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.