Posts tagged toys

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Interview: Nathan Hamill (Toy Designer, Artist, Nerd)

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It’s almost time for San Diego Comic-Con 2014 and, like all of you nerds, I’m trying to figure out what I really want to spend my money on because, holy crap, there are always so many cool toys there! So, in my quest to find all the must-have releases this year, I decided to interview one of my friends and favorite toy designers, Nathan Hamill. I already own most of his figures, and since he keeps coming up with even cooler ones every year, I’m very much looking forward to seeing what he comes up with next. So, if you’re one of the many lucky nerds attending the convention this year, make sure you don’t miss out on his awesome SDCC releases. Photos and info on where to buy below!

1) Most of us know you’re a ginormous nerd with a pretty solid toy collection that I often want to steal from, but how did you end up becoming a toy designer? What was your motivation to release Boris, your first vinyl figure?

I started with Boris when Patrick Geologo, who I once worked with at Toy Planet when I was in high school, was looking for artists to work with as U1Toy Arts was just starting out. Boris was originally a design for a cartoon called Animal Bandits. He’s a surly, suspicious little guy with a Napoleon complex. Like a Joe Pesci of the forest. And thanks for not stealing my toys. I know it can be hard not to.

2) What toys did you cherish most as a child? What are some of your favorite figures that you own now?

I carried a Darth Vader 3 3/4″ Kenner figure with me wherever I went. I had a vice like grip on that one. And currently it is Lavabear: Classic Ed., which I took all around Disney World on a recent trip. Some things never change.

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3) You have some really cool releases coming up for SDCC. In particular, I’m excited about Lavabear and can’t wait to get one. What’s his story? Where did you get the inspiration to create him?

His backstory is inspired somewhat by the Gollum of Jewish lore and even a little by Tik-Tok of Oz, who was a protector of sorts too. There are obvious pop culture elements in the design but there are some that are more subtle and some that were subconsciously incorporated. I have no control of my pop culture soaked brain.

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Lavabear: Classic Ed. Vinyl. 8 inches tall. Limited to 125 pieces. $80. SDCC 3DRetro Booth #5049

4) What about Octopup? How did you decide on all the different colorways? Were you trying to make me angry because I gotta catch them all?

Making you angry is always just a happy accident. As my first sofubi, I just chose color ways that would really pop. Stay tuned for some custom pieces from others artists soon.

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Octopup: Octocrush Ed. Sofubi (Soft Japanese Vinyl). 2 inches. $10. SDCC 3DRetro Booth #5049

5) You also collaborated with Flat Bonnie and came up with a rad and squishy Octoplush version. Any future collaborations with her or other artists?

For SDCC, Flat Bonnie and I will have 3 Octoplush: Aquapup Ed. mini plushes as giveaways at the 3DRetro booth #5049. There will be 3 “Golden” tickets hidden inside the header cards of the Octopup: Octocrush Ed. sofubis. If you get a ticket, present it to 3DRetro and take home a free Octoplush.

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SDCC 3DRetro Booth #5049

6) Your toys are awesome, but you’ve also released some fantastic art. What artists do you admire? Is there anything in particular you think influences your style?

There are too many to list if we’re talking about admiration and even influence whether big or small. But I think artists like Kozik, John K., Tim Burton and others that juxtapose cartoons with darker themes or underlying messages probably influenced me the most. I like taking a cute, large character and adding something subtly sinister or off to them. A friend once called my style “cute macabre”, and I’ll happily take that description.

7) “My Father, My Lord” might be my favorite print of yours because I’m a dark, emo nerd. For those of us who can’t even draw stick figures, can you talk about the process of coming up with a piece like this? Is this how you usually work?

I don’t ever really work the same way from one piece to the next.  It really depends on what it calls for and the mood I’m in. This one in particular came together really quickly. Once I had the concept, the rough was finished surprisingly fast. It’s something very dear to my heart, so it just came naturally. Then, it was just adding bits here and there and refining the whole thing.

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8) Out of all the characters you’ve created, which one are you the most proud of?

Lavabear is my favorite hands down. It contains many elements that I’ve found myself using in other toys and resins. In addition to that, there are a few pop culture references too, one obvious and the rest were subconsciously incorporated. Bubbling up from my nerdy pop culture ladened brain.

9) What other exciting things can fans and collectors expect from Nathan Hamill in the future? Can you give us any spoilers?

2015 will be a great one. Lots to look forward to, but the one I’m most excited about will be very appropriate for the year. And, no, it’s not Star Wars!

Thanks, Nathan! And I’m totally getting one of your MimoPowerTubes while I’m at the con. So rad looking and practical!

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Mimoco’s SDCC Booths #5245 and #2913M

Visit www.nathanhamill.com for the latest news on his current and future releases.

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Interview: Ben Goretsky of 3DRetro Vinyl Toy Art Store (NOW OPEN!)

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After being a successful online retailer and vinyl toy producer for over a decade, the 3DRetro retail store has finally opened its doors to the toy loving nerd public in Los Angeles, and it was quite the opening party. There were delicious food trucks, impressive live paintings, and some awesome toy releases. Also, several well-known artists, such as Nathan Ota, Scott Tolleson, and Sam Flores to name just a few, were present to hang out and sign stuffs for fans. The event was packed, but I was fortunate enough to peek inside, geek out and drool on (sorry!) all of the beautiful toys, prints, and other collectibles, some of which you may not find elsewhere. And props to whomever designed and decorated the interior. I felt like I was in a super cool grown up version of Toys “R” Us, only I didn’t have to feel guilty for spending money on kids stuff. I even had the pleasure of interviewing its owner Ben Goretsky. So if you’re a toy collector or just like looking at pretty, shiny, nerdy things, check out what he had to say and make sure to visit 3DRetro soon! (Store details below.)

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Photo by Victoria Lara

1) For our readers who are not aware of your impressive resume, can you tell us about yourself, your background, and how you started your business?

I don’t know if anyone would call it an impressive resume, but I started actually as a collector. I originally collected Simpsons figures and started coming to SDCC for the latest figures. In 2002, when I was at SDCC, I noticed some figures at the Tower booth (of all places), which were coming out of Asia. I started looking into them after SDCC and, around the same time, the KidRobot company was opening a store in Santa Monica, and I was sucked in. I started looking into the figures and the different producers, and that got me into creating 3DRetro. I started carrying the figures that I would want to buy and started selling them online; at that time, there were only 2-3 other vinyl toy stores online. I worked with KidRobot and Frank Kozik to get an exclusive Dunny for my store, and that really put me on the map with the rest of the stores. I always wanted to produce my own toys, though, so in 2010, I started working with October Toys and some artists I had approached throughout the years to start doing that. For me, that was huge! Now, I am happy to say that with production going on, toys, and a new site for the online store, I am happy to finally open an actual brick and mortar store.

2) Have you always wanted to own a toy store? And, more importantly, have you always been a huge nerd who loves toys just like the rest of us? What was your favorite toy as a child? 

Yes! After about the first year of running 3DRetro online, I was always hoping to open a retail store. I just needed to wait for the right time and space. I have always loved toys and toy stores, but, as a little kid, I never had many toys given to me by my parents. Sometimes I feel I have so many toys now because I never had so many as a kid. I did love Legos as a child, and this was before they had the awesome Star Wars and other licenses. I did also love robot toys, I still do. I loved the small transformers toys when I was a kid, and I even had this little toy called a Hootbot, which I adored. I think that toy is still somewhere at my parents house.

3) What’s your favorite item in your collection now? I know you’re a huge Back to the Future fan. Is there something from that franchise that you’d love to have or already own?

It’s hard to pick a favorite; there are so many good toys from different genres. I could probably break it down into just a handful of item. I love my signed Simpsons figures; those are prized possessions for me.  I do love anything Back to the Future related maybe because there is so little out there for the movie. I did hear that Hot Toys will finally be making Back to the Future figures, which I would LOVE to see, so I am really looking forward to those.

4) Who do you currently work with as a toy producer? Any exciting releases coming up for Comic-Con this summer? What about DesignerCon in the fall?

In terms of artists that I am working with for future releases, I have projects with Greg Simkins, Gary Baseman, KRK Ryden, Juan Muniz, Ron English, Nathan Hamill, Joe Ledbetter, Silvia Ji and Jeremy Fish. I have also worked with Luke Chueh, Scott Tolleson, Brandi Milne, Ragnar, Jim Mahfood, The Super Sucklord and David Chung and will hopefully be doing more projects with these artists. For SDCC, I have a few releases coming from Nathan Hamill, Gary Baseman, Greg Simkins and maybe a few other surprises.

5) Who are your favorite designers? Is there someone you’d love to work with in the future?

I love all the people I work with. I kind of feel that, at this point, I don’t know if there are any artists that I love that I don’t already work with. I do still wish I could work with Shepard Fairey (OBEY) and some of the big street artists out there.

6) What would you say separates 3DRetro from other toy stores? 

It’s a different feel in the store than others, more of an industrial look and feel to it, but, aside from the aesthetics, the store, while focusing on the collectibles we all love and the limited edition figures the vinyl toy industry is known for, it also carries a lot of pop-culture toys from your favorite movies and TV shows, which suits to that audience. I think there is a big cross-over in our world regarding these toys.

7) What advice would you give to someone who wants to open their own toy store? 

I would say that it’s a lot harder than just running an online store, a lot more work. I would also say that you need to do something in your store to make it stand out, not just from the other vinyl toy stores out there, but stand out from the basic stores like Toys “R” Us; it’s gotta wow the person entering the store, make them remember the store and make them want to come back.

Store location and hours:

1851 Victory Blvd.
Glendale, CA 91201
818-630-7063

Monday-Tuesday: CLOSED
Wednesday-Thursday: 11am to 6pm
Friday: 11am to 7pm
Saturday: 11am to 8pm
Sunday: 11am to 6pm

www.3DRetro.com
store@3dretro.com

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Photo by Victoria Lara

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