Urban Vinyl Daily: Would you mind telling us a little background about yourself ?
Scott Tolleson: I was born and raised in the South where I lived till I was sixteen and then I moved to California. After high school, I attended Cal State Fullerton where I graduated with a BFA in Illustration in 2000. My first “art” job was doing lettering for signs for the Home Base Company. I did that for about 3 years. Then I started at Disney and have been here ever since. I’ve been a toy collector for years. Like most toy nerds, I started out with Star Wars toys, Spawn, etc. I really became interested in the possibility of making toys in college. I made many 3-D pieces that were toy-like that included a self portrait puppet, a set of creatures called “Snaliens” and some glass figures that I called “Glasstronauts”. I like to think that making toys is what I’m supposed to do because it truly makes me happy.
UVD: Would you mind telling us about some of the designs that you came up with when you were first starting out and how designs have progressed over the years?
Tolleson: Wow! Haha. I noticed that with my style I tend to get bored if I stay at one particular thing for too long. With my toys I really like to experiment and do new things with the materials, subject matter, or style. My first toys were very wonky and animated looking similar to Rat Fink I suppose. Then I got really inspired by retro toys. Lately, I’ve been really into monsters and cute. Wait, am I answering this question or rambling?
UVD: Seeing as I am most familiar with the Otis and Otto figures and the VonBlock characters, would you mind tell us about what inspired them or how the idea came about for them?
Tolleson: I’ve always been attracted to retro-type toys. Wood toys, wind-up toys, etc. With both of these projects I wanted to produce toys that look like they could have existed many years ago. With the Otis and Otto figures I really wanted to do something that was reminiscent of Weeble Wobbles or Fisher Price Little People. I think my daughter’s birth made me want to do something that she would like too.
UVD: Dare I ask what inspired the “Dirty Detention Girls” figures or the “Damaged Goods” prints from Common Nonsense?
Tolleson: Yes, please dare. I’m a fan of good pin-up art. With D.D.G. and the Damaged Goods pieces I just wanted to make something that was a throwback to that genre of art but in my own style. I remember as a kid always sneaking down to my grandfather’s work area in his basement to look at his pin-up calendar.
UVD: But anyways, I noticed on your facebook that you are part of Disney. Would you mind telling us about how you landed that dream job, and what movies we should look for you in the credits?
Tolleson: I’ve been with Disney since ’98. I’m with the Theme Park Entertainment Division which is a leg of the Imagineering Department. I don’t have my name on any credits of movies. However, I’ve worked on many parades, special events, merchandise items…
UVD: Who have been your major influences over the years that helped influence you the most?
Tolleson: Hmmm… toughy here. As far as artists who influence me, a few would be Jim Flora, Mary Blair, Bwana Spoons, Tim Biskup, Bill Ward, David Lynch, Charlie Harper, Glenn Barr, Dan DeCarlo, Dean Yeagle, APAK, Friends With You, Mark Ryden, Robert Williams, Big Daddy Roth, Gary Ham, Julie West, TADO, Sucklord… Man, I know I’m missing some but this is what I could muster from my brainstorm.
UVD: While we are on the vein of shows you have held, I completely did not realize that you had been in Ohio last year at Rivet. How did you and Laura hook up to bring your designs all the way to the middle of Ohio, and how was the show? Are there any other galleries we should be looking for your pieces in?
Tolleson: Unfortunately, I did not make it to the opening of that show. I met Laura at Comic-Con a few years ago. We hit it off and started talking about the possibility of doing a show at Rivet. Then, months after the Con we reconnected and she had an open spot for a two person show in October.
Other than Rivet, I’ve shown at Red Hot Robot in Phoenix, Screaming Sky Gallery in Portland and Rotofugi in Chicago. This year I have one show lined up at OhNo! Doom Gallery in Chicago.
UVD: Being that you were just on Toy Break a few episodes ago, how was it getting to hanging out with them and doing the show?
Tolleson: George, Ayleen and Ben are my peeps! I think the latest episode was my 5th or 6th time on Toy Break. We’re all good friends and hang out a lot on the weekends. It’s really great having friends that are as passionate about toys and toy-making as they are.
UVD: I realize that I have asked specifically about some of your designs, are there some that I did not ask about that you wish to take a moment to talk about?
Tolleson: My first “Art” toy that I designed/managed/produced under my own company was called Tricycle Terror. This piece was very successful and I sold out of my stock within a year’s time. My second piece in the series is called Big Rollin’ Rascal. She did really well too. I’d love to revisit the series sometime in the future. These were fun for me.
UVD: Are there any future projects that you wish to discuss for the reader to keep their eyes open for in the upcoming future?
Tolleson: I have a project I’m working on with good friends of mine over at October Toys. We are currently getting a toy prototype and production package ready for China. Both companies are super excited about this project. We are aiming at having an exclusive piece in time for SDCC ’11. So there’s really no more time for dilly-dallying and lollygaggin’. Stay tuned! Other than this, I’ve been working with Andrew Bell on a project as well as Toy2R. I just wrapped up doing artwork for both the Art Hustle trading card series and Star Wars Galaxy 6 trading cards. Later this year I hope to be working with Disney Theme Park Merchandise on a few toy designs. I think that’s it for now. Oh, and I’m in a group show in October with Abe Lincoln Jr. and PO! I’m really looking forward to it.
UVD: What would your encouragements/suggestions be for artists/designers that are either just starting out or who are trying to get themselves noticed?
Tolleson: Just keep doing “it”. Find your thing and roll with it. You’re going to go through setbacks and roadblocks along the way. It’s part of the natural progression of growing as an artist. Use these setbacks as lessons and continue along your path. I’ve met many artists that have taken a stab at something that didn’t work out and they quit. They don’t necessarily quit making art but they become bitter and/or stop trying to grow. That’s another thing. Always want to keep learning and growing!