What Are Designer Art Toys?
Trending with the same popularity and hype as streetwear, designer toys more commonly referred to as art toys are collectible toys inspired by artists or designers. These toys are generally either self-produced or made by small and independent toy companies. Materials used in the toys are varied ranging from ABS plastic, vinyl wood, metal, latex, plush, resin and more. Majority of the creators have background education in graphic design, illustration or arts, but the most accomplished of them all are actually self-taught. It is widely believed that designer art toys first originated in the 1990’s in Hong Kong and Japan. By the 2000’s designer toys quickly became integrated in Western culture where many designer art toys were inspired from Lowbrow artists.
Most designer art toys were produced in China, however due to the ease of access of higher quality materials in Japan, some designers have shifted their production to the land of the rising sun. Designer art toys are usually not manufactured in America due to many environmental restrictions due to the production of vinyl.
Types of Designer Art Toys
Urban vinyl designer art toys feature action figures which are usually made of vinyl. Whilst urban vinyl can be used interchangeably with designer art toys, not all designer art toys can be considered urban vinyl. In general, urban vinyl figures usually have original designs, produced in small quantities, and usually collected by adults. Urban toy designers focus their art primarily on an urban environment such as hip-hop, rap, graffiti or anything related to an urban environment.
Urban vinyl figures are designed primarily by illustrators, graffiti artists, musicians, and DJs from urban areas in Asia (especially Japan and Hong Kong), North America (especially the United States), and Europe.
Credited as the “Godfather of designer toys” Michael Lau and artist Eric So are widely believed to be the two to have initiated the urban vinyl trend in the 1990s. Early designer toy creators include New York artist Ron English.
Urban vinyl is commonly designated as either Eastern Vinyl, including anything designed and produced in Asia or Australia, or Western Vinyl, encompassing pieces which are designed and produced in North America, South America, or Europe. Urban vinyl figures have become collectible items. Rare pieces may sell for hundreds or even thousands of dollars
Some artists create their toys using synthetic resin material and resin casting. After casting the resin toy receives adjustments in its details, sometimes being superficially cast on some parts. The toy can be finished using automotive paint by aerosol and sometimes receives a varnished layer above the dry painting.
The process of making resin toys is more labor-intensive and time-consuming than industrialized vinyl toy production, which in most of cases are made identical and in large quantities. But resin casting allows artists to produce toys in small numbers. Most vinyl factories will only produce toys in large series. Resin toys have become a way for less established artists to produce a toy without the large financial investment required to produce a vinyl toy.
Designer plush are another subcategory of designer art toys. They tend to be soft, stuffed dolls created in limited quantities by artists and designers. Common designs include anthropomorphized animals or fantastic human likenesses, although designer plush dolls often feature entirely unique character designs. Designer plush dolls are usually given names and personas, with their distinctive personalities described on their tags or in booklets included in their packaging.
One producer of designer plush is Friends With You, a commercial art and design collective based in Miami, Florida. Their work is characterized by a cute yet bizarre aesthetic, and exhibits a hand-made quality, even in pieces that are machine-made. In addition to their plush dolls, Friends With You also create modular wood toys, and motion graphics for companies such as Sony, MTV, Nike, and Columbia Records.
Why Are Designer Art Toys Popular?
Collectible toys have become extremely popular worldwide, as toymakers explore a seamless integration of physical and digital play to succeed in a technology-driven marketplace. This phenomenon is also driven by factors like creative concepts from toy artists, limited availability of toys, quality craftsmanship, and good marketing strategies made by toy manufacturers worldwide.
As toy collecting incorporates adults as well as children, many toymakers have successfully widened the age range of their target consumers. It is also widely accepted that these collectible art toys are a form of art. Artists like KAWS, for instance, are now selling their works for millions of dollars in major art auctions.
Catering to the preferences of consumers desiring quality, limited and unique collectibles, the toymaker industry has seen a considerable change in the industry. In an aesthetic sense, the growing demand for customised, limited edition designer collectibles has also motivated artists to create unique and visually striking concepts across various size categories.
The toy market has propelled itself into mainstream popularity, and this can be seen by the number of smaller companies popping up all over the world. The size, colours, and craftsmanship are some of the reasons why designer toys are so popular. Younger generations flock to these types of collectible toys. That is partly because of the amount of effort that has gone into each one. Each collectible has been carefully designed to create a beautiful toy. In some cases, they have even been painted by hand, giving it the extra human touch and exclusivity.
Often, the designer toys are part of a collection. This is true for the case of blind boxes, as with other renowned sets such as the XXRAY or Funko. In this case, many consumers will be driven by a desire to complete the collection. However, there will only be a limited number of stocks available to complete the collection.
Where to Buy Designer Art Toys?
At X-playground we pride ourselves in providing quality, limited, unique and official designer art toys created and inspired by artists. What are you waiting for, expand your collection now and show off your collectibles to your friends here at x-playground!