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only in the development stages, with techniques being fine-tuned through practice, designers and vinyl toy makers The first time I came across are laying the foundations of turning Urban Vinyl was while searching the Urban Vinyl into a genre all artists can online stores in some of my favorite web take on. sites. One particular creation aroused my interest especially. The vinyl versions So where does Urban Vinyl come from, of the characters within their superbly what exactly is it and who are influential crafted web site really people associated with it? caught my attention, not only were these creations extremely cool, but it opened my eyes to the concept of transferring my ideas onto a 3D medium. Although the Urban Vinyl genre is over a decade old, the fashion of this medium is really

history of action figure


In many respects the appearance of designer toys resembles what we can buy in wee packages at our local toy stores. Although the aesthetics between designer toys and action figures are related in some aspects the concept between the two are very far between. My research extends to the beginning of the where the concept stemmed from, where the action figure began, the fundamentals

of action figures hasn’t stopped some figures being swapped for huge wads of cash due to the fact that it’s still in its unopened box. Somewhere in the late 80’s action figures went from being kids toys to being adult collectables. Somewhat this opened up a market for adult toy and it wasn’t truly capitalised upon until the mid 90’s when Spawn comic creator Todd Mcfarlane, launched his own toy line based upon characters in his graphic novels.

behind its creation and how [in some to play with a doll, even if it was wielding aspects] it laid the way for the designer a rifle. Following careful deliberation the toy and Urban Vinyl movement. term ‘action figure’ was born and along side, the birth of the popular GI Joe Way back in the 1950’s the figure which has seen over 400 different Barbie was created. The Barbie itself variations of essentially the same thing was modelled upon the fashionable over the past 50 years. German sex doll Bild Lilli. Funnily enough the Barbie doll was renown for The action figure plays a huge its fashion and trendy outfits opposed to part in advertising and merchandising being without any outfit at all. To this day of almost every popular film, television it remains the highest grossing toy of all programme and cartoon that exists and time. Not long after a boys doll arrived has existed in the last 30 years. The in the form of a plastic man in uniform. paraphernalia role of these products goes The term ‘doll’ initially didn’t sell the against everything that art stands for. But concept because no boy was every going mass production and commercialisation

also showed a new movement and proved that whatever could be imagined could be replicated three-dimensionally. From the Spawn characters came other characters of Todd’s creations. It was the start up of processes of figures being created that knew no other cultural life, they hadn’t appearing in a video game, comic, animation or movie they weren’t figures that hadn’t appeared on television,. The designer toy had arrived. These were 100% original. The immense attention to detail and quality of each figure is a trademark of Todd’s work, and whether Todd’s toys not only showed his work appeals to you or not you can’t that vinyl figures are display items, it help but admire that.

Todd’s Toys launched it first line of figures in 1995, and by 1997 a man by the name of Michael Lau emerged with his own line of self made and inspired toys. Regarded as the forefather of Designer Toys, he was employed by a music group called Anidote to create the cover for an upcoming album. Instead of a 2D design he created an original figure and photographed it. This led to the first official urban vinyl line: The Gardeners. Lau’s figures were dressed up in contemporary outfits depicting hip hop and street scene attire, which undoubtedly lead to the toys popularity. Initially Lau’s figures were made from GI Joe figures that he had dismembered, recast their heads and hands and remade. The figures were so influential the tremor of the concept shook the Vinyl revolution awake and it’s been progressing more and more with each artists input. The Designer toy doesn’t just refer to toys made from vinyl. As the genre has progressed the mediums have too. Plush toys are common now, its kind of weird to think that you can cuddle art. Wood and metal are also used. In fact designer toys can be constructed using any material an artists draws inspiration from. The ‘circus punk’ toy evolved from the century old carnival game where kids have to throw a ball and knock down wooden pins to win a prize. The toy itself is based on the pin and has become a template for artists to decorate.

so what is urban vinyl? The greatest difference between action Figures and designer toys is that Urban Vinyl is created with art sensibilities in mind. The fact that the designer toy actually comes from the creators mind directly, instead of through money making marketing paraphernalia and merchandising motives, the toy was from a realm of its own, it has no past, just a the dawn of the whole genres future. The beauty of designer toys is that anybody can do it, and if a well known artists brings out their own line of designer toys, they’re collectable without being hugely expensive, meaning that anybody can own a piece of art. The initiative behind the genre isn’t to over populate the market with over-priced pieces of plastic. The designer toy is art in its purest and simple form. The toy is either used like a canvas to portray an artists unique style or it is a character based on a concept within the deep murky cavity that is an artists mind. Jeremyville has been a strong figure in the Urban Vinyl scene, his interpretation of the genre is that: “one needs to be highly informed as to who Nathan Jurevicius, Rolitoboy, Bill McCullen, Fafi, Groovisions, Tao, MCA, Daren Gan or Tristan Eaton are, and this is where it comes very close to the realm of the traditional fine art market, in that reputation, bankability, fan base & status of the artist in question is paramount. A 3d plastic rabbit from a toy chain, designed by an anonymous staff artist of a major toy company, is a world away from a 500 unit run of a Kaws Bunny, which is his vision of a rabbit. True they both are 3D representations of bunnies, but one is a product made in he millions, and the other is a art multiple, akin to say a limited edition screen print by a

respective artist” (Jeremyville Sessions, ‘collectable art’ in the same fashion I 2007) did collecting trading cards in my youth. Trying to collect whole sets of figures or a In order to appreciate urban vinyl particular artists line of toys and waiting you need to enjoy it for what it is, and patiently for another range to be brought what it represents. It’s the designer/artist out next year. who plays the biggest role in creating the character of the toy. And in turn its what’s portrayed on a Munny Dunny or Be@rbrick is a direct representation of the character and style of the artist who makes it. Releasing pieces in low numbers keeps the appeal and excitement in collecting. Its turned art into this new aspect of

techniques Large corporations at great expense created the technologies used to create toys and small run toy manufacturers are appropriating that technology to create art. What looks good on paper might not work in 3D,generally smooth and flowing shapes are easier not only in construction but also in painting, drawing or printing onto. Vinyl or PVC is used due to its versatility and durability, its easy to color and easily texturised.


Creation of a ‘turn-around’. A detailed technical illustration of the product featuring front, back and side views of the figure Some use a computer based 3D render in Maya or another 3D modelling program based from the sketches to ‘fine tune’ the character.


A clay mould is made, called an Armature. An Aluminium backbone is made and clay is sculpted around this. Then by using a series of tools the miniature sculpture can be added to, shaved off, curved and smoothed until both the artist and sculpture decide upon a final shape.


In a process dubbed the ‘lost wax process’ a silicon mould is then made from the clay sculpt which is then used to produce a wax cast or ‘wax pattern’. This wax positive is then electroplated and the wax melted out of its centre creating a metal positive that is then itself cast into a series of moulds suitable for production. The following is a exert from IDN Magazine volume 13 #6. It explains in depth the processes involves with making vinyl toys.


Essentially a metal mould ‘negative’ of the figure is partially filled with melted plastic then spun at high velocity. The centrifugal forces spreads the plastic throughout the mould cavity, creating a hollow ‘positive’, which is pulled from the mould allowed to cool, decorated and packaged into the vinyl toy. A relatively affordable process, self financed independent artists and producers adopted Rotocasting early on, and its fat bodied hollow style has become synonymous with the aesthetic of art toys.

a water-based adhesive, layer by layer it Any figures with intricate details eventually forms the appearance of the utilises an ‘injection moulding’ process picture on the screen. instead of rotocasting. Rather than spinning a small amount of plastic Following the moulding process the onto the finished piece, injection resulting cast needs to be decorated. moulds are filled with molten plastic. Crayons, colored pens and paint are all Injection moulds allow for a more good mediums that have been tried and significant level of detail and plastic are usually used by artists on their piece. hardness, but requires a more durable Depending on skill level this can either steel mould to withstand the inevitable be easy or turn into calamity following one misdirected paint stroke so it pays high production temperatures. Instead of utilising the lost wax to practice before hand. process a hard plastic positive is created and subsequently transformed into a negative steel mould suitable for injection moulding. The mould is then loaded into an injection moulding machine, pressed closed and filled with enough molten plastic to entirely fill the cavity. Once removed and cooled, the resulting figure is polished, decorated and packaged (IDN Magazine volume 13 #6)


Other methods are common practice too. Constructing characters straight out of polymer clay and 3D printing is becoming more and more affordable and could be the future for toy production. A 3D printer works by constructing an object created with 3D software. It deposits a layer of fine powder which then is mixed with


qee bear The Qee’s standard size is 2” but 8” and 16” figures are also produced. Qee’s vary in their design, usually with the same basic body shape, but with head sculpts depicting a bear, cat, dog, monkey and a rabbit. Variations of the Qee are the TOYER with a head that resembles a cartoon skull, the knuckle bear [Touma] which resembles a graffiti style caricature of an anthropomorphized bear and the Qee egg, a birds egg with arms and legs.


dunny Dunny’s are considered the western counterpart of the Qee. Dunny’s are a series of figures that resemble anthropomorphized rabbits in a cartoon style (a design originally illustrated by graffiti, stencil & comic artists) 3” or 8” characters are standard but show pieces up to 36” are often displayed in contemporary art galleries. Munny is a variation of this character, same body but with the head of a monkey. Both styles have unpainted versions, offered as doit-yourself pieces Designer Toys -


artists Currently there are thousands of designers on the vinyl bandwagon. Its great because of the variety of the genre and the rate it’s growing. “An expanding market”, according to Hong Kong toy designer Eric So, “has created more opportunities for new comers to join in” The beauty of a piece is really in the eyes of the collector, and there are some really cool concepts coming out. Seeing a 3D figure of an artist character brings a whole new intimacy between art, designer and fan. The following artists incorporate their style and character onto their toys perfectly, and it shows in their approach to the genre.


Joe Ledbetter America



Jeremyville Australia


James Jarvis





references Jeremyville (2007). Sessions. Hong Kong: System Design Limited.

Author Unknown (2007, May 31,). Designer toys. Retrieved May 18th, 2007 from, Web site: http://

Crawford, J. (2006/7 No 6). Basic Jeremyville (Undated). Toy Platforms Vinylation, Soup to Nuts: The creative Crossovers & New Releases. IdN, industrial process behind designer toy 13 No 3, 51-56. making. IdN, Volume 13, 87-92. Unknown Author (2006, March). Vinyl Fantastical. Computer Arts Projects, Issue 82, 36-40. Unknown Author (2006, March). Adding Character. Computer Arts Projects, Issue 82, 14-20. Unknown Author (2006, February). 123Klan. Computer Arts Projects, Issue 81, 22-26. Budnitz, P (2006). I am Plastic, the designer toy explosion. China: Abrams, an imprint of Harry N Abrams Inc. Berk, S. A., Tumbusch T., & the editors of Tomarts Action Figure Digest (2000). Tomart’s Encyclopaedia of Action Figures (The 1001 most popular collectibles of all time). New York NY: Black Dog & Levethal Publishers, Inc. Jeremyville, Mair M. (2005 Number 2). Serial Achievers. IdN, Volume 12, 41-46. Author Unknown (2007, May 30). Action Figure. Retrieved May 18th 2007 from, Web site: http:// Jager (2004). Designer Toys, A Look at Urban Vinyl and Where it Came From. Retrieved May 18th, 2007 from, Web site: http:// urbanvinyl.php

image credits Budnitz, P (2006). I am Plastic, the designer toy explosion. China: Abrams, an imprint of Harry N Abrams Inc. Berk, S. A., Tumbusch T., & the editors of Tomarts Action Figure Digest (2000). Tomart’s Encyclopaedia of Action Figures (The 1001 most popular collectibles of all time). New York NY: Black Dog & Levethal Publishers, Inc. toys/media.aspx?product_ id=2757&type=photo&file=nd_ ndprom_photo_01_dp.jpg imgres?imgurl= om/29/63487588_0bad19d983_o. jpg&imgrefurl=http://www. sleeping_w.html&h=1024&w=76 8&sz=163&hl=en&start=1&um=1 &tbnid=JtiBgbo6q821rM:&tbnh= 150&tbnw=113&prev=/images%3 Fq%3Ddunny%2Bhonk%26svnum %3D10%26um%3D1%26hl%3De n%26safe%3Doff%26client%3Dfi refox-a%26rls%3Dorg.mozilla:enUS:official%26sa%3DN plasticandplush/2006/02/gradys_ bridge_t.html jeremyville_home.html jarvis/index.html aspx?product_id=2524&type=p hoto&file=series27_spawni086_ photo_01_dp.jpg aspx?product_id=2028&type=photo &file=series17_spawn5_photo_01_ dp.jpg magazine/15DOLL.html?ex=125030 8800&en=676d4fa9c98de4df&ei=50 90&partner=rssuserland


Viva La Vinyl