Saturday, 16 June 2007

Sold Out

4 weeks of work have flown out in 24 hours! Very happy that people have enjoyed the machine, though the thought of making another 200 refills makes me want to run away screaming. The interaction of the crowd with the machine forms the final element of this project, and it was a pleasant success. Some highlights:

- People were swapping the balls with each other...even between strangers! Some went looking for other visitors with gashapon to ask for a trade.

- The Political Icons set sold out the fastest (by far) because everyone wanted Bin Laden. Someone did get him, though I don't know who!

- Despite conspiracy theories, I did not rig the machine to give everyone Dick Cheneys...that was just very unfortunate coincidence.

- At many times during the evening there was a queue of people waiting to use the machine. Received lovely feedback from parents, japanese visitors and a few strangers on the street (who must've recognised me from the dress).

- Matt left his coveted Britney Ball unattended for one second and it got stolen! Sadly all the others had been sold so I couldn't get him a replacement.

- There were a few slight problems with coins getting stuck in the mechanism. If anyone had a pound swallowed then I'd be more than happy to give a refund.

Sunday, 10 June 2007

It Is Done!

After three sweltering days of work, everything is up and ready in the triangle space. (A big thanks to DB, Matt, David R, Sean, Hung and Hideki for the manual labour!)

Monday, 4 June 2007

Things to print, things to paint, things to pimp

It's been a very sleep-deprived week! Portfolio prep has taken ages, and that's only a small portion of the work I still have to do. Been in contact with the photographer who took that image above and he's given permission for me to use it. A lovely contact at Letraset has agreed to do the 2m poster for free which should be printed and sent to me by the end of the week. There's the endless ongoing task of painting little magnets and filling the gashapons, but I hope to finish that within 3-4 days. RedSignal has written a press release about me (very surreal) and been in contact with various magazines. Some have expressed interest to attend the degree show/VIP breakfast.

Thursday, 31 May 2007


Thursday, 24 May 2007

Photoshoot Results

Some pictures from the photoshoot today. The square ones are possible proposals for the pod.

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

Backing Board

On GTS's suggestion, worked on some ideas for a backing board (224x122cm). I'm leaning strongly towards the neon street because it ties in with the Brighter theme, and gives a great trompe l'oeil impression of Tokyo without overwhelming the machine. The photo was taken by Alex Watson (a London based journalist). It has a Creative Commons license and can be used for non-profit purposes provided credit is given (yay!). The image of the two Harajuku girls have all rights reserved, and I'm running out of time to chase up copyright issues. I've been in contact with Letraset who can hopefully print the image for me before the show.

Sunday, 20 May 2007

T-shirt Designs

Some ideas for possible t-shirt designs to promote Momiji. Waiting to hear back on which style(s) it should be narrowed down to.

Thursday, 17 May 2007

DIY Mass Production

Been working on my figures...have decided to go for semi-relief magnets out of polymer clay. The relief gives it a 3-dimensional toy feel, polymer clay resembles plastic in consistency and weight and the magnet ensures that it won't get damaged or bashed about. Facing the mammoth task of making 200 figures by hand. After a lot of trial and error, this is the method I developed:
(Simon Cowell has volunteered for the demo)

1) Cut out card templates for each character, and various body parts. Relevant shapes are cut out of polymer clay and 'stacked' to create a rough relief.
2) Edges are smoothed down using a rubber shaper and various other tools. This completes the sample model. One sample is made from scratch for each character (26 altogether).

3) Character is heated for 30mins at 130 C to harden the polymer clay. (My temperamental fuse-blowing oven makes this stage a lot more precarious than it should be.)

4) Fired figure is covered with Siligum, a silicone moulding putty. Took a number of tries to get it first attempts had too many air bubbles which made the mould useless.

5) Siligum hardens after 5 mins and figure can be released from mould.

6) A soft piece of polymer clay is pressed into the mould and pulled out.

7) Extracted figures are given some finishing touches and then fired.

Stages still to go include sanding the surface of all 200, painting with acrylic, transferring facial features with Safmat film (Letraset film for inkjet printers), varnishing and sticking the magnets. Also sourced a bunch of tiny magnets for Britney Spears' wig and Swarovski crystals to decorate Paris Hilton with.

Desk shot halfway through moulding:

Friday, 11 May 2007

Hello PR

I've been in contact with RedSignalPR and they're interested in marketing me as an 'up and coming' designer :D. RedSignal have handled campaigns for Sanrio (Hello Kitty) and are also in charge of the Momiji Dolls. I've sent them a broader spectrum of my work (everything from manga to RSA) and I'm really looking forward to an interview on Monday. They're very interested in promoting the degree show as well so I've given them all the details I could find.

Thursday, 10 May 2007

Tins done

This is the first version of the tins...they've been sent to the factory in HongKong and we're hoping to get a few samples before the show. The grey colour represents unprinted areas of the can, forming a contrast between matte paint and silvery metal.

Monday, 7 May 2007

Full Steam Ahead

Finished all 4 toy cards, this is the same arrangement that they be displayed inside the machine. The longish format conforms to shape of the vending units, which curves abruptly inwards so you only really see the square portion at the top. Went to Forbidden Planet (comic shop) on the weekend and took pictures of their gashapon machine to see what sort of info is written near the bottom, then altered it slightly to make it relevant to the project. Multitasking with the Momiji stuff...done 5/6 tins and preparing to arrange a photoshoot when the second set of samples arrive from the factory.

Wednesday, 2 May 2007

Tin Progress

Been busy designing the tins so they can be sent to the factory as soon as possible. There might be a chance of getting a sample tin in time for the show. Each doll will have her own tin with a customised design reflecting her personality or style. The design process was an interesting challenge because I had to take colour limitations, print finishes, and the three dimensional product into consideration. Resorted to cutting and folding to see which designs actually worked as a tin. The tins will be kept deliberately varied so they become desirable items rather than just packaging (and tempting people to buy more than one!)

Friday, 27 April 2007


Thought it might be interesting to document the earlier stages of work instead of only posting up finished pieces. I always sketch and ink by hand, then scan and colour on the computer. These are the current drawings lying around on my desk...some tin designs and more gashapon characters (London Stereotypes).


The dolls will be packaged in metal tins like these. (Image shows the Valentine version that was sold in Paperchase earlier this year). I'm currently coming up with ideas for 6 different tins. I've been given quite a lot of freedom with this and won't need to stick with the existing layout. The client has commissioned the same illustrator to do some drawings of my dolls. I'll be doing some illustrations as well and we'll see which ones work best on the tin.

Monday, 23 April 2007

Momiji Dolls - Live Brief

Went to visit a client today for a live project I've been working on since January. The brief was to design a set of six japanese street fashion dolls and provide 2D diagrams for the sculptors. I thought it would be an interesting avenue to investigate since I'm mulling over ways to make the toys for my FMP. I was incredibly pleased to discover that the sculptor translated my drawings identically into 3D. Unfortunately he's based in Hong Kong and the production process would be unfeasible to use for my FMP. I did try to research the process to see if I could DIY similar methods for my gashapon toys. These figures were sculpted from clay, moulded and resin cast (heavier than plastic), then hand painted. As a result of the meeting I've been given another brief to design the packaging.

Wednesday, 18 April 2007

Found Objects?

Considering the option of using found objects, which reflect some aspect of existing collections. I've also thought about merging both ideas and have the character illustrations printed on stamps. This could either enhance the notion of collecting or unnecessarily complicate the project. Thoughts?

Pair Up!

This was done in response to feedback that politicians may be a bit dull to collect. An excellent excuse to dive into Celeb-land! I created them in pairs to enhance the satisfaction of completing a set. Imagine the thrill if two consecutive capsules contained the 'correct' couple (or the disappointment to have spent two hard-earned pounds on Peter Andre and K-Fed).

Saturday, 14 April 2007

Gotta catch 'em all!

One idea for a toy capsule. A reflection of gashapon series which relate to manga, anime or video game characters....usually eagerly sought after by 'otakus' (geeks in said areas of entertainment). By using universally well-known figures, it should give everyone a sense of being an 'inside expert'. Also leads to pressing questions including: Is Saddam worth more or less now that he's dead? Would you be happy if your first capsule contained a 'baddie', or would you keep buying until you get one of the 'good guys'? Would critics of western politics want the collection for subversive means? Does the Bin Laden ball really exist or did I just put it on there to get more people buying capsules?

Tuesday, 3 April 2007

Why We Collect

As a functional machine, the contents of each gashapon need to entice visitors to spend a pound (or more) buying them. Anything too cheap, dull or badly made will defeat this purpose. Another issue is whether the items should appeal to existing 'universal' collections (stamps, coins etc) or invite people to start a set of completely absurd items (like plastic turds)? I found a philately (stamp) site which contains some very interesting points on the pleasures of collecting. The majority of these don't just apply to stamps, they are general hallmarks of what makes a successful collection. I'll be referring back to these as possible criteria for the gashapon content.

* They are aesthetically pleasing
* They are miniature works of art
* Desire to complete and arrange a set or collection
* National pride, we tend to collect stamps from our own country
* They have historical value, they show our Kings and Queens (or presidents)
* Intellectual stimulation
* Nostalgia, the good old days, memories of when I was young
* Hoarding and sorting instinct
* Sorting stamps to find a valuable one
* They might become valuable one day
* To avoid the wife
* Your Grandad gave you his collection
* I want to be the world expert on the 1d red
* To gloat over my collection
* You enjoy stamps - you have the stamp 'bug'
* You have an attention to detail
* To spend some time during a winter's evening
* You want to do philatelic research
* A financial investment

Tuesday, 27 March 2007

Seriously Weird Gashapon

I found these in a magazine today and had to scan them for my blog (sorry for the dodgy picture quality). The first one is a gashapon set called 'Hip Parade'. Euphemistic title aside, it's basically a set of crotches. (Reminds me of Theresa's beer mats!) The second set shows 'Unchis' which translates into 'turds'. These are surprisingly common in japanese pop culture, and crop up in manga, anime, toys and clothing. The sheer absurdity of collecting multi-coloured piles of poop to put on your fingers is so strange it's almost enticing. It seems like it's going to be slightly more difficult to subvert gashapon... considering that such sets actually exist within an entirely mainstream context!

Monday, 12 March 2007

Modelling Options

After extensive research I feel it's unfeasible to have items manufactured out of plastic since injection moulding procedures require a minimum of 5000 units. Considering that each vending unit can hold 50 balls which must form a collectable set, I will end up with less than 10 replicas of a single toy or item. The easiest way would be to make them by hand, or commission someone to do so. I'm looking into alternative materials that mimic the appearance of PVC plastic...two good options seem to be polymer clay (Fimo) and cold pottery. Examples of models made with these substances are shown below. There's also the possibility of graphical (maps, booklets, stickers), soft ('plushys', crochet, felt) toys, or altered versions of existing items.

Japanese Character Design

The Real Deal ;)

When going through some gashapon imagery I collected from the internet I noticed that these japanese machines are actually identical to the one I've bought (Bandai Capsule Station)! This is a pleasant discovery since I assumed that the Bandai machines were 'packaged' for a western is often the case with oriental exports.

Machine Delivered!

It's substantially bigger than I had expected, though I'm pleased since that'll make a nicer impact. The two components are manageable heavy (44kg each) and on wheels so I should hopefully be able to do most of the setting up myself. I also have to familiarise myself with the manual which outlines all the technical details...there's a sort of bizarre excitement in being able to unlock the front of a vending machine using a special key!

Monday, 5 March 2007

Machine Ordered

Just been on the phone with Vending World and I've ordered a second-hand Bandai machine. It'll have 4 compartments for gashapon plus a domed display top. After explaining my project, the man in charge was very nice and offered everything for £200! I won't be paying VAT since I'm not planning to make any commercial profit from this. The machine will be delivered to my flat next week, so I can rest easy throughout the holidays!

Saturday, 3 March 2007

Giant gashapon balls, now THERE'S a thought...

Adult Gashapon

A large proportion of the capsule 'toy' industry is dominated by collectable figures aimed at adults. Even in European countries where gashapon is an extremely niche market, the import demand for adult toys equal or sometimes even exceed that of 'PG' toys. In Japan, there are also special gashapon machines which dispense adult items like finger vibrators or underwear, in the trademark pastel bubbles.

Toy Cards

Each machine contains a label (toy card) on the outside advertising the sets of gashapon you can find within. In usual japanese style they are designed to the motto of 'more is more'...each toy card is a small explosion of colour and imagery that demand attention. An entire wall of gashapon machines can be quite a psychedelic experience because your eyes get completely overloaded with visuals.

And while we're feeling the giant toy vibe:

Balls and Labels

Gashapon balls are fairly similar to Kinder Surprise, only more expensive and containing better quality items. The distinct transparent bubble packaging makes gashapons visually enticing because you can glimpse layers of colour, graphics and toys.