If you are interested in getting into the designing toy scene as a collector or an artist, I recommend the Kidrobot Forums. I spent a lot of time there a while back, learning the ropes, talking to artists and collectors, and getting some great deals on used vinyl (toys not records). Most everyone there is very friendly and always willing to share their experiences and knowledge. The forums are where I met many of the designer toy artists I have interviewed over the years. This next artist had actually posted a thread about needing to sell some custom pieces because he had just lost his job. Now he is persuing his dreams as a succesful artist, blowing minds coast to coast. His custom pieces are some of the most original designs I have ever seen, and his originals appeal to my love of all things horror. He currently works with resin and focuses on creating unique pieces of his own design, but I’ll let him talk a little about that. He took a few minutes away from the clay to talk shop with me. Be sure to swing by his store and pick up some original pieces. You can also hit Motorbot up on twitter!
GuerrillaGeek: When did you first get interested in designer toys?
Motorbot: I found them by accident. I ran across an article about the first dunny show and started lurking around the kidrobot message boards. From there it just kind of snow-balled into customizing and making toys.
MB: My favorites to customize are mad*ls and munnys. Both are really nice shapes and lend themselves to a lot.
I think my favorite all time designer toy is the Ecko/Alife Surprise Pack. It’s this odd vinyl egg that looks like it’s wood and sits in a tree stump base. Very weird but very cool. There’s a white flocked version I’m dying to get my hands on
GG: Designer toys aren’t carried in just any shop along the street. Where do you get most of your pieces to customize or collect?
MB: Most everything in my collection was acquired online either on message boards or online shops. There are a couple local shops that stock munnys and whatnot so in a pinch I can grab a figure if I need one.
GG: Do you feel like some of the larger companies make it harder or easier for artists to get a leg up?
MB: I don’t think any of the companies really make it easy to get into the business. Four or five years ago they were more eager to take a chance on an artist but not since the economy tanked. They’ve all tightened up the purse strings and tend to stick with names they know will generate sales. A few companies are starting to branch out a bit and take chances but on the whole it is not easy to get a figure produced.
GG: Kid Robot pushes quite a bit of clothing as well as their toys. Do you think other companies would benefit from this kind of branding strategy?
MB: Actually I think the whole apparel line is where kidrobot took a bad turn. It seemed like a money grab and I think it also led to a big patch of mediocre toys. They got away from toys and focused way too much on overpriced clothes. I can see the benefit of releasing shirts and hats with your logo or toys on them, but KR was going nuts with it. When the apparel is an extension of the toys it can be very good. But when you put most of your efforts into pushing clothes you’ve become a clothing company that happens to sell some toys.
GG: Some toy companies, like 3A for example, deal in very short runs and extremely high dollar pieces. Would you rather design toys for someone like 3A or someone with a larger appeal like Toy2R?
MB: I like aspects of how 3A does things. It makes a lot of sense to run preorders. It’s pointless to waste money producing things that won’t sell. I think they could cater a bit more to those of us who don’t have $400 to drop buying 15 figures. They need to throw in a few 2 packs here and there.
I would love to work with 3A though. They’re making crazy stuff and they have a loyal fanbase. I’m willing to work with just about anyone though. If you’re willing to take a chance on me I’m willing to work with you.
GG: What are some of your favorite pieces by other artists (custom or otherwise).
MB: Cris Rose is constantly making amazing things with resin. It’s pretty mind-blowing. Any of his bots would be top of the list.
N3RVISWR3CK consistently makes amazing customs. The level of detail in his work is ridiculous.
I really like the stuff that Halfbad Toys is producing too. They have a nice 80’s feel to them.
These are the ones that come to mind. There are a ton of people making cool things in toys right now.
GG: When you are creating your fantastic custom pieces, what do you like to do?
MB: I usually need a few days with the piece to figure out what I want to do with it. I’ll keep it around so I can look at it and just have it in the back of my mind. The goal is usually to make something unique out of it. I want to approach it in a way that maybe hasn’t been done before. Once I have the idea I start cutting and sculpting. There is rarely a sketch involved. I like to let it develop as I work on it, and I’ll keep tweaking it until it feels right.
MB: I almost never listen to music when I work. I’ll fire up Netflix and start watching something. It’s more about having background noise than anything else. Sometimes my viewing choices will be influenced by what I’m making. Creatures seem to turn out better when I’m watching horror movie.
GG: What toy/artist/ or company do you think has been most instrumental in bringing designer toys into a more main-stream light?
MB: Kidrobot has by far done the most to bring designer toys into the mainstream. Their recent licensing deals with Family Guy and the Simpsons have done a lot to make people aware of the scene. The big munny campaign helped too. Wasn’t Rosie O’Donnell painting munnys? That’s pretty mainstream if you ask me.
GG: Where can we expect to catch a glimpse of Motorbot in person? Any show’s or releases coming soon?
MB: I plan on attending SDCC this year. I’m bringing a mess of toys out there. Other than that I don’t have any shows planned this year, but a couple are in the works for 2012.