So here it is. An interview with the man that turns vinyl toys into art pieces. Ones that most of us couldn’t even dream of thinking up, never mind creating…
So…Introduce yourself, what’s you name (other than your artist/business name)?
I’m Mike Strick. Seriously, that’s my name.
Are you an artist from the get go, or developed through time and being in the hobby?
As a child I was always either making cardboard spaceships and clay monsters or drawing. I never really stopped. Or grew up.
How did you discover the world of designer/art toys?
I still have and appreciate some of my childhood toys but I remember stumbling across Skeleton Warriors figures as an adult and being amazed at the artistry that had had gone into them. That led me to collecting McFarlane toys, who I think were among the first to really blur the boundaries between toys and art. I think I only actually began to appreciate vinyl toys when I started customizing them myself.
What inspires You?
Cinema was always very important in my family when I was growing up and it has remained a strong influence. One of my hobbies is replicating movie props and the tools and techniques needed for that sometimes inspire me to try them out on custom toys. I try and use at least one new technique on every piece of work so that I’m constantly learning and expanding.
Who/what is your biggest influence?
I try not to be influenced consciously by other people’s styles. I tend to be driven by something I see in the base figure. I feel that the donor figure needs to lead the design otherwise a piece becomes less of a custom and more of a mixed media build that happens to contain some toy parts. Of course it can sometimes be a pretty fine line.
When you sit to create, can you describe your ideal setting? For example: do you have music playing, if so what kind or artist, what kind of drink do you have next to you and what are the tools that are a must for you to have on your desk?
My workspace is organised chaos fuelled by black coffee and Planet Rock on the radio. I have limited space that quickly gets filled up in the heat of a project. I have a little ritual of spending an hour or so tidying everything up at the end of each project. It’s much easier to be inspired knowing that the workbench is clear and all the tools are clean, oiled, sharpened and where I expect them to be.
Do you have a favourite piece of art, that you created, that you cannot part with?
I almost always know when I start a piece whether it is for myself or for sale. Part of the pleasure of making a piece for sale is knowing that it will be handed over to someone who really wants it. Parting with something made for myself would be different matter, particularly as I am a terrible hoarder.
What is your holy grail piece that you either already have or would die to have?
That’s difficult. There’s just so much out there. Coarse Toys’ The Passage is a piece I probably won’t own but absolutely love.
Who are some of your favourite toy artists?
I’m constantly amazed at the sheer quality of the work produced by Jim Freckingham (Robotic Industries). Every one of his customs could be a finished production toy. JPK’s work is of course always beautiful and I particularly appreciate it as fine-line ink illustration was my own preferred medium for many years. I have a lot of respect for Lisa Rae Hansen’s customs. She’s another artist who constantly produces impeccable quality coupled with brilliant concepts. Kerry Dyer’s work deserves far more attention than it seems to get; always imaginative and beautifully rendered. Outside the custom scene, I’m a big collector of Ashley Wood/3A.
What do you think of the current designer toy scene?
It’s been a while since we’ve seen any really inspiring new platforms. The Munny was pretty near perfect for generic customs and no one has rivaled the design despite attempts by several other companies. It’s interesting to see that a lot of independent artists are trying their hands at their own garage production and I think we’ll see an explosion of that as 3D printing becomes more accessible. There’s a danger that ease of production will dilute the market by flooding it with less well thought-out designs but hopefully in the long run we’ll get to see a lot of new talent joining the scene.
Do you have any words of wisdom for an aspiring artist wanting to begin showing his/her work?
I’m not sure I’m qualified for that. Stay excited in your work. Don’t take on a project unless it inspires you. Very few of us are ever going to make a living out of this, so the most important thing is to enjoy it. If you love making your work, some of that passion will reach the people looking at it.
Every artist has a different perspective on this so… How do you decide on how to price a custom?
It’s not easy! I don’t work fast so basing it on an hourly rate that even approaches minimum wage would price me out of the market. I am always thrilled that people are willing to pay quite a lot of money for what I do, but there’s a limit to how much I’m comfortable charging for what is, after all a toy. Instead, I tend to look at each custom as funding a new tool or material that I can use on my next project.
Thanks for taking the time out to talk to us, finally where can people check out your work/contact you?
Thanks for listening, I was delighted to be asked. The best way is via my sculpting site, which I try to keep as up to date as possible:
Feel free to look me up on Facebook but I should warn arachnophobes that some of my other interests also get some exposure there!