Monday, September 9, 2013

STGCC 2013: About Toys, Star Wars and The Simpsons with Nathan Hamill

Things were busier than expected for Red Dot Diva at this year's STGCC. Because of that, she was not able to attend the scheduled interview with guest illustrator/ toy designer Nathan Hamill.

Being the observant creature that she is, Red Dot Diva initially found the adorkably bearded Nathan to be rather quiet. He had been mainly sitting and frowning in some kind of deep designer zone in his booth and at Day 1's Walk of Fame.

However, as the convention progressed, Nathan had let his guard down and was all smiles and hugs when Red Dot Diva found some time to say hello.

Nathan even offered 2 additional pieces for free when Red Dot Diva purchased a set of the CMYK Octopup pins from him. And later on, Red Dot Diva and fellow booth-minder Seri mischievously delivered a can of Coca-Cola to him as if they were sending drinks over to the cute guy sitting at another table in a pub. That resulted in a lot of grins and girly giggles.

Diva got some Nathan Huggles
The Monday after the convention, Red Dot Diva got the chance to hang out with fellow glam-blog allies Agent W, Ed from ToysEtc, Luke Chueh, Angry Woebot and Nathan. While they went around China Square and Funan shopping for toys, she learned about Nathan's love for kitschy things; he showed her his furry Chewie phone cover and a funny pic of him at MBS' Infinity Pool with Simon Pegg's face superimposed on his own. And she realizes what an utterly charming and affable fellow Nathan really is.

Since there is no Red Dot Diva interview with Nathan, a fellow geek pal Jedd, has kindly offered a transcript of his own interview. Here is the RDD-edited version!

Jedd: Welcome to Singapore! 
Nathan: Thank you!

Jedd: Are you having a good time so far? 
Nathan:  Excellent. First time here and it's stunning; it's incredible. The weather was perfect yesterday; it's great so far. 

Jedd: I had a look at your Twitter feed, really cool stuff. Beneath your handle, it says "I makes what I likes". What do you think has been the most rewarding thing of living by that maxim?
Nathan: Yeah, "I makes what I likes" is just... first of all, I think it's funny because it's using improper English, which makes me laugh. I try to keep it as simple as that. At the end of the day, it should come down to whether or not it's something that you enjoy, not to be too convoluted about what your themes and what your concepts are. That stuff is good and fine but I guess I'm trying to... you know, take things less seriously.

Jedd: So, inevitable question: was Star Wars a big part of your childhood and did the early Kenner toys inspire you to pursue toy design?
Nathan: Well, that's the thing, when I finally figured out that I wanted to do this, I kind of thought "why hadn't I thought of this earlier?" It was a marriage of two things I've always loved: I've always drawn as a kid and always collected toys, so why not combine the two? My Dad jokes that my first word was "Kenner". Not true, just a joke.

Jedd: Who's your favourite Simpsons character to draw? 
Nathan: It would be the Life in Hell character, the one-eared rabbit Bongo. Other than that, probably Homer.

Jedd: There's Matt Groening signature hidden in Homer's hair... Is that something that all the artists are briefed on before they work on the Simpsons comics? Like "you have to keep the Matt Groening signature" in there... 
Nathan: Oh, actually I'm a colorist so I don't draw them. I draw them for fun but...  I knew about his signature before working there, because I was just so obsessed with the Simpsons. At Bongo, I was the go-to guy for questions. They go, "we need uh, JFK" and I go "Season 4, Duffless" And they would go "okay!" and they would go get the model sheets, so... I'm like the Rain Man of Simpsons.

Jedd: I was talking to the Army of Snipers the other day and J*RYU had some very interesting things to say about the label "designer toys". What do you think about the line between a toy and a piece of art, and what do you view your creations as? 
Nathan: That's a good question. We were talking about that last night and whether like "designer toy" maybe makes it seem... too stuffy, maybe something you'd find at like an architecture show... I might leave this question up in the air because I love to say... talking about art is like dancing about architecture. There's a certain point where you kinda just leave it...  Leave it up to other peoples' interpretation. I guess I'll refer you back to "I makes what I likes" and just keep it... That's an ongoing question; that's a question that I'll have an answer to maybe next year, if I'm invited back.

Jedd: Sure, I look forward to it! Did you do customization when you were starting out; did you take existing toys and modify them? 
Nathan: I sorta did it in an odd way which is I started customizing Boris, the first toy that I did. So we released the toy and had like 50 artists customize it. I think it was about 50, so um yeah, I customize from time to time.

Jedd: What's your view on the big commercial toy scene, the Mattels and the Hasbros? 
Nathan: I collect lots of different types of toys and I think there can be a little bit of a snobbery involved in toy collecting where people will look down on you if you buy this or that or the other. And it's like "if the quality is there". For example, Toma did a Godzilla toy in Toys 'R Us and it was mass-produced but it was very well-made. It was a really high-quality toy, and just because it was in Toys 'R Us and was sold for $18 vs if the exact same toy was sold for $60, people would snap it off the shelves and they wouldn't look down on it. It all has to do with quality. So, as Kozac said, "make multiple". If you can make more and the quality's there, I feel like that's good.

Jedd: Can I ask how you feel about Hasbro's Black Series? Now they've finally done Star Wars figures in six inch scale and everyone is going nuts and is like "ahh, why didn't you do this 20 years ago?!" 
Nathan: The Boba Fett is like...not only one of the best... it's coming out in Series 2. Boba Fett is where the focus is; Han Solo is an okay sculpt. It's great, I have that and the Artoo one and they're fantastic. It's gotten me collecting them again. I had actually stopped for a while.

Jedd: Is there a particular piece of your collection that holds a certain sentimental value for you, something that was hard to find or hard to get... 
Nathan: Oh, that's a good...let me think about that... Yeah, it's not a to. There's an Empire Strikes Back tote bag. It is like a mini bowling bag thing that was something George Lucas gave me when I was (little). I carried all my figures in it.

Jedd: Like a carrying case... so cool! Do you have any insights, any views on Number 7? 
Nathan: I can tell you but as the saying goes, I'll have to kill you (laughs). I don't know much, and what I know I can't say.

Jedd: Are you excited for it? 
Nathan: Yeah! I'll be there, I'll be there first in line, so yeah.

Jedd: Thank you very much, I think I'm about done and it was great talking to you! 
Nathan: Yeah, thank you! That was good, that was good. 

Nathan Hamill and Jedd


Special DIVA *MWAHS* to Jedd for the interview and pics!!


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