Originally cutting his teeth in the art toy scene through his infamous array of custom Munnys and MadLs on the KR forums, the legendary Motorbot has since gone on to become one of the most respected artists in the underground toy movement today. The last few years have seen him develop skills as a toy designer/creator alongside his stellar custom work, resulting in several successful, completely self made resin toy lines, including the instantly recognisable Tiny Teeth mini blind bagged series, their bigger brother Treature Erectus, and the “They Live” inspired Astro Zombies.
We were lucky enough to grab some time away from the work bench with the man himself, to discuss future plans, the current state of the art toy scene, and of course, those notorious teeth…
(Various Motorbot customs, available to purchase through the Deadbear store here)
What first got you into the art toy scene and toys in general? Do you have any fond memories of a particular toy when you were growing up?
I just stumbled into the toy scene. I was a lurker on the kidrobot message boards back in ’05 and decided to try customizing a toy. After my second or third toy, people were asking to buy them and were commissioning me to customize other toys. It snowballed from there.
I was a Transformers and He-Man nerd growing up. I think my Optimus Prime was probably my favorite toy growing up.
(Motorbot/Deadbear Studios’ first release, the Maw)
You have been cited by many as their inspiration for getting into the “indie” art toy scene, but who or what influences you? Are there any artists in or outside toys that have helped inspire your work?
Inspiring people to get into toys is honestly one of the biggest compliments I could receive. It’s easy to feel like no one is interested in what you do, but to know that your art makes others want to create provides a deep level of satisfaction. As for my influences, I’ve realized lately that the people who first inspired me to start drawing are the ones that come through in my work. Sam Keith was my idol back during the days of the Maxx, and I can see a lot of his influence in the things I make.
I do have some artist friends that inspire me. Johnnycrap is so prolific I’ve been inspired to start drawing regularly again. I have no aspirations to draw on his level but seeing him constantly working on things pushes me to draw. Luke from Lulubell keeps me working too. He is a machine cranking out vinyl and I feel bad taking a night off knowing he’s pouring vinyl somewhere.
(Tiny Teeth by Motorbot/Deadbear Studios)
Your “tiny teeth” range of toys, including the treature, hunch, goober and erectus figures have become one of your most recognizable lines. How did the teeth idea come about?
About 4 years ago I came up with the concept of the Maw. It was just an idea I had that involved this creature that was all fur an teeth. I can’t really remember what sparked it, but that was the first time I messed around with making teeth. I explored the concept over several platforms and eventually it kind of morphed into the tiny teeth series. The teeth remained from the maw but the fur became weird wrinkly skin. I can already see the whole theme moving forward with some of the pieces I’m working on right now. I’m incorporating multiple mouths on each creature and it’s getting interesting.
(Various chase figures from Motorbot’s Tiny Teeth range)
Since the bottom of the industry fell out a few years ago, more designers/sculptors have been casting and releasing work independently. How do you see the future panning out? Do you think we’ll ever see the huge production houses rise again, or is the more personal nature of handmade, strictly limited art toys a healthier option for the ultimately niche industry?
I think the smaller run handmade stuff will continue to grow. It won’t surpass the factory made stuff but it will hold its own. It feels a lot like the early days of the vinyl scene. There are so many artists discovering that they can make things on their own terms. They can take risks that big companies never will. For under $100 you can sculpt and cast your own figure, and if you sell a handful you make up your costs. Every figure won’t be a success, but they don’t all have to be.
The big companies may see a rise but I don’t think it will be anytime soon. People don’t have the cash to constantly buy new releases. Even though the scene has rebounded it’s still far from where it was 5 years ago. People aren’t as willing to part with their money. In the end I think the rise of the handmade scene will benefit the larger companies because they’ll have a crop of artists with followings that they can work with.
(Treature Erectus by Motorbot/Deadbear Studios)
What plans do you have for the future? Are you working on any new lines, or will you be developing your current ones further? Any more customs in the pipeline?
I plan on continuing with the current line of figures. I like the direction it’s moving in. I do plan on doing more customs too. They are a nice break from making original stuff. They kind of cleanse the pallet and help move my ideas along. I have a solo show in early 2013 that I’ll start working on soon. I want to have somewhere between 30 and 40 pieces ready for it.
(Astro/They Live Zombies by Motorbot/Deadbear Studios)
We’d like to give a massive thanks to Motorbot for taking the time out to speak to us, please check out his store for regular updates, limited seasonal runs, and some of the best custom commissions in the industry…