You probably collect them and don't even know it. Art toys are a lot bigger than most people realize. Art toys started as something underground but today you can find art toys just about anywhere. The thing is, they may not look like an art toy at first glance. Just some fun mystery box figure for 9.99.
Designer Toys, also called art toys, are toys and collectibles created by artists and designers that are either self-produced or made by small, independent toy companies, typically in very limited editions. Artists use a variety of materials, such as ABS plastic, vinyl, wood, metal, latex, plush, and resin. Creators often have backgrounds in graphic design, illustration, or fine art, but many accomplished toy artists are self-taught.
Urban vinyl is a type of designer toy, featuring action figures in particular which are usually made of vinyl. Although the term is sometimes used interchangeably with the term designer toy, it is more accurately used as a modifier: not all designer toys can be considered urban vinyl, while urban vinyl figures are necessarily designer toys, by virtue of how they are produced. Like designer toys in general, urban vinyl figures feature original designs, small production numbers, and are marketed to collectors, predominantly adults.
Let's start with the man that got it poppin', The Godfather of the Urban Vinyl game, Michael Lau. In the 1970s American toys flooded Hong Kong and Michael Lau was heavily influenced by Gi Joe figures. He later would use that inspiration to create figures of his own work. In the '90s Lau started creating his own figures developed from his personal art style. These figures were truly stand out featuring looks and styles that were popular in street culture. In my opinion, these figures hold their weight and are still completely relevant within today's culture, just timeless.
COMPANIES YOU'VE PROBABLY SEEN
A very popular company that helped pioneer the Urban Vinyl craze in America. This was the first company I collected art toys from being that the price was fairly affordable and they also provided blank figures for you to paint on. The idea of being able to create your own Urban Vinyl using their base design was extremely alluring to my young artist's senses.
Medicom is a true OG in the Urban Vinyl market using one of the most recognizable figures in the culture. The Be@rbrick is highly popular and in-demand in the hype & modern street culture. The popularity comes from the numerous collaborations that Medicom uses for the artwork on the Be@rbricks. Companies such as BAPE, Simpsons, KAWS, Naruto and Astro Boy. It's honestly quite endless the number of collaborations they've done. One thing that Medicom should be praised for is their figures that are not of the Be@rbrick platform. They create some amazing figures and always be recognized for that.
Funko is completely killing the game. Funko's pop toys are now a global phenomenon taking over every real estate of small and big box stores. The way Funko maneuvers is extremely smart and they took the Urban Vinyl game to another level. They pushed the bar on collaborations and appealing to a larger crowd. If you haven't seen a POP Toy before you probably live under a rock.
WHY I CREATE FIGURES
The answer is simple, it all starts with wanting to see my 2-D work come to life. I get tired of always creating on canvas and I've always loved toys and collecting. There are some people out there who would rather have a sculpt, or don't have the walls pace for the paintings. I'm always looking to diversify my work along with skills and my love for toys makes it easy for me to buckle down to create my own.
At the end of the day, art toys are meant to be treated just the same as paintings. You don't play with them, you don't disrespect them or put them in a place where they can be broken. You buy or collect them to support your favorite artists and give you that good feeling that art gives. I look to inspire others with the figures I create and hope that it gives them joy every time they encounter it.
If you would like to learn how I create my resin figures please click this YouTube Link.
You will learn what products I use and how to use them.