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Toy Talk: Conversation with Splurrt

Occasionally, a particular piece would take its hold on me and when that happens, you'll see me in total supplication, paying homage with a deluge of dedicated entries. There was the BURGERGUNS PHASE, and before that, UGLYDOLLS. It's awfully inaccurate to call those phases because I am still very much in a relationship with them (and probably another dozen more!). However, this isn't so with Joe Merrill or SPLURRT's works. 

The latest sellout - Digglers

I fell in love with HIYA AT NYCC 2010 but there just wasn't enough for me to blog about. And so, HiYa came and went. Then, Diggler came and went. I never stood a chance against the horde who spammed the buy button. I'm thinking this stinks of RxH micro releases. Yes. Stinks. A wise friend once used a fart as an analogy for these super uber limited runs - silent and antagonising - and the not very complimentary but apt miasmic comparison never did dissipate.

There must be a better way to cover his toys, other than announcing the obvious sellout status.

And so, I found myself emailing Joe and asking, meekly, if he would mind answering a couple of questions for the blog, more than half-expecting my request to be ignored. You know, small blogs don't really translate into exposure. And in hindsight, my email was rather lacklustre :P So, there was much glee and delight when I got a positive reply.

Does this inspire raised eyebrows from your colleagues? (on the assumption toy making has nothing to do with your day job)

Not me!

I actually work in advertising. So I'm around a bunch of art directors and writers. I think part of the reason I got the job was because of my toy work. The guy who was interviewing me had seen my Splurrt stuff, and just flipped open one of his cabinets to reveal his collection of dunnies. Alot of people here aren't really into designer toys, but they might be more into contemporary or street art. I think that they're always looking for new creative inspiration, so they're a pretty open bunch, they come by my desk and see the little cluster of toys I have on display and they're like, that's pretty cool.

So do they secretly migrate a couple of your 'pretty cool' stuff over to their desks?

Ha, no let's just say, they know better. But at my last gig someone stole a Secret Base figure I had on display.

Were you always this fascinated with monsters/kaiju? Name me one Monster that takes up permanent residence in your head.

Yeah, I recall as a kid, my parents would buy me the colored fimo, I was always sculpting little monsters. Actually I was home recently and my mom still had a few sitting in her kitchen, you know, they're like 20 years old now. And they had the eye balls sticking out from the head, little textural colored dots, big open mouths. Actually they were like the 8 year olds version of Hiya. And I was just like—damn, 20 years later and still doing the same thing.

The little green dude is a winner!

Other than that, my uncle is a big comic/magazine collector, He is especially into the old horror publications. Every year for my birthday and Christmas, he'd send me a box of comics, and aside from the Marvel and DC stuff there would always be old Creepy and Eerie magazines and EC reprints.

Speaking of which, do you consider them (your works) kaiju? Where would you place your creations?

This one of those toy nerd questions that pops up for debate occasionally. It's a changing landscape. With more American and European designers making kaiju inspired toys (in Japan). It's becoming a global "scene"- that's another one of those highly debated toy nerd words. I'd hesitate to call it kaiju, because I'm not Japanese, and have also been influenced by many western artists and monsters. But I do collect kaiju toys and they do inspire me in my method.  So I'll just say I'm making neo-gaijin-kaiju.

I think you have coined the perfect term for it. I've always struggled with the categorising, especially now with the cultural mashup. Do you see yourself branching out to do something truly kaiju-esque?

You know, I started on a standard sized kaiju sculpt once before. I just got burnt out working on it. I kind of had to take it as a sign that the idea wasn't strong enough. That happens, I've probably started 3 or 4 sculpts and left them unfinished because I just couldn't get into them. I don't see that as failing though, that's part of the learning experience, and still technical practice. If I ever have another idea for a kaiju-esque figure that gets me excited, I'm sure I'll go for it.

What's the allspark in 2009 that sent you down this path?

It actually started back in  late 2007. That was the year I created Splurrt and started sculpting the Executioner. Let me try to recall how it happened, So, I think I picked up a copy of So Crazy Japanese toys, and I loved the toys. I started doing E-bay searches, but I was kind of like shit this stuff is expensive. So I just admired it from afar. Finally I broke down, and I won a Charactics Hedorah on E-bay for cheap. I got it in hand, it felt special. The bag/header card packaging, the quality of the Japanese vinyl, the craftsmanship, the paint. It just seemed to exist commercial free on it's own merits and for some reason it just inspired me.

No medium, no artist, no product—to that point had ever inspired me like these chunks of vinyl. I just dove in, researching and learning, I discovered Secret Base and Pushead, and I got into Henshin suits too, and then I just decided I'm going to make a toy. I went to art school, but it was for advertising. I wasn't a painter or illustrator or sculptor. It just became this personal challenge to myself, that I was going to sculpt a toy. And that's when I started working on the Executioner. I just bought a block of super sculpey, some sculpting tools and went to work. I think I worked on that sculpt for like 9 months. It was very frustrating, it was my first time sculpting since childhood, and I had a very high personal standard set, I was very slow, I was constantly resculpting parts and pieces, trying to sand down, primer, sand. I don't think I could believe it when it was finally at a point I felt was finished. It didn't get released until more recently, but that was my first figure. it was very rewarding seeing that through.

Hiyas, Digglers, Splugs, Bad Trips - Which is your fav  (no diplomatic answers here! ;) ) and what's the story behind it?

I've always seen myself as a toy maker, and Splurrt is my brand not my persona. So I'm comfortble changing it up and taking risks, because I don't feel like I'm an artist with an individual style in place people expect and want. I'm just a guy making toys and selling them through Splurrt. When I made Hiya, I had kind of set out to reinvent Splurrt and the toys I was making. When I did The Executioner, Bad Trip, Splug, and The Keeper. My thinking was more what hasn't been done yet? I was always worried working on those guys, "I need to get this out there, before someone else has the idea." When I made Hiya, my mentality was shifting, I had started a meditation routine and I was just really feeling like my creative juices were flowing and focused on exploring my imagination - being introverted, not just looking for a hole to fill. People were comparing Hiya to The Executioner and they were thinking—you wouldn't be able to tell they were both from the same guy. But to me, that meant that my new direction was succesful. Hiya, Diggler, the upcoming vinyl, are those guys are part of Splurrt 2.0, these are characters I'm not searching for, they just come to me, they appear in my mind. So with that explanation Hiya is my favorite, just because he was the beginning of this shift. Ask me if I feel that way when I have the first Splurrt vinyl in my hand though. I'm sure I'll have a new favorite.

Being so creatively/conceptually monumental, will we ever see mini HiYa, to celebrate its awesomeness? (Think vinyl with rubs and so forth, much like RXH)

My love affair

I'd like to do a vinyl HiYa. I think his scale is perfect and the resin is pretty small, he's very thin, especially through the legs and arms, so I can't really see him too much shorter, without his proportions needing adjustment, which I wouldn't want to do. I'd actually like to see him in vinyl at standard size. I think a 10" tall Hiya would rule.

Encapsulate your experience ( SDCC, the tears and joy behind the creative process, toys) in a haiku

Forming the monster
Soon they will quiver in fear
Legos smashed afoot

Vinyl Production!

Any exclusive insight into your new figure that might be made in vinyl?

I'm really excited about this figure. Just the treatment of the little things, like fingers and feet, bolts, butt pimples, It's got a lot going on, but I feel like all the elements just work and synch so well, I think it's going to have longevity, you know- 5 years later collectors are going to pick it up from their shelf and look it over and enjoy it as much as they did on day one.

I still haven't figured out a name for this guy, but anyway the proto will be off for production shortly. Once it's ready for wax, I'm probably going to offer a pre-order. So look out for that.




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