Is A Vinyl Toy Resurgence on the Horizon?

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Kidrobot founder Paul Budnitz seems to think so! The unique design of original works of art put onto collectible figures took Kickstarter by storm in the last week.

Below is the interview we had with Paul Budnitz about his vision:


 Paul Budnitz  is an American entrepreneur. He is the founder of Kidrobot, a retailer of art toys, apparel and accessories, and Ello, an ad-free social network. He also owns Budnitz Bicycles in Burlington, Vermont.  Photo Credit: Jamie Kripke

Paul Budnitz  is an American entrepreneur. He is the founder of Kidrobot, a retailer of art toys, apparel and accessories, and Ello, an ad-free social network. He also owns Budnitz Bicycles in Burlington, Vermont.

Photo Credit: Jamie Kripke

BS: Before working on the Janky figures, what previous projects have you pursued and how have those projects guided you towards this campaign? 

PB: I founded the designer toy company Kidrobot in 2002, and sold it in 2012. So I’ve been making art toys for a long time — many people say that the work we did helped start the art toy movement in the US and Europe.

The idea of making limited edition toys with artists and selling them to fans and collectors who are adults seemed pretty far out when we started. But as you can see from the enormous success of our campaign so far, people really resonate with the work we’ve created. It’s a form of affordable pop art.

BS: In your mind, what are Janky toys and what makes them stand out? Are they meant to be collected and displayed? 

PB: It took Huck Gee and myself almost 8 months to design Janky.  The figure had to be perfect — a mix of attitude and anonymous, of the moment and at the same time universal. It’s hard to design a classic. In a way, I felt like I was reverse-designing an icon, something like Mickey Mouse. Something that people would remember and connect with forever.

Janky is a blank slate — it’s a toy without features that’s given to well-known artists to customize. The results are pretty stunning as you can see. People collect them, of course. Others just get a few, or try to get just the ones they love most.

BS: With a goal of $25,000 being blown away, how has that monetary aspect changed your vision for the Janky Campaign? 

PB: Yeah, the success is really gratifying. We’re a week into the Kickstarter campaign and we’re 1500% funded!  I’m not sure where we’ll end up, but at any rate it’ll just let us make more toys at Superplastic.

We did do Kickstarter differently, so maybe that’s part of it. We have lots of totally original art toys for sale, and many are limited edition so they sell out and are replaced by new designs. At the same time we have a bunch of challenges going, where people get together and do stuff and everyone gets rewarded. A way to build community and let people connect and have fun by making art.

BS: These toys seem to fuse the interests of figurine collectors and traditional art collectors. How do you think this fusion helps the lifespan of the campaign? 

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PB: Because the price isn’t so high (from $10 to $75 to $5000 depending on the size and rarity), it works well for serous collectors or just people who bump into it and think the designs are cool. Some people get a few pieces, or just buy them for fun — and others get obsessed trying to get them all. Many toys are quite rare and there ends up being an aftermarket as people trade or resell them. So it’s a lot like the art market in that respect.

BS: What makes these toys individual works of art? What are they meant to appeal to from an artist's perspective? 

PB: We’ve become so used to licensed product — things that are made using characters from TV, or movies or gaming or whatever. After a while that just seems life-deadening to me, it’s just the same stuff recycled in new ways.

Everything Superplastic makes is original art. By an artist. It’s not “from” anything but whatever the artist was inspired to do. They’re very pop, and easily appealing because they do appropriate a lot from modern culture. But they’re original and vital and I think that’s what makes them so appealing. People are so hungry for that!

Kidrobot and Superplastic's Kickstarter can be contributed to and viewed here:

Brandon Stauffer