I first took notice of Jeremiah Ketner’s work when I saw pictures of Custom Vimobots from last year’s SDCC. I was really amazed by his work and instantly became a fan. Jeremiah, an artist based in Chicago uses wonderful pastel colors to paint lovely, Japanese inspired little creatures. As for his contribution in the vinyl/toy world, Jeremiah did some amazing Munny, Dunny and Mad*l customs and a lot more as well as other designs for wooden figures.
ToyPusher.com: Hello Jeremiah. Tell us something about yourself, how long have you been an artist and when did you start doing toy customizations?
Jeremiah Ketner: I have been making art all my life. I started showing professionally when I moved to Chicago in 2000. I have mainly been showing my paintings in galleries and was invited to be part of a custom toy show at Rotofugi. At first I was not sure how to go about painting on a designer toy. The whole idea was foreign to me. I really enjoyed working on a 3D surface and from that point I became hooked on making custom toys. I like the idea of transforming a pre-existing sculpt and embellishing it with my own designs.
After a few years of working on custom toys, I have become acquainted to the different artists who design toys and (I) started collecting their works. Some of my favorite platform toys are MadLs and Munnys. They have a wonderful shape to them plus are easy to work with. I have a really small collection of designer toys. I prefer more elaborate sculpts and also unique toys such as Kokeshis. Some pieces I have in my collection are Julie West’s, Bumble Bee and Tweet, Noferin’s Jibbuts and Pecan Pals. I really enjoy toys by Itokin Park, Nakanari, Chris Ryniak, Julie West and Yoskay Yamamoto.
ToyPusher.com: Kokeshi dolls look adorable, I hope to collect them too someday.
What’s the best thing about collecting toys and what’s the most challenging aspect of it?
Jeremiah Ketner: It’s fun collecting designer toys. I like that it has its own culture and has helped to boost unknown artists’ careers into the mainstream. I feel like every-time I pick up a new toy I am supporting an artist in some way. I think the most challenging part of collecting would be getting hold of limited editions pieces that are no longer in production. Chasing down a 10″ MadL can be difficult at times.
ToyPusher.com: Yeah, I’ve experienced difficulty too with limited editions and exclusives. Aside from toys, are there other things that you collect?
Jeremiah Ketner: I enjoy collecting Fine Art. Mostly paintings by emerging Artists’ and friends. I have a large magazine collection, art and pop culture. I think I have almost every Giant Robot and Hi fructose issue. I have a big collection of cameras, Sea shells and leafs of all types, that I keep in a book.
ToyPusher.com: Wow. What an interesting and diverse collection! Where do you usually buy your stuff?
Jeremiah Ketner: I mostly follow a lot of toy designers, sellers and bloggers on twitter. I have found it to be the nervous system for all the latest releases and sneak peeks at what other artist’s are up to. Some of the blogs I follow are: Spanky Stokes, Vinyl Pulse, Toysrevil, Tomopop and Vinyl-Creep.
I love visiting Rotofugi, plus they are in my town. They have a great selection of toys and a really strong gallery with a impressive lineup of artists. A few other places I pick up toys online are, myplasticheart.com, www.dragatomi.com, www.giantrobot.com, kusovinyl.com, gunnzo.com
ToyPusher.com: We sure are glad that you got invited to that Rotofugi custom toy show and that you’re doing what you do. You have a website, smallandround.com, why smallandround?
Jeremiah Ketner: It’s a funny name, I know. The first time I visited Japan I was amazed by the how every detail their designs had been clearly thought out. Space is limited, so products and furnishings are very compact but convey depth through good design aesthetics. I wrote in my sketch book one day on my travels “Everything in Japan Is small and round”, it was a general observation, almost a joke and I ended up using it as my online handle.
ToyPusher.com: Everything in Japan is like art. Hopefully someday I’ll be able to visit Japan too.
I really enjoy looking at your paintings, the characters look very interesting and beautiful plus the brush strokes, the colors, everything is amazing. Where do you get all these awesome ideas for your design?
Jeremiah Ketner: I draw a lot. I think that helps keep the creativity flowing. Where do the ideas come from? I don’t know but I welcome them everyday. I find most of my best ideas come to me when I am taking a shower in the morning. It’s a strange place for creative thoughts but that’s how I get them. ha ha.
ToyPusher.com:Getting the best creative ideas during the morning shower. Very cool. I did enroll in a basic sketching class last year but I guess I never really got the hang of it and I never really practice. ^^; Did you have another style of painting or has it been always this carefree, dreamy, Japanese-inspired art?
Jeremiah Ketner: I think carefree and dreamy is the approach I take when addressing my concept. I don’t like to claim a certain notion or agenda in my artwork as I feel it becomes to contrived and I like the idea of keeping the story open ended. I am not sure what my style is but I do like to keep a tangible reality out of the picture. I try not to push a certain style or directions. Most of the pieces evolve from one to the next. I do try to keep from getting to formulaic as this is an easy thing to do. I think the more comfortable I am with a certain direction, then that’s a point where I may switch styles.
ToyPusher.com: Seems like keeping the story open ended in your artwork is a very nice idea, it comes out very refreshing and beautiful. I instantly like your art when I saw it, for me it didn’t take any getting used to.
With toys as your canvas, do you have a different style or approach that you apply? Any favorite customs?
Jeremiah Ketner: I try make the toy more like a character, so I tend to use a more graphic style. It’s an odd canvas, so drawing any sort of composition is difficult. Normally, I just start drawing directly on the toy and the design evolves from that point. My Favorite platform toy is the MadL. I am also in love with Kokeshi dolls because of there wide range of shapes and I like that they are made of wood.
ToyPusher.com: Those MadLs that you did for the Mutation vinyl show and the Kathie Olivas customs were awesome! They’re my favorites. Any upcoming toy releases, shows?
Jeremiah Ketner: I will be part of a cool show by Noferin “We Heart Wood” a Jibibuts custom show at Munky King. The show runs April 1st through April 28th. They have a strong line up of artists who are well known for there customs. I am really looking forward to seeing what everyone comes up with.
I have no pending toy releases as of yet. I do have plenty of drawings of toys, I would love to sculpt and possibly see go into production. With luck, hopefully that day will come.
ToyPusher.com: I’m sure you’ve been asked this a thousand times before but what advice would you give aspiring artists and toy collectors?
Jeremiah Ketner: Advice? Hmm, I think it’s important to keep sketching out your ideas. Keep working away on whatever it is that inspires you to create. Even if it’s only for yourself, the more you develop your style the stronger your work will become.
My advice to toy collectors: Collect what you like and often, if your budget allows for it. Original customs will have a much higher value over production toys and well worth the investment.
ToyPusher.com: Thank you Jeremiah for sharing your thoughts with us. Good luck with all your future shows and exhibits. I’m sure those toys based on your drawings will be a hit, I hope they’ll go into production soon. ^^
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