Our names are Mike and Katie, otherwise known as TADO. We’re designer / illustrators / hobbits from Sheffield.
Are you an artist from the get go, or developed through time and being in the hobby?
We began working together at uni back in 2001ish, so have produced stuff together for a long time! We’re always a little hesitant to call ourselves artists as such. That would make us sound like we knew what we were doing!
How did you discover the world of designer/art toys?
Both of us started out getting into toys through comics and collecting retro toys, action figures and model kits. The first ‘designer toys’ we saw were Pete Fowlers Monsterism Series 1 prototypes at the Artomatic store in London. We were super excited to see his work in person and soon after packages started to arrive from Hong Kong and Japan. Around the same time we were lucky to be in London when Takashi Murakami took over the Serpentine Gallery in Hyde Park. The scale and intricacy of his work blew us away and his stuff continues to be a huge inspiration to us.
What inspires You?
The corny answer would be each other. Working together keeps us fresh and excited about work. We’re very lucky to have some extremely inspirational friends too – both in creative terms and general terms. We still love animation and comics though. The enthusiasm and excitement that comes from finding some unknown toys, discovering a new (to us!) manga, some bizarre model kit of a super-mundane household item, or watching some jaw-dropping new animation never goes away.
You are well known for your cute and colourful customs. What first brought on this style of work?
Looking back our style has definitely evolved and refined over time and it certainly has its roots in our love of all things animated and cute! Our collaborative style morphed together very quickly and these days we have trouble remembering who’s drawn what bits of projects.
We’ve always loved to realise our characters in 3D and the enjoyment of doing that is something that never seems to get dull no matter whether its making globby pandas from blobs of blutack and sticking them to each others computers, or whether its spending hours meticulously sanding surfaces smooth to try and get a ‘factory’ look.
We enjoy working with vivid colours and always try to get our paint colours to be as vibrant and ‘RGB’ as possible.
We’ve been doing a lot of experimenting with different materials and techniques recently which we’ve found very exciting. Working with wood especially seems to be defining our making style a bit more too and has lead to us embracing a more hand-crafted look to some of the stuff we’ve been making. We find a lot of inspiration from hand-made wooden toys as well as vintage tin and vinyl stuff.
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?
We’re lucky to have a small studio space so we usually just clear a space on the desks and get the paints out. Music is usually whatever is on radio 6 (unless it’s a Shonen Knife of Kyary Pamyu Pamyu kind of a day!), drink would definitely be strong black coffee!
We don’t have a huge arsenal of tools, but our favourite toy is our laser cutter that appeared last Christmas and has since made itself invaluable.
Do you have a favorite piece of art, that you created, that you cannot part with?
We have a few bits and pieces that we love. We have some original Ryoko and The SissyFists prototypes that were made for us by Flying Cat back in the day – these are our favourite toys that never got made! Sadly Flying Cat came to an end before they ever saw production. We also have some of the collaborative pieces we made in 2008 and also more recently with our good friend Nick Hunter who is an incredible wood carver.
Oh! and also some really cool crochet pieces that were made of our characters by our friends mum, GranGran. She rules. And some funny stuff we make for each other from time to time… and… and….
What is your holy grail piece that you either already have or would die to have?
Hmmmm… we’d love some big fibreglass stuff for the garden! Some strange vintage slightly warped characters – maybe a ride-on would be cool!
In terms of things we already have, we fell in love with Sato-Chan the first time we visited Japan and ended up sea-freighting one of the big ones over. He’s definitely on our fav’s list!
Who are some of your favorite toy artists?
That’s a tricky one as it changes every day and usually we prefer stuff that is just strange/odd/wrong/awesome/cute rather than specific artists. We love a lot of vintage stuff and have a lot of advertising mascots as well as dorky anime / animation toys and unbuilt models of buildings and cars!
In terms of current designer toy artists and makers we could go on forever! Some of our favs would include Yukinori Dehara, Sunguts, Gary Ham, Felt Mistress, LouLou & Tummie, Nathan Jurevicius, Triclops, Mr Burgerman, Kid Acne, Brandt Peters and Kathie Olivers, The Beast Brothers, Itokin Park, Jeff Lamm, Uamou, Junko Mizuno, Le Merde, Crowded Teeth, The Hibert Brothers, Koraters, PJ Constable, Bubi Au Yeung, Polyester Cowboy, Kozyndan… :):)
What do you think of the current designer toy scene?
We think it’s at an extremely exciting point in terms of what people are achieving and producing by themselves. There’s a huge amount of stuff going on in bedrooms, garages and studios without the need for huge runs and high costs. There’s so much great stuff its pretty hard to keep track of things! We think things have definitely shifted towards artist-produced work which is really fun. We also love the stuff that the guys like Unbox Industries, Creo Design, Big Shot Toys have been producing to really drive things forward.
Make sure that you enjoy yourself, don’t follow the flow and always strive to learn new stuff!
It’s always a tricky one for us – and there’s no hard and fast rule, especially when taking into account things like gallery commissions and exchange rates. We tend to just go on what feels right and what we think we’d pay for a similar item.
There’s much easier and quicker ways to make money certainly!
Thank you very much guys!