Toy Art Awakening
Recently I have been asking people a lot of questions about the direction to take Toy Art – and I wanted to share a few thoughts. Up to this point my participation in the world of designer toys and toy art has been fairly passive, and to be honest that’s how I like it. Now that Toy Art UK is heading towards its 4th event in 2022, it’s time to take stock about what we are now and where we are heading.
First a bit of history about Toy Art UK and me. My name is Nick Andrews, and my background before designer toys was design, advertising and print. 20 years ago I stepped away from full time employment and took control of my time and headed down a track with few signposts but lots of freedom. Skip forward 10 years and my partner Liz walks through the door and presents me with a really thoughtful gift in the shape of a small designer toy – she is always so lovely with things like that.
That was the lightbulb moment for me
My early years were spent around creative people, my father was an artist and graphic designer and there was always something or someone interesting nearby for inspiration. But I was more technically creative, one of those freaky kids in the early 80s who genuinely loved technology and still do.
This took me into a rapidly changing world of type and design where the old world was clashing with new technology and lessons had to be learned over night in trying circumstances. I got to spend time with people who had traditional skills from the world of advertising and design, making the transition easier for both parties as we understood each other’s approach.
All the usual influences that everyone else experienced during the 80s/90s and 00s came my way, with strong influences from Manga, Asian art and European art from the late 19th and early 20th century mixed into the vanilla I was bombarded with. So because I missed punk and that annoyed me, I was always looking for something to jolt me out of my day to day existence instead of just drifting through a world that bored me at best and troubled me at worst.
Art Toys gave me that jolt – and it’s given me access to a world that makes me react every day. Some days I smile a lot, others I laugh…..and some I am angry because what I am looking at is either so bad or pointless. Thing is, Toy Art makes me respond, and this world generally leaves me cold – this tells me it’s important.
So I immersed myself into the world of designer toys while paying the bills putting together websites for local businesses. To be honest after seeing how they do things at ToyCon UK I was not sure about Toy Art UK as an event at all but I spoke to a few artists and some of the artists really knew the Designer Toy world I never could. Those artists told me to go for it, one of them (Doktor A) was and is a huge part of the Designer Toy world and has an incredible influence over it – so I did. There is no way I could or would have organised that first event without their support in a world I was relatively new to.
I am not clever enough to have an agenda
Because I am a little naive, and because I didn’t know any better, I decided to contact Pete Fowler and ask him to be part of our first event – and he was a complete gentleman who stepped up and created our first event poster which gave the event a massive lift. Obviously contacting one of the biggest names in the Designer Toy world who was a complete stranger and asking for a favour was risky, but Pete saw what I wanted to do and understood what drove me from day one.
Then our event partner became part of Toy Art – Steve Smith from Retro Events. I had worked with Steve a few times at some of his events and knew that there was an instant trust between us that is rare to find, so I asked him to join myself and my partner Liz in creating the first Toy Art U.K. event. Steve takes care off everything to do with the actual Toy Art event, managing the venue, booking in the artist – making sure we are legal and safe basically. Retro Events organises multiple events ever year in normal times, so we know we can just let Steve do what he does well.
From there we created something unique and artist focused – that was always going to be the central difference between us and other designer toy events. We don’t know why other people do what they do well, that’s none of our business – our business is uplifting, encouraging and supporting toy artists in any way we can.
Moving forward we want to carry on doing what we do, we really enjoy it and get a lot of satisfaction from seeing artists we work with happy and successful. We are there for artists when things aren’t going so well, if they want to talk or ask for advice – we help whenever we can. Sometimes we can help directly, and other times we put people in touch with other people who can help them in the Toy Art network. The community we are building really works and is incredibly supportive to other artists, this is one of the aims which was central to everything we had planned.
For us it’s about mutual respect and wanting to see others do well as part of what we do, this will always be central to everything. As a consequence we make as much money doing what we do as a lot of the artists we support, next to nothing. But the passion and joy we get from our involvement with the artists and toy art we work with makes everything worthwhile.
A large part of our focus now is to let people outside the world of Designer Toys know what we know and show them how they can buy affordable, beautiful toy art for their homes and workplaces.