Arts & Culture News

Digging Into the Art of Custom Toys with Vinyl Thoughts' Creators

Shelby Miller and Cody Phillips' Vinyl Thoughts Art Show, a celebration of custom-carved collectable toys, returns to the Quixotic World this Thursday. It's their fourth show in two years, and for this installment expect twisted participation by more than 40 local, national and foreign artists.

Much of what will be shown is still kept under wraps, but the last shopping spree featured everything from Where the Wild Things Are characters to an ensemble of Bart Simpsons dressed in Day of the Dead garb.

We talked with Miller and Phillips about this week's show, which is slated to draw in more than 700 eager attendees.

What are vinyl toys and what is the show about? Shelby Miller: Initially, they were a series of toys that Kidrobot put out every six months. Now you have do-it-yourself 3-D white toys such as Munny, Dunny, Raffi, and Rabbit. Artists can add sculpture, model parts, or just paint it. The show features those final products of the blank vinyl toys. They can also buy retail vinyl and start there.

What made y'all want to host a custom vinyl toy show? SM: I've always liked this art form. I'm more of a collector of what Kidrobot puts out, and was introduced to the custom version of these toys created by artists in 2010. At one point [Phillips] said he wished Dallas had a show focused solely on custom art toys. So I responded.

Cody Phillips: I've always done vinyl toys. That's always going to be my specialty in Dallas. I trust Shelby because he is organizational structured. We used our experience and resources and put together the show. Since then it has snowball into this big deal.

How difficult was the process of setting up the show? SM: Neither of us had any art gallery experience so we had to handle this thing as we went. We didn't even know if anyone would show up despite finding a venue and sponsors and advertising it through social media.

Was it difficult finding these artists? CP: I had a slew of artists for the first show because of my prior experience. After the first show, we broke down a lot of fear barrier. We show that you can do everything on this toy and we challenge the artists to start sharing their art.

Now we get big demand of people wanting to be in the show.

Does the show offer anything other than custom vinyl toys? SM: No, we'll do raffle and merchandise table but to me the art is the focus. That's what makes the show unique. Last year we did a charity auction where the money goes to ArtLoveMagic workshops. This year we are donating to Children at Risk and collaborating with Gary Hirsch on donating 400 [domino-shaped] Brave Bots to Children Medical Center in Dallas.

What's the collaboration? CP: We found out Gary has been making these bots impacting everyone. We want to inspire kids to become artistic. We always talked about it since we started planning for the first show.

SM: Gary painted 400 of his bots halfway finished and sent them to [Vinyl Thoughts]. We finished the half-painted bots and will be donating them to the center this Friday.

Would you say the show is one of a kind? CP: I would say yes. Our sheer scale of number of artists in an event is unmatched except for Designer Con. We offer free drinks and no entrance fees. We want everyone to focus on the art. It's nothing like we've seen.

What's the future of vinyl toys? CP: It'll get bigger and better. We're in the season where artists customize them and make it their own. You'll see people buying and order custom toys from the artists. It'll be factories of custom toy making, and the industry will expand as technology improves.

Where do you see the show in the future? SM: We really don't know. We didn't have a definite goal other than creating the show. We don't have ulterior motives. It really is just we take it one step at a time. There's no big master plan. We just try to make the present show better than the last.

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Jason Yang
Contact: Jason Yang