UVD: Would you mind telling us a little background on yourself? (i.e. where you’re from, when you started designing, etc)?
Tasha:I’m from the Vancouver area in BC, and went to Simon Fraser University’s School for Contemporary Arts. I guess it depends how far down that rabbit hole you’re interested to go about where to pin down a start. Starting from a very early age my favorite hobbies were tracing animal pictures out of my story books and making animals out of plasticine clay. Which moved pretty seamlessly into after school arts programs, highschool painting classes, art as hobby, Post Secondary, and making work outside of that.
UVD: What attracted you to the world of designer toys and what made you start customizing?
Tasha:I was somewhat aware of designer toys for a few years, but the local exposure couldn’t convey the breadth and depth of the world of art toys until I started looking for information. Probably my first really solid Art Toy was Camilla d’Errico’s Disney x Mindstyle Stitch in 2010, because I loved & collected Camilla’s art merchandise. When Camilla released her Vinyl Kuro in 2011, I painted one, and her manager and elder sister AdaPia submitted it to Spankystokes blog- who featured it. Between Camilla, and her toy, and AdaPia introducing me to Spankystokes, the whole reaction catalyzed. And I fell hard and fast after that, haha.
UVD: Are there any artists that inspire you and your work?
Tasha:I’m inspired by a lot of different kinds of things, and there are certainly artists whose artwork I gravitate to and really appreciate. I feel a pull to artists like Gris Grimly, Camilla d’Errico, Audrey Kawasaki, Gerald Brom, Johnen Vasquez, Greg Simkins, Dave Correa, Caitlin Hackett, Alison Sommers, Ardabus Rubber, Brandt Peters. More than anything, I’m really inspired and jazzed up to create by examining and unraveling processes. I’m inspired by artwork I’ve encountered like Jan Svankmajer and Brothers Quay films. But, the way they arrange taxidermy animals in costume or animate discarded objects doesn’t influence me to do the same, I go off and draw something.
I’m really inspired by learning about processes like Kevin Pasko’s Digital Sculpting, or horror movie special effects sculpting from Deth Becomes You, but I’m not going to try it myself- it just jazzes me up to make juicy red paintings, or try painting a texture I’ve never attempted before. I’ve experienced inspiring things like sitting beside a Liz Magor taxidermy coyote for an hour while a fake respirator inside it made it ‘breathe’ like it was just sleeping peacefully. It was a deeply moving experience I think about sometimes when painting, and inspiration comes from that. Creative conceptual processes like Edward Gorey’s despairing story books, AA Milne’s whimsy, Roald Dahl and Tim Burton’s disturbing and humorous storytelling. Japanese horror manga, Creature Feature music, Abstract expressionist artwork, Matthew Barney’s densely layered film & multimedia artwork… but then on the other side of it, I’ve never outgrown things like watching animated talking animal films, playing Pokemon games, Redwall books, and getting sucked into many hours of animal & nature documentaries. Half my manga and comic collection is ridiculously cute, and the other half is horrifying haha. So I’m influenced by a lot of different things and processes.
UVD: Recently you created a custom Lolligag figure for the ‘Vive La Lolligag’ custom show at Toy Art Gallery. What was the inspiration for that piece and where there any challenges that you ran into along the way?
Tasha:Working on super-figurative platforms (dolls, essentially) is still pretty new for me. The proportions of the figure were something I really liked once I got into it, and I liked the spiral contours in the hair. I really like drawing and painting nested, spiraling, cavernous entryways that create a weird tension between surface and depth of field. So I got super into that for Lolligag.
UVD: Besides making custom toys what are some of your other hobbies?
Tasha:Work is kind of a hobby, dividing my time between tutoring English, my work supporting d’Errico Studios Ltd., and artwork for self. I love animation and cartoons, animal documentaries, I try to keep up with what friends are doing and working on. Travelling has always been way up on my list, and good food. I read books & play video games less than I used to, but try to do some.
UVD: I have seen work a lot with your original characters and other well known characters. Do you prefer to work with your own original characters or mainstream characters? Or do they each have their own set of challenges?
Tasha:The characters usually happen secondary to a thought, emotion, expression, or externalizing some kind of experience for me. So even though I can see on reflection that yes, I do make original characters, I almost never mentally associate the word Character with them while I’m making them. It’s often not until I’ve finished them that they ‘tell’ me what their name is and become a character. But I very much enjoy that kind of process more than reproducing other licensed characters. I suppose it depends on the context; when I’m doing it as a gift for a friend, and it makes them so happy, then I get into it. But mostly when I hear “Could you make (your version of)____?” I don’t usually feel charged up or engaged by that. I don’t want to piggyback off of other people’s intellectual properties, or spend a lot of time trying to rise to someone’s preconceived expectation based on their personal relationship and history with that character. It’s a challenge sometimes, because Pop Culture Sells. There are people making an entire practice out of reproducing other people’s characters. And that’s not going to stop. But they’re doing what they’re doing, and I’m really happy doing what I’m doing for my own interests. And it leaves room for when I am interested to do a character, I get to really enjoy that- I’ll paint a Cheshire Cat later this year and have a lot of fun with it.
UVD: Is there any figure/Platform you have never customized that you would like to?
Tasha:I’m looking forward to painting on the Mega Andrioid that recently released. I like the idea of painting a Skelve or CMR Bubblegut- I even have a DIY Blank one ready to go, but I have a great deal of respect for the platforms and am nervous about trying to make a contribution to one. I saw a photo of a giant Fonzo toy on Freakstore’s feed before, I’d be pretty stoked to get my hands on one of those. Fonzo is one of my 2 most favorite platforms.
UVD: You have done some collaboration pieces with different artists. Do you find that process to be more challenging than working on a piece of your own or does it help you with the creative process?
Tasha:I’ve been really fortunate to get to work with April Elliott and Deth Becomes You on some projects. Mostly it was an exercise for us for fun, since we share some overlap in aesthetic or conceptual sensibilities and I enjoy their work a lot too. Probably the most challenging part was doing collaborative pieces for a deadline, for DCon for example, which meant working quickly and budgeting shipping transit time. We’re working on other projects that are more relaxed about timeframe though, and I’m excited about that.
UVD: Do you have a personal favorite piece that you have done? Or is this like asking you to pick a favorite child?
Tasha:There have been some I really bond to and miss a lot. My first couple Fonzo’s I was really attached to, as well as transposing my painting character Cordelia onto a 7” Munny. I’ve noticed when I feel a lot of affection for a piece in-process I handle it a lot or pet its head with my palm. And, my palm misses the round head on that Cordelia Munny haha. It affirms for me when I’ve done a good job with something though, that I’m attached to it and would have been happy to keep it.
UVD: Are there any future projects that you wish to discuss for the reader to keep their eyes open for in the future?
Tasha:I’ve got some cool things I’m working on right now and preparing for. Sculptor Matt Anderson invited me to paint one of his original sculptures, and that’s really exciting. It arrived recently and I’ve been prepping it. I’m planning ahead for DCon and have a Mega Munny in the works to have at the show. April Elliott and I are working on a Day Of The Dead themed Android series with Vinyl Riot, which is a new subject matter for me- there’s very little exposure to Dia De Los Muertos in Canada, so I’m learning a lot. And will be continuing to paint and develop my own ideas and projects as I go along!
UVD: What would your encouragements/suggestions be for artists/designers that are either just starting out or who are trying to get themselves noticed?
Tasha: This seems like a really straight-forward kind of question, but for me it goes in a few different directions. It makes me wonder Why do you want to be noticed? Making artwork purely to gain validation from others, get famous, make money, is not something I share the enthusiasm for. Absolutely, some people do it successfully; I’m under no impression Thomas Kinkade paints dreamy pastoral cottages & landscapes for any other reason than it pays his bills. Are you really passionate about something you have to share creatively? That’s awesome! Get your work out, research effective social media strategies, provide a visible way for folks to contact you. And, keep creating work. Don’t wait for an exhibition, commission, collab, or invitation to make something special. Make things for you, grow your skills, learn more, share more, apply and submit to projects. It’s a journey, no one single accomplishment or moment of recognition is a final destination. And if you’re passionate about what you’re doing, others will want to share in that too.
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