We are always on the look out for new content for you lot to enjoy. So when Jason C. Diaz dropped us a message regarding his take on the Mutant Vinyl Hardcore process but before we get into that, first an introduction to Jason and how he found love with MVH. We love Jason’s passion for his introduction to the glory that is sofubi and all things Mutant Vinyl Hardcode. Enjoy…
A NOTE FROM AUTHOR:
I live in New Haven, Connecticut (USA), and have only been made aware of this ridiculous culture of very expensive plastic for just over a year now. I developed a strange habit though, a few years back.
While accompanying my significant other to thrift stores, in the midst of all of the excitement that is offered by a thrift store on a weekday afternoon, I would often find myself browsing the toys section.
This is the isle of unwanted toys!!! One-legged Barbies galore!
But really, they sometimes have great finds, like sandwich bags full of bootleg toys for just a dollar or two. I would buy any type of dinosaur, dragon, or gorilla and cut them up to make knuckle dragon mash-ups.
I just liked the idea, really. I always joked about making molds of them and making toys. I didn’t think that was even a thing. I once met a guy at a gas station who said he was a toymaker, so I told him about it.
I met up with him again and I really believe he was just trying to get money out of me. At least I hope that was all he was trying to get out of me… and a ride. I gave him the ride. … and bought him a bagel. There was no chance anyone in little ole’ New Haven, CT #gscia knew about toys. That is unless Yale offered a degree in Santa’s Workshop Studies that I was unaware of.
You could hardly imagine my excitement when I saw a promotion for a Mutant Vinyl Hardcore (MVH) event at Death’s Vault in my very own lil’ ole’ New Haven, CT.
At that time, I had no idea who MVH even was. To be honest when I would pass his shop, I would see a large vinyl sign that said Mutant Vinyl Hardcore and just assumed it was a really rad name for a vinyl sign print shop. There is a great music scene in the area so it seemed fitting.
The event was All Out War featuring MVH collaborating with Justin ISH Ishmael. The collection was amazing! The abundance of Galigantuses (Galiganti?) and Berserkers was incredible. One of the Berserkers was even wearing the remains of his Galigantus victims as body armor!!! OMG OMG OMG!!! BODY ARMOR!
I came to the event having never bought a toy before. I expected the price to be,.. special, so I brought a cool $300 to spoil myself for my birthmonth (don’t judge).
I grabbed the price sheet to find my favorites so I could decide which to commit to when it was my turn!
So exciting!!! What number is my turn? Awesome!!! I’m 76! Yes! out of?.. 82, I believe.
I went back to checking the price sheet to inspect my now very narrower margin of presumably available toys when my number was called.
I first checked the toys I raved so dearly about and went weak in the knees as I realized I could only afford to take home a leg,.. or so of the toys I so desperately coveted. Maybe they would throw in a body-part chest armor too, if I could haggle enough..?
By the time it was finally my turn, I heartbrokenly grabbed two ghouls for my significant other, who was at work but has a thing for vampires.
There were a few Death’s Vault color marbled Galigantus still available but I was just so gosh darn butthurt about learning my position in the financial totem pole of toy collecting that I passed and figured I’d look forward to brighter days sifting through dollar bags at the local salvation army.
As soon as I got home, well, as soon as my significant other arrived home from work and saw the toys I immediately regretted not having bought something for myself, not selfishly at all.
I messaged Justin ISH a day later and he was kind enough to send one of the very last to me, which was very much appreciated. I still to this day have it unopened on my mantle. I don’t know why, but I’ve also developed a habit of not opening toys that I very much would enjoy playing with. Am I the only one?
All this is to say; I am very new to the “designer toy” culture and believe at this point that I still cannot fully comprehend the extent of popularity that MVH has achieved. When we first met, at the All Out War event, I was in awe of the creative genius behind these iconic toys, and the idea that MVH is almost completely unknown in the local New Haven community.
I wrote about art and culture for the local newspaper in the area and offered to do a write-up on MVH to promote his work. In doing so, I thought it would be best to also promote this story to a more toy-centric demographic as Rich (MVH) shared great insight and knowledge of his craft with me throughout our time together.
The following is the story that was put together, focusing on Rich Montanari’s background, introduction to toys, and his creative process when sculpting, painting, and/or designing new figures.
I hope you are able to take away at least a small fraction of the passion and inspiration that MVH shared with me.
The MVH Process
Featuring Rich Montanari Jr., of Mutant Vinyl Hardcore By Jason C. Diaz
Since first seeing the Mutant Vinyl Hardcore sign outside of Rich (MVH) Montanari’s New Haven based studio I have learned that it is not vinyl signs being produced by MVH, but toys; highly sought after Japanese soft-vinyl toys.
Montanari (MVH), the creator and developer of Mutant Vinyl Hardcore Toy Co. (http://www.mutantvinylhardcore.com), said the name originally stood for his passion of collecting Japanese soft-vinyl toys, stating that he was a ‘hardcore’ collector of ‘vinyl mutants’. What MVH referred to as ‘mutants’, is known in the toy community as ‘kaiju’.
For those ‘not in the know’, a google search describes kaiju as a strange or mythological beast/monster that most, early on, would be the antagonist of Japanese children’s stories. Godzilla is considered the most famous of all kaiju. Many current popular toys are renditions of classic kaiju or original characters that makers create themselves.
When I first met with MVH, he was excited to get back to creating after a fire impacted a factory that managed the production of his toys.
“These last two years have been rough, getting production back on track,” MVH said, as he was unable to produce a “new” toy figure until he found another factory that could reliably meet his needs.
He spoke briefly about how important finding a factory with good communication is to a creator in his position, a full-time toy maker.
“It takes collaboration between the artist and the factory.” MVH continued, “The creative process is always the most rewarding, everything else is definitely challenging.”
MVH, a New Haven native, was an active DJ in the local club scene in the late 90’s and would go to a record store in the vicinity of Toy Tokyo, a store that sells collectible Japanese toys in Brooklyn, New York. MVH would pass the toy store often and the novelty of their merchandise caught his attention, it was there that he stumbled upon Bounty Hunter toys, which were the first toys he collected.
MVH said making toys was never a goal of his, but that it was an evolution of stumbling through artistic interests.
“It was an accident.” MVH continued, “I went to Toy Tokyo in my first year of college and started buying toys, then I joined an online message board for toy collectors, Skull Brain.”
MVH said he would buy toys that he liked, repaint them, and then post them to the message board. Soon after, he began to receive commissioned work, painting toys for his newly generated following.
MVH’s reputation in this small sub-culture soon grew enough for him to be noticed by the toy makers themselves and much to MVH’s surprise, his custom painting of other people’s toys was frowned upon.
“People started commissioning me to do stuff for them. And it got so big, that it got back to the Japanese makers (of the toys) that I was using.”
He continued, “Since it’s such a close-knit community, they sent messages to people that knew me, to stop using their stuff as a platform.”
MVH said his being reprimanded was what inspired him to create his first toy.
“It didn’t occur to me at the time, that what I was doing was rude,” MVH said.
“So, I was like, I love this stuff, I don’t want to insult the people that I look up to, so if I want to continue doing this, I have to make my own.”
Watch video of soft-vinyl toy being made.
View this post on Instagram
I spent some time with #NewHaven artist, Rich Montanari jr. of @mutantvinylhardcore at his #ErectorSquare studio @deathsvault. Rich allowed me to observe his creative process while offering deep insight to his perspective and strategy, when creating. Look out for a much longer video on this subject as I was overwhelmed by the amount of information shared,.. far too much to condense into 1 minute. Thank you, Rich, for allowing me to spectate and learn. 🙏🙏🙏🙌 • #sculpture #fineart #designertoy #arttoy #toy #art #customtoy #softvinyl #sofubi #designertoys #vinyltoys #toystagram #designervinyl #toyart #vinyl #NHV #MVH #custom #mutantvinylhardcore #artist #toys #kanegon #toydesigner #sofvi #kaiju
The idea was easier said than done, according to MVH.
“I hired three different (sculptors), and they couldn’t capture what I wanted, so one day I was like (forget) this, and grabbed the clay… the mini Sludge Demon was the second thing I sculpted,” MVH said.
MVH said fellow toymakers RealxHead and Bemon were two of his early inspirations, especially Bemon’s Kougai, which MVH said is one of his favorite toys ever made. MVH said Bemon taught him it is okay to sculpt crude, an influence that is easily noticed in his Dokuro Head DX Sludge Demon. (http://www.mutantvinylhardcore.com/releases-archive/dx-sludge- demon/dokuro-head-dx)
“You’re going to emulate the person you look up to the most. They’re the one that sparked that… creative moment in you.” MVH continued, “You’re trying to recapture that moment all the time (early on), and after a while of emulating someone else you’ll make a mistake. And you’ll say ‘what’s that about?’, and you’ll pursue that… and that will transform you, into you.”
The entire time we spoke, MVH was sculpting a fur pattern for another of his upcoming toys, called Feral Child. He said the Feral Child was a tribute to his love of Hideshi Hino comics as he illustrated how he sculpts a heavy fur look for the Feral Child’s clothing.
He was using a very short, soft-bristle brush dipped in Turpenoid to create patches of fur, then a fine-point long-bristle brush to guide the patches of fur to “flow” either with or against the surrounding patches, to create contrast and harmony.
MVH said he doesn’t draw his ideas before sculpting them, but that he looks for blemishes that happen organically while he sculpts.
“I like things that happen on their own. How can I use them, how can I incorporate that? That’s real. That happened by itself, (referring to naturally occurring blemishes while he sculpts). I didn’t make that,.. to me,.. That’s like the soul right there. I can never do that again. I can’t recreate that,” he said.
MVH then told a brief story that illustrated his point. “One time (when I was running Sculpy through the clay press), accidently, I went from super thick to super thin and when it ran through the press it kind of wrinkled up the clay,.. and I thought ‘that kind of looks like a skin fold.”
Now I’ll do that on purpose and cut that chunk out and go in with a brush. I’ll brush that section in place and boom I have a skin texture, that was almost instant.”
MVH said heads are his favorite things to sculpt and this is seen in the many variations of his Sludge Demon DX and his Ollie. He often decorates his toys with items that are referred to as “omake,” which is a Japanese word that means “extra” or “bonus.” MVH’s omake can consist of loin cloths, weapons and other items like a small pile of poop or a human head that is intricately wrapped with very fine string, hung from his toy’s body almost as a medal of their brutality.
MVH said he prefers to spray his toys with alcohol to remove surface oils from the vinyl when prepping for paint.
“I used to put them in a giant tub and scrub them with dish soap, but water takes a long time to evaporate,” MVH said. He then continued to discuss his thought on painting as he was cutting holes into a pile of vinyl torsos that would soon be filled with limbs.
“You can get away with doing a simple paint job as long as it’s done really well. If it’s done right, it will work.” MVH continued,
“I like to make my paints really, really thin. I’ll thin it out so the transitions are really smooth so there are no over-sprays and no spatters.”
MVH said his process of painting is more about time and effort than intricate design. “I’ll make it really thin and do two or three layers of it. So it takes twice the time, but the outcome is that much better, it looks, smooth as silk, and all it took was a little more thinner and a few more passes,” MVH said.
“I like to go with color combinations that really shouldn’t necessarily work with each other.”
In the early 2000’s MVH said he briefly attended Paier College of Art, at 20 Gorham Ave, in Hamden, Connecticut.
“There was one moment at art school when they were discussing the color of the sky,” MVH said. “What color is the sky? Everyone will say, ‘It’s blue.’ Is it really blue? Or is it, lavender? What shade of blue? That opened up my mind to my (creative approach), and I translate that into many things.”
He continued, “A lot of Japanese makers, they make a lot of color choices that don’t seem to work, but it does kind of work, because they’ve done it so many times. It’s like they’re color blind and just grabbing whatever colors, you do that on enough toys and it just starts looking cool.”
MVH taught himself Photoshop to better prepare himself for design ideas but was adamant about “not committing your life to non-essential aspects of the business”. “It doesn’t have to be perfect., as long as it reads, you’re good,” MVH said.
I left Mutant Vinyl Hardcore’s Death’s Vault in Erector Square as he was airbrushing a short run of figures he has since released and suffered the same fate as every one of his others,.. selling out in minutes.
Since our meet, Mutant Vinyl Hardcore has dropped limited edition basketball jerseys, a number of limited run figures and has announced multiple collaborations with many other heavy-hitters from this worldwide subculture.
To keep up with Rich Montanari Jr.’s future toy releases, success and his insurmountable creative drive, be sure to follow Mutant Vinyl Hardcore (@MutantVinylHardcore) and his Death’s Vault gallery (@DeathsVault) on Instagram, where this strange but hyper-creative world of indie toys seems to breathe the deepest.
Many thanks again to Jason for writing a great, informative post on the MVH process! Really appreaciated!
Jason can be found on Instagram: @TheJasonCDiazDiaz
You can also reach Jason via email here: [email protected]