Everything's Black And White according to Kenn Munk

in this third installment of artist interviews, i had a insightful online chat with illustrious customizer, Kenn Munk ~ inclusive of exclusive images not seen anywhere else online yet (dare i say ;p). onwards!

TOYSREVIL: can you tell us, who is "Kenn Munk"?

KENN MUNK: He's a shy 32 year old Dane, People generally don't believe it when I tell them I'm shy, but I am. I find walking up and talking to people hard. Apart from that, I'm a graphic designer and sometimes a teacher.

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TRE: how long have you been customizing toys?

KM: Since I was old enough to cut my fingers, there was a gap from the age of, say 13 to a couple of years ago. I also made papermodels of BMX bikes for the other kids as a child, my dad worked with sales, first at a bread-factory, then at a brewery and he had this strange, sturdy paper that I sort of hated at first. The other kids, whose parents stole normal DIN A4 paper from work, made fun of me for having this thick, odd paper, but it was perfect for paper models, so sod them.

TRE: aahhh, that's the spirit! so, why "toys"?

KM: Toys are the first thing I owned. My clothes were decided upon and bought by my mum when I was a kid. She also washed them and put them in my closet, so they weren't really all mine, so toys are the first things I possesed. I built everything with lego bricks, it has inspired my work, especially my fonts and dingbats a lot and I built a lot of model kits. I had the coolest childhood, my mum didn't work so she was always around and even though my parents thought Star Wars was a weird thing, they never told me it or anything I did was stupid or useless, even when it was. Toys have never ceased to fascinate me, I was sucked into this art toy world when I stumbled across the UK Design-a-Qee competition. I started checking out the boards and found the custom sections and wanted in on the fun. It also seemed a good counterweight to all the design I do on the Mac.

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TRE: aahhh the innocence of childhood ... i had my toys stolen by the maid once when i was a wee lad (legos and vintage Star Wars now) and never had a maid since i growed up LOL ... anyways, how did you decide on the execution and presentation of your customs?

KM: This is interesting, because it's changing. Or it has changed but very few people have seen what I'm working on at the moment. I'm very fascinated by pop culture icons and at first I went for an idea, I looked at a Dunny and if I could see Hellboy somewhere in that shape, I'd make him.

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KM: Actually I got a bit sick of that approach around the time I did the Hellboy Dunnies, I got fed up with the fact that I was copying, that this would just be yet another Hellboy Dunny and not really a Kenn Munk Dunny. Sure, I had a different approach than others and I'm still proud of some of the earlier ones like the Donnie Darko Dunny, but It's getting more personal and has a broader perspective than just comicbook heroes. Like The DIY Gun ~ that's really just part of a larger project, but I'm happy with the subtlety of it.

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I didn't really answer that did I?

TRE: the technique created the concept, but now tis the concept that dictates the technique? yes, im just groping in the dark here hahaha ... so what medium are you working on currently? and why?

KM: I'm working on some 12" figures for a project called "Every Thing is Black or White" at the moment, there are four finished (called 02, 26, 42 and 74) and there'll be at least one more (called 45).

(*toysrevil/me drools bucketloads at this point in time, pass me a tissue or two, please? thanks*)

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I got into 12"ers after I did a custom for the AM4040 show. I was hooked the moment I discovered what you could do with the body language of these. AM4040 was brilliant, the most fun I have had for ages, props to all the people backing it. My custom had his head chopped off, it's kind of a trend with me, Antlor paper kits are just chopped off heads, the Skumask isn't even a head and it just happens, it's apparently just an idea that pops into my mind whenever my mind gets ideas.

Well, I was left with a leftover head and a leftover box from AM4040, so I decided to make "My Custom Disguised as Ledbetter's Custom" ~ I don't think I've shown this one anywhere before. I did ask Joe if he was cool with me making that and he was - which was fortunate as I'd already made it when I asked...


TRE: generally how long do you take on a custom?

KM: I usually take ages! I work on more projects at the same time, going back and forth. If it's a simple idea I just get it done, but on more complex things I tend to drag it out.

TRE: do you have any conceptual sketches you'd like to share? of your different works?

KM: I don't sketch, really. I have one that Brickboy made for me from a poster I brought to Pictoplasma.

TRE: any little tips or tit-bits of info you'd like to share about the making of your customs?

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KM: Model kits are my friends, as they are for a lot of customizers. I'm getting more and more into fabricating parts myself – this is probably due to the fact that I've finally gotten my hands on a Dremel. I dont sculpt a lot. I think the most I've done are these gloves for "Every Thing is Black or White" and that's not a lot. I pretty much design on the go. I have an overall idea and start figuring out how to do it, sketching on the toy, trying different parts.

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TRE: tell us about your creations.

KM: As I said, they're getting more personal and "Every Thing is Black or White" is fusing my graphic design with my toys. I tried to do this with the production toys like my qee and my trexi, but I messed it up. I was too influenced by the visual language of the scene and not doing my own thing. I hate these designs now. I still like how my Qee really is three guys sharing a snowsuit, but noone gets it. A funny thing happened the other day when I was taking some pictures of the "Everything is Black or White" customs, I was posing them - I'm sure you agree that getting their body language and attitude right is fun - and taking pictures and as I loaded them on to my computer I realised that the pictures of them were more interesting than the actual figures.

bwsneak1 bwsneak2

A great thing about working on "Every Thing is Black or White" is, that I don't know what the figures are. I don't know if they're robots, if they're wearing helmets or their heads just look like that. working on something I don't know what is makes my smile.

TRE: "design" is a visual medium, which weirdly complements an actual art/vinyl toy, because they too encompass the basic principles of a tactile-medium too, IMHO ... are there any further developments of your creations planned? are there any (commercial) Kenn-Munk-creations coming our way?

KM: I'm going to see if I have any screenprinting talents in a couple of days. If I do, some very sexy underwear is coming out. And T-shirts as well. All Black and white.

There may be something else as well, but I don't want to jinx that.

TRE: i'll wish you all the best anyways, Kenn! now, tell us about yourself. your "dayjob".

KM: Well, I quit my day job today. Really, I did! I'm gonna give my own little design business a shot. I started my one man company April 1st 2005 and it's been picking up speed of lately, so I'm gonna give it a shot. Getting clients is going to be the hardest part because of the fact that I'm a shy person ... so spread the word on where to get crisp black and white stuff!

TRE: congrats and best of luck for your new business, Kenn! truly :) ... jumping back in time, could you tell us what/who have been/are your influences?

KM: Lego, Model kits, my childhood, Early George Lucas (he was promising young man), bitmaps, heraldy, knights and castles but not so much dragons, music (mostly electronic stuff), Bridget Riley, Man Ray, optical illusions, army stuff - camouflage in particular, Dave McKean (I've been plugging my fonts to him for ages, I'd love to se him use one of them for something), Edward Johnston, stuff found in the streets, advertising, British paperback covers (I want to design some next year), writers like Craig Clevenger, James Frey, Chuck Palahniuk, Neil Gaiman, instructions for appliances and rubber gloves, pop cultural references, I also like to run. Once my body is busy rushing itself through the woods, my brain can come up with ideas and designs.

TRE: we share quite a bit of similar influences, and we'll have a longer chat next time round, eh? tell us what you hope for your creations to do, for you and the toy collector.

KM: Once, I'd sold a custom to someone, he'd put it in his bag, given me the money and we'd finished our coffee at the café where we met. We took a tram and he got off before me. Just before the tram started again, I saw him take the custom from his bag, look at it and smile to himself.

TRE: damn that must be a good warm feeling (hopefully one day i'd get to feel a tinge of that too) ... to wrap-up, any parting words of wisdom for the aspiring customizer?

KM: Mess about, make stupid things, make mistakes and know that they're mistakes.

TRE: but all i make are mistakes! LOL ... finally, what's up for 2007?

KENN MUNK: Every thing is Black or White. join the mailing list at my website to be in the loop = :)

TOYSREVIL: mucho thanks for this insightful interview and exclusive images! ...

[original post circa 01.12.06]


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