Urban Vinyl Daily: Would you mind telling us a little background about yourself?
Squid Kids Ink: I’ve been livin in Southern California since 2001, but mostly grew up in Wyoming. When I was a kid I wanted to draw comic books, but I realized pretty early that wasn’t gonna be a good fit for me. I started sculpting when I was 19. That eventually led me to Otis for Toy Design.
I graduated in 2004 and designed action figures at Playmates for 2.5 years and at Spin Master for 5 years. Storm Hawks and How to Train Your Dragon are probably the toy lines I’m most proud of. Designing action figures for animation and movies wasn’t a gratifying as I imagined it would be. So, after roughly 8 years of designing action figures, I decided to quit and try making money on my own for a change.
UVD: Would you mind telling us about some of the designs that you came up with when you were first starting out and how designs have progressed over the years?
SKI: I started sculpting and entering contests in ToyFare and Tomart’s Action Figure Digest. I was mostly sculpting my favorite characters from movies and comics that hadn’t been made into action figures by that time.
While at Otis College I mainly focused on designing action figures, but I also had to learn how to design small dolls, preschool, vehicles, and plush. Learning how to sew and design plush has really come in handy.
While at Playmates I sculpted at least 5 different styles of TMNT in my spare time. I use to love TMNT, and I guess I still do, but I’m not a fan of Playmates. That was probably the first time I sculpted a “urban vinyl” stylized figure.
It wasn’t until 2008 when I stopped sculpting other peoples characters and really started developing my own characters.
You can see photos of most of that stuff on my blog, but you may have to search some of early posts.
UVD: What are some things that influence you and your work? Is there any artist’s work that inspired you and your style early on in your career?
SKI: I’m about as geeky as a grow guy can get. I love comics, cartoons, movies, video games, and toys, of course.
Todd McFarlane and Stan Winston were probably my biggest influences growing up. I loved Spawn and the first couple years of McFarlane toys, but I quickly lost interest once they started doing Horror and Sports figures. Stan Winston’s movie work was definitely inspiring, but I had no real desire to work on movies.
Later I was influenced by my co-workers at Spinmaster. I worked with Chito Arellano “Kwestone” and Tracy Tubera for a while. They’re both amazing artists and have been good friends of mine for years.
UVD: For those who may not be familiar Squid Kids Ink, would you mind filling us in on how the company started out and what determined the initial direction of products and designs?
SKI: When I first started Squid Kids Ink, I was still sculpting popular characters as “Garage Kits”. Jay Garcia at Mana Studios helped me with all of the molding an casting.
My Squib and Squib Kid were the first DIY resin figures that I made. I couldn’t afford to go straight into production and at the time I didn’t know any factories in China or even how to import anything. It took a long time for everything to fall into place for my 10-Doh! figures.
My Squib plush were the 1st products I got produced overseas. Plush was the least complicated and cost effective product to produce. So, it was a good stepping stone for other projects.
UVD: For those who may not be familiar with the family of figures, would you mind saying a little about the 10-doh family of figures?
SKI: 10-Doh! is part of my So Analog brand. The idea behind them was to bring old dead technology back to life. I have a pretty terrible memory, but I think I drew A-Drive first, followed by B-Side, then 10-Doh!. I was also trying to design a line of figures that could showcase people’s artwork. There are tons of Artists out there that don’t customize or design toys. I was hoping to make a platform that they could put their digital or traditional art on.
UVD: With the new SDCC series being all the rage for people to come and collect, what made you initially decide to attempt a blind box series of the figures, and also to reach out to these particular artists that are involved with series 1?
SKI: I was planning the mini figures at the same time as the original larger 10-Doh! figures. I even have A-Drives and B-Sides ready to go. Unfortunately, I could only afford to produce one figure, so I had to go with the one that I thought would appeal to the most people. Almost everyone in my generation grew up playing NES games and it had a large label area.
I emailed a bunch of artists that make stuff I like. I was just hoping they would be interested in being a part of the Mini 10-Doh! Series1. Most of them at least replied, but only some agreed. Of course, some of the artists are my good friends that I’ve know years. I think I ended up with a good mix of well known artists as well as talented friends that are up and coming.
UVD: With the odds of the series being fairly uniform with figures being either 3/20, 2/20, or 1/20 and allotting 1 gold 10-doh per case, was there any decision making being made on which figure would get which odds of being pulled?
SKI: Case pack ratios are not an easy thing to figure out. It’s more math than my brain likes to handle. Even more difficult than that was deciding the rarity of each design. Balancing popularity of artist, versus rarity was a guessing game really. There are benefits to your figure being rare or common. I still worry that people aren’t gonna be able to get a complete set, because that’s what I would want. But that’s the nature of the Blind Box. It’s risk versus reward and the excitement of the hunt. It’s not for everyone, but the people that like it, really like it.
UVD: With Series 1 being a likely success among the collectors at AX, SDCC, and online, is there any possibility on a Series 2 and what (if anything) might be different in a new series?
SKI: I’d love to do a Series 2. I’ve already had several artist contact me about being a part of it. Unfortunately, it all comes down to how Series1 sells. I’d love to be able to do a new Series every year, but that’s really up to the people buying them.
If there is a Series2, I’d like to continue with a mix of well known artists as well as some fresh faces. I’m also planning some new colors and other minor changes, but that’s really up in the air right now.
UVD: With Squid Kids Ink resin and vinyl figures having been used in the past as platforms for customs, are there any new figures on the horizon that we can look forward to being customized?
SKI: I have a couple of other brands I’m developing, but I’m only one guy, so they’re on the back burner for a while.
I’m currently in the process of reworking my Squib figures. The old molds are used up, so I want to change some stuff before I go into production. Most people might not notice huge changes, but I’ll feel better about them.
UVD: With blank figures such as a Nintendo Cartridge, a floppy disk, and a cassette tape, are there any other geeky retro items that, if you had the chance, would bring back in vinyl form?
SKI: I’ve sketched up 18 or so figures for the So Analog brand. You can see hints of them my So Analog T-shirts and in the background of the Blow Me: A Tribute to Cartridge Gaming poster.
I’d love to make all of them at some point, but I simply can’t afford to make them all at this point. At the very least I’ll start showing more of the characters as art work.
UVD: With the recent upswing in artists/consumers using Kickstarter as a medium for either funding a project or weighing public interest in the figure, do you think this is showing a trend away from blind box production of countless figures, or just a way for the industry to make sure it will be always hitting a target audience?
SKI: I don’t know if KickStarter is influencing Blind Box productions. I don’t think it’s the best fit for Blind Box funding. Kickstarter contributors usually want to know exactly what they are getting and special perks that might not be available in stores.
I think people either love or hate Blind Box figures. It’s a common practice in our little section of a very large Toy Industry. Personally, I usually don’t buy blind box figures. I like to know exactly what I’m buying. The last Blind Box figures I bought were Lunartik in a Cup of Tea by Matt Jones. I bought a whole case, cuz I didn’t care which ones I got. I just liked the figures.
I do plan on doing some Kickstarter projects, but I have to figure out how much I would need and what rewards would really get people excited. I’ve seen a lot of cool things not get funded, so I worry about putting something up and it failing. Thankfully, failing on Kickstarter only hurts your ego and not your wallet. So, I guess it’s better than getting both of those things hurt.
UVD: Are there any future projects that you wish to discuss for the reader to keep their eyes open for in the upcoming future?
SKI: I’m really trying to focus on a Squibs storybook right now. I want to develop and explain the world that they live in. I’m not much of a story teller, so it’s a slow process for me. The dream is to create something to would be a fun video game for both kids and adults. Unfortunately, I only know how to play video games. So, that’s gonna take some time.
I’ll be releasing 2 new 10-Doh! figures before the end of the year. The 1st will be for the Blow Me: A Tribute to Cartridge Gaming online artshow. The 2nd is The Legend of 10-Doh!, which was on display at DKE’s booth at SDCC in July. That should be out in time for Xmas.
I’ll also be releasing more Limited Edition Mini 10-Doh! figures sometime soon. Maybe for DCon?
UVD: What would your encouragements/suggestions be for artists/designers that are either just starting out or who are trying to get themselves noticed?
SKI: I wish I knew how to get noticed. Ha. It feels like I’ve always done things the slow painful way. I seem to just do things rather than asking how other people got stuff done. I don’t know how the people that work on Kid Robot products got their start, but do know that Mr. Robot wasn’t knockin down my door. So, I just tried doing it myself. I could have asked more questions, but some people get all pissy about sharing info. So, if you run into a guy that’s all protective of his secrets, go ask someone else. There are no real secrets out there.