Steve Talkowski, is a Los Angeles based artist and animator, he’s part of a small but growing group of talented individuals designing and building their very own designer ‘toys’.
These ‘toys’ are not the sort of thing you will see poking out of a McDonalds Happy Meal, they are high quality, hand painted, limited edition pieces of art, (and far too good to let your kids play with).
Steve’s Sketchbot is one of my favourites, and he was even cool enough to give us an AWESOME Sketchbot to give away (see below).
How long have you been making models?
I would say it’s been around 3 years since I first started down this particular path, getting stuff from the computer out into the real world as physical models/3d prints, along with traditional sculpting and toy modifications.
Are they toys or models? Do they have a special name?
These are not toys in the traditional sense – I believe the term currently in vogue is “Designer Toy”. They are geared more towards adults and those who collect and display pieces of artwork.
Of course, if kids find they have play value, that’s perfectly acceptable too, however, plenty of pieces in this genre carry a high price tag, so you’d probably be better of displaying them than letting your toddler get at ’em – trust me, I’ve learned the hard way on this one.
What first got you interested in making models and characters?
Back in 2007 I would visit the designer toy store My Plastic Heart in NYC on a regular basis, marveling over all these crazy new art toys up on the shelves. I would constantly ask how one goes about getting into this scene and getting a toy produced. I also would ask pretty much everyone I came into contact with and during my first comic con visit I ended up learning a lot about the process and what it cost.
There was also this need to create something unique, and that really was the driving force for pursuing an original toy design.
What equipment do you need to make a ‘Designer Toy’
You can use anything from Super Sculpey for hand-modeling, to pulling your own silicon molds and casting in resin, to designing a character on the computer, generating a 3D print and using that as a master to generate molds from. So for me, a computer running 3d software (Maya, in my case) is essential.
The DIY scene is less expensive, 3d online printing resources these days are relatively inexpensive but can be more time-consuming and messy.
If you decide to mass produce that is when your costs start to climb.
What is the hardest part of making a toy/model?
For me, it would be finalizing the idea before going into production. Because I do all my work in 3d, I’m able to create photo-realistic renderings and turntables, and get 3d prints to hold and view before going into full production. This is a great aid in realizing what the final output is going to look like. It can vary depending on production techniques and location but for Sketchbot, the entire process took about a year.
How many toys/ models have you designed so far?
I’ve worked on a handful of projects that are still in development, so I can’t talk about ’em yet, but Sketchbot was my first full-up design that made it all the way through to completion. If we’re talking custom toys, I’ve participated in about 20 shows over the past three years, where I would alter an existing platform and create a unique piece.
Where do you get your ideas from?
Everywhere! I’m like a sponge, so I’m constantly finding inspiration in pretty much anything I come across, whether it be from an industrial environment or architectural space, a piece of construction hardware, flipping through design magazines, watching animated films, and definitely getting sucked into the vast resources accessible via the Internet.
Who is your fav artist / other model maker?
There are way too many genres and categories to pin-point just one! I admire and follow the work of all the artists I’ve invited to participate in my DIY Sketchbot custom shows (see Custom Sketchbot right).
Let’s see, I’m also a fan of Ashely Wood’s Popbot and threeA work – those toys are insane. There’s just so much awesome work being created in this particular field alone.
Are you working on any new designs?
Absolutely. I’m fleshing out the world of Sketchbot and will be bringing that world to life via CG animation. I’ve also got some new ‘bots in the works that may or may not see the light of day as my next toy release.
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