Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Never look back

I don't live by a motto or anything like that. I don't even like using clich├ęs! I like to stay on my toes and take each new situation as it comes. BUT...if someone asked me to sum up my modus operandi--at least when it comes to toy-making--it would probably be "never look back". Every new discovery...every lesson learned...prompts me to throw away *anything* I'd previously held onto that's now invalid or out-dated. It's pretty much automatic with me, in fact. I'll completely bury old paradigms or nonchalantly step over their corpses in the name of progress. I guess that sounds pretty artsy-fartsy--especially for me! But it's accurate. And it drives people nuts!

I can't count the number of times Matt Doughty has yelled at me for straight up throwing out failed prototypes, primitive versions of designs, even preliminary sketches! Visiting Onell HQ is an amazing privilege, but it becomes immediately apparent how different Matt and I are! His place is like a museum for all the amazing toys he's made himself or produced for others. My place? A trash bin full of yesterday's models...and the latest-and-greatest standing, alone, on my work bench. Don't get it twisted--I'm definitely the nostalgic type. Hell, I even have a few Foe Gokin Gin Gin prototypes hanging out somewhere in my mother's house! But ever since the home-3D-printing thing got established with me, the breakneck speed of development has made it so that even passing whims can be actualized in minutes on my computer and hours on my printer. That leaves little room to archive milestones on the way to "production level" toy designs.

The other funny thing I've noticed in this regard is how little resource I want to spend manufacturing production designs once they get to that level...when I could be spending those resources teasing the next big thing into actuality. See, there's no waiting for a mold-maker. There's no waiting for test shots to come back from a factory. This medium of toy-production is almost entirely DIY...and at first, that may sound a bit daunting. The reality, however, is quite different. And a bit shocking. Toy design is becoming a drug for me. In quiet spaces, my mind fills up with different geometries I want to experiment with. I see objects in the real world, and my brain instinctively resolves their shapes into individual CAD features. I'm a perfectionist and as I work through the engineering flaws in my latest prints, my mind burns with the thought of getting back to my printer so that I can test out new solutions. It's all so...fast and easy. It's perhaps then not too far-fetched to conceive of toy-design as an addiction. At least the 3D printing side of things!

Of course, this isn't ideal because while I share most of the stuff I'm working on, I eventually turn into the biggest slacker when it actually comes to making these toys to sell! The perfect example of this is the Powered Bio Suit. Just scroll down to my last post: PBS' right around the corner, huh? Well, I've been sitting on these finished toys since around that time...but haven't gotten around to listing them for sale! I know. I suck. Life happens. :P Folks have been politely urging (HAR!) me to get off my ass and share these cool toys with them. I assure everyone reading this, it'll happen soon!

In fact, here's a quick teaser I posted on instagram a while back:

But in the meantime, while I continue organizing the release of these guys, lemme give you another great example of how the slightest whim can rapidly be spun into reality. A couple weeks ago, big homie Matt Walker hosted an epic gallery show at Monster Kolor Studios HQ called "There Goes The Neighborhood". I was one of over forty artists contributing to the event, and rather than simply cook up another PBS in off-model colors (like the Reverse Jungle version I did for UGLY Gallery), I wanted to spice things up a bit further. I decided to make a Type A suit in eye-melting Constructicon colors, but with a slightly modified hatch to pay homage to the characteristic purple chest piece Devastator has! Peep this:

Sure, I'd prefer if the purple was a bit less violet-y and a bit more indigo-y...but the colors give it more of a fun bootleg feel this way. And I wouldn't have it any other way! ;) For real, as impossible as it may sound, the colors on this toy are even more harsh on the eyes than they seem in these pics. The star of the show, however, is that additional chest piece I added to the Type A main hatch. I modeled that piece to attach seamlessly to the normal hatch, and while it's not exactly a game-changer, it illustrates just how easy it is to produce a slick one-off for special events such as these.

Oh, and now that the gallery show is over, this particular beast is now available on the Monster Kolor website along with other amazing pieces from the show!

So what do we have to look forward to in the new year?

Well, besides the Powered Bio Suit becoming available outside of art shows (and in normal model colors!), there are a few other projects I'm working on. Naturally, they're all top secret. :P Nah, lemme try to be a bit less vague than usual and at least give some hints about what's in store. First off, not everyone on earth can afford a PBS. That's real talk. Each one takes several days to make, and there's just no realistic way to get the price down--and it burns me to no end to see fellow Takara SF Land lovers talk about how much they dig the design...but not be able to pick one up, y'knowmsayin? So to do right by my homies, I'm currently wrapping up a very closely-related project that's 100% for the people. And given the reactions from a few members of the inner circle who've been critiquing the project, I have a feeling it's gonna blow up the spot. Stay tuned...it should be dropping soon!

What else? Well, it's hard to ignore the stalled-out Shogun Voyager brand. The minis were fairly successful, but only really within the mini/LRG collecting communities. They never truly caught on among the vintage Japanese robot toy crowd...y'know...the intended audience. The "standard sized" ones met a similar fate: much like the minis, they proved to be an amazing learning experience (that rocket punch is BOMB, yo), but the toys just felt...unfinished. The two-tone color schemes just weren't working. Sure, I could've worked in more color-separation, but that would have added substantially to the cost per figure (remember: the vast majority of the cost associated with all of these home-grown 3D-printed toys is time/labor)...and the final product still likely wouldn't have looked THAT good--especially standing next to a vintage chogokin on your shelf! But I believe I have an answer now. Every production method has its limitations, right? You won't find many resin/rubber slingers out there trying to cast standard-sized kaiju figures. Nah, instead, they do keshigomu/LRGs, 3-3/4" guys with limited articulation, and occasionally 5-1/2" fight figures (He-Man-style dudes). The same thing's true with 3D printing. It seems like home FDM printers really excel at big stuff, right? Well, if I'm trying to design an homage to vintage Japanese robot toys, it may make sense to aim higher. MUCH higher. ;)

And speaking of resin/rubber slingers, watch out for more keshi-collabs! Just a few weeks ago, I *finally* completed my vintage Bandai Spiral Zone set. Took a few years to do it, but I've now got at least one of every sculpt (though not a "master set", which is one of every sculpt in every color). Fans of the Japanese "real-type" aesthetic, or near-future scifi military stuff will dig these keshigomu...and hopefully, I'll be designing more supplements to this line, like Eric Nilla and my Monoseed II "Rimfire Cannon" from this past year.

I've also got some other cheap toys in the works. No, not keshi...home 3D-printed stuff. But definitely friendly pricing! More on that next time...

Okay, so what about events? Well, it looks like the Future Factory boys are at it again! In the next month or so, Mechazone, Prometheum5, and I should be wrapping up planning on our second 3D-printed toy-making class hosted by Matt Walker at Monster Kolor HQ. With what we learned from the last year's class, this one should be dope. We sold out of the limited slots in the class in under six hours last time, but we've since figured out how to streamline things and accommodate more folks. Good times ahead!

And lastly, SRGM2 planning is going on as I type this! I'm not sure what capacity I'll be involved this year, but make no mistake: I'ma be there repping for the MA$$ toy community!

*PHEW*...aiight, I think that's it for now! Yeah, yeah...if I just updated this blog more often, I wouldn't have to drop such massive TL;DR walls of text on y'all! :P But it's all gravy. Last year, I predicted that 2014 would be big for me...and it was. I've learned so much in terms of 3D-printed toy design, and I should finally be able to share the fruits of that labor in a BIG way in 2015! So, Happy New Year, y'all!

Peace, peace. And smoke that jibba-jabba.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

PBS: right around the corner

How y'all doing, guys?? Hopefully, this'll be a quick update...but you know how wordy I get! ;) There've been a couple cool events that I've sorta neglected to cover. First off, we had the East Coast Chogokin Summit last month, and as usual, it was hot! Now, just a few words about it--mainly because a LOT of folks have been asking about the nature of the event and why there weren't any public announcements (or much post-event coverage, for that matter). Well, I mentioned this a bit before with Super Robots Giant Monsters, but we essentially wanted to split the Summit into two distinct things. With all the public fanfare, the Summit was quickly becoming unwieldy and just not appropriate for hosting at an individual's home...so SRGM would function as the big, public "con", where everybody was invited. The Summit would then be free to go back to being what it was originally intended for: a smaller get-together of locals and other long-time pillars of the toy community, hosted in someone's home in order to share their toy collection. I think we really accomplished that goal. As far as I'm aware, there was no "announcement" of the Summit on facebook or any other social media outlets, so the crowd was much more intimate this year. But that's a great thing because we actually had time to get to know newer members of the community and pull in other locals and not leave 'em out to dry. Now, the big question, of course, is whether or not there'll be a second SRGM! I haven't heard anything...but my fingers are crossed!

Another local event that may have flown under folks' radar was another paint class at Monster Kolor Studios in Middleboro, MA. This time around, our kaiju pal, Mark Nagata's latest standard-sized kaiju Eyezon was the canvas for these painters' imagination! As usual, I was there just to heckle--er, hang out--but participating were toy-makers, toy-collectors, robot fans, kaiju fans, packaging designers, and tattoo artists. Some new faces, some old friends...all positive folks looking for a fun, creative, static-free event.

Yo, for real, don't sleep on classes at Monster Kolor! You don't often get the opportunity in the toy game to meet up with good people in person and actually enjoy yourself. We all know how online social media are anything but that [Yes, I've broken down and taken over the "Sanjeev Teh Jerk" joke account Fray-Fray created for me. But don't think for a moment I'm accepting your friend request!! :P I'm in this crap only for the groups!]. And cons have become an utter nightmare of narcissistic cosplayers and big-media coverage pushing out independent comic, toy, art, and video dealers. The writing's on the wall: times are changing and the hobby's in decline. But as the larger corporate aspects of "geek" pop culture start to eat themselves, local events like these classes--or even small-scale cons like SRGM--are an oasis for heads still in the game for right reasons. If you're down, if you have the love, I encourage you to support local events like these. If not, it's all good--we're gonna keep moving forward regardless.

Which brings me to the main point of this post! To kick off an actual production run of Powered Bio Suits (tentatively scheduled for Halloween), I have a one-off for sale at UGLY Gallery in New Bedford, MA! This show is being put on by local artist and long-time toy-maker, MCA, and Dead Presidents/Monster Kolor, himself, Matt Walker...and from what I understand, this is the first toy-related show for the guys at UGLY! They're psyched about it, the venue is flavor, should be a live one, yo. So come check us out at the reception on October 25th.

The one-off PBS (type C) I'm entering into the show has been done up in "reverse jungle" colors--an homage to the original Nitto model kit series, which offered the Diaclone Powered Suit in a number of killer real-type color schemes--and it's likely going to be the ONLY one I'll ever do like this:

Sorry--the Micronaut in the suit actually belongs to Walker, and is not for sale with the suit. We just stuffed him in there for these pics.

And finally, production packaging will be available with this guy!

Not feeling the real-type steez? It's cool--very soon after the end of the Evil Ugly Monster Show, I'll be making a handful of traditionally-colored Powered Bio Suits available. They'll have the standard grey bodies, with red and blue armor parts. Stay tuned to my instagram or the MicroFans fb group for the most up-to-date announcements. Who knows--I may even update this blog in time for the drop! ;)

Monday, July 7, 2014

LOOK 4

What's shaking, kids? I figured another update was long overdue, so here I am with my usual flurry of announcements! First, y'all feeling the new look?? My main man, Larry of Minutia Studios helped a brotha out with the new logo design and overall visual philosophy. For a while now, I've been wanting to "downsize" the look of Brownnoize. And I think we pulled it off!

Anyway, let's get down to business! Local events seem to be a running theme around here, so let's kick things off with that. First up, a quick report-back from Super Robots Giant Monsters. We blew the doors off the hinges! For real, I forget the exact tally, but we had some 700 visitors for the event...and that apparently shattered records for the venue! I keep telling heads: us Massholes know how to throw down. ;) Not surprisingly, I didn't eat a crumb throughout the day--I was constantly bouncing back and forth between the vintage toy gallery I curated and the vendor table I was sharing with Prometheum5 and his Mini-Me, Mark. I barely even got to see the rest of the vendors' wares or the (2D) art gallery! Other highlights included seeing old buddies like Frankie B. Washington and Matt Doughty. All in all, it was a great time...and given the event's enormous popularity, I can't imagine there not being a sequel in the works! ;)

Naturally, as more of a social butterfly than a hard-hitting journalist, I leave event coverage to the pros! Check out DoomKick's round-up of the vendor tables here and his coverage of the vintage toy gallery here.

Okay, now for some upcoming event news! This Friday night, July 11th, you can catch me at FOE in Northampton, MA for the opening reception of the "LOOK 4" show. It should be pretty live...lots of locals will be coming through to show support and just to hang out. Many of us haven't connected since SRGM(!), so it'll be good to chill.

LOOK 4 isn't meant to be a dedicated toy show--more of a general showcase of several local artists--so it was a bit daunting to me at first to have been invited. To have my toys on display among all these talented artists' work is no joke! But Jim and Nicole at FOE have been great and are experts at encouraging artists and fostering the creative community. How could I refuse??

So what goodies am I bringing?

Well, first up, I'm gonna have over a dozen Shogun Voyager minis of the characters, "Scorpia" and "Gorgen". Ah, but these are NOT the same as the prototype figures I had at SRGM! These "2.0" versions feature two-color construction and much more stylized designs. These are NOT to be missed, as the format of this toy line is going to be radically changed later this summer. This may actually be folks' very last chance to grab Shogun Voyager minis with this articulation format...

Next, for the first time ever, I'm going to have the prototype versions of my Shogun Voyager ST "Gorgen" figures available! Yup, these are slightly tweaked versions of the test shot I had on hand at SRGM. Each of these "standard" sized (5-1/4") figures features durable ABS plastic construction, spinning shield blades, and of course, firing fists! In my opinion, among all my offerings at LOOK 4, these will be the stars of the show!

And lastly, I can't forget to mention the big boy, a Type B Powered Bio Suit, complete with a Microman pilot figure!

Before I hop on outta here, I gotta send a shout-out to Jesse of DoomKick.com. Stay tuned to his site for #RampagingRobots, a sick collab between me, Prometheum5, Mechazone, and Jesse himself! I know that barely qualifies as a teaser, but don't sweat it--when the time comes, there'll be plenty of info!

Oh, and lastly, this year's East Coast Chogokin Summit is August 9th. Look for it on facebook. And be there! ;)

Monday, March 24, 2014

Incoming: Super Robots Giant Monsters!

I know it's been ages since my last blog post, but things have been moving at a breakneck pace since Future Factory! The class went amazingly well--tons of local folks involved with the hobby or just interested in 3D printing in general came through to check out what we were doing. All eyes on us! And why not? What we're doing is kind of ground-breaking, after all. As far as I'm aware (and believe me--I've been searching!), there really aren't any other folks directly 3D printing complex toys and hand-finishing them in their own homes. I'm sure in a few years, this medium for custom toys will become as commonplace as resin/rubber casting...but it's kind of an amazing experience to be among its pioneers. And, of course, having all of you folks along for the ride to give us feedback and support is what makes it all worth it. So Thank You for letting us do our thing as independent artists/DIYers!

But like I said, we ain't resting on our laurels. Here's some big last-minute news, folks!

If you're actually reading this blog, I'm sure you've already heard about Super Robots Giant Monsters by now (via my crankin' instagram feed or via the other various social media outlets talking about such toys and events)...but I just wanted to make a quick post to talk about it a little more. I'm actually going to be involved on TWO different levels. First off, I'm sharing a vendor table with none other than the inimitable Ben "Prometheum5" Mininberg! Together, we'll be selling armies of 3D printed toys. Remember those 3D-printed super robot minifigs I teased about in my last blog post? Well, if you haven't been following my instagram feed, they're called the Shogun Voyagers...a rather obvious homage! ;) These micro figures debuted at Future Factory and every figure I produced for the class sold out before the end of the day! Well, these production-level, fully-packaged figures will finally be available to the public!

Also available for the first time publicly will be the mighty Powered Bio Suits! It's been a long time coming, but the production versions of these toys are finally ready for prime time. Go big or go home, Micro-fans! ;) I'll only have a few available at Super Robots Giant Monsters (since they're so time-consuming to manufacture), but I'm just looking forward to getting some in fans' hands after all this time.

These guys are enjoyable to mess around with, they're durable, reasonably well-articulated (given the source material), and they come with nice packaging and accessories. As I've mentioned before, I'm transitioning away from copying existing designs and doing more original stuff (like the Shogun Voyagers)...but damn if these aren't cool figures! I think they're a fun way to enhance your Microman/Micronaut action figures, and they simply make for excellent, high-end 3D printed offerings.

Oh, and lastly, I'll be debuting one more class of offerings at SRGM. I've only just barely teased about it on instagram, but something VERY dope is in the works...

But, yo, I mentioned I was involved with SRGM on TWO levels, right? Well, let's take a quick step back: Super Robots Giant Monsters is the first of, hopefully, a yearly sequence of small toy-collector conventions that focuses tightly on--you guessed it!--vintage Japanese robot and monster toys. We'd been talking about doing something like this for the past couple years...especially with how big the East Coast Chogokin Summits have been getting.

SRGM just seemed like the next logical step.

There are tons of folks who grew up watching the same cartoons and movies we did in the 70's and 80's--folks who have the same reverence we have for those classic Japanese characters and toys that were brought here during those years. But not everyone is connected to the organized collecting community. So JoshB of CollectionDX took it upon himself to organize this first-of-its-kind show to open up the hobby to more folks. And I'm saying, yo, it's gonna be EPIC!! A lot of the locals, of course, are involved, including Matt Doughty and the extended Glyos fam and Alen Yen, the Godfather, and his Incubot label. But they're not the only ones bringing the heat...

See, one of the focal events at SRGM is gonna be the vintage Japanese toy gallery...that yours truly is curating! That's right: I've been put in charge of melting people's eyeballs at this event. And TRUST: eyeballs *will* melt! We decided that we're gonna kick off this hopefully-yearly con with a bang. "Bring serious fire" was the mandate we set. So to that end, on display will be toys from my own personal collection, and those of Josh Fraser and Warren Schwartz. If you're familiar with those names, then you understand the gravity of what I'm explaining. If you don't...oh hell...if you don't, you will...

You.

Will.

So that's it for now, but I'll leave you with just one more little tidbit: stay tuned for a major site makeover coming soon! ;)