Designer Con ‘09
By Leonardo Flores
Saturday, November 21st was the fourth annual DesignerCon ‘09 (formally the Vinyl Toy Network) at the Pasadena Convention Center. With over 70 vendors, including many manufacturers and artists from all over the world, it was one of the most unique conventions of any type I have ever been to.
A complementary mix of Japanese influenced soft vinyl toys, American underground art design, college fine arts and designer garage toys, Designer Con ’09 was a eye opening and inspiring event that I was very fortunate to attend for CollectionDX. I am no expert in the designer toy movement that is currently making its way through the toy world but I do see and admire all the influences that many of the artists are using for their work.
I arrived at The Pasadena Convention center at 10am when the doors opened and was graciously greeted by Ayleen Gasper one of the co-promoter for DC’09. The first exhibit that I headed to was the Custom Yoka Show hosted by DKE Toys and adFunture. adFunture’s panda bear inspired blank Yoka Bear figure was sent to over 200 artists from 19 countries to customize, deface, paint, cast, humiliate to their own artistic desires. Of course my favorite was CollectionDX’s own Joshua Bernard’s custom rhinestone Yoka who made his public debut at DC’09. The Yoka Custom show was by far was one of the most popular attractions and was consistently full of Yoka admires.
One group of vinyl manufactures I was happy to meet was Super 7. Longtime friends of CDX it was great to finally meet up with Super 7 and see their products in person, which I say is some of the most beautiful soft vinyl toys I ever seen, even the copyright stamp font on the soles of the feet matches the old font from Popy soft vinyl toys from the 1970’s.
Monsterhero, a Los Angeles based resin toy maker had some exciting and inspiring items on their table. If you love clear toys like I do they have many items at very reasonable prices that would look great with your Bullmark and Popy toys. More on Monsterhero later!
Mechanized of Salt Lake City also featured some great soft vinyl WWI inspired tanks and gun placements that reminded me of the war vehicles I used to draw in my notebooks when I was kid. Designed by Scott Ligon and called Nanosquid Tenk and Spinner, they were fun little items that could be custom painted. Mugo is another company that is going to be releasing a soft vinyl figure that smartly doubles as an MP3 player and USB Flash drive.
The punters were out in full force, with may dealers selling the latest in designer toys, some of my favorite being the Japanese Sofubi inspired figures. Unfortunately, no vintage soft vinyl was for sale or on display.
Many items were not limited to vinyl or resin toys. Two plush makers that you should keep an eye on is Hitree a plush studio headed by Tina Rodas that makes beautiful plush trees and whose motto is “Bringing Tree Hugging To New Levels.” The other studio Sweet Meats headed by artist Lauren Venell recreates meat cuts in plush charmingly wrapped in plain white paper like your local meat market. Venell’s sea creature series is beautifully done including her octopus with the floppy ears.
A fine arts event, as well as a toy exhibition, many artists were represented throughout the day. One artist that I was impressed with his work was Christopher Lee and his studio The Birds and The Beasts. The color pallet of his work is wisely chosen and expertly executed with charming results. Christopher did have some toys of his artwork but they quickly sold out and I hope he designs another line in the near future.
Another stage featured artist painting a shared canvas and numerous artist signed art at their personal booths.
Dr Sketchy LA, a monthly social club made of artists and art lovers, had models available throughout the day for sketch artists. The models were dressed from Gilded Age era couture to 1960’s style bikini clad models who were painted with the Designer Con ’09 logos and photographed.
What was great about Designer Con was the atmosphere of the show, everyone had a great time meeting their favorite artists who in turn were more that willing to taking their time out and talk with their fan base. No hint of negativity through the entire day and the charm of soft vinyl put smiles on all the attendant’s faces. In my book, this is what a convention should be all about.
©2009 Article and pictures Leonardo Flores.