Japan October 2010, In Living Kolor – Part 2

The following series of blogs are about my trip to Tokyo, Japan to participate in the “In Living Kolor” toy art sale and demonstration show.

The basic idea of this show was to introduce a new type of paint for toys, called Monster Kolor. Matt Walker ( aka Dead Presidents Designs ) is the developer and creator of this paint, but has also gained much attention within the Art Toy world as a top notch and sought after toy painter. By setting up several airbrushes and having plenty of paint to use, invited artists could use the paint in person on an actual toy.

Joining us on this trip was Keith Fulmis of BeBop Designs, artist and designer and maker of most awesome pins ( Like the Kaiju Eyezon pin, ;-P ). This was his first foray to Japan.


Breakfast in Japan

In what be a daily routine we got up and out by 8am and dragged our butts to the McDonalds near by.. truth be told I would much rather eat at a noodle place or similar Japanese styled place .. but it’s easy and the staff put up with our finger pointing at the menu .. as i mumble .. ” Set-o ” … simply awful but what can i do ? A side note on the very last day we ordered breakfast they flipped the darn menu over and it was ALL in English ! ha ha …

Being from California, I’m now use to practically a smoke free environment everywhere .. and although Japan is getting better about smoke free places the smell is everywhere.. so each morning we are greeted at this McDonalds with mix of smells of hot cakes and smoke … yummy ;-P Being the first morning in Japan, we talk about the set up today and how Yo and myself will be gone in the afternoon to meet up with the Medicom President, Akashi-san , but would return to fetch them to go to our group dinner later that night. I glance over at a sleeping girl at the table across and another guy sleeping in a booth … it’s amazing to me that in Japan one can sleep almost anywhere, restaurants, trains and not get robbed 😉 ah, being mostly of one race there is unspoken code of conduct .. that’s not to say folks don;t get robbed, but for the most part they are left alone, to wake up and stagger to their daily jobs .. amazing, we all say that could never be in the States. I guess a social comment about the US ? Maybe… with that were off to Harajuku to the Design Festa Gallery East building and setting up the show.


Ready, Set, Go !

Being a Friday the entrance to Harajuku was not it’s usual crowded mix of tourists, locals and hawkers selling their wares…

After a short walk we reach the building, which is very familiar to me as in March we had Kaiju Comrades 2 show upstairs… this time we have a nice room that opens up the street.. again perfect for airbrushing. As luck would have it the weather was clearing up and the Sun was set to shine !

Set up is easy, we need a few tables to put paint bottles on and unpainted or blank toys … plus set up the compressors and there snake-like hoses…

Kaiju Drazorans, cleaned with Alcohol to remove any grease from the surface are ready to be painted ! The question is will anyone come to paint with us ?

Above, for those not familiar with an airbrush are two examples (dirty examples !) An airhose would attach to the bottoms to allow you to spray a very fine mist of paint from the front tip.

Slowly Yo unwraps one beautiful custom after another from Matt, we all stop what we are doing to stare in awe ! I’ve said it many times before, but you can never photograph these painted toys .. you miss the full depth of color, the glossy coat and the glittery effects going on ! If your lucky you will see one in person someday or better yet buy one for your collection 😉

Our lunch was from the nearby Lawsons ( like a 7-11 ) and was simply delicious.. even the lowest grade Japanese food experience is higher than what you find in the States.

Matt had to do some last minute pin stripe on a few toys .. which would need a few hours to fully dry … with that Yo and I left for our meeting…


Medicom Toys Meeting

It’s odd were life takes you sometimes … as much as i plan out what i do or any goals I may have for myself or Max toys, I usually just move forward and put the blinders on to my critics .. really what else is one to do, everyone has likes and dislikes and the old saying you can’t please everyone all the time is very true in the toy world. So when Yo told me that the President of Medicom liked the Kaiju Dragigus figure, it kinda of set me back for a second… I thought but they don’t do Kaiju figures ? ;-P

Via their Project 1/6 store, they have been offering some kaiju exclusives lately and Yo said they wanted to offer a new colorway of Kaiju Dragigus and also the newest collab figure, Alien Argus produced by TAG Toys. Wow, of course i would want to do this, and to be able to further the Kaiju movement I saw this as a very positive chance. As luck would have it, my trip was the same time that the figures would be previewed in their Project 1/6 store,the following day. Our meeting with Akashi-san also included Shigenobu-san, Corporate Planning Dept, and Chief of Overseas Section , whose English was perfect by the way !

To my amazement we learned that Akashi-san was about our age ( lets say we’re in our mid 40s ) and had Bullmarks as a child. He’d loved the standard sized figures and still had a passion for them to this day. So his direct involvement with this project was no fluke .. he’d love to see more kaiju projects and we obviously agreed ! Still to be a kaiju maker these days is tough .. the younger crowd seeks out what they know or licensed items that are familiar to them … if you did not grow up with Bullmarks well you have no first hand memory of them … in fact, Shigenobu-san grew up with Popys, which are smaller … I think over all my impression of this meeting made me realize that even in mega large companies, there are still individuals who want to support small kaiju makers such as myself .. and shine the light on what we do .. I’m so grateful for this chance. There’s still life left in the Kaiju world !


Korean Dinner

The Medicom Toys meeting exceed our estimate so we got back to the gallery with no time to waste … gather up our stuff and Matt and Keith and head to the restaurant.

As the guests arrived it felt like a family dinner, familiar faces greeted us and the eating began !

One table had Matt, Keith, Yo and Yamashita of Nakayoshi Toys ( he sculpted the mini Drazoran and will be doing more soon ! )

My table had Sunguts, Touma, and Tulip .. the other table had Dream Rockets, Pico Pico, Namiko Sonobe, OneUp and TTtoys.

One thing i noticed is these guys, and girls, can EAT ;-P which is great, but I could not compete with the volume of liquids and food being consumed in front of me ! And for the most part everyone is rail thin .. I suppose it’s the amount of walking most of them do around Tokyo .. and generally the lower caloric intake … I need to lose some weight .. ugh …


above: Sunguts looks on as Tulip cooks her vegetables and stays away from the Meat…

the only other women was artist Namiko-san, here deciding what to order :-)… a brief comment about the lack of women artists in the Kaiju world .. it is something that will be changing over the next few months as I and others tap this under used resource of super talented artists. To be honest they don’t really do kaiju but thats not really important to me. I look for not only ability but the willingness to breakout of what they normally would do and try something different. Thats what I like to do myself, and feel to stay in the box is to grow stagnant, but to push the boundaries is the only way to grow and expand not only your abilities but also to experience new things. This way is not for everyone I know, so any of these artists who are willing to put up with translations, sometimes a clash of American vs Japanese ways , well I appreciate their efforts even more so. All this to say you will see much more on this front over the next few months and into next year from me, and others ! … stay tuned !

It may sound hooky, but I am aware of the future importance these kind of events and gathering will play in the history of kaiju art and toys. I usually do not take a macro view of these events .. a simple dinner with friends.. but I know the amount of talent and sheer will power in each of these artists will impact the present and future of kaiju and art. This event although planned, is the result of many years of my work to get to this point .. I have a vision for all this kaiju stuff, but I also let Fate guide my way. This is not to say I let stuff happen randomly but the paths all of us in this room have taken, had at this moment in time placed us in this room, on this night.

As the evening wound down, Makino-san of TTtoys showed me the progress on a project we are doing.. i’ll tease it with this head 😉 hmmm, what could it be ?!! Makino-san is a top notch sculptor and even though this head was not done, sheesh looks perfect to me ! Amazing … I wish i could show the rest but all in good time 😉

I stood up and made a semi coherent speech, at least this time longer 😉 than my previous one at Kaiju Comrades 2 show and presented Yo with a painting as a big thank you for making all of this possible ! I could never repay him for all his hard work …and most of all his friendship.

As I looked around this room, I knew despite the language barrier and even different artists temperaments ( ha-ha ), in the end they all showed up to give support to Matt and myself, and Yo … these are good people with good hearts … I won’t forget their kindness and will do whatever I can to help support them in the USA and beyond. This is how it should be, helping each other, and building each other up, not tearing down each other … I’m naive, I know this .. for the most part this world is made up of frighten and scared people … but, for me the positive Toy Karma I felt in this room was reward enough.


Next blog – Saturday, In Living Kolor show !

About toykarma

Over the years Mark Nagata has collected thousands of toys and a fair amount of titles. The man behind San Francisco-based Max Toy Company is widely known as: Toy Collector. Illustrator. Magazine Founder/Publisher. Toy Designer. Artist. Author. Husband. Father. But the one description that might fit best is an unofficial one – Kaiju Toy and Art Ambassador. In the Japanese-inspired art and toy area, as well as throughout the larger toy collecting community, Mark is welcomed and recognized for his personal passion and commitment to supporting artists all around the world and the unique works they create. Beginning as a collector in his youth, Mark has had for years a keen eye for great art and a personal interest in collecting that he has spread through a variety of outlets. Trained at the Academy of Art College in San Francisco, Mark honed his skills working for himself and for some of the most notable businesses in the country. As a freelance commercial illustrator, he completed works for such prominent companies as Lucasfilms, DC Comics, Hasbro Toys, IBM, Sony, and numerous advertising and design firms, both national and international. Mark’s colorful style graces over 40 cover paintings for R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps book series – Give Yourself Goosebumps. After hundreds of assignments, Mark made the decision to move in another direction, and that choice has led to whole new career as a successful businessman. For four years, the owner of one of the largest Ultraman toy collections in the world co-published Super 7 Magazine showcasing the finest in Japanese toy collecting. “I’d been collecting Japanese toys all along and suddenly realized it would be cool to have a magazine of some type devoted to them,” Nagata says. Mark’s devotion to presenting collectors with a selection of original figures inspired by classic Japanese toys from the 1960s and ‘70s as well as new versions of licensed Japanese characters is at the heart of Max Toy Company. Named for his son, Max Toys specializes in custom and limited editions of “kaiju” (Japanese monsters) toys and artwork. Many of the original toys produced are hand painted by Mark, a tradition that goes back to Japanese toy makers of the past. “Since our target is the soft vinyl Japanese toy collector, which is a very small niche, our runs of toys can be extremely small,” Mark says. “Runs range from 500 pieces of one toy to just one for a hand-painted, one-of-a-kind custom figure.” Through Max Toys, Mark has taken great pains to widen the reach of his two passions – toys and art. He played a significant part in the development of the first group kaiju show in the United States. Held at the Rotofugi Gallery in Chicago, Illinois in 2007, the “Toy Karma” Show featured detailed work from artists from Japan, the U.S. and South America. Participants marveled at the custom-painted toys and art on display. “Toy Karma” led to Mark being asked to be one of the artists spotlighted in the “Beyond Ultraman: Seven Artists Explore the Vinyl Frontier” exhibit at the Pasadena Museum of California Art. The October 2007 show, held jointly with the Los Angeles Toy, Doll and Amusement Museum, marked the first time – in a museum setting – that the influence of Japanese toys on California artists was explored. The exhibit featured more than 30 of Mark’s original paintings, toys and a selection of his vintage toy collection. Mark continued to be at the forefront as interest in Japanese-inspired art and toys expanded in 2008. Prestigious art houses Philips De Pury and Christie’s in New York and London sold Mark’s hand-painted custom kaiju toys in its auctions, spreading this unique art and toy movement into new and uncharted areas of the art world. In 2009, Mark once again took his love of toys and art overseas this time to a receptive and welcoming audience in Tokyo, Japan. Here, Mark curated the “Kaiju Comrades” Art Show, once again bringing together artists from various aspects of the kaiju toy realm in this first-of-its-kind toy art show. The following year found Mark in Barcelona, Spain co-curating with Emilio Garcia “Kaiju Attack,” the European country’s first kaiju art show. As the growth of kaiju art and toys increases worldwide, Mark continues in his unofficial role of Kaiju Toy and Art Ambassador. He has written and had his artwork and toy designs included in several books and magazines, both domestic and international. In 2010, Mark served as guest lecturer on kaiju and the toy-making process at the Morikami Museum in Florida. The San Francisco resident and his art can also be spotted in the first volume of the “ToyPunks” DVD and the “Toys R Us” DVD, while the video for the number one song by Owl City “Fireflies” featured Mark’s popular Kaiju Eyezon character. During this same time period, Mark has spearheaded the “Toy Karma 2” and “Kaiju Comrades 2” shows and has plans for future shows both in the U.S. and overseas. “Max Toys allows me to produce original artwork, new toys and work directly with a lot of talented artists,” Mark says. “Max Toy is a synthesis of toys and art, both life-long passions.”
This entry was posted in art toys, bullmark, custom toys, kaiju, kaiju toy, mark nagata, Max Toy, Max Toy Company. Bookmark the permalink.

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