Urban Vinyl Daily: Would you mind telling us a little background about yourself ?
Gary Ham: I live in Phoenix, Arizona and worked in the feature animation business for many years with Fox Animation in the special effects department. I currently work as an illustrator/animator for an educational company. I’ve collected toys/art for about 17 years now. Around 2007 I discovered designer toys and it was an instant love connection. I began designing/self-producing toys in 2008.
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?
GH: The first toy I did was self-produced and was called Carrot Shake Jake, a rabbit with tiny feet and giant teeth! The past couple of years I have enjoyed creating toys from wood and the challenges that come with it. I try to stay fresh with trying different styles and approaches while still putting my stamp on it.
UVD: Seeing as I am most familiar Hermees, since he seems to have garnered lots of praise from Toysrevil and Toy Break, how did Hermees come about?
GH: Hermees originally started out as a wooden figure I made for myself for Halloween. I made him really large standing at 14” tall and kept him in my home. After receiving great feedback and still liking his design many months later, I thought he’d make a great vinyl toy. I wanted to retain the wood feel and look of the original figure in vinyl form.
UVD: As with Scott (Tolleson), I see you have a small foray in to PG-13 rated figures. Dare I ask about the Sinful Lady figurine and the Morsel figurines and what inspired them?
GH: The beauty of the female form is always inspiring. I enjoy drawing the female form and have an appreciation of pin-up art. Over the years my artistic style has taken a few detours and I don’t draw the ladies much anymore.
UVD: Speaking of Mr. Tolleson, how did you two cross paths since we seem to see you two together in DCon pictures and the like?
GH: Scott and I were members of an art forum and only knew one another by our online persona and art we posted for several years. It wasn’t until SDCC ’04 that we met in person and hit it off. From then on we’ve shared a booth at every SDCC , a couple DCon’s and been best buds since.
UVD: With the Android 2 series that was released in March and your vanilla and your chocolate figures being wildly popular, and even your Flakes figure being popular, how did each of those collaborations come about?
GH: Andrew Bell contacted me back in December of ’09 asking if I’d like to submit some designs for a toy line he was doing using the Google Android mascot. I jumped at the chance. I knew the Androids would be more main stream so I wanted to design something that would be fun for both designer fans and Android loyalists. I was asked to do a design for the winter/holiday season and the snowman suited the platform well. And cupcakes…everyone likes cupcakes and it just so happens that the Android operating system was developed under a codename of cupcake once and I thought that would be a fun thing for the true Android fans. Adding the smell to them was Andrew’s idea and boy do they smell yummy.
UVD: After perusing your blog, some may wonder (or not notice) that your blog has two different entities housed within in: your standard work and your Haminals. Aside from the obvious conjunction with your last name, what led to the Haminals being created?
GH: Haha that’s just laziness on my part. Haminals are a series of hybrid animals that are crossbred with pigs. Giant nostrils, tiny feet, and curly tails. I initially created the blog for only Haminals related art, but then began to share my other art on there too. One of these days I’ll get my act together and get a real website back up and running. If people are reading this article years from now, maybe it’s up now.
UVD: As a designer, you are used to seeing your creations come to life. What was it like producing Alberto Cerriteño’s Playtime cat?
GH: That was fun. I was going through Alberto’s flickr one day and saw his cat design. I loved the organic shapes and offered to create one out of wood for him to paint. Collaborations are fun.
UVD: How was the Love Movement show and the creative process leading up to it?
GH: The Love Movement was great and Jeremy Brautman did an amazing job curating the event. I wish I could have been there. In this case, there were two great platforms to work with. I had a couple of ideas, but Herbie and the Love Mechanic seemed to really suit the platforms and theme of the show.
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?
GH: Not really. Besides the mass produced stuff I have done small runs of self produced wood toys like the Cirque Du Siamese and occasionally do custom work.
UVD: Who/what have been your major influences over the years that helped influence you the most?
GH: There are so many friends and artists that influence me. I constantly peruse forums, books, blogs, etc for inspiration and new approaches. To mention a few, Hank Ketchum, Mary Blair, retro art in general, Shane Glines, Scott Tolleson, Bill Watterson, Amanda Visell, Ragnar, Tado, Friends With You, David Horvath, the list just goes on and on.
UVD: Are there any future projects that you wish to discuss for the reader to keep their eyes open for in the upcoming future?
GH: I’m really excited about a new toy design that the amazingly talented Chauskoskis is currently helping me bring to life. I’m lucky to be working with him. Painted prototypes should be available for viewing at SDCC this summer and hopefully available for purchase late 2011. I’ll have some cards in the second series of Art Hustle and doing a few customs shows this year. Also, be on the look out for something from Toy2R later in the year.
UVD: What would your encouragements/suggestions be for artists/designers that are either just starting out or who are trying to get themselves noticed?
GH: Do what you love and constantly work at it. Always be evolving and don’t be afraid to experiment with the unfamiliar. Keep up to date with forums, blogs, etc and get involved. If an opportunity comes your way, embrace it and put you best foot forward. It’s not always easy and there will be bumps along the road, but never give up.