The Toy Chronicle Talks To Tomodachi Island

In 2015 Emelie Jensen AKA Tomodachi Island enchanted our hearts with her fantastic customs and artwork. We catch up with Emelie on her 2015 experience and what she’s got installed for 2016 and beyond.

For people who don’t know you who is Tomodachi Island and what the story is which we have enjoyed the journey so far.

Tomodachi Island is more than what meets the eye. It’s a part of my subconscious that I’ve decided to share with the rest of the world. It is a place I created for myself to escape into and to fantasize about. It is a place that makes me stronger and a place where dreams never come to an end. A place without boundaries and a place to be free. It holds a vast amount of creatures and magical beings. How many is hard to tell as they just keep appearing. There is no such thing as darkness, evil or death on Tomodachi Island. I think I decided to keep them out of Tomodachi Island as they are the three things that scare me the most in life.

How hard has it been establishing yourself as a toy customiser/artist?

My journey towards becoming a toy customizer to begin with started long before anyone had heard my name. It started roughly three years ago when I got my very first DIY Foomi for Christmas. I wanted to try it long before then, but never got to it. So when I had this Foomi I just had to try it out. I had been following Holly or A little Stranger and Amanda Louise Spayed for a long time before this, and I love their work so much. But having role models like these two extraordinary women, also meant that my expectations on myself were very high. Obviously I failed at my first toy big time. I then decided to give it a while and learn more about the mediums that I wanted to specialize in. I’ve been reading countless tutorials and watched I don’t know how many videos on how to customize toys and then finally after 2 years of research and sculpting my own figures I decided to try again. This time it came out exactly as I wanted and I haven’t stopped since.

What I didn’t know was the amazing community of artists that I were about to get to know. How everyone welcomed me with open arms is something that I’m still a bit stunned by. These people I’ve been looking up to for such a long time. These people who I were so intimidated by, turned out to be the most warm-hearted and welcoming people on the planet.

So once I got to this point of accepting my own art I found the road to get established pretty smooth, but it’s all down to awesome people like you lot. Without you I would still be a nobody in the Toy scene. It does take a lot of hard work though. Just to get the techniques right, and I still learn so much from every new toy I work on.

We actually found your drawings before seeing your custom vinyl toy work. How did you get into customizing designer toys?

I have always loved designer vinyl and even though I might not hold the biggest collection I have been appreciating the scene for many many years. As I mentioned earlier I loved A little Stranger and Hollys work was the first customs I came across. I didn’t know, at the time, that these things could be done to vinyl toys and I just had to try it myself. It turned out to be the best decision I’ve ever made and I guess I’ve got Holly to thank for that.

Earth Mother by tomodaschi island Beautiful Decay by tomodachi islandYou’re in the process of making your first resin toy “Tweedle-Hoot” with the help of renowned model maker  James Young of Aardman animations. We cannot wait for the release but how did you manage to get James on board?

Yes, it’s all very exciting and I can’t wait to unleash Tweedle-Hoot upon the world! I have been extremely lucky in this matter. James actually contacted me. He’s been following my work for a while and he wanted something different in his portfolio and asked me if I wanted to collaborate with him. Obviously I jumped at the chance to work with such a legend and I am still finding it a bit hard to realise that it’s true.

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We love your weird and wonderful creatures that you create where do you get your inspiration and creativity from?

It comes from all around to be honest. I have got a few artists that really tend to inspire me even though my art is far away from what these artists do. The Marvel comic “Sky Doll” is one of my main inspirations. It’s so colourful and full of strange creatures along with an amazing story line. Alessandro Barbucci who does the linework for “Sky Doll” is definitely one of my favourite artists.
Other artists such as James Jean and J.A.W. Cooper are also great inspirations.

When it comes to custom toys Amanda Louise Spayed and Holly Astral (A Little Strange) along with RX Seven are the most inspirational toy customizers, to me, out there at the moment.

I am also in love with absolutely everything that comes from Coarse and 3A! They are my greatest heroes!

Do you listen to music when you’re sketching/customising?

Oh yes! I don’t think many of my creatures would even exist without music. It’s what makes my creativity flow the best. I can’t live without music, I just can’t. I love to work to mystical music, mostly instrumental like Helios and Volor Flex. But I love darker music like Burial as well. To be honest I like so many different kinds of music that it’s hard to give you a good picture of what sort of musical creature I am. But these are the once I always tend to go back to and do my best work to as well. Also love 50’s music and old Jazz.

Your website is very professional and we love that you always keep it updated and show WIP photos. We feel it’s important for artist to go the same route when trying to get brand/artwork across to collectors and fans. Any tips on getting a professional look without breaking the bank?

As long as you’ve got access to Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, which I think most people do these days, then you’re set. There are so many great sites where you can build your own websites. I personally use Squarespace.com which is absolutely brilliant and it’s not very pricy either. You just have to choose a template/layout that you like and then start customizing it. I create everything on my website myself like buttons, banner and backgrounds. It’s taken me quite a while to set it all up. But once it’s there it is super easy to just update quickly with new work. It’s even got its own commerce if you feel like setting up a store. Unfortunately it’s not accepting Paypal at the moment so I decided to go with BigCartel.com instead as their store work allot better.

But, yeah, all you need is to be a little bit savvy with the Adobe Suite and you’ll be on your way for roughly £6.00 a month

Being from Sweden what 2 things do you miss the most?

That is the easiest question of this whole interview haha! The SNOW and the lakes! Winters here in the UK are long and dark. Yes they are darker in Sweden, but the snow lights it up and that cold, I really miss that cold. People always say to me here in the UK, as I freeze allot here: “You’re Swedish shouldn’t you be used to the cold?!” Let’s just say that +5C feels so much colder in this damp air than -20C feels like in the dry Swedish air.

And the lakes, oh the lakes, they used to be my escape and biggest comfort when I still lived in Sweden. So quiet and peaceful.

swedish lake

Having studied 3D computer animation in the past, any chance to seeing your monsters in a animated short film?

The thought have passed me more than once I must admit. But I really can’t say. I would love to, but all the work that goes in to it. I don’t think I’d be capable of doing it on my own. We’ll just have to see what the future holds The Thundrolot Pup - Digital Painting by tomodashi island

We love watching your animation time-lapse videos  on your Vimeo channel. Your 3D modelling is superb any chance you will mess around with some 3D printing some of your work?

Funny you should mention it. I do have a goal for 2016 and that is to venture back in to 3D and the world of ZBrush to re-create some of my creatures and hopefully have them 3D printed. It’s been quite some time since I worked in 3D though so I can’t say if I will fulfil this or not. But I am definitely giving it a go anyway.

For my Mom – Digital Painting Timelapse by Emelie Jensen from Emelie Jensen on Vimeo.

Tattoo played apart in your path towards where you are right now. Is their any chance in the future we will get to see a few tattoo inspired customs from you?

Definitely! I’ve been playing with the thought allot lately. I don’t know in what way but I can more or less guarantee that you will see it sooner or later.

Whats been the your favourite platform to work with?

So far it must be the Muttpop Tequila I did for a customer a couple of months ago. Absolutely awesome platform! So well sculpted and it’s got so much character.

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Is their one vinyl you would to customise?

I’ve been itching to work on a Teddy Troops for a long time but the big ones are quite pricy. However I managed to get my hands on one for half the price during Collect and Display’s Black Friday Sale soooo I will be working on one soon.

Dalek Teddy Trooper - Black Edition

In April you’ll have your own booth at Toycon UK 2016, what can we expect to see from you?

Yes! How awesome is that?! I am so psyched about it! I haven’t decided exactly what to bring yet but I am working on it. So far I can tell you that Tweedle-Hoot will debut at ToyCon UK along with some more resin toys that I am working on myself. There will be quite a few Dunnys of course and two large and very elaborate Labbits. I will bring a lot of prints and original artwork as well. If I have the time to complete everything that I have planned then there will be a wide range of different customs and platforms.

You’ve represented Europe in USA at Dcon at Martian Toys space crab wars, any advice on how new customisers can get noticed like yourself?

As always social media is absolutely brilliant. I don’t know where I would be without Instagram especially. Facebook is not what it used to be and it seems you have to pay to get anywhere there these days. But if anything Instagram is what I recommend for artist. It is such a powerful tool and I’ve picked up most of my work from IG and met so many awesome people there too.

The Space Crab Wars - Custom Space Crab by Tomodachi Island Dcon Martian toys 7

Can you walk us through your work space, and what are some of your favorite things about your space.

My studio is my sanctuary. It’s where I can spend hours upon hours creating and just loose myself to my thoughts. I can’t really say that I’ve got a favourite space in my studio; the whole thing is my favourite place! I share the space with my partner who is in to his graffiti and urban street art so the whole room have become a place booming with colour and inspiration. Some people would see it as a cluttery mess, but this is what I love the most about it I think. I find myself just sitting in here looking at things sometimes. It clears my head and calms me down.

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I’ve got one area assigned to computer work and I try to keep my mess away from this space (not that I succeed very often). And I have one area assigned to my creative mess which would be sculpting, painting and drawing. I love sitting in the window as I can see the world go by when I lift my head up from whatever I am doing at the time and daylight is the best kind of light to work in. There’s just one annoying thing about the window and that is the tourist bus that always seem to stop outside so that people on the top floor can stare at me. I don’t like that lol!

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In the far corner of the studio I keep my storage. This is a space that I’ve not managed to finish yet. I am trying to sort it out with new cupboards but I’ve got some saving up to do before I can get it the way I want. It would just be so much easier to keep things clean and tidy and dust free if I could put it all behind doors. But for now it’s working ok.

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We’re foodies what’s your one food you cannot like without?

ICECREAM! I loooooove ice-cream so much that I think there’s something wrong with me sometimes.

If theirs an artist who you guys would love to work with, who would it be?

Coarse would be absolutely mind-blowing to work with!

Kawi Thailand Exclusive By Coarse x JP TOYS 3 inch and 7 inch

Some quick-fire questions

Favorite color? 

I’m so boring but…. Aqua Blue

Money is no object – what do you do first ?

Get myself a stable with an amazing dreamy looking horse! hahaha

If you could meet any person (dead or alive) who would it be ?

Hayao Miyazaki any day. An amazing human being he is!

Hayao Miyazaki

What is the one book or film you think everyone should see ?

“The Fountain” by Darren Aronofsky. An absolute work of art, but very intense. Any film provoking so many feelings is worth watching. This is the only film to this day that can literally reduce me into a puddle of tears.

You could give your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be ?

You are beautiful just the way you are. Never let anyone tell you otherwise. Something I will tell my daughter every day…

Thank you for taking timeout to speak to us Emelie, we wish you and your family all the best for 2016 and beyond. See you at ToyCon UK 2016.

Find Tomodachi via Faceboook, Instagram and check out her Etsy storeHERE which has some cute and awesome accessories and customs.

Tomoisland

Much more on her store that is just a sample! have a look at her sketches too take a look at http://tomodachiisland.com/

Tomo sketch

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Article by: Andy

A Yellow guy with bad English who's a chef by trade but addicted to toys and art. Instagram nutter rambling food addict who likes to take photos of everything I eat (most Asians do right?) Please don't class me as a journalist or blogger, more on the lines of talent scout and always backs the little guy. Instagram ( BigToyPoo) (SushiKingUK) I am that one dickhead too.