the ‘80s and ‘90s, the Golden Age of toys. That, combined with being huge fans of Instagram, often ends up in us spending way too much time looking up vintage toys while screaming “Ooh, do you remember this one?” Another big source of inspiration is our travels. The things we see, experience and eat often end up in some way or shape in our designs. Imagine you were forced to take a month-long break from art: What would you do to fill that time and still enjoy it? If we had to take a month-long break, we would definitely spend it traveling. Preferably in Asia and, more specifically, in Japan. Instead of creating toys we would be buying toys, which is almost just as much fun. Japan is definitely a huge inspiration and always has been. From crazy cute food mascots to incredible mecha. When someone sees a Dolly Oblong toy, what do you hope strikes them first? The first reflex we hope for is a smile. It might sound a bit cheesy, but we believe toys should be fun and playful, so a smile is really the best possible thing to happen. We try to keep our designs as simple, bright and colorful as possible and hope they connect with many different people. From kids to grannies and everyone in between. How about what sticks with them for days, or even months?
Rotterdam is a super creative city with some of the craziest architecture. We would take you on a tour with the pancake boat to check out the quirky skyline, to Witte de With for the best galleries, to the Kruiskade for the best Asian food, and Museumpark to check out an amazing trio of bronze bunny sculptures by Tom Claassen. Let’s say a stop at your studio was on the itinerary: What is the wackiest thing we’d find there? The wackiest thing you would find there is a nest of pigeons in the windowsill. They landed at that spot a couple of months ago and decided that was the best place for a nest! They’ve been peeking inside ever since and we won’t dare to open the window! Other than paying close attention to that nest, what’s next for Dolly Oblong? There are some really awesome projects we are working on, which we can’t really talk about yet. Sorry! If you had said to us a year ago we would be working on the projects we’re working on now, our jaws would have dropped to the floor collectively. We hope to keep pushing our boundaries, start new collaborations, and work with new materials. One of our dreams is to create our own line of sofubi characters. Hopefully one day! Finish this sentence for me, please: Dolly Oblong is… …only at the very beginning of a fun, long, crazy, toy-infused roller coaster ride. For more information on Dolly Oblong, please visit: www.DollyOblong.com
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THE MONTHLY DIY:
THIS PHOTOGRAPH IS PROOF BY MARC DEANGELIS Last month, we showed you how to add a coat of varnish to your custom toy and how to properly ship it out to a friend or customer, but your work doesn’t end at the post office. If you want to hear some constructive criticism, gain fans, and bring in new clients, you need to promote your work. These days, selfpromotion is easier than ever, but our veterans of the DIY scene have some pointers to help you get as many eyes as possible on your work. This month, Laura “Loz Boz” Copeland of Haus of Boz joins our regular stable artists consisting of Sekure D, Jon-Paul Kaiser, The Bots, Rotobox, and WuzOne. Starting out, your promotion will likely be confined to the Internet, which means you’re working through a mainly visual medium — so it’s time to break out your camera. “All finished pieces are photographed in a light box before they are placed up for sale or revealed to a customer,” says Jenn Bot. “When you put so much time into creating a piece, we feel that your pictures should reflect how great the finished product is.”
And of course, if you’re not handy with a camera, you probably have a buddy with some photography chops that could help you out. “I’m lucky to have a good friend who is a professional product photographer and he’s kind enough to help me out with some great photography,” says Jon-Paul Kaiser. “Since he’s started helping me out, I think the professional look of my work has significantly increased.”
While smartphone cameras have come a long way, the flexibility and accuracy of a standalone camera is preferable. Professional camera gear is fun and creates amazing results, but a prosumer DSLR, or even a decent point-and-shoot, should do the trick. “We take high-quality photos of [our customs], though not really at a professional level. But it is important that the photos are high res and clear,” says Spencer Ong of Rotobox. And while Loz Boz knows her way around a camera and Photoshop, she points out that “as long as the pictures are bright and clear, the quality [of the toy] will always speak for itself.” Remember that you’re aiming for clarity over art here; a sharp photo that doesn’t have an amazing composition or convey emotion is totally fine.
When shooting, make sure the toy is properly lit. Daylight is preferable unless you want to shell out for some lights, stands, and soft boxes. In fact, taking your photos outside at the right time of day can be a great idea as long as you have a flat, stable surface to shoot on and the item can be side-lit. Next, set up your tripod and camera. Your camera should be set with a fast shutter speed to avoid any blurriness, especially if you’re not using a tripod. Unless your custom is set in an environment (e.g., a custom that looks like a squirrel being propped up on a tree branch) your aperture should be set so that your depth of field captures all the details of the toy while blurring out the background. This will force the viewer to focus in on the toy as opposed to other objects in the frame. And if your camera supports it, consider
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shooting in RAW format for greater flexibility when editing your photos in Photoshop. Snap a bunch of photos and then shift the position of the toy to show off all of its aspects. You want people to see the piece from every angle, not just the front. If you’d like, you can tweak your photos in editing software. Once you’re done shooting, bring your best pictures into Photoshop. Remember to keep any adjustments faithful to reality. You don’t want to mislead anyone who’s viewing your work. Punch up the colors to make them more representative of the toy’s color palette, add a vignette, desaturate the background, and remove any dust or pet hairs that might be floating about. Export your work to a web-friendly format and resolution. Now that you have a bunch of photos, it’s time to get them in front of some eyes. Don’t be intimidated by showing your work to the designer toy scene. “When I first started out with zero confidence and low expectations, I was shyly showing pictures to bloggers, expecting a pretty embarrassing reception,” says Loz Boz. “But once you dip your toe into this community, you’re already among really encouraging, enthusiastic friends right away.” Social media is a great place to start. In fact, once you build a fan base, they may help you out with the promotion process. “The love of toys has created such a great community, everybody shares everything with everyone all over the world. Toy fans naturally gravitate to what they love, and promote it,” says Loz. “Hashtags have been my friend since the beginning,” she says. “They help me enormously, despite the sarcastic teasing from my brother.”
Sekure D knows that social media isn’t just about keeping in touch with friends. “Instagram and Facebook are my main promotional tools,” he says. WuzOne takes a holistic approach to social media and uses a multitude of publishing channels: “[I promote my work] through Facebook, Instagram, Behance, Flickr, and the Kidrobot forum,” he says. JPK staggers his promoting schedule. “I post out pictures and a description to a few blogs, and after they’ve started to post those up I take to social media and share the photography there myself,” he says.
be: “Consistently put out work and be reliable. Everyone is sick of the flaky, difficult artist routine.” WuzOne shares his mentality. “Have a good reputation, and meet deadlines,” he says. This is all too relevant, as Kidrobot forum members have recently started a thread to document which customizers have met expectations, which have been late or incommunicative, and which have completely bailed after being paid for work. “Be polite, be professional, be honest, keep to your deadlines, and keep your standards high,” advises Loz.
The Bots sum up online promotion well. “We do our best to share our work anywhere and everywhere we possibly can. The more exposure, the more opportunities we have to work with and meet new people. The toy blogs and the Kidrobot forums are there for a reason and serve as a great venue for beginners and veterans alike.” In fact, emailing blogs with your photos and a quick description of the work can do wonders. The most time-intensive part of being an art toy blogger is finding great material to post. If you send your photos to a blogger, you’ve already helped them do most of the work required to create a post.
Say the Bots: “We go out of our way to always keep our clients up to date with what is going on. Communication is key and a great way to build trust and become friends with the collectors. In turn, this often leads to more work, as our friends and clients start to recommend us to their friends. Being nice, being part of the community, and keeping an open dialogue with your clients is the best way to keep your business going.”
This might seem like a lot of work, but it can certainly pay off. “Generally, [new clients] approach me after seeing my work online, at a show, or getting a recommendation from somebody who has had some work already done by me,” says JPK. The Rotobox brothers get new work “through online visibility. When clients see the work, they will contact you.” Sekure D makes a great point of how important a solid reputation can
Hearing feedback from the community and gaining new followers will boost your confidence and fuel future work. Don’t just put your hard work up on a shelf for a handful of people to see. Get it online and feel the love.
That’s all for this month, but if you’ve been following along, send us photos of your custom toy’s progress to firstname.lastname@example.org. Next month, we’ll hear some final words of wisdom from our team of customizers and just might feature work from some of our readers!
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The DEC 2015 issue of your indispensable guide into the world of art toys, counterculture, and underground art. Cover art and interview with...
Published on Dec 7, 2015
The DEC 2015 issue of your indispensable guide into the world of art toys, counterculture, and underground art. Cover art and interview with...