Vinyl Toy Network Winter 2008 was a lot of fun and a great opportunity to chat with artists, toy companies, shops, fans and collectors. People were lined up hours in advance to get a crack at exclusive art toys by Joe Ledbetter, Kathie Olivas, Frank Kozik, Gary Ham, Doktor A, MAD, Marka27 and others. Customized figures by Attaboy, Erick Scarecrow, Dli$h and Dril One also got snapped up. Though there was less of a haul for eastern toy fans, the double threat of Flopdoodle and Super7 cleared out a few wallets.
I developed my style of covering conventions at VTN. I gave each designer an individual post and then wrote a feature round-up. All of this was achieved within 24 hours after doors opened for the first day of the convention. I love to travel for art! Hire me if you need me! Here’s a round-up of VTN 08.
Tim Biskup’s Flopdoodle shop was one of the first tables I encountered when entering VTN. I took these pictures just before the event opened and folks who were queued around a couple buildings shuffled in and absconded with much of the loot. Tim had a good mix of designer vinyl and kaiju, including figures of yore and new ones like the T9G Rangeas collab. You can also see the Helper jewelry: $275 for a ruby ring limited edition and $195 for the open edition.
Attaboy is a convention king. He had two tables covered at A.P.E. last month and reprised the set-up at VTN with two more tables, this time heavier on the custom figures and toys. Attaboy’s toys look great up close and also in groups (as they could be found at least at the beginning of the event). He was selling custom Kanizas, Munnys and Neighborwoods and his own hand-painted Qwezshun figures and the production Axtrx toys. Really nice paint on the customs. During a lull, we both lamented housing prices in the Bay Area. Economic recession? Depends on your zip code…
STRANGEco has the nicest staff on earth, seriously. Bambi probably had to let a bunch of people down easy that James Jarvis’ Martin X SE figure sold out on Black Friday and didn’t make it to VTN as part of the previously announced exclusives. However, the absence of one figure inevitably enabled the purchasing of others: STRANGEco had a couple other editions of Martin, as well as a GID Lorbo by Jim Woodring, the tree edition of Julie West’s Bumble and Tweet, some more Shikito from Superdeux, a special edition Captain Coco by tokidoki, some full Vivisect Playsets, plenty of mini King Kens (including the SDCC gold) and some figures by Greg “Craola” Simkins. Plus free stickers, pins and postcards for all!
Super Rad Toys
This is one reason why it’s good to get away from the computer and go out to events: Super Rad Toys. I mean this both generically (super rad toys!) and as pertaining to the Beverly Hills toy company (Super Rad Toys). I’d seen the Horton figures and the Ningyo Project casually online here and there, but never all at once and not in 3D. These are really, really cool and QC looks top notch to me. I don’t know if these photos are going to do the 10-inch Gosho dolls justice (It’s hard to photograph flocking), but if you are interested in Japanese lore and you love candy, there is a particularly sweet Junior Mints figure with your name on it. Super Rad is currently working on an artist series of the Horton figures, but it was a particular art toy that David and Simone were proudest to show off: Super Rad Toys has the exclusive license to produce the iconic female figures of Patrick Nagel. Click on the Super Rad Toys heading to go to the post and check her out. Then go grab a Duran Duran album and compare…
Vinnie the VTN Mascot Custom Show
No self-respecting vinyl toy convention can go on without a custom show, and VTN didn’t disappoint with a selection of 15-inch interpretations of its mascot, Vinnie. For such a giant and rotund original, the asking prices–even during the economic recession that was on everyone’s mind during the event–were pretty great. Really nice cartoony work that went all the way around the figures. Most of the artists have full turnarounds on their websites and blogs (I just checked). The customizers included Scott Tolleson, Ragnar, Miss Mindy and CJ Metzger, Jim Mahfood, Erick Scarecrow, Andrew Bell and a plush Vinnie by Amy Vutiya. Click on the heading above to go to the post and see the rest of the pictures.
If the economy is in turmoil, you wouldn’t know it from watching the Bic Plastics booth, which kept a steady crowd all day at VTN. Excitement had been building for the new toy company all year, and today was the largest release of several of Bic’s premiere figures. With toys priced from $45-$170, Bic had some of the priciest production pieces at the convention, but urban characters combined with top notch design, QC and packaging–as well as the presence of many of the artists–brought the fans en masse. Marka27, Mike and Mark of Blokhedz, kaNO, and MAD were amicably nonstop signing all manner of toys, sketchbooks and even a PDA. It was great to finally see these pieces in person. Many of them (Sham the Clown) are huge while others (Sketchartis) are heavy. Seriously, toting that David Flores piece around VTN would build a bicep. Besides the signings, Bic had exclusives like a GID version of Killa Instinct, and they were also giving away free posters. I had the opportunity to conversate with one of VTN’s security guards who was standing nearby taking it all in. I sometimes forget that most people think we toy collectors are a bit nuts. The security guard, we’ll call her, Lucy, was shocked that I’d paid $7 for a 2.5-inch Kozik Redrum Qee. I gleefully pointed her attention to the folks dropping mad benjamins at Bic. I tried to explain that these are art pieces–like paintings wrapped around toys–that are now part of museum collections and prestigious international auctions. She nodded in some indication of understanding, but I still think she thinks we’re nuts.
Delicious Drips was sharing some prime VTN real estate and merch with the Toy2R table. This was where to get DIY Qee and blind-boxed Potamus and Redrum Qee by Kozik. Dli$h helped a brother out when I kept pulling the lavender/pink Redrum colorway. In the end, I was able to get both greens and a variant. But enough about me, Dli$h had an army of custom figures to help support the Make a Wish Foundation. Each of the figures was processed to give it the effect of brushed metals with a rustic antique look. Pretty early in the day, the customized Mad*L and a couple of the other pieces were already sold. Nice!
I sometimes wonder if Frank Kozik gets tired of answering the same questions over and over. While I was circulating the VTN floor, Frank was attended to by various camera crews and fans waiting for signings. He had a ton of merch from hand-painted exclusives to Sharkys and Muttpop and kaiju figures to some Qees and Dunnys and Smorkin’ this-n-that and Kidrobot gear. I think he was willing to engage in the unusual-for-toy-conventions behavior of bargaining. Like a few other vendors, he had an “economic recession” discount bin.
One of the best surprises at VTN today was the markdown on Joe Ledbetter‘s final edition of his popular Smash figure. Many fans lined up several hours ahead of the event’s opening to get the mono colorway produced in an edition of just 150 pieces by Toy2R. Kevin Winnick, who heads up Toy2R USA and can be seen above, cut a third off Smash’s price, bringing it down from $150 to $100. The man is a generous dude, as evidenced by the fact that ToyCyte is now in possession of a mono Smash for one lucky reader–stay tuned for the contest. While I lamented the lack of a proper Happy Chanukah 8-inch Qee bear among the pair of Merry Christmas bears, it’s hard to be a poor sport when there’s a black flocked Dr. Bomb nearby to stroke. I picked up a couple of Kozik’s Redrum Qees and peeped some of the newer and prototype items Toy2R is working on. Check out the tiny Toyer zipper pull and the Toyer concept bank–a great way to save up money to buy more Qee! (View more pics by clicking on the Toy2R header.)
Reason #2 to step away from the computer and out into the daylight (via skylight) and forced socialization implicit in a convention (reason 1): you might run into an artist who designed an awesome custom Mad*L that has quickly become one of the most prized items in your toy collection (and by “you,” I mean “me”). The artist with the Dunny above is Dustin Cantrell. He was circulating VTN with his bro and a backpack containing custom Red Mars AsteroiDunnys. Dustin has an eye for aesthetics and a brain for circuitry. He showed me a cell-phone pic of a work-in-progress Munny that conducts electricity like a cooler cousin to something you’d find alternately at a hands-on science museum or at its lowest common denominator, Spencer’s Gifts. Give him some time and this figure could find its way to custoMONDAY. Definitely keep your eye on Dustin Cantrell: He’s doing stuff that other people aren’t, and in this increasingly crowded scene, that’s not always easy to say. Oh and if you are a fan of Guitar Wolf, take note, something’s in the works.
Here’s a new toy to start getting stoked about: Mad Puss by Monty in conjunction with Pretty in Plastic. The hooded cat lives in a futuristic UK and and totes around “the Mad Puss Milk.” This milk is a reference to the Jamaican expression, “Yu musi a drink mad puss milk.” Don’t quote me on this, but I think Monty told me the usage of such a phrase would be toward someone who is acting a bit crazy. Monty had some prototypes of the forthcoming vinyl figure and an animation.
Scott Tolleson and Gary Ham
Here’s two artists with whom I had a great conversation ultimately leading to a “we are not alone in our neurosis” catharsis: Scott Tolleson and Gary Ham. Both of these guys are largely responsible for ToyCyte’s creation of a wood category with Scott’s Doc Von Block and Gary’s Tinky (both seen in these photos). Gary was showing the paint samples of the new colorways of Doc, and said slightly smaller (about 5 inches) versions should be ready around April. While the x-ray colorway seems to be in the lead as a fan favorite and my personal pick is the green/ill colorway, Scott’s top choice is the natural. And speaking of awesome colorways, Gary’s got the exclusive VTN pink and black Carrot Shake Jake variant on hand. Stay tuned for an interview and opportunities to win some good wood.
Brian Castleforte revealed a new Tribalnots colorway at VTN: He had an ultra-limited edition of six Neon Tribalnot figures accompanied by prints for $200 each. In good convention form, he also had plenty of free Wack & Blite stickers and buttons on hand.
Spanky Stokes and Dril One
Spanky Stokes was repping in the booth next to Bic Plastics, but they were by no means in the shadow, as their table was stocked with toys, gear, swag and giveaways. It was great to finally meet fellow toy bloggers John and Matt and artist Dril One face to face. Dril was showing/selling some killer customs, including a Combat R-Zero and a rusted over Munny, as well as 2D art. The Spanky team had tons of raffles over both days, including figures by Michael Lau, Kathie Olivas, Sket One and Buff Monster. Plus, John was circulating with his laptop doing live broadcasting. I’m sure there’s gotta be a way to watch the feed now that the event is over???
October Toys Choking Hazard Mini Gwin Custom Show
October Toys gets the award for best micro event at VTN. The Choking Hazard Mini Gwin Custom Show was so small you might have missed it entirely. The 1-inch figures display rivals those kiosks at the mall that promise to write your name on a grain of sand. My eyesight is crap, but I could make out a couple I thought were fun, like a Groucho Marx Gwin. The Choking Hazard show is set to travel, so get your binoculars out of storage. October Toys also had their Christmas Zombies 5-packs on hand.
Next to October Toys, I got to chat a bit with George and Ayleen of Toy Break. They were both super nice, and I’m going to try to make an effort to watch more streaming video, which I can somehow never sit still for. I got caught up extolling the virtues of Pea Soup Andersens for the hungry SF-LA traveller in knowing company and didn’t get a photo of the beard and fuzzy slippers, which are both real. Last photo here is Toy Break’s Matt who was doing live sculpting on the VTN stage for several hours.
Dave Bondi and Erick Scarecrow at DKE
Dave Bondi, sculptor of many of Joe Ledbetter’s best sellers, had a pink VTN exclusive colorway of his original Mario x Mickey Akashi figure and was signing on Saturday. The 9-inch figure was limited to 50 pieces in the VTN colorway. Said Dave, “People either love these or hate these.” Sharing space with Dave at DKE was Erick Scarecrow’s Stone Hermit Dunny, which sold out quickly at $120 a piece. There was a fan walking around looking to get a jump on eBay by making offers to folks who had got ‘em. When last I saw him, he said there was someone considering his offer. Cool also to meet Dov and Sarah Jo of DKE (where cut-rate Uglydolls and blank Circus Punks could be found) and Sherri of Kill Audio, who gave me some scoop on Claudio’s next figure.
Best Toy Juxtaposition
There were tons of great toys to see at VTN, but this was my favorite juxtaposition of toys. Casually paired up at the 3DRetro/MINDstyle area was one of Paul Pope’s Playmates and John Kricfalusi’s Barack Obamas. Pulphope indeed!
Jesse Hernandez was happy to mug for a photo mimicking his pose for the promo on his upcoming Vinyl Addiction series. Jesse is stoked on hosting the show about custom vinyl toys, and the excitement is pretty contageous. He’s got a sweet opening sequence on his cell phone. If you see him, ask to see it!
MAD took a pause from steady signing and sketching to mug for this photo with his 5-inch Skin Deep Mad*L exclusively released at VTN. MAD had representation at the Bic Plastics table as well, with the release of the gigantic Sham the Clown.
One of the nicest guys around, Dan Goodsell, had a table stocked with recession-proof deals like $5 t-shirts and plushes. Dan brought a handful of Vampire Mr. Toasts from SDCC 08 and Monster Toasts from the Monster Art Rally, so of course I had to pick up the caped crouton and a signed print of Vampire Candy Corn. It kind of doesn’t get better than blood-sucking breakfast food. Don’t forget to check out Dan’s current online show which he said is doing pretty well!
Here’s just a sampling of some of the exclusive vinyl toys from the Vinyl Toy Network Winter 2008 show. People who had been waiting in line for hours got right to business locating these particular figures. It seemed to me like much of the crowd got in, got the exclusives and then fanned out. Some folks gathered to watch live painting and wait in line for signings, but the exclusives were the clear draw. I was kind of asking around to see what the “hottest” toys were and the recurring answers were definitely Doktor A‘s VTN-variant Stephan Le Podd and Kathie Olivas‘ limited edition Scavenger. The price break on Joe Ledbetter‘s mono edition helped a lot more fans bring home the last Smash. Erick Scarecrow‘s dozen custom Dunnys were snatched up pretty quick. And there were a number of large boxes being toted around containing one of a couple toys signed by Marka27. Other popular exclusives could be found at the booth’s of MINDstyle, STRANGEco, Munky King, Super7 and where MAD was signing. Click the header above for more pictures. The complete list of exclusives can be found at the Vinyl Toy Network website here.
See you next year!