A few months ago, Alan stumbled upon my website and sent me an email asking about archetype Shinkis. I told him I don’t own Busou Shinkis and I’ve never customized one but I suggested that he should check out the website of a seller from Japan who might be able to help him look for it. I also asked him to send pictures of his customs in case he found those archetypes that he’s looking for.
Alan never found those Shinkis but I’m really glad that he sent me an email about his custom robots Idkildr and Nephet which he built using Lego blocks. His customs are amazing. I’m always happy to find talented persons through the Internet which is why I came up with the idea of interviewing them and featuring them on Toypusher.com. So read along and let’s find out more about our featured toy collector.
ToyPusher.com: Hi Alan. Can you tell us more about yourself?
Alan: I work occasionally in the family business, and it doesn’t pay very much at all. It’s not really even enough to keep a sustained hobby – well, not one that requires the spending of money. When I do get enough money that I feel comfortable to spend on hobby junk, it usually goes toward materials for customizing toys, or making props. There is a toy customizer who calls himself Jin Saotome, but his real name is John Mallamas. Anyway, I was inspired to try my hand at customizing toys after I saw his work, and asked him questions. However, I’ve always been interested in customizing my toys since I was a kid. And just the same, I’ve always had an interest in making props. My brothers and I were really into sticks, using them like swords. We used to ask my dad to make wooden swords for us; and after I got the confidence to use his power tools, I began making my own. From there, I’ve gone on to make prop swords, knives, jewelry, Wolverine claws, lightsabers, etc. The coolest sword I’ve made, in my opinion, is the Sword of Destiny – the one that Trunks used in Dragon Ball Z. None of these props were commissions.
All these hobbies require a lot of expenses, so when I’m not doing that, I’m either drawing or writing. From gradeschool through high school I was well known for my drawing skills. However, they have somewhat hit a dead end. I still draw often, but my skills haven’t necessarily improved.
Lastly is my writing. I love writing. Love it. I’m an aspiring author above all other venues. I’ve always had ideas for stories and characters, but was never inspired to do anything with them – until Chrono Cross. That game was so creative that my brain exploded, and I was forced to start writing down my own imaginings. A lot of my drawings depict characters and events in the stories I write. I’ve also worked on props and custom toys of objects and characters from my stories. And you might also have guessed by now, I’ve written a story about Idkildr and Nephet.
ToyPusher.com: Customizing, drawing and writing, now that’s really creative. I guess that’s the thing that I really appreciate about true artists, loving and sharing what they do. Have you tried doing cosplays? I bet most aspiring cosplayers would love to have your talent in creating beautiful props.
Alan: The hilarious thing is that most cosplayers I’ve seen online have skills that I’m envious of – the skills of making clothes! Sewing machines are my worst enemies. I have no control over them. The few times I’ve tried to make clothing, the machine tried to turn ME into a sock! But yes, I tried cosplaying once. It was pitiful, but I was anxious. It was a really cruddy semi-Jedi-wannabe-slob costume I threw together in a couple hours for the premiere of Revenge of the Sith! Since I headed straight to the cinema after school, it meant I had to wear my costume all day – at school. No one really said anything except the other Star Wars geeks. B-)
ToyPusher.com: How did you get into toy collecting and can you describe to us your collection.
Alan: I’ve always loved toys as a kid. They were the medium through which I would express myself. They would go on the adventures that I wished I could. But growing up, I didn’t really collect toys. Most of my toys were Ninja Turtles and dinosaurs from Jurassic Park. It was only when I started making my own money that my collection really began. I started buying the action figures from my favorite movies, anime, and videogames. I’ve since amassed a nice amount of toys from Halo, Star Wars, Transformers, and GI Joes. I should point out that the GI Joes have all been purchased with the very specific intention of being turned into customizations.
ToyPusher.com: I really would love to learn customizing my toys especially gunpla but I haven’t really tried it. I’m a bit worried that I might mess it up because I’m not good with painting and drawing. But you, you make customization seem really easy and fun especially with those awesome robots that you built using Lego. When did you start with this hobby?
Alan: Hahahaha! If you think I make customizing look easy, then you haven’t seen the work of John Mallamas. Dude is insane compared to me. My fingers tremble and I get heart murmurs when I cut and paint my customs. Okay, that’s not true, but I haven’t done many customs because they’re a pain in the ass to do – fun, yes, but a pain in the ass.
I have just recently taken my very first Lego commission, but have been in love with Lego since I was very small. I still have nearly every single Lego piece I have ever owned in my entire life. I am extremely careful with my collection. Before building Optimus Prime, I mostly built silly little space ships. But after I saw Transformers, and all the intricate and amazing designs they had in the movie, I was very inspired to build Optimus Prime. I went on to build him three times – each time he was larger and more detailed. As you can imagine, it was a massive leap in skills. One day I was building stupid space ships, the next, I was building complicated robots. It wasn’t really that quick of a transition; I spent over a year to get to the third version of Optimus.
ToyPusher.com: I think it’s amazing. Seeing your Lego customs makes me wonder if I still have my old Lego blocks. ^^; I think Lego is one of the greatest toys ever made. Can you share with us your experience in creating those Lego-bots?
Alan: Making Optimus Prime (all 3 versions) was the first robot-building experience I had. And it was extremely tough! I had to study various images of Optimus for hours, days, even months; at the same time, I had to build him in sections, then go back and revise what I had done, and repeat the whole process many times. Looking for pieces online, bending over piles of pieces, shuffling through boxes for hours just to find one tiny piece. It was arduous. But I stayed motivated through the entire process because Optimus Prime looked beautiful in the movie, and I was determined to replicate him the only way I could. The female robots, on the other hand, were a piece of cake in comparison.
ToyPusher.com: How do you keep yourself updated with the toys in the market and where do you usually get your stuff?
Alan: The only toy franchises I keep an active vigil on are GI Joe and Transformers. For GI Joe, I usually visit YoJoe.com. For Transformers, I visit TFW2005.com. I haven’t been collecting Lego so much as I used to because I have a sort of addiction to them. I require many purchases just to make one amazing thing from Lego, so it’s not friendly to my wallet. I usually get my toys from WalMart, Target, and ToysRUs. These are all stores I visit in person; they are all over my city. I rarely purchase items online.
ToyPusher.com: It’s nice that you have access to most of the toys that you’d like to customize. What’s the first significant toy that you bought?
Alan: The first very significant toy that I got was a Christmas present from my dad when I was little. It’s a large, brown tyrannosaurus from Jurassic Park. I still have it! The most significant toy that I’ve bought for myself is… well, I don’t really know. I have a tendency to buy mostly heroes. So that in itself is significant to me. I have an affinity for heroes. The Autobots, Master Chief, the Jedi, Ninja Turtles, Power Rangers, and Godzilla are all heroic characters I enjoy collecting.
ToyPusher.com: Where do you get ideas or inspirations from your customs? Do you have any particular design/painting style?
Alan: Most of the things I build in Lego are inspired by Lego designs of other builders. There are some amazingly talented builders out there. I don’t think I match them. Optimus is only one project, but these other builders create many awesome things. I think my Lego style has recently become focused on large, thin robots. I got the hang of it, so why not? In terms of stories, props, and custom toys, I get inspiration from everything and anything that I find clever, beautiful, or awesome. I should point out that I tend to create more female characters than male. The reason is because there are more than enough male characters in the world, and I believe females are just as interesting. So when I get an idea that I like, I say to myself “Let’s turn this into a girl” and I think the results are usually badass.
ToyPusher.com: I agree. Your robots Idkildr and Nephet look really feminine yet very strong at the same time. They’re very nicely done. What’s your favorite platform for toy customs?
Alan: Idkildr and Nephet were built mostly from the last good scraps that were left over after I finished Optimus Prime. My Lego boxes were shallowing out, but those two fembots practically crawled out of the scrap pile. They’re both based on a Lego model called Femme Fatalle by a builder on Brickshelf.com. However, I made various improvements over the original design. My design is much shorter, sturdier, smoother, able to hold more poses and stand on its own, and the heads are completely different. I’m not trying to brag, I’m just clarifying that I believe I made enough changes to call it my own.
For customs I mostly use GI Joes. They serve as the basis for every custom toy I create. When there’s something that a GI Joe doesn’t provide, I usually swap it over from another toyline like Star Wars.
ToyPusher.com: Aside from toys, are there other things that you collect?
Alan: DVDs, knives, airsoft guns, electronic scraps, pens and pencils
ToyPusher.com: Cool. I’ve never met anybody who collects knives and guns along with pens and pencils. ^^; I also love pens and pencils.
Alan: Oh no. Airsoft guns are nothing like real guns. Mine shoot plastic BBs. I don’t have the confidence or desire to acquaint myself with real firearms.
I collect knives because I love camping. I regard them as tools, not weapons.
Yes! As a writer, I have simply far too many pens and pencils; as well as notebooks and piles of paper, and folders, and binders, etc.
ToyPusher.com: Do you have any advice that you can give to aspiring artists and toy collectors?
Alan: Personally, I feel that if a hobby requires a lot of money, it’s better to spend wisely. But if money is not an issue, I think an artist should try to create absolutely everything their mind becomes inspired to. It will rarely come out perfect on the first try, so keep trying.
ToyPusher.com: Thank you Alan and good luck with your future custom projects. I’m sure we’ll hear more of you because you are such a wonderful artist and you really love your craft. Keep doing what you do and I know you’ll inspire more artists out there.
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