artist interview: doktor a and his spookypop customs

(circa 21.10.06)

you've seen his inspired customs constantly featured in me humble blog (see bottom of post for links). you see his work being fawned over at forum boards and online toy-entities, now read about the good Doktor.A in a short interview i've had with him just:

TOYSREVIL: how do the concepts of your creations and customs came about? what inspires you?

DOKTOR.A: Anything can inspire me. I dont really know where ideas come from. I get ideas and doodle a little sketch in a note book and then forget it. Sometimes the idea lingers and demands attention. They can get used for toys or paintings, sculptures or just drawings.

TRE: how did you decide on the execution and presentation of your toys?

DOK: Each piece demands a different approach. Some can be just paint, some need a lot of sculpting or construction. I think up the character and that dictates the direction.

TRE: what is your favourite medium?

DOK: I use Acrylic paints. Can't stand Oils.. Its the stink, gives me a headache. Plus i am too impatient for them.

TRE: what do you prefer, a paint-job or a customization of form?

DOK: I prefer simple paint jobs as opposed to chopping the toy about too much. I think they are a purer piece of work. Having said that, there are some projects which require construction of some sort. I like to try and keep a balence with those and not simply sculpt everything onto a figure. I mean i may as well sculpt one from scratch if I am going to do that.

TRE: tell us about your creations. do they have a little story of their own even before you start on them?

DOK: I give them all names which may indicate a backstory but I dont sit down and work the story out. I think as i do more pieces there are links appearing between them and common threads which could be tied together, but I haven't tried yet.

TRE: are there any further development of your creations planned? are there any (secret) Doktor.A toys coming our way? :p

DOK: I have a bunch of toy lines sketched out in various stages or presentation. I have approched toy companies with concepts. All I can say is you will have to wait and see. If anyone out there with a production company wants to get in touch about my ideas I am more than happy to talk to them.

TRE: tell us about yourself. what's your "dayjob"?

DOK: This is my day job.. I am an Industrial Modelmaker by trade. I freelance as an Illustrator and prototyper/sculptor. So making toys is one of the things i do for a living and have done for the last 15 years or so. Its just nice that right now the work that goes into them is started to be recognized as a legitimate artform.

TRE: what/who are your influences?

DOK: Ooh too many to mention and is grows every day. I love pen and ink illustration and fantasy/concept artwork. People like Ray Harryhausen and Brian Froud and Lee Brown Coye. As far as the toy world is concerned i love what Tweeqim are doing. MiQ's stuff was a reason i decided to step up my game with the customising and see where i could push it. he is the hands down master of custom toys, just look at his Ouija Mad*L...

I am not much one for the "street art" thing though I do enjoy a lot that I see on the web from the likes of D*Face and Banksy. I dont understand the whole grafitti/tagging thing at all.

TRE: please tell us what you hope for your creations/customs to do, for you and the vinyl-toy collector.

DOKTOR.A: I hope each of my pieces makes people happy viewing them. There is rarely a message to any of them. They are purely decorative art or craft pieces. I hope the collectors who commission them cherish them for a long time, even if the art toy scene dies away.

TOYSREVIL: cheers for your time and effort for this interview and can't wait to see your new works!

Doktor.A's Spookypop Website

Dok.A's customs on this blog:
- professor teslastein and his electric creation
- automatic girl
- something curious nautilus
- rivethead
- pirate munny
- professor whistlecraft's industrial copper-plated marvel
- greetings from egypt
- decaying orbit


artist interview : undoboy and super bastard toys

(circa 13.08.06)
Super Bastard Toys has seen quite a fair bit (*understatement*) of promotion across varied respectable online toy entities (VP / VA / P+P), all the while as i was bugging Undoboy for an online interview instead! ~ this blog's first, i might add ... onward :)

TOYSREVIL: tell us about yourself. your "dayjob".

UNDOBOY: my sig's Undoboy and i currently reside in New York, originally from Malaysia. After graduating with a BFA in Graphic Design from the Ringling School of Art and Design in 2005, I spent time as an interactive designer at Crispin Porter + Bogusky in Miami, before becoming an art director at JWT New York. It is very busy to work at a huge advertising agency.

As a child I was obsessed with drawing and crafting. In high school, my love for things creative grew. I listened to rock and electronic music. Those beautiful and crazy CD album covers strengthened my appreciation for design. I grew, my tastes grew and my passion was fueled. I had notebooks filled with doodles, sketches and stupid ideas.

TRE: what/who are your influences? did they influence the concept of SBT?

UDB: I love iconography and character design, with gradients being one of my trademarks. My inspiration comes from everywhere, but I’m particularly influenced by Japanese design, an influence I attribute to growing up with manga and Japanese/Hong Kong pop culture. The Superflat movement has had a very strong impact on my beliefs. I also admire Andy Warhol and love the way he intertwined art and pop culture. Obviously, they have influences on SBT.
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TRE: tell us about the Super Bastard Toy.

UDB: Super-Bastard Box Art Characters consists of 16 unique toys in one set, with 4 unique characters on each face of the box. Collectors have an opportunity to collect all 16 toys/64 characters in the series. Each toy is individually placed in a sealed box (blind assortment). They are produced in a limited edition with only 1000 copies of each toy on the market. Each toy is made with card stock plus matt lamination and stands 4” in height. SBT is sells at a retail price of USD5.95 per toy. They are set to launch in September 2006.

SBT are colorful, highly interactive and fun to play with. Characters include Uncle Sam, George W. Bush, Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, Queen Elizabeth II, Mother Teresa, a mummy, a Japanese wrestler, a cave man, dominatrix and so on. The toys are designed so that you can detach the head or the pants. Once removed, it reveals either a skull or underwear. What makes it exciting isn’t how cool or funny their underwear is, but that collectors can interchange their heads and pants with different bodies. Can a George W. Bush head go with a Saddam Hussein commander suit? How about president Mao wearing a super hot bikini?
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TRE: how did the concept of SBT came about? what inspired you?

UDB: I had the idea in school, and it was always well received. Friends always pushed me to produce it. The idea behind Super-bastard Box Art Characters was inspired by early mix and match books and the Postmodernist movement. Postmodernism asserts the borrowing of art. Postmodern architecture was born from an assemblage of different cultures and design styles. Therefore, no originality exists, especially with the explosion of mass media. Everything becomes a copy of what’s been done before.

In reality, people judge by appearance and first impressions usually last. The way you dress is the way people think you are. When attracted to a political leader, do we really know what happens “behind the scenes”? To me, an identity is variable, like postmodernism. Change the dress or language and an identity changes. This is how SBT was born. By interchanging body parts, the characters become a new figure. At the same time, we get a chance to see through what really lies underneath.

TRE: how did you decide on the execution and presentation of SBT?

UDB: I like taking existing arts or designs to transform them to other forms and make them more interesting. Therefore, SBT contains pop culture, politicians, and unique fashion. Gradient color gives a sense of depth.

At first, I was going to call these toys Superstar. I found the name lost its interest soon after. Super Bastard was next and it stuck. The name conjures up a dirty little dirty image, which I kinda like.

It was planned to launch like 4 toys in a set with clear PVC packaging. So, you can see through the characters and know what you are buying. I changed my mind to pack the toys as blind assortment, since this is more surprises and exciting when collectors buy it.
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TRE: did you produce them yourself? besides DKE distributing them, of coz.

UDB: I did produce them by myself. This is my debuting toy and it is my first time to put myself on business. In fact, I am not good on business at all. There is so much to learn. Anyway, I am happy with the outcome and using DKE as SBT’s distributor.

TRE: was the medium of the final toy a medium of your choice? if so, why?

UDB: Yes. Graphic designers love print stuffs, and i am no exception! Actually I have considered making them in vinyl or wood, but they didn’t look good. This is because Super Bastard is so boxy, and I think the form has to be curvier if I use vinyl or wood. It is fine to use paper for boxy form, because it similar to everyday packaging.

Another reason is that so many vinyl toys nowadays. I have only spotted a couple paper toys on the market, such as Cardboy by Mark James and Shin Tanaka’s paper toys. I want to explore the idea of toy on other medium. Off course, I would love to produce vinyl toy or plush toy in the future.
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TRE: compared to current free downloadable papercraft toys online now, what difference does SBT offer? what sort of experience? playability?

UDB: SBT and free downloadable paper toys are same in terms of material but they are actually very different in terms of value. Everyone can download paper toy everywhere in anytime in front of the computer, but not all the people can own a SBT because they are produce in a limited edition with 1000 copies for each design available.

The value behind SBT isn't only the limited production, but also they are art piece that I create; they are unique, playful and interactive. They contain my style of illustration. I don't think that people have done this kind of toy structure before that you can interchange the head and pant on a box, also can see their underwear, which is fun. Like Cardboy and the paper cut toy we play when we were kid also sell on the market, because they are fun to play with and they have value. Also, they are people that prefer ready made than DIY. This is very subjective.

I personally think that these are art. People buy art posters and postcards while they are also some free posters and postcards on the street. They pay for it because of the appreciation they have for the piece.

TRE: are there any further development of the series planned?

UDB: I am planning to have a couple series for Super-Bastard. Hopefully, second series can come out next year if this series is well received by toy lovers. I also want to set up some shows for SBT by making them on large scale (around 4 feet) if I get some connections with gallery.
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TRE: tell us what you hope for the toy to do, for you and the toy collector.

UDB: Today, my love for design creates conflicts on commercial projects. Commercial job is never that satisfying. Design should be fun, yet the commercial aspect has innate conflicts for an artist. Creativity has the power to simplify life and on some level, bring happiness to both the public and the artist. Whenever I design, I remind myself of that. A project should contain a voice within the work and therefore retains its uniqueness.

And this is where my own line of toys called SBT comes in. SBT should bring some drops of happiness to my family, friends and the toy collector. Hopefully, this is the first step to producing my own fashion label or maybe even more toys in the future.

TRE: thank you for your time and effort for this interview, Undoboy!

UDB: This is my pleasure to be the first interview :) very happy.

TRE: good luck for SBT, yeh? :)

living the one-sixth world (part one) : kitbash vs custom

(circa 30.05.06)
what is a "kitbash"?
[1] To take pieces from several kits/figures and create an entirely different item. a superficial surface modification of an existing item from it's original design. [adapted via]

this is my humble kitbash-example:

by utilizing various clothes and accessories, i've converted both the DML-Initial-D and Lain figures into "someone" else. no other physical surface enhancements were utilized.

and what determines a "custom"?
[1] the modification of an existing physical form, be it sculptural enhancement or removing existing parts and replacing with others, to create an entirely different item.

[2] surface modification includes: facial sculpting and/or enhanced facial paintwork, re-rooting of hair, body paintwork and (additional) tattoos.

[3] other customization include: sewing and production of 1/6th clothes, scratch-made shoes and accessories.

this is my own (simple) version of a "custom" (for a custom-figure competition, circa 2002):
painted-on tattoos and clothes. that is a sophisticated as i have gotten all these while. (there are other WIPs and will be revealed when tis time :p)

and these are some current prime examples of hardcore customization of the 1/6th:
Anti-Personnel's Death Angel and Death Rider:

Death Angel

Death Rider

and CalvinLo's Snake Poison (origins here):

(copyright of images and concept remains with owners of the images)

or of the many indisputable customs (and some kitbashes) @ the ActionMan 4040-show :)

the line is murky, yes ~ and many toe that line between disciplines and conventions. some do just facial paintwork and claim it to be a custom (which is not wrong) and some might cut a pair of long pants into shorts and call it a custom (which is "technically" not wrong either) = at the end of the day, tis the physical alteration of an existing figure and the level of effort and complexity that goes into it, that defines it either as a *kitbash* or a *custom*, IMHO :)


i am primarily a kitbasher (when it comes to 1/6th figures). always have been. always claimed to be. i had attempted "customs" in the past, but more so "surface paintwork" than "physical enhancement" (evident from image-example above) :p

a coupla parting questions (for those who actually "care" about such things :p):

(1) would by buying/procuring a commissioned headsculpt from another artist and putting it unto a figure you bought and dressed-up in kitbashed clothing = make one a "customizer"?

(2) given the hobby-norms, would the usage of PHOTOGRAPHY be given any credit in this division? ie: take a regular picture of a toy out in the great outdoors (instead of in the box) - would it ever be considered a "kitbashed photo"? or would using lighting effects and non-conformist camera-angles to take the figure/toy and producing a different look of said toy, be ever considered a "customized photo"?

i go play with my toys now ~ *heh*

vinyl is the new canvas

(circa 26.05.06)
or so it seems, dunnit? There currently are two main types/categories of “customizers” = the “Painters” and the “Worksmiths”.

the vinyl-figure is literally a blank canvas for the artist to embellish his/her own sense / version / perception of graphics, concept or of character, to give it a new character from it's original. be it an extension of their imagined character/persona or a deviation of their running design themes. or even a new creation. every surface; inch/centimetre is not wasted. the new canvas is no longer “flat” (ie: paper on a horizontal drawing board, or a vertical wall) ~ the new canvas is a blank sculpture waiting to be colored.

examples of painters: Tim Biskup, Joe Ledbetter.

a worksmith's primary function is to alter the basic original structural form of vinyl-figure and to create something else altogether. sometimes ever so slightly, sometimes beyond mere recognition (but of coz retaining it’s basic “concept/ integrity”) ~ using whatever sculptural-aids that comes to mind, and even sometimes non-traditional materials too.

examples of worksmithers: PhuEk! Huck Gee.

of coz alla the above is just of my own opinion and observations, and of coz there are those who utilizes BOTH techniques ... so, which are you? :)


manufacturers recognize this (I reckon?) and with the increasing number of DIY-customizers who’ve emerged worldwide, aided tremendously by the www and the vinyl-fever that seem to sweep across other current fashion/lifestyle genres (ie: Adidas, street-style et al) in forms of collaborations and cross-promotional campaigns … although I dare not say everyone’s out to be “the next big thing” (who wouldn’t want to be anyways, innit? DUH), but the ability to have someone’s work shared with so many other likeminded-enthusiasts; is truly mind-boggling, tho nothing new (and often taken for granted, IMHO) in this day and cyber-age? and what better way now, than vinyl-customization?

to cater specifically for this group of elusive vinyl-dreamers :p emerging artists, here are a whole slew some of new Do-It-Yourself vinyl-figures (left-to-right):

Toy2R’s new range of 4" DIY Baby Qees in the following shapes: Bunee, Bear, Toyer, Cat, Monkey and Dog. [via]

AdFunture’s I, DIY Blank edition, rotocast and standing at 9cm height. [via]

TinyHeartHead’s Blankhead ~ available @ FuturePlastik [via]

not to mention the many various others that are already/coming unto the market. am sure im missing loads, but am sure there'll sure be a heck more to come, innit? *heh*

what are designer urban vinyls?

(circa 08.05.06)
tis a question that non-toy collector friends (who've read about it somewhere or have seen me spend ridiculous amounts of $$$ on) ask me. so too non-designer-vinyl toy collectors (ie: fellow 1/6th action figure fans) and i admit, tis a hard "concept" to explain and to be understood by those who feel not for it ... yet ...

i mentioned "concept" becoz that's what i personally think/thought it is, on a metaphysical level (aren't i the smart brooding one, innit? *hurl*) - becoz it embodies a certain "spirit" and "ideal" of a toy, subversive of it's pre-determined value in the real world ("toys are for kids" and/or "toys are cheap") and of the tag "designer" attached it it, somehow imbuding it with a "special power" (common among many a branded-goods worldwide) which suddenly elevates it beyond that of mere mortal-toydom lining the department store-shelves of every other country and carton-boxes piled high in the store-rooms - a "exclusivity" whispered in it's packaging and availability ... which in a physical-state (based on what i normally can get me grubby hands on, innit? *bah*) equals (unfortunately for some) the prior-mentioned "availability" and "exclusivity", displayed on spacious shelves of "designer boutiques" and "specialist" toy-shops ... and that's just the brick'n'mortar variety, innit? whereas on the web, the ideal and identity is obvious. less is more in this instance ...

folks claim: "but there's hardly any articulation! the details are not as impressive as say, McFarlene's ... all the toy does is stand there! i can hardly play with the item! might as well be a plastic statue, what ..."

then i reckon, them "designer urban vinyls" aren't for them. a fair fact and no toy-elitist sentiment here whatsoever (as much as there are amongst some other genre of toys, im sure) becoz at the end of the toy-day, they are not the "target" for these toys. as much as i'd like to say: "designer vinyls are designed by designers" ~ so too are the "non-urban-vinyl" variety, aren't they? mayhap a "clearer" (if that can ever be the case) "definition" veers more towards a design derived from "urban street culture", as designed by personalities and artists associated with said culture ... altho not the conformists, which ironically is what some bigger brand companies are trying to adopt and adapt ... which i hope in time to come will not devalue "urban vinyls" (or at least the "ideal"), innit? but then again, that's just me blowing hot smoke and such, innit? *heh*

i faintly remember years ago, stepping into a specialist skate-shop (at Peninsula Plaza) and looking around cluelessly (i'd admit i was and still too a novice if not a freelance philistine on said culture) and actually picking up a toy-vinyl on display. it fit the palm of my hand and was light to the touch. and had for a split-second considered buying it, until i asked for the price ~ t'was SGD$60. and here i was thinking; "alamak! so much for a cheap piece of plastic?" ... "it's from a designer from HongKong" - said the shop-dude, and i thought to myself: "so what? design like that how to make it?" ... and i put it back on the display shelf and bought me a skate-tee instead ...

a coupla (or so) years on, when i rediscovered toys (more so "urban vinyl") and did more research, cruised and conquered ebay (*groan*) and recognized and remembered that vinyl which i held in my hands and let slip: Michael Lau's Fatback. and there i was trying desperately to secure the rest of his Crazy Children numbers#1-5 at a ridiculously inflated secondary-market price where i could've gotten it cheaper (which to date i have completed and still have *heh*) - which i sometimes still kick myself for, but acknowledge the fact that the past cannot be changed, except that "preconceptions" and "ideas" can be changed and developed. just don't take too effin' long to, is all im saying! *L0L*

and i don't even wanna go into the story of the KAWS' Companion figure ... *sigh*

anyways, deviations and memory-trippin' aside, here are what some others thoughts, takes and history-lessons on "the designer urban vinyl" phenomenon:
> ActionFigures's Urban Vinyl 101
> Confessions of a Toy Pusher : State of The Union
> All Other Toys (Article) Sucks

any other articles to recommend, anyone? :)

me? i just know they look absolutely incredible and i want them to fill my display shelves (if i had any space, that is) and that i can hardly afford them upfront. 'nuff said gawddammit* *heh*

toy or art?

(circa 16.03.06)

i've read it somewhere (or izzit my own overflowing brainbile?) that vinyl is the new canvas. ~ and of coz we be talking about vinyl-figures/toys here, innit? and mayhap that statement/expression is valid, if but for the artists that works on them ... and tis something that seems poised (or already have) to overwhelm the mass culture-consciousness (as opposed to niche/sub-culture). but do we want it to?

would it mean that "toys" would be (somehow) viewed more than "just toys"? or would it only mean the works of the artists involved be appreciated more, in the mass-culture? does it matter, in the end? "exposure" for both product and artist, innit? it doesn't have to be "commerce" versus "culture", does it? an artist doesn't cease to be an artist, if he/she makes money, does he/she? and if a toy sells loads, does it loose it's "value" and/or niche-appreciation? depends very much on what your definition of "art" and "toys", innit?

will "TOY" ever become "ART"? ~ or are they already? does it have to be?

sure as the media might angle it that way, to suit whatever article/feature, innit? or does it? how does the general non-toy-buying-public think of us/them vinyl-toy collectors and artists? do we care? do we need to care? can we afford not to?

"customization": be it painted-on-art, textured and crafted, reverse-engineered or deconstructed = after a fashion, one would be able to access the level or at least the discipline from which the customizer/artist hails from, IMHO ... and is that a "signature"? or will it become a "cliche"? ... "predictability" can be both a boon and curse, i reckon ... ya "know" and can "accept" anything that might come ot from this particular artist, but when he/she decides to experiment and try another genre? will it still be accepted? but then again, everybody is entitled to their own opinions and tastes, innit? so who does the artist/customizer "customize" for? him/herself? or for the fans/public/mass? do you care?

blame it on PimpMyDolls for jump-starting these dormant-thoughts of mine, brewing/bubbling/festering ever since my tenure on a weekly-magazine teevee-project about "the ARTS"; yonks back ... and now the thought-gates are open once more ... or am i pulling something out of my ass here yet again? does it matter, in the end?

*heh* :p



welcome to my new blog-abode, where i talk toys. and mayhap once in a while ~ an interview with a new up and coming toy designer / artist / customizer and/or an industry veteran (the latter being a tad tricky, but i shall persevere).

drop me an PM if you've got something to say or wouldn't mind letting me ask you questions, yeh? cheers :)



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