Toy Karma 3 show coverage

Having just returned from Toy Karma 3 show at Rotofugi in Chicago I am immediately thrown back into the Kaiju toy work. I’ve barely had enough time to think about the event… although I can say that it was the best one yet ! Not only from an attendance standpoint, but also in terms of sales. The new store/gallery space Rotofugi has moved to, in one word, is Spectacular ! This should be no surprise as both owners Kirby and Whitney Kerr have carefully crafted a devoted following, while supporting and showcasing many talented artists worldwide. Their strong work ethic and devotion to this industry is as real as is their passion to present artists in the best possible way.

I’m so bad at remembering stuff … I guess I live in the moment mostly, and usually am scheduled out for up to a year or more with various Max Toy projects. As I talked to Kirby after the show, he reminded me how Toy Karma originally came to be … he said he had approached me about doing a solo show at their gallery … but, me being not confident anyone would show up to such a show, suggested a group show with a focus on Kaiju. The rest, as they say, is history!

Oh, I’m not going to post endless pictures of the items in the show, I have decided… in part, because there’s over 100 items in this show ! You can see them all at the various links at the end of the blog.

I love going to Chicago ! I never have enough time to really explore the city, but regardless, each time I return I see a bit more. This time, as the other times, I combined a trip to Michigan to visit family with work … which in hindsight, was maybe a bit too much to cram into one trip ;-P

I flew into Michigan and spent a few days eating and exploring.

Korean food the first night…and morning brings freshly made popovers ! yummy !

The local comic stores …my yearly visit to Vault of Midnight .. where I really should buy these Max figures that I have seen there the past 2 years ;-P

and Fun 4 All, where its YuGiOh! Dual Terminal machine was waiting for me to get some cards for Max.

and another dinner, here’s some fried calamari 😉

The day before the show, we drove in the rain to Chicago.

A mere 4.5 hours.. for me, a quick drive compared to driving to Los Angeles, which takes 6+ hours.

Our Days Inn hotel room, modest but comfy .. except for the sirens throughout the night (> <) haha …the next day, Saturday, I was able to get one Chicago Dog but wish I could have had more….yummy !

posed with this cow in the hotel lobby !

We arranged to meet up with Alex Wald and see his awesome collection of Japanese toys and more ! For those who don’t know, Alex is one of the earliest Japanese toy collectors in the US … can you believe he use to write to the department stores in Japan and buy Bullmark figures via the snail mail back in the late 70s ?? Amazing ! I love hearing these stories .. and actually hope to one day have enough time to sit down and talk to all these early collectors and maybe compile them into some sort of history of US Japanese toy collecting.

But, I digress … while looking around i spied this awesome figure … “What the heck is that ?!!’s very cool !!”, I said … well back in the day, Alex tried his hand at sculpting his own space hero figure, replete with hand cut mirrors ! He also had a very Bullmark looking Gamera he sculpted … ! Really cool ! Alex, ever the renaissance man !!!

I dubbed him MirrorMan … ;-P

Oh, and Alex gave me this hand painted Garakutagigas toy !!! Yay !! Garakutagigas is a collab with Alex’s design and master sculptor Okuda-san of Atelier G-1 and is Alex’s first ever vinyl toy.

I spied this long box, and after opening it, was floored to find this friction powered tin train inside. I have to say, even with all of Alex’s beautiful Bullmark vinyls in his room this toy by far was my favorite… can you imagine getting one of these if you were a kid ?!! Gah !!

It’s never enough time, and we had to go grab some Mexican food before the show..which Alex and his wife so graciously treated us to ! 😉

Running late, we made our way over to the gallery. Let me say, whenever I put on a show, I really never know how many people will show up … I always expect no one will show up ;-P But, I had nothing to fear as soon as we walked into the gallery, it was full and everyone made me feel right at home 😉

One artist even showed me a tattoo in progress on his leg …Wow !

I was so busy chatting away, that I failed to take ANY pics or video during the night !! At least my nephew snapped some pictures but sorry to say didn’t get any of the crowd … my one regret .. but that’s OK .. a good time was had by all, including a random dancing girl that i missed who kept folks entertained 😉

Before I knew it, the store was closing and Toy Karma 3 was in the history books.

While many items have sold, there are still some really awesome pieces available via this link:

I encourage you to support these artists and the arts in general. I know it’s a tough time for everyone .. but I’m a firm believer in the positive power of art and it’s ability to bring a bit of light and joy to the viewer. And yes, I’m one of those who believe more art in the world is a good thing.

I have discussed this before, but i firmly believe Toy Karma and shows like it are the modern day Salon Art shows of the past. While I might not live long enough to witness this, I do believe that the artwork and custom toys being produced today are part of a very unique art movement.
You can call it Art Toys or any other label, I actually don’t care what it’s called, but I hope you can support these artists by attending a show and if you can buying their artwork.

Yes, I am biased … Japanese Kaiju toys and art are my passion, and something I continue to talk about and showcase to anyone willing to hear me. If the folks i talked to at Toy Karma are any indication, there’s still many artists developing and crafting their own toys and art. I suspect by the time we start prepping for Toy Karma 4 in 2013, that we will be able to showcase many new artists. I’m all for inclusion versus exclusion …. and while I can not personally help each and everyone of you out there, I do hope you continue to make your art and keep pursuing your dream.

I briefly returned the following day to snap a few pictures and actually get a better look at the show myself.

My standard Kaiju pose ;-P

while exploring downtown Chicago we found this deli and I had a mouthwatering pastrami sandwich…and saw this huge choco bar .. was tempted to buy it but didn’t want to lug it home on the plane !
Chicago itself is a stunning city to take in, from the beautiful buildings…

to the overhead subway tracks .. visually, so different from San Francisco !

I wish i could have wandered around more and simply took pictures or sketched.
As we left, the Toy Gods parted the clouds and the sun shone down !

Of course, back in Michigan, the eating continued .. this time a yummy Cuban sandwich.

and the last meal, appropriately Japanese Ramen !

When i returned home to San Francisco, someone asked if the success of this show meant toy sales were doing better … I hope so … but you know, I think overall we need to be more positive as we move into the future… something we can all do… and best of all it’s free !

Thanks again to everyone who came out, traveled to the show and supported us from afar.

I’m sending you all Toy Karma !


Additional Toy Karma 3 show coverage can be found here:


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.”
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