(Also, if any of you quoted below wish to have your name or quote removed, just contact Benny through Facebook or email).
This is a timely an relevant discussion that we all need to have at this point. We all can agree that we love collecting plastic pieces of art. Whether it's vinyl, resin or other. Whether it's mass produced or one-offs. Whether it's from a shop, or direct from the artist... we are connected by this passion for collecting and appreciating art. This very small community of toy art fans is suffering from lack of direction and lack of funds, and, some say, lack of originality. Hence this discussion. I myself have weighed in a bit here and there with tidbits from my own experience, but the real interesting comments are from everyone else.
So, grab your popcorn, sit down on the toilet, and start reading.
(Why are you eating popcorn on the toilet?)
Squink (ORIGINAL POST):
Dwindling sales in 'designer vinyl' from stores lately, I 100% believe that this is because there is so much absolute trash being produced, rather than collectors giving up on it. Just lately there is so much stuff being announced that just makes me want to cry. What has happened? The artists are there, but it seems so much is just being pulled out of existing arseholes. Hoping for a big turnaround soon, until then, I'm SO thankful that so many artists are self producing!
Alex Santana I totally agree. There has been some serious garbage produced as of lately.
Squink I feel like the artists are putting out better work than the big companies right now anyway
Jesus Sanchez Garza When the vision is pure and undiluted it will be better, in my opinion, so yes. It is no surprise that artists making their own work create better.
Juan Gallardo also too much "good" stuff getting way overpriced. I was at a toy expo last year and i recall some guy selling stuff at $50+ for something that was half ass packaged, had some random story behind it, and just overall nothing special. I think that artists and designers need to get better at planning their product line. cater to actual demand, and not get upset if they are making things that people are not buying, because many of us would buy but a slightly different product or at a different price point.
Avri Rosen-Zvi Also - if you're an artist starting up don't price your stuff as if you were Kaws. Don't expect to make big bucks, just cover your expenses and build an audience
Benny Kline It's all I can do to stay current and on top of this changing market. I tell ya, this ain't easy
Kyle Kirwan Has Pop Vinyl actually pulled away more collectors than we think?
Avri Rosen-Zvi Kyle Kirwan I don't actually think it pulls away collectors (maybe Benny Kline can correct me). I'm a hardcore collector and I have some pops. I do think it's ridiculous how big Funko has become - they're everywhere. But, you know, all the more power to them - they hire artists and designers and if people only want repackaged pop culture that's great. I hope it will build a new generation of collectors rather than diminish original creations.
Kyle Kirwan Avri I tend to agree, just trying to think of where things have changed
Benny Kline No, mass-produced toys open collectors up to art toys SOMETIMES by having them in same shop or on same site. But mostly, a collector of that type of toy only cares about that exact product line and doesn't have the desire to seek out the more indy hand sculpted pieces of toy art. In my opinion. Maybe they do and they just don't know about designer toys, I don't know. Designer toys are a really small microniche so I wouldn't be surprised if most collectors didn't even know about them.
Chris Squink I think we'll be seeing more smaller companies trying to combat this soon, Martian Toys for one have the right idea and some exciting things on the way.
Kyle Kirwan I just look back at all the companies that have come and gone and wonder if this is just the way of things. Not that I'm happy about it, just thinking out loud
Tim Stephson People that like cool shit don't buy cool shit. People that spend the money want watered down pop culture.
Chris Squink The local toy store- stacks of unsold mean looking Kidrobot/Warner Bros figures, ignored while Ryniak/Spayd Thimblestump Hollow sell out super fast. It doesn't need to be a license, it just needs to be good.
Kyle Kirwan Depends I think. People just gobble up license stuff. I've been to so many conventions and watched people walk past great work for cheap prints of wolverine. It's hard to sell original ip material without being well established.
Christopher Loriz Prices too high, too many painters, not enough respect for vintage vinyl, 80% ripped off designs, 10% wonky as fuck designs, and 5% why the hell was this made designs. Not everyone is friendly. And lottos are stupid most people are tired of lottos and want to buy what they want to buy.
Jeremy Dale This is one thing I think Chris and Amanda excelled at. I always wanted people to hit a wider price point, and them doing fairly regular mass minifig drops is so good for collectors.
Maxtoyco producing gatcha figs is also great, and I've bought a bunch of those as well.
But all the risk/reward is on the artist, and this does nothing to help brick and mortar shops. Perhaps more co-produced exclusive lines would help.
Ben G Daigle I don't get it at all. My shop had a lull early this year but we just had our best sales month ever.
It takes constant innovation and networking to make it in this biz.
And for something to chew on, we don't carry one single funko item. Never have never will. We only deal in real artist involved designer toys.
Chris Squink Great to hear that Ben! The Funko thing is way out of hand but people seem to love them, I don't think it's taken away the vinyl collectors either though, I'd like to think they're a bit more discerning. Some of the Pop pieces look like they were just dropped into the paint. As far as pricing goes, I only raised my prices a few years ago to get enough to cover bills and to be able to keep doing what I do, it's hard and relies so much on this amazing community, Patreon has allowed me to take a form of payment in instalments too though which might help. The Kidrobot black series has had some nice pieces in it, but prohibitively expensive sadly.
Thomas Gillespie I think all the people who buy/collect pops are the type of people who aren't really collectors, at least not in the way you're using the word. Before pops came along these are the people who'd buy blind boxes and the occasional 8" Dunny. I think there's definitely far less serious collectors out there than there used to be. I stopped collecting for one reason... space. Like most things when you slow down or stop collecting you move onto other things. Most of the places local to me that used to sell designer toys stopped due to lack of demand. Like Chris said, there's just too much garbage out there. Too many rehashes of the same old designs.
Benny Kline That's correct, a mass-produced toy collector is not an art toy collector. For the most part. Two different groups of people, I'd imagine.
Chris Squink They're just cheap stocking fillers, but I don't feel like most people who pick up a few POP figures will be looking after them like old Kidrobot limited editions. The quality just isn't there, and they're created in such huge numbers, that they come across as disposable as the trashy b-movies on Netflix.
Benny Kline From personal experience, I've learned that many POP collectors are very interested in how clean the corners are on their POP boxes are. I have seen and heard this a hundred times. So no, a POP collector won't be as into the actual sculpting or artwork, because there's less of it on these pieces than a highly sculpted art toy. They'd buy that Finding Nemo POP no matter what it actually looks like, cuz they love Finding Nemo. I mean POPs are almost always hella cute anyway, that's their style.
Thomas Gillespie You've always had people act in just the same way with designer stuff. It stays in the box and never sees the light of day. People used to buy as an investment, then the bubble burst and most of the stuff they shelled out for is worthless (mainly because there's no demand out there as there's way less people interested in them).
Chris Squink True, but pop vinyl isn't really designer stuff is it, and it's so mass produced that the value will never be there.
Benny Kline Chris Squink the difference is, the POP collectors believe the value is there. Or else they wouldn't be concerned about the perfection of the packaging. They intend to resell at some point. On my end I see POPs devaluing 1 week after they are released to retailers. They are $10 items and they begin selling for $8 within a week or 2 so... I don't see the secondary market value personally. Maybe I'm missing something.
Hugh Rose Good on you for speaking up Chris, and from talking to a lot of the exhibitors at ToyCon UK this year, I think that that is the general consensus, at least among our group of artists. Problem is, a lot of people are buying the crap!
Chris Squink I don't know what good it'll do, but it's interesting hearing what other people think. I'm mostly just sad about how it's changed into something unrecognisable and nowhere near as good as it used to be. It seems like people are immediately attracted to the recognisable, and that's why licenced products seem like a safe route, but the trouble is.. this stuff is everywhere you look now to the point it's just too much. Constantly on sale because it's generally extremely lazy and poor quality. Two worlds have collided that just don't mix very well.
Hugh Rose Yeah I think the medium's real potential is in the original characters, or at least recognizable characters done in an interesting way, and both of these things really need to be done by artists. But it is increasingly hard for artists to break through with their own original approaches when so many take the easy route of making characters from whatever film is being released that month. This lazy approach is starting to take over the custom and self-produced world as well in my opinion, and it is selling really well it seems
Chris Squink I've seen this too, but right now it doesn't feel like there's much of a choice for collectors when the focus is on that. I keep coming back to this (because I so badly want it to happen) but I've seen the Forbidden Planet Kidrobot section locally. Older Dunny series massively outselling the new ones. They still have piles of Mardi, Art of War, and another I can't even remember the name of. The fun has been completely taken out of the chase, and that was such a huge part of this.
Hugh Rose Chris I'm really glad you brought this up. I don't know if any other artists are feeling this, but I have strongly considered just giving up on toys recently. I put so much effort into my work, but I get very little back these days. This really hurts when you see people going crazy over total garbage. The fun for me as an artist has mostly gone. I still love interacting with other artists, but I feel totally out of touch with the market. For me it is either make something that I am proud of, or make nothing at all. I don't want to pander to the lowest common denominator, I would rather concentrate on some other area in my career.
Chris Squink It's hard I know, I don't know about you, but what's keeping me going right now is the love I feel from collectors who buy my work, and talk to me too, I know many of them are feeling the same about this. I feel like I have a duty to them in some way, or at the very least.. I want to be part of what's keeping this going. I hope you don't give up on it Hugh, you do amazing work, it is VERY hard to judge the market, I strongly believe that you just need to do what you want, and hope that other people enjoy it.
I'm fully aware that it'd be easier and i'd probably make more money if I started doing Star Wars customs or whatever, but damn, that'd make me sad.
Benny Kline I think we just all need to make a concerted, pointed effort to put indy sculpts and figures in front of as many eyes and potential customers as possible.
Hugh Rose My two hour toy project is I guess my last-ditch effort. I'm inviting feedback and interaction from collectors, and experimenting with quick projects to try and feel out the market. Here's the first installment: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NE9x7-CjXN8
Chris Squink What do you guys feel is missing right now?
Cat Davies I think the market has been overwhelmed, when I started it was the thrill of the hunt for blind boxed rarities, but now prefer very small run or one off customs to the mainstream figures, sometimes the mainstream production is so shoddy compared to custom and one off work that has been made with love and care.
Ryan Crippen I do hope KR returns to the non-themed, multi-artist 3-inch series with fewer crazy sculpts and accessories...
Cat Davies I have to say I've not bought non-customised Dunnys for years 😕 need new platforms, and there are so many DIY platforms that try and break the scene as well. I miss the time when Qees were the thing.
Alex Wizo as a collector myself and ex owner of a online shop it just blows my mind that nobody among dozen of blogs and magazine made a serious anlysis of what went down in the designer toys world, I mean let's face it, most of the more amazing company out there shut down, the survivors completely restructured their production relying heavily on licensed product (the loyal subject, threeA and kidrobot to name a few), most part of the artist that before was putting out vinyl every other month are now doing diy productions (bob bless them) and the trail of established retailers now gone is too long to list, when even Rotofugi survival is at stake I mean c'mon let's not pretend it's all right. The bubble of designer toys exploded at least 3 years ago, with a market overflooded with too much shit and a fanbase not big enough to support that. The ambiguos nature of the medium, half way in between rare collectibles and mass production never helped either. I'm not sure the golden age of designer toys will ever come back. A small market of diy production sold directly by the artist is the more viable future ahead.
Chris Squink As you say you're still a collector Alex, what do you go for? What appeals to you? It's been really sad seeing retailers disappear, but amazing to see companies like Munkyking play a part in keeping things alive with their own productions, also they're GOOD! pieces of art, and not overpriced, so it can be done...
Alex Wizo just diy stuff bought directly from the artists, I'm happy I know where my money goes at least. I must add, I was pretty broke and the aftermath of having a online toy shop myself prevented me to buy stuff for a long time, sadly.
Can you believe I still have load of stuff piled on the shelf of my house that is not even worth the price of the vinyl it's made of today?
Chris Squink Alex Wizo I know the feeling, I used to be a huge collector but creating this work myself doesn't leave me enough to buy much, not that I see much that I actually like these days. I really just want to ensure that I'm also playing a part myself in putting work out there that doesn't just disappear into the void of bullshit.
Alex Wizo some of the stuff recently put out by cardboard spaceship is ace, must give credit where it's due
Chris Squink I guess now, artists have to be their own Kidrobot, their own Toy2R etc.. Just thankful that so many have learned how to do this.
Devin Caitlyn McShane So I started collecting about five years ago now because I found a Labbit in a Barnes and Nobles. Since then I've become a much more serious collector and have ventured into collecting much more than KR (I do still purchase from them often). I don't think Funko and Kidrobot are the absolute worst for the toy industry. I see a lot of people around my age (I am 20) who collect Funko and what not but see my toy posts and ask me where to buy the things I share. I just think a lot of younger people literally have no idea that these beautiful toys even exist and maybe the focus should be more directed in trying to get the younger generation into the toys!
Chris Squink I agree that it's an important part of ensuring things don't completely fall apart, but a few years ago, finding out about the toys that are out there that you had no idea about..it was amazing! Suddenly you discover all these great pieces of art, that are easily accessible. I feel like now, the doors open, and there isn't nearly as much out there (not including customs and artist produced resin) I used to find it so difficult to choose where my money ended up, now I rarely see something I like.
Kidrobot announcements were exciting, now it's almost like I know what to expect before they even have pictures up. I don't know if the licences are meant to be something of a gateway toy, they'd probably work, except..what comes next...it's almost completely disappeared.
Colin May Collecting anything goes through its ups and downs. Vinyl definitely hit its peak a few years back, and has been in a weird place as of late. Part of this is certainly due to POPs (as everyone likes to point out), but even Coarse have played a part in this with the excess of Omens, and their recent Kwaii releases. Smaller figures, at an affordable price, have brought a lot of new collectors to the scene. Which is great! Unfortunately, a lot of newer vinyl collectors don't understand why other pieces are priced where they're priced. Because of that, companies are going to keep putting out more affordable pieces to keep the new collectors collecting. Unfortunately, that seems to mean less art toys, and more toys. Don't get me wrong though... I love toys, and everything has its place.
Colin May It's difficult, because people are going to keep buying what's popular, but they also dictate what popular is. Admittedly, I have quite a few POP figures because I can't resist a horror movie figure, and I have a collecting "problem"... but I'm ok with that 😊 I've been collecting a lot of things for a long time, and I have a bit of everything. I've always collected what I enjoy. Regardless of price, run quantity, etc... Unfortunately, I do think price point has really come into play with the vinyl scene change. The shift needs to go back toward art pieces, and people need to get back on board with the fact that these aren't just toys, and not everything is going to be under $30. Again though, I really do think there's a place for everything (at least in my collection).
Chris Dobson Great thread.
I think that the designer toy world is currently a victim of a few forces:
1. An uncomfortable position - neither perceived as being mass market, nor as contemporary art, it has a bit of an identity crisis I think.
Which, from a financial perspective, is bad news. It is impossible to make pieces to hit mass market price points (and any artists who do take the rash decision to do so are screwing over both themselves and everyone else) and it is commercial suicide to price too highly.
And by 'highly', I actually mean 'fairly', given the amount of work/talent that goes into the pieces.
2. 'Generation Rent' - fewer and fewer people have the space and the money to invest in the scene and are, by necessity, limiting the amount of stuff that they actually own, in order to avoid the pain of moving box upon box of stuff, as they become more transient in their living arrangements.
3. The DIY scene - a double-edged sword this one.
On the one hand, a fantastic means to resolve the issue of the collapse of the 'big' toy companies, in facilitating artists to take matters into their own hands.
On the other, a marketplace flooded with sub-standard work, that has reached such a volume that the good stuff is easily buried. Cue potential punters being overwhelmed and artists of genuine quality becoming disillusioned.
Which brings me to...
4. A lack of critical narrative.
In hindsight, the scene was naturally curated by the toy companies, in that they chose which artists to work with.
Hence, you had key industry figures seeking out the best artists and producing desirable work of the highest quality.
Commercial market forces aside, I think that a lot of damage was done via companies becoming too friendly with a given core of artists. It formed a bit of a closed shop, resulting in too much samey product, as artists were bled dry, rather than the follow the continual drive to innovate that shaped the scene in the first instance.
Save for a couple of exceptions, the curation is gone, replaced with 'safe' products lines and licensed property, designed to satisfy the bottom line, for shareholders.
The largely neutral reporting of the main toy blogs only serves to compound the matter.
I would draw an analogy to the music industry, here. Granted, it is a much more mature/mass-consumed market but, fundamentally, there are hundreds, upon hundreds of records released on a monthly basis. To make sense of this continual churn of work, there are also channels that offer a proper critical appraisal, enabling the best artists to find an audience (however big, or small, that may be).
Equally, other art shows are reviewed. Why not toy ones?
Chris Dobson Sadly, I don't think that there is an easy answer to the current situation and some of the factors are simply outside the control of any of us.
However, I do think that small steps to address those elements upon which we do have influence could start the process of working towards a more sustainable scene...
Tasha Zimich I'd suggest overexposure is a factor we observe but may not acknowledge as frequently. Designer toys grew alongside industries like social media. Widening our reach to share our work, ideas, and products online is amazing, but it simultaneously expands the horizon and over populates our social communities with a near endless volume of other creatives. Gone are the days we had small Facebook accounts with a half dozen creative individuals we may give patronage to regularly: now we're all tuned in to hundreds if not thousands of commercial channels across many social platforms that inundate us daily with products our devices determine methodically via algorithms we may be inclined to buy. Over saturation leads to buyer apathy, and when given too much choice day in and day out, we often choose nothing; because there's more available to buy than there are funds to buy it with, and we know we'll see other new interesting things tomorrow and the next day. I don't know what the solution is, but I notice some creators going hoarse trying to talk overtop competing sales chatter, and we may continue to see creative producer turnover.
Chris Dobson I agree, Tasha. I suppose that is why I feel that some level of critical discourse is needed, in order to help people find their way in.
If the blogs/Facebook pages/Twitter feeds are simply regurgitating the majority of the release info that is sent their way, then it just contributes to the creation of one big echo chamber.
If you had a couple of authoritative sources of reviews/discussion, etc. I think that it would represent a big step forwards.
Chris Squink I know what you're getting at Chris, and there should be more personal opinions recorded on blogs, but regarding reviewing we have to be careful as the community is very small and a negative review from someone who simply doesn't like the style (or the artist) has huge power. It could have a devastating effect on the career of someone just starting out, artists are notoriously fragile. I'm sure there's a middle ground, but art is subjective, I don't know how much use reviews would be unless they're focused mainly on production quality.
Chris Squink I'm also not sure this would have any effect on the larger companies in encouraging them to take more care in selecting artists and releases (for the same reason bands generally don't split up or change style when they get a bad review) Potentially only damaging (if at all) to smaller independents, who aren't really the problem.
Chris Dobson I suppose that I view it more as offering a guiding hand, through the scene, from the perspective of both consumers and artists/producers.
I completely agree on the 'art is subjective' front and so setting the correct tone is important but I am a big believer in constructive criticism.
If nothing else, it's a good mechanism via which to offer an outside voice to artists and help them to progress their output.
But, as you say, there is a fine line to be walked in terms of how this is delivered.
Chris Squink In a perfect world, this would all be as simple as larger companies actually finding out what people want, rather than assuming they know. Perhaps it's because business and fun are colliding so massively in this industry, that it's hard to really fully understand the thinking behind a lot of the decision making. I know that the most reliable review system is actually doing the release and finding out if it sells/doesn't sell. I suppose if things haven't really stepped away from licenced goods then the current method must be working. For the producers at least.
Benny Kline Chris Dobson this is exactly why i don’t criticize artists or works on my blog. I am about empowerment and encouragement. critical feedback is offered privately. i will not permanently publish negative posts about an artists work. imagine how that would feel to you, knowing that a post on a blog is up there forever, saying something bad about your artwork or style or execution.
Chris Dobson I totally understand that, Benny.
I suppose that I come from an educational background that is founded on critique. When offered in the correct way, I think that it's a positive thing.
But, I acknowledge that it's a tricky balance to strike.
That you are offering critical feedback of any form (be it privately, as opposed to publicly) is a good thing, I think. You, more than most, have a knowledge of the industry that is hugely beneficial to impart onto others.
Benny Kline The thing is I've seen (an in my small way helped) a lot of the "little" custom artists go from relative obscurity to years-long commission lists and production toy deals. Many of them changed/ adjusted their styles naturally through the progression of their work without me having to weigh in a critical manner. An artist can see and adjust their artwork as needed. If they have no artistic sense and can't be critical of their own works, they will never make it as an artist. A negative or critical public post on a blog will not help and will most likely hurt their career or their self confidence. I would also not be so bold as to negatively review a show that someone put a year of work into or more. I could possibly hurt the hosting gallery's sales as well, so the downsides of public criticism far far outweigh the benefits. (As far as this tiny toy community is concerned)(Fully support and encourage critical feedback of fine art and gallery shows as that community can support / accept / process the criticism)
Chris Dobson This thread is yielding so much interesting debate.. good work on kick-starting it, Chris!
Do you think, Benny, that the toy world/community can ever reach a point of maturity (for want of a better word) whereby it can sustain a level of feedback more commonly associated with the gallery shows of the fine art world?
Or, do you think that the size and nature of the scene will always preclude that?
Benny Kline Chris Dobson if we have a constant influx of new, green, inexperienced artists each year, then the answer is no, we will never reach any level of maturity. most "successful toy artists" actually get most of their work from ad agencies and entities outside of the "designer toy" world. the designer toy is just one small item in their portfolio. As long as collectors turn into toy artists, we will have new/inexperienced people diving into the art world with undeveloped ability to self-criticize. Most of them did not go to art school. i'm not saying you learn art skills in art school, but you do learn how to look at a project, figure out your angle and execution, you learn how to present it to a group and talk about it, and you learn how to accept and digest the inevitable criticism. if you haven't been through that process 100 times, it will be hard for you to refine your art toy design skills. Not impossible, but harder.
Benny Kline Any budding toy artist that is struggling for acceptance, who hasn't had the luxury of attending an art school, can replicate the process by gathering groups of 20 or so people (not friends/family) and presenting their work for a critique. And They should do this BEFORE presenting the work to the toy blogs. Many times. That way when the work does reach the eyes of the potential consumer, it is refined, and we avoid the issue of whether to blog about it in a negative / critical way or not. I am not a public critique machine. I run a blog where I like to post about awesome art. You cannot trust the Internet community to offer unbiased and fair and non-abusive critique, too many trolls out there.
Chris Squink Benny Kline Very true Benny. I've been doing this for years now (since 2006 I think) and have seen SO many come and go. The real test is sticking it out, and being able to refine and develop skills and styles as you go. If you appear, and produce the same thing over and over..You don't really need a public critique to know if it's working or not. A lot of my really old work, when I look at it now, isn't something i'm proud of, but it was what lead me to where I am now. If i'd started out, and then suddenly had lots of negative press on blogs, I'm not so sure i'd have had the motivation to continue.
Tasha Zimich I'd tend to agree on the fragility of producer's positions in public perception when it comes to toys specifically. Benny has been really supportive during times I've blogged more than just paraphrased press releases; speaking pieces to product quality from review sample, calling attention to uncredited "borrowing" of designer toy aesthetics by other creative communities, personal opinion bits, and if anything, what I've noticed is recipients didn't manage honest well. A Not-Great toy review was some of the last I saw from that company's involvement in "the scene", I unintentionally started a turf-war on the blog's comments section with some defensive readers from other walks, and didn't seem to do myself too many favors for the efforts. People contributing to blogs (in this capacity) aren't full time and independent on it, so if they want to still be successful in other ventures, they kinda need to mediate their position; which is where the very safe handling we see in toy talk comes from.
Chris Holt I think at the end of the day these really are luxury items and if it comes down to putting gas in the car or buying a toy the toy is gonna lose every time. I dont buy as much as I once did just because it is so cost prohibitive and once you get used to passing on this release or that release it becomes very easy to just not buy anything.
And honestly, I think there is just waaaaaay too much out there now. I look at it in the same way when people started to be able to record music at home and just flood the internet. I can barely keep up with it all and I think for the average collector they feel the same. What I wish would happen is that people who are self producing to really start to market themselves as the bigger companies do and start to cut through the clutter. Make people take notice of you, make people feel that it's special and unique and theres fucking magic behind it the way I felt when I never knew I could call up a factory and start my own toy company.
Tasha Zimich I have a dissenting opinion, but I might be looking at/thinking of other releases than you're meaning. I appreciate the new opportunities 5" Dunny is affording, each of the Horrible Adorables vinyls would be something I'd put in my home, Cardboard Spaceship x BP really hit it off again with Night King- I could see if someone were to complain it's very similar in profile to the skelves, but I guess "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". I'm trying to assemble some usd $ for TAG x Candie's upcoming bakekujira, which looks amazing. I might just have different taste, but I'm more excited about some of what I'm seeing right now than in previous years.
Chris Squink There is some great stuff out there, it is however getting much harder to find. Buying from artists going it alone (as many are now, because they have to) requires a lot more searching than just looking in your local toy store, I know some places do stock customs, resin etc. But because of commission fees and the likes, it's mostly just not a viable option. Which is another reason why stores like the great Rotofugi are needing our help so much right now, a lot of the turnover of these stores is reliant on buying production releases in 'bulk' - seeing releases constantly overlooked and then reduced in price by the producers after just a few weeks is massively damaging to businesses still needing to charge full price to pay the rent.
I do enjoy a lot of what artists are self producing, but they're mostly unable to cover the cheap impulse buying part of the toy 'scene' which used to be well taken care of by Kidrobot and the hugely varied mini figure series'. Cardboard Spaceship have been great, but if this industry is going to survive, it needs to be so much easier for the untrained to find those well buried pieces of art.
Tasha Zimich I don't disagree there. It was well said a little earlier when it was mentioned that there's an unheathly perception that any toy release less than an immediate sell-out is perceived as a failure. People loose faith in an artist or a release much quicker, and retailers are pinched to discount unsold stock sooner and sooner to try to turn it over. Seeing more retailers threatened is indicative of the trend in buying, I guess we'll see what happens.
Chris Squink Oh definitely, high demand creates even more demand. As soon as something isn't an instant sellout, it's very damaging. It's sad that's the way it works.
Brandt Peters I have very different opinions on the matter since I am a toy artist/designer (with as you know a lot of toys behind me), also a toy producer of my own, and other's toys, a toy mfg, an importer, and a brick and mortar toy store --- for years, and years (I am very grateful). I can see how some think the way they do here... but facts, real history, reality, logic, real business sense, dictate some alternative thinking... I am going to have to agree to disagree. I do appreciate the discussion.
Brandt Peters Humbly speaking, I have worked with almost every single toy company, both commercial and independent for years, upon years, upon years. I was also one of the first resin producers in the toy scene - like for real. I remember getting attacked daily for resin being a fad and it was going to end and was beneath vinyl. Wow I feel old
Noah Ross I started out collecting KR like a lot of people, mainly Dunnys, and then branched out into other stuff and customs. The foundation of my interest though always remained Dunnys, and I started losing that interest when KR started overproducing, not publishing edition numbers, and in my opinion did too many themed series. All of that conspired to making it feel less special to me. It wasn't about the monetary value, as some may argue an emphasis on limited runs suggests, but about owning art that despite being mass produced still offered a thrill of exclusivity, uniqueness, and discovery. Once eBay was flooded with the latest releases at less than half retail value, why buy at all? One can still appreciate the work, but no real sense in paying for it anymore to me. Custom and artist-made work is different, but I just lost my mojo.
Brandt Peters I see a place where original art/licensing/resin/vinyl all can live together in harmony.
Chris Holt Chris Dobson I try with my blog to post only the stuff that I actually like. While some things do fall through the cracks because I'm only one person, a lot of stuff gets ignored because I'm just not feeling it. I pass buy licensed stuff unless its something I'm into or its at least a fresh approach, like what Fools Paradise has been doing with their coin op series.
Chris Holt Retailers have to have something unique if they want to survive. Look what Benny Kline does at New York Comic con, or Stranger Factory in New Mexico. Those are experiences. The days of piling blind boxes in a corner and expecting people to be excited seem gone.
Chris Squink I'm really glad this post is encouraging so many to speak their minds, I know how hard that can be to do out of the blue and unprompted. You guys are great. So much to take in here...
Brandt Peters So here is an alternative perspective… and like I mentioned, my opinion is from my unique vantage point of being a toy artist who licenses to other companies (15 years), a producer of other artists toys (resin and vinyl), owner of a toy store (5+ years brick and mortar / Online: over 14+ years), I co-produce toy projects with outside companies and partners, I am an importer, a toy event planner (internationally) and toy companies come to me for advice and consult across the planet. I have sold out many miniseries projects, as well as standard releases with what I am assuming possibly over 100 toys to my name or my companies name (combined) and I am a sought out US designer for International toy companies. Knock on wood, I am still riding strong with many toy projects already planned and produced/mid-production for the next 2 years+. I am both the artist and the Director/Producer and understand both sides of that fence.
Now – I still say to each his or her own and just because this is my perspective (that happens to be backed by actual history and knowledge) I still respect and acknowledge your unique experience and perspective.
Many of you might know that what you hear here from me, is what I say publicly and have for years. I say feel what you feel, do what your going to do, but understand there is more than your one perspective. Just like me, all of us. But I can’t just sit here without giving you my educated position on these matters.
I get when someone says, buy from the artist directly. Now I am biased as I have a store… but I am also an independent artist. As an artist (witnessing how other artists act), I can tell you it’s not as rosy as many of those artists or collectors make it out to be. About half of artists seem to not respect any system or the idea that their decisions ultimately affect their colleagues. Now our toy market is not like a traditional market/system. The “man” is not involved… no one is becoming ultra rich making toys on either side of the fence. The mark up is just way too high. Our system/market is made up of artists. Artists just trying to make a living by selling their craft and product and put food on their tables for their family, or business paying more than minimum wage to help their staff put food on their tables. It’s not hyper-corporate and there is no giant room of gold coins, we all jump into. Yeah – even when you see a resin figure for a few hundred dollars, do you know that artist might have spent $120 of their own money to pay for that one resin figure? Not even counting their time to clean, paint, make the mold, etc. Please be open to the idea, that even though you see a price, you may absolutely be clueless (I am being respectful) about how that price was derived. You just don’t know, you don’t need to comment on it or throw shit, just because you might not be able to afford it. Just because you can’t afford it, does not mean a reason has to be invented on the spot to get your friends to agree with you, to suit your narrative. Some people, who know less than you, may just take your word for it. Possibly ruining their experience or giving them the wrong impression because it inflated your ego. Some artists see these conversations and they don’t know that much more than you, and will start dropping their prices in a way that will destroy them overtime, hurt other artist’s ability to earn a living and there for ultimately really damage a market.
Brandt Peters On one hand selling directly is a strong stance as an independent – sure it is... Upon further inspection many times this decision tends to be more ego driven, than smart business driven. I guess it would not be so bad if the artist went 100% fully to their own system of selling directly – but that seems to not be good enough. The type I am referring to not only wants to sell direct, but also sell through galleries and stores in the same moment. But they don’t see themselves as partners with galleries and stores, rather they can see themselves as THE ONLY VALUE in the relationship. They are doing a favor, working with you. They are the ones providing 100% of the appeal – a gallery or store, is only just a space. I can tell you, although there might be some bad apples, a gallery or a store, is not just a space. We earn our commission. I have a staff, take out ads, network and build alliances that help artists – our goal is helping artists build new fans, not just tapping into their existing base. Some artists would like you to believe that stores and galleries nickel and dime you on commissions, that don’t lift a finger or help in any way. That some stores take 70%, or have no loyalty. Most of this are invented details, once again to suit their narrative. Many times these same toy artists who complain about the details mentioned above, are the exact same artists that sabotage other artists and businesses, that have back door sales (which is a form of lying – not the best foot to start out with business partners), undersell other artists or industry standards to gain vantage over other artists and markets, or worse… just to get validated or more likes. This is not everyone, and there are far more reasonable and fair artists than the opposite. That is fair… but when I here only one perspective – I think as collectors, you are owed the full big picture. That the kind artist you know may not be so kind behind the scenes and its part of their car sales pitch. I know many bad stores and galleries, helped contribute to this view point… but just understand that there is always a bigger picture – question everyone.
Brandt Peters ou[sic] love of buying a $20 or cheaper resin figure from artists whose intent is to undersell other artists, is the Wal-Mart approach. I am sorry, but this is small thinking. That figure is handmade. It deserves to be more than a product one might buy at Wal-Mart. Now maybe this is all the money you have – that’s fair. But then call it as it is. It is what you could afford – you don’t need to go and shit on other artists or their pricing comparing apples to oranges to suit your narrative and make you look virtuously correct in your message. I know good resin artists who charged a fair and reasonable price, who are getting really hurt right now, because of the bad business sense of many new resin producers, who are training the market and collectors to be cheap. Behind the scenes when you look at the math of artists, you see how fast that no business sense went into any of their decision making allowing them to damage the market, damage the value system in the market, directly hurt colleagues – just now again, that there is always a bigger picture. So please collect from artists – but also from your local communities both physical and online. It’s hard to listen to some artists are about how bad galleries and stores are, while secretly everyone, they are conducting deals with these same stores and galleries still and double dipping. Eyes wide open everyone.
Brandt Peters Sales are always up and down for toys—they are not officially dwindling. Markets rise and drop… but those who come from a business background know this. So yes, the economy is not in the best state – but there is no collapse of the vinyl toy market like many would have you think. Now I think the bubble has popped and many artists who were chasing money or opportunity got hurt. But that always is the case in every market --- those looking for the next trend always get hurt. A lot of toy sales connect to authenticity and if you just get into vinyl or resin because you lost your job, are bored, not talented enough (yeah I will go there), opportunistic, data driving your next big hot win… than go open up a frozen yogurt business. I love frozen yogurt – nothing wrong with it, but don’t franchise our art into a trend fracking style for your opportunity. Not really a pizza guy… don’t design a pizza character because you think it will lead to big sales. Be authentic and if you love the arts, are creative, but have no ideas. Maybe get into the art business to help authentic artists do their thing. They need the help organizing, planning, making, etc. Just don’t take their idea and make it yours… I mean you can. But who can keep up that inauthentic energy… it does and will catch up with you and unfortunately you might take all of us along with you.
Brandt Peters I feel the garbage you are talking about… But there is some great work coming out of companies right now. Great toys from Japan, all over – even US companies. It’s not all garbage.
Brandt Peters I am on the fence with licensed toys… I always would rather see original content or personal voice… but as a store owner, they are “gate-way” toys that get collectors over to original content. Some potential collectors are on the fence and intimidated. We have to allow them to collect their own way and if they feel G.I. Joe to He-Man is how they connect at first through nostalgia… then that is a good thing. I can tell you with all of my history in this industry – licensed toys get new collectors introduced to designer vinyl or sofubi. Where as they would never have crossed over if the licensed toy stuff was not there. Think big picture – sometimes it’s about forgoing the short fort the long. This once again, is smart business. Now maybe there is a conversation for nicely designed licensed toys – which I would love to help remedy. I am just as excited that I could design a He-Man figure in my style as my own original IP content.
Brandt Peters I think some prices might be a little high… especially for beginning artists. This is a whole other topic where artists want to be famous or rock-stars out of the gate, or feel that because say I charge one price, they should be able to, like I set the market standard. They never factor in it took me over 25 years to get to this spot and when I first started, I basically gave my work away for almost free. However, be careful when making general statements across the board for the whole market. I would be more than 50% of the time, when someone says pricing is too high – they just can’t afford it. Again, we don’t need to invent anything on the spot, to suit our own personal narrative. I would argue that at least half the time, you would be wrong.
Yes – too many painters and toy makers with zero chops – or worse, zero care to ask veterans how it’s done, in case we maybe figured out how to make it last for all of us. Too many wild egos, with nothing to back it up. Yes… 80% ripped off designs – well this market got flooded with opportunists all looking to get rich fast or belonging to a group like a fraternity, or found a way to desperately get validate every minute through social media --- people who follow trends, for trends sake, will not last long, and eventually their bad business sense will take the ship down – unfortunately it hurts all of us every time this take place.
The 5% who can’t tell you why their piece was made or a back story – might fit again into the trend followers. Again, no authenticity = no story/reason to back it up. Many will say – frack you, I did it because it was cool. Sorry – cool, is just not enough.
Sometimes artists are not friendly, but many times, we have a hard time in the public. Me, you can’t shut me the hell up (obviously right ;) --- but some have a hard time, it doesn’t mean they are being mean. At the same time, I know a few mean artists and I won’t mention names – I can tell you the whole industry talks about them. So just know we all know – just don’t assume. I am sure a few times in my life after signing for 3 hours straight, drawing a couple of hundred sketches for few and few hundred signatures for free, with no break… that I may have come across tense. Just be open minded.
I am not the biggest fan for lottos – but when you have 20 of something --- and 100 people show up – there is no other way to make it fair.
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