Thereís a whole range of anti-toys and anti-plush out there. Toys that upset and provoke. Art and design went head-on and produced this explosion of products. Stuff like Vortigernís Machine, like the Gloomy Bear, like Uglydolls. Itís called Urban Vinyl or Street Plush. And now thereís a new term to stick in your dictionaries. Squash-plush.Thereís a cool sub-culture of toy iconoclasts out there. Theyíre creating designer vinyl and plush collectibles in lots of different guises. Iím a bit of a collector myself. And my mantelpiece of inherited antique bric-a-bracs was swept away, to make space for Gloomy Bears, Ugly Dolls, and Hell Hounds.
It all started in Tokyoís Harajuku area. A few designers were experimenting with quirky toys and then along came Michael Lau. He kick-started the whole Urban Vinyl thing. In 1997 he customised a bunch of GI Joe dolls. The trend then spread to the US and Europe. And now thereís a whole group of psychos designing urban vinyl and plush toys.
In the urban vinyl corner, thereís KAWS in the US, with his skull ní crossbones motifs. Touma with his Hellhounds. Thereís James Jarvis in the UK, www.james.jarvis He does all those Ďironicí figures like chavs with puffa jackets and Vortigernís Machine. Another guy in the same vein is Pete Fowler, www.petefowler.com. I love all his vinyl stuff, like the Woodland Series he did with the dumpy jogger and the spliffed-out Festival Ranger. Thereís Mori Chak and his Gloomy Bear, http://www.gloomybear.com. (Insert related products 4 (gloomy bear) photo here) A hunched over bear that looks like heís in some serious need of seratonin. Thereís Frank Choís Liberty Meadowís trading figures. His smoking chimp is a good one. Nathan Jurevicius designs some acid-inspired characters, like the steroid-pumped Heenie resting on his wheel, the quirky Naal blowing bubbles out of his pipe, http://www.scarygirl.com. Itís weird. And thatís why I like it.
In the street plush corner, thereís the Uglydolls. Youíve probably seen them. Theyíre everywhere with their gap-toothed grins, and their vacant, squiffy eyes. Thereís Pocket Ninja from Shawnimals. Thereís Sigikidís Borsen Hoch, a goofy, grey rabbit.
And now onto the scene limps the roadkill squash-plush stuff. Since I started out, Iíve been nosing around places like Playlounge, in Soho and Magma in Clerkenwell. Theyíre real purveyors of the peculiar. And Iíve been collecting things like Sigikidís stuff, the Ugly Dolls, and Montana Fatcaps. Iíve also been snaffling through magazines like Juxtaposed and Clutter. Theyíre good for getting a heads up on the toy business. I could wang on forever about this stuff, but Iíve run out of