While I haven't actually totaled it, I'd have to believe that Erick Scarecrow and ESC-Toy have amassed the most yearly awards from Plastic and Plush. That's due to the longevity of the artist and company in the designer toy fold, as well as producing toys in vinyl, resin and plush.
I recently got a chance to fire off some questions to Erick...which you can read below.
P&P: I know a lot of people believe that Erick Scarecrow and ESC-Toy are synonymous. Do you work on everything from figure design to box art to production, or are there other folks at ESC-Toy?
Erick: I handle majority of the design at ESC. Although I don't sculpt but I do all of the 2D design work, art direction and background stories added to the figures are my work. Scarlet Beretta handles a lot of the photography and manages certain figure projects by giving notes and so on. I basically have the final say on pantone selections and stuff like that. No one really objects to my color sense here so that's pretty cool. [...]
Over the years, I've awarded Onell Design with various "Best Of" awards here on Plastic and Plush. And while I've known Matt Doughty for some time now, I still had a number of questions that I was interested in...and I thought you would also be interested in. So, without further ado, check out our conversation.
P&P: It's often assumed that Matt Doughty is Onell Design, and vice versa. However, there are plenty of other individuals who play key roles at Onell. Who are they and what are their roles?
Matt: Onell Design can only exist because of teamwork. Michelle, Marc and I each cover particular aspects of what goes on daily with business here at the house.
Marc operates the web side of things, making sure the site is functioning as well as participating in all the creative decisions, from top to bottom. Packaging layout (when we do it), color designation mechanicals and all the Passcode programming and editing all come from Marc.[...]
Andi Green is the artist and illustrator behind the WorryWoos series of books and plush toys. To date, she has released books and the accompanying plush toys for five characters: Nola, Rue, Fuddle, Squeek, and Wince.
P&P: What's the genesis behind the WorryWoo Monsters line?
AG: The WorryWoos started back when I was in high school. I would sketch out these monster characters everywhere but never really knew why. It wasn’t until after college that I realized I was sketching out characters based on the emotions I was feeling. I decided one day while drawing that I wanted to create light boxes for these ideas and write stories that explained who they were. While writing out their background stories I decided to take it one step further and Xerox transfer the stories to the front of the 24" x 36” light boxes I had built. It was an amazing process for me as it was the first time I combined my love for illustrating with my love for typography and design. [...]
This week, we've handed over the reins to artist Sean Madden for our Monday special feature. Sean, whose artwork you can find at RobotGeisha.com, describes his art process and shows off some of his latest customs and sculptures.
Previously, my work has been centered around the production of small bronze sculptures which you can see at my alternative site: contemporarybronze.com. More recently, my work has veered towards a kind of three dimensional collage. Mainly incorporating plastic toys and PVC figures along with anything I find that can be rethought or recycled into something interesting and new.
There are many influences that inspire. Robots, sex and machinery all seem to feature heavily as do children's nursery rhymes and fairy tales. I'm also a big fan of the animator Ray Harryhausen, Robert Ruaschenburg, Shunya Yamashita, and the music of The Jesus and Mary Chain.
The ‘Robot Geisha’ figures are a kind of Darwinian nightmare from the future and look at mans obsession with beauty and technology. She’s a kind of rebel cyborg that’s rejected her programming...quite defiant yet bewildered by her own existance. Not someone you'd want to mess with, although I think she has a certain grace and finesse about her too. [...]
P&P: Congratulations on getting Ox on the cover of the 2011 Toys "R" Us Great Big Book. How do you feel about Uglydolls having their own sections in two of the most well-known toy stores in Toys "R" Us and FAO Schwarz?
DH: I still have the Big Book from when I was a kid with the 70's Star Wars page somewhere.
I must say a huge huge congrats to our entire team at the NJ Prettyugly office for working day and night for almost one year to help make this happen. Toys R Us is the local toy shop in many towns across the USA, and we are thrilled to be opening an FAO Uglydoll shop within each location in the US this year, all across the world next year.
It's really thrilling to walk into the very Toys R Us I used to buy Star Wars figures at in the early 80's and see our set up there. If you can, check out the FAO and Toys R Us Times Square shops with the wild molded buildings and characters...its like our books came to life. [...]
am a painter - mostly acrylics on canvas, paper, and wood. I am self
taught and did a few different apprenticeships with other artists. I
guess I am just getting started.
How did you get involved in the designer toy scene?
I guess I came into this scene
through an unlikely route - I started with Gamesworkshop miniatures,
paints and customs. From there I learned a little sculpting and more
painting technique and then started to broaden my interest and became
fully obsessed with the designer vinyls coming out of California,
Japan, and Europe.
Your first release of original figures is the Organ Donors line. What's the inspiration behind the line?
The inspiration comes from two
totally different aspects. Firstly, Jess has an uncle with a
debilitating lung disease. He received a set of lungs by chance from a
25 year old IronMan Athlete involved in an accident. This proved to be
a wonderful miracle as he has recovered exceptionally well and can even
play a round of golf and a match of tennis! This story alone is
inspiration enough! However, secondly, I also like to conceptualize the
human condition down to its very basics - and in doing so I view Organ
Donors as a way to bring humanity a little closer together. If we could
all realize that we share the very same organs and that we are in this
thing called "life" together, I really think people would be better to
each other - more understanding. So in short, I guess the gist of that
is "to make the world better by understanding the similarities we all
As you might now know, Carnival Cartoons (Jared Deal and Garnet Syberg-Olsen) recently released their first, independently produced, figure - Buzz Carney. We discussed the future plans and past influences of the guys responsible for The Carneys.
What exactly is Carnival Cartoons and who is involved with this venture?
Garn: Well, Carnival Cartoons is a company that Jared and I formed after we met in 1999/2000 while working at MTV animation in New York City. We have similar tastes when it comes to cartoons, and also similar drawing styles so it seemed like a good fit. We also found that we work really well together so we decided to partner up and form a company so we could start pitching our own show ideas. After the show we were working on at MTV didn’t get a second season…I headed Back to Vancouver where I’m from, and Jared stayed in the Big Apple, but we have continued to work together since then by phone, email, ftp etc. and with the odd trip back and forth. So…in a sense we are a “virtual animation studio”. Right now its exciting times for us, because we’re heading in a whole new direction creatively with the whole vinyl toy production thing. Its pretty cool because we’ve developed a huge library of original animation related content that really lends itself to toys…and it interesting to see the big players in animation are starting to think in the same way…what with the recent purchase of a stake in Kidrobot by WildBrain Animation Studio.
Jared: Yeah, it’s cool though because we don’t actually need a studio space, where we both physically can sit at a computer side by side (although that would be the dream situation). We’ve been able to crank out heaps of work on our own projects, and for other clients working remotely. Ya gotta love the interweb!
Your artwork and humor reminds me a lot of Ren and Stimpy. Who and what influenced you and your artwork?
Jared: Crap...we have sooo many influences. There are so many great artists out there now; it seems like every day we discover someone new who just blows us away. Yeah, you're right one of our biggest would have to be Kricfalusi & well, pretty much any other ex-Spumco artist...Jim Smith, Bill Wray, Katie Rice, Chris Reccardi, Gabe Swarr, Fred Osmond, Stephen DeStephano…the list goes on. Other big influences...Mary Blair, Tim Biskup, Gary Baseman, Gendy, Craig McCracken, Craig Kellman, Tex Avery, Jeff Soto, Dave Cooper, Chris Prynowski, Aaron Augeblick. And some new finds...Nick Cross, Todd Kauffman, Joel Trussell, any one from the Meathaus crew (Zach Baldus, Easo, etc.). We could go on for days!
Garn: For sure! Jared’s right… its like you find new animation artists all the time that are so good it makes you want to cut off your hands and give up drawing! Blogger is a great way to see stuff you just wouldn’t be exposed to otherwise. It’s so easy for artists to post stuff and give you peek into their world. I also like to look outside of animation for inspiration. There are so many great painters, illustrators, and designers out there that really get me worked up. J. Otto Siebold, Michael Bartalos, Melinda Beck, Ragnar, Calef Brown, Kirsten Ulve, Evan Hecox, Jim Flora, Lane Smith, Rod Filbrandt, The Clayton bros., Jeff Kleinsmith, Gary Taxali, Stuart Davis, M. Sasek…seriously this interview could just turn into a list of influences.
We had a chance to chat with the man behind one of this year's new, hot designer toy lines - Neth Creatures. It's a very unique collection and one that warrants a lot of attention.
What was the inspiration for the Neth Creatures project?
Honestly, just about every experience of my life has inspired and influenced this project. I get a lot of design inspiration just from traveling around the country and the world, experiencing different designs and different design philosophies. It's also an inspiration to meet people who are out their doing their own thing and are passionate about it. I began working on the figures on the weekends as an escape from my corporate gig. Neth Creatures was my chance to develop something on my own and create something deeply personal. I wanted to do something that wasn't mass market, that wasn't concerned with mass appeal.
Please tell us more about J. the artist.
I basically have used my work experience to refine my aesthetic eye. I think the figures have a good mix of my past experiences in toy, product, graphic and fashion design. I love that I'm continually growing as an artist and I want to continue to show my growth in my new work. I have always been drawing creatures, but they used to be very elaborate in illustration. Over the last few years, I've grown to appreciate design in a very raw, simple form. Lately I have been developing more print and canvas pieces exploring color, patterns and my love for nature and the beauty of simplicity.
Did you do all of the design work and artwork for the 9 Neth Creatures?[...]
Yes, I designed, redesigned, mocked up, changed, reworked and tweaked everything. I never really showed the designs and figures to anybody during the development except for my wife, who is also an artist. I wanted the figures to only be apart of us. I've always felt that too many people giving opinions waters things down.
You've probably seen Aaron Burtch's work and not even known it. Be it on a concert poster, an album cover, a painting or a t-shirt...Aaron's work has no boundaries. And not only does he create amazing artwork, but he's also the drummer for one of my favorite bands - Grandaddy. To learn more about this up and coming artist...read on!
One thing I noticed in your artwork is the theme of nature (animals or landscape). Do you fashion yourself as an environmentalist?
Totally. What can i say? I love animals, dirt, trees, sunshine, deserts, mountains...I love the smells, the sounds, the feel of it all...Being out there is what really makes me feel content and happy. Nothing else strikes that chord with me. There's no movie or painting or music that even comes close.
The area where I live is heavily agricultural but is undergoing this unprecidented urban growth cycle. There's so much money being made by developers, contractors, real estate people and lenders that it's become really unpopular to be considered an environmentalist. Even on the agricultural side the farmers are pissed off about the regulations that are set up to protect local species and habitat. I feel some sympathy for those guys, since i know how hard it is to be a small farmer these days. Most of them are just getting by and it's really a crime for the government to not help subsidize safer, more environmentally conscious farming. The way the government helps these people is by constantly relaxing those protective laws to allow for more pollution and development which does help the small farmer's immediate financial situation, but obviously it does far more harm than good. We are going to be paying for this irresponsibility for a long, long time I think.
Are there any specific artists you believe have influenced your work?
Since I grew up here in the Central Valley, and art isn't much of a consideration to most folks. It wasn't emphasised in school and I didn't have much of a head start in art knowledge. Shit, I guess i never really caught up either. I didn't go to art school and whatever it is that i've learned has been by just doing stuff. But some people who have really moved me in one way or the other are Tom Freidman, Al Hanson, Souther Salazar, Saelee Oh, Alexander Cheves, Andy Goldsworthy and the Group of Seven. I really love the Royal Art Lodge too, but i think probably the biggest direct influences have been skateboard graphics and print ads. With deck graphics, there are so many good ones and I think it's really incredible how so much care is put into it. Yet, if they are used like they are supposed to be used, the graphic is gone within minutes. They are made to be destroyed and i really like that.
The turnaround time for skate graphics is so short. All those boards that you see in a skate shop have a shelf life of about 3 months and then a new version takes its place. The good companies just turn out rad image after rad image, year after year and month after month. I'm really impressed by that.
You also play drums in a band called Grandaddy. I love the new EP – Excerpts From the Diary of Todd Zilla. (Readers…go out and buy it!) What has that experience helped bring to your artwork?
I always liked to draw, and I started painting right when the band started, in about 1992 or so. I developed most of whatever style i have by doing flyers for local shows and other band stuff. I'm not a confident artist and I guess I'd be happy enough to just make stuff without considering what anybody else would think about it. But making art that I know lots of people will see has been a huge factor in how my stuff turns out as well. I don't know if that's for better or for worse though.
Plastic and Plush chats with Junko Wong, the founder President of CWC, about the reemergence and rejuvenation of the Blythe Doll. Blythe was originally created by Kenner in 1972 and was only produced for one year due to poor sales. She made her comeback in 2000 in photos by Gina Garan and Parco's Christmas campaign produced by CWC in Japan. The first neo-Blythe, Parco Limited, was produced by CWC and manufactured by Takara, with permission of Hasbro was released in June 2001. There are a number of new Blythe dolls available and an entire website devoted to this special little doll.
Were you a fan of the original Blythe dolls, which were released by Kenner in 1972?
No, I was already a teenager in '72 and interested mostly in boys!
Was it the photography work of Gina Garan that really turned you on to these figures?[...]
It was in Gina's photos that I first saw Blythe. In the picture, I saw a beautiful doll that I thought the women in Japan would fall in love with and could sense the potential of the product as a cultural icon. I also simply saw a beautiful photograph that the talented photographer Gina Garan took.