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Archive for the ‘Toys’ Category

I know what you’re thinking… Where has John been all year? Why have we not seen any new posts? Why haven’t we seen any new images? Why haven’t we seen any spectacular new videos? First, thank you for wondering (even if the wondering is really just me typing in italics), and second, I’ve been busy, of course! Busy doing what? You know, busy, which is why I’m writing a post subtitled “a quick 2015 update.” So here goes!

Getting clean and organized!

Looking around my studio as the calendar flipped from the old year to the new I came to the realization that… wow, my studio was a mess!

My messy studio

My messy studio

Boxes and bags, cables and extension cords, crates of records, trash, litter, and dust, dust, dust! How could an artist with a mild case of OCD work under such chaotic conditions?!?! Worse, I was beginning to notice that many of the most cherished toys were just plain dirty after years of handling and open air storage.

The Wind-up Dreams "toy store"

The Wind-up Dreams “toy store”

Sure, it was nice to have all of these fun things on displays, and visitors to my studio loved to browse the visual treats on display in “the toy store,” but this came at a price, and the inevitable question, “How do you dust all of that?” Well, I didn’t. I just sort of dusted off things as they were selected to appear in my photos. Plus, I was completely out of room and it wasn’t always easy to find the figure I was looking for. And so I decided to “close” the toy store, and spend the early part of January organizing and cleaning every single piece of retrograde ephemera on the shelves. Battalions of army men! Jungles of exotic animals! A congress of presidents and a bandstand of Beatles! One by one everything was plucked from its place and carefully scrubbed with soap and a soft toothbrush.

Cleanliness is next to kewpieness

Cleanliness is next to kewpieness

Next, to avoid a similar future fate befalling my kewpie, monks, and finger puppet nuns, every piece was organized and stored in plastic lunch containers. Yes — Jesus, Buddhas, and devils to go! Leftovers of the holiest variety! One bin for astronauts, another for nesting dolls. Hearts, brains and assorted other body parts together in an organic stew, while robots reigned supreme in an air tight container of their very own. Super fragile hand painted pieces — my presidents, football players, and collection of Marx “bathing beauties” — were boxed, labeled, and shelved. The results?

Every good kid put their toys away at the end of the day

Every good kid put their toys away at the end of the day

While perhaps not as visually inviting at my previous “5 Levels of Wind-up Dreams Hell”, the new shelf arrangement is far more efficient for actually creating my art. Plus, I can always crack open a corner and out they all come to play and create mischief before the eye of my camera! Next up was to replace the black milk crates you see in the top photo which I have been using to store all of my cheesy vintage vinyl albums. The crates are actually a really great storage solution for LPs: perfect sizes, stackable, and portable. The emphasis, however, is on “storage” as they are not particularly convenient for browsing album covers.

Quick admonition I don’t actually browse through the albums in my collection, flipping from one to the next in search of the perfect cover art to provide the background for a new piece of art. I long ago digitized all of my album art, so I usually do my browsing from the bright colorful screen of my iMac.

Ikea Kallax shelving for my records

Ikea Kallax shelving for my records

If you’re not going to ever actually use your records, yes, by all means, put them in crates and stack them to your heart’s content. But if you need to find a particular record, and it happens to be buried with crates above, and to the left and right, prepare yourself for torturous pain. A full crate of records is not exactly light, and milk crates tend to enjoy taking a bite out of stray fingers and knuckles as those interlocking jaws of plastic snap with bone crunching force. I replaced my faithful black plastic crates with a pair of much more aesthetically pleasing Kallax storage units from Ikea. They’re just the right size for LPs, and now I can find my alphabetically arranged records by simply browsing the spines. Nice, huh? And that’s going to do it for part one of what will be either a three or four part post on bringing my blog up to the present. In the next installment I’m going to write about how I took seven years of studio experience and tossed it out the window to completely start fresh with how I setup and shoot my images. Sounds scary, don’t it? It was, I assure you! Look for Part Two very soon!

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During the run of Tales from the Vinyl Dimension this past summer at the Pannikin, La Jolla, a VERY terrible thing happened…

One of my toys went missing!

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Wolfman taking a swipe at a kewpie car

And not just any toy, my vintage Wolfman flashlight figure purchased a few years ago from a dealer at Comic-Con. Wolfman has appeared in a handful of my photos, most notably terrorizing a kewpie car as it exited a funhouse tunnel in Financial Freewheeling and the futile pursuit of the American Dream (right).

As part of the gallery installation I’d placed toys in front of each of the 12 x 12″ portraits that rimmed the highest walls of the space. With the actual toy present, visitors to the gallery could better sense the true size of the faces that were looking down from the walls. Where these portraits were printed “life size”, the subjects were little tiny toys shot with the digital macro setting of my Canon Elf (using a tripod fabricated from Legos).

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Each toy standing below their portrait was pretty much on its own without much in the way of safety or security. The Wolfman was one exception, as his clawed feet did not balance will on the wooden ledge, so he was held in place by a small mountain of modeling putty.

One afternoon after strolling down the hill with my laptop I entered the Pannikin to discover that the Wolfman was gone — vanished into thin air! I searched the ledge where he had been standing; no luck. I inquired with the staff; nope, he had not been found and turned in. Not cool. Nope, not cool at all. This would require drastic measures. I headed home and created this:

Missing Poster

The Pannikin sees a LOT of traffic — regulars buying their morning coffee, students studying in the afternoons, plenty of moms and dads pushing strollers. Had Wolfman fallen from his perch I thought there was a good chance that he’d been picked up by one of the stroller kids, whose parents might find it odd that there precious toddler was shaking a hairy beast instead of his or her rattle.

I tacked up the poster next to Frankenstein, hoping that my stab at humor might motivate someone (like a stroller mom or dad) to recognize and return my beloved missing Wolfman.

A few days passed and, sure enough, the Wolfman was returned! If I am to believe the story that was related to me, one morning a homeless man stumbled through the door and without saying a word placed the Wolfman on the counter, then left. Wolfman was back! I pulled down my MISSING poster and in its place pinned up an replacement: FOUND!

Anyway, in the wake of this trauma I began to imagine a whole series of “missing” posters for each of the portraits I’d shot for the exhibit. Take a look!

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Horror ShirtSo, what do I plan on doing with all of these crazy posters? All kinds of things! The first is to make them available on shirts through my Zazzle store. I currently have 30 or so designs available featuring most of the toys and figures I had on display during my show. More still to come and I’m hoping to extend the line to include other products.

Stay tuned!

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Update — Sep 25, 2013

More products! Tons of super cool buttons!

Update — Sep 5, 2013

And now… portrait mousepads! Scroll down to the bottom of the post for pictures!

*   —   *   —   *   —   *   —   *   —   *   —   *   —   *   —   *   —   *   —   *   —   *   —

It’s been far, far too long since my last blog post, and rather than make up a bunch of lame excuses (blah, blah, blah, blah, exhibit, blah, blah) let’s get to some really cool news, shall we?

Robby (1024 x 1024)

Robby — macro photo on 12 x 12 panel

I recently closed a solo show at Pannikin Coffee & Tea in La Jolla, with over 70 pieces of art on display including large photos, small “landscapes”, videos, and 55 “portraits” of many of the characters that have been appearing in my art over the past 8 or 9 years. Originally, these portraits were intended to be nothing more than decoration: 12 x 12″ panels printed with a metallic finish on double thick mat board and mounted near the ceiling to look down upon gallery visitors while they took in the “real” art.

Surprise, surprise…

The portrait panels were a big hit! There were robots, animals, kewpies, bathing beauties, devils and monks; pretty much something for everyone! Where normally these characters — even in my largest photos — are printed to a scale not much larger than their original tiny toy-size, here were seen at 25 times normal! Features you’d never make out with the naked eye were blown up to life-size proportions giving each character real personality in a way that connected with visitors to the gallery.

This all got me thinking…

Why not create a line of cool Portrait products featuring many of the characters that appeared in the exhibit? Think of possibilities!

And so, I’ve very pleased to announce the first line of products featuring my portrait images! Beginning today you’ll find a wide selection of cool Portrait Watches and Portrait Mugs in my online Wind-up Dreams & Vinyl Nightmares shop.

Watches come in a variety of different styles, allowing you to pick your favorite character and experiment with different styles and bands. The mugs (we have over 100!) come with three large images, or tiled with 24 repeating images all the way around.

Swing on over to the shop, or checkout the update to the store page on my web site.

Thanks!!

Purple Buddha Watch Franken Stein Tiled

Mouse Mousepad

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Welcome back to my recap of Comic-Con 2012 and the second half of our journey through the vast tract of vendor booths on the floor of the exhibition hall! As you’ll recall from part one, my Comic-Con shopping cart was completely empty after encountering one high ticket disappointment after another.

Today, we’ll change all that.

Yes, in fact, I did manage to find a few awesome items to buy that fit quite nicely within my modest budget. No, nothing as grand as a Mystic Seer or The Private Life of Helen of Troy, but I’m very happy with the odd and unique purchases I scrounged from the dealer room. For example, this:

Naughty swiveling seated belly dancer figure from the 50s (?)

What is it, you wonder? Near as I can figure, it is a titillating amusement from the 1950’s that was probably sold from under the counter at stores that specialized in men’s magazines. The base is made of wood and the figure is some kind of very soft rubber. Beneath the base is a short, rotating metal handle, which—as you turn the handle back and forth—causes the beige little beauty on top to wiggle and dance!

Don’t believe me? See for yourself…

We pause here for readers to catch their collective breaths and take a quick cold shower

I guarantee that this talented lass will make it into one of my photos very, very soon!

One booth I aways make a point of visiting is Cards and Comics Central, a cool little store from San Francisco that sells lots of fun miniatures imported from Japan. Last year I bought a pair of mystery boxes containing human body parts, and this year I was excited to see a second series of similar mystery boxes available at the show! Now, the problem with these mystery boxes is that you never quite know what you’re getting, as the boxes are glued shut and don’t indicate what is inside, instead tantalizing the shopper with pictures of what might be contained within. The series includes the 7 different body parts seen on the box, plus a super secret mystery organ.

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The picture on the front is, of course, the most coveted of all possible prizes, and last year I scored by finding the human torso featured on the face. This year, I expected nothing less than the skinless musculature-man you see in the slideshow above.

You might think that the act of selecting a mystery box is as random as the spin of a roulette wheel. Not so! There is an art and a strategy to increase the odds of finding what you desire. No, shaking the boxes does not help; there is padding inside and every box responds silently to insistent jostling. Luckily, the weight from one box to the next varies considerably, and no doubt the muscle man would be one of the heavier items. I carefully weighed each box, grouping them into heavy and light boxes, then bought one of each so I’d be guaranteed that the contents would be different (nothing worse than duplicate body parts!).

Upon returning home following day one, I broke the seal on the heavier of my two mystery boxes to find…

Teeth. Not exactly what I was looking for. Oh, sure, they are nice teeth, but they are still merely teeth and not as satisfying as an entire flayed body.

Box two revealed a human hand reaching into the air and stripped of skin and muscle to show all the bones and tendons within. Again, nice, and I have a lot of respect for the mechanics of hands (which are currently dancing madly upon the keys of my laptop as I type this post), but not anatomically spectacular.

Returning to the exhibition hall for day two I beelined to Cards and Comics Central and found another full display of body parts. Today’s strategy would be a little different. I’d neglected to notice that the mystery box containing the teeth was bottom heavy. Argh!! Big, glaring oversight! Surely, a mystery as glorious as a WHOLE BODY would be equally weighted from top to bottom. Again I separated all the boxes, weeding out the light items, then went about testing to see which boxes would balance like a see-saw atop an index finger fulcrum. Only an engineer would apply physics to the otherwise simple task of selecting a toy figure….

After much concentration and observation I finally selected what I believed to be the most evenly balanced of all the heavy mysteries.

Apparently, a uterus is very balanced, because my mystery box contained a uterus. Ah! But not just any uterus… a uterus with a removable baby!!! He (I think, I haven’t checked) is all pink and fetal-like, and tucked snugly away behind a removable pelvic bone. Yay!!

Body parts from the three mystery boxes I bought (the eye was from Comic-Con 2011)

Comic-Con has long been one of my sources for the finest in provocatively titled and illustrated pulp magazines and novels. Past events have unearthed such treasures as Eastern Shame Girl, The Love Toy, and Illicit Wife, all of which have served as essential background scenery for my fine art photographs. Though it is unfortunately becoming more difficult to find pulp vendors at the Con, as all the little mom’n’pop vendors of the cool and unusual seem to be getting squeezed off of the floor by big time movie studios, but I did manage to find a couple of booths offering a small but outstanding selection of tawdry tales.

For I Have Sinned, 1955

At Bud Plant (a Comic Con fixture) I discovered the sultry selection to the left, For I Have Sinned — The confession of a Paris streetwalker, by Ruth Sachs. I already have a photo in mind that will use this cover as an essential element of the background imagery. This cover so moved me that I was immediately inspired to scan the web for something with a similar composition: pink night gown, dark green backdrop, but with the model on the left instead of the right. How specific is that?!?! And guess what? I found one! Both will appear in an upcoming photo, so keep your eyes open for future announcements.

There were actually a ton of other cool titles at the Bud Plant booth, and I had a nice little stack of pulps going before I whittled my purchases down to only two: For I Have Sinned, and…

The Son of the Grand Eunuch — Charles Pettit, 1949

Complete and unabridged… oooooooooo! I’ll leave it you, Patient Reader, to contemplate the genealogy that would be required to produce the son of a grand eunuch.

Another of my favorite booksellers is Altair 4 Collectibles, located in Orange, California. They always have a cool selection of rare books and sci fi pulps. I picked up the two vintage magazines you see below: Astounding Science Fiction from January 1947, and Fantastic from October 1956.

Astounding Science Fiction — January 1947

Fantastic, Volume 5 — October 1956

Call me crazy, but I’m a sucker for “red scare” literature and any story that involves a well-mannered business man materializing into a women’s locker room.

Question: When did t-shirts become so bloody expensive?

Answer: When the Comic-Con staff discovered that people would be willing to line up in the hundreds for ticket vouchers that would entitle them to buy a conference t-shirt at some later time when shirts were again “in stock”—or so I was told by someone standing in the endless line at the Comic-Con souvenir booth.

I’m not sure what the Con was charging for official conference shirts, but the going rate elsewhere in the hall seemed to be $20 to $30 for custom t-shirts, with occasional price breaks if you chose to buy a whole wardrobe of witty T’s to bring envy to your friends and coworkers. I suppose this is a bargain compared to the $40-and-up price charged these days at most rock concerts, but still…

IT’S A T-SHIRT!!!

Enough complaining! We know you bought at least one t-shirt. After all, weren’t t-shirts and shorts the mainstay of your “business” wardrobe during all those years you worked as an engineer?

Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster T-shirt

Yes, okay, I shouldn’t be whining, because I did find a couple of incredibly cool t-shirts, and I definitely did get my money’s worth, and (one more time) I do plan on selling my own similarly priced T’s when I eventually have a booth at the show.

So, what did I get? Two incredibly cool shirts from the fine folks at the Retro-A-Go-Go. Robots! Pin-ups! B-Movies and horror pulps! That’s my kind of booth!

To the right is t-shirt number one, which reproduces poster art from Frankenstein meets the Space Monster. Yes, it’s a real movie! No, I’ve never seen this 1965 “classic”, but I invite you to checkout the trailer!

I have no idea what the source is for the second t-shirt, Dr. Yen Syn Fortune Teller, which you see below. But isn’t it just too, too, too cool?!?!? Imagine what psychic powers I will have while wearing this shirt! Oh, and to think of how unbounded my cosmic powers might have been with the Dr. Yen Syn shirt AND the Mystic Seer machine!! No doubt, the Universe has conspired against me out of malice and jealousy, to limit my ultimate power.

::: sigh :::

Dr. Yen Syn Fortune Teller T-shirt

That’s it for my trip around the exhibition hall. Hope you enjoyed the shopping!

Up next: Celebrity sightings!

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July already? Well boys and girls, you know what that means… Comic-Con! I’ve been attending the annual pop culture fest for more years than I care to remember, and owe a large chunk of my sublime collection of Weird & Unusual Things to exhaustive hours wandering the darkest corners of the cavernous exhibition hall. Without Comic-Con, many of my very best photos would not have been possible, as the exhibition hall has been the source of everything from Frankenstein flashlights and lascivious lobby cards, to plastic body parts and scandalous paperbacks.

How was the shopping at this year’s event?

Hold on tight as we snake our way through the costume-filled aisles and take a look at some of the wonderful things that tempted (and sometimes defeated) my wallet!

Original Beatle Bobbleheads — $950!!

Our first stop is at a vintage booth near the front of the hall where I spotted the above set of original Beatles bobblehead dolls from the early 1960’s. Those of you familiar with my photography have no doubt seen the smaller (and far more sadistic looking) version of these dolls in many of my conceptual art pieces (examples here and here). This figures are much larger, and actually bear a reasonable resemblance to the Fab Four. Best of all, they were RIGHT THERE on the faux velvet tablecloth where anyone could pick them up or tap their bobbling brows to watch them nod along to whatever Beatle classic that might be floating through your head. Under those circumstances, and with the really good stuff saely locked up behind glass… how expensive could these really be, right?

Try $950. There. On the table.

No, I did not buy them. But I did make their heads bobble. Ooooooooooooooooooo!

The Private Life of Helen of Troy — John Erskine, 1947 edition

Having just saved myself almost a thousand dollars, I was now empowered to seek out more reasonably priced collectibles and ventured into one of the dwindling few booths that still sell vintage pulps and paperbacks. There, I was very excited to feast my eyes on the incredible paperback to the right. Oh wow!! Just the kind of thing I would buy! Well, except for one problem, quickly corrected as I fumbled for my reading glasses to better make sense of the price sticker.

$50?!?! Hopes dashed! Magnificence shattered! Desire unsatisfied!

Another cool item that did not pass the wallet test, but I took a photo of the cover all the same for a couple of very good reasons:

  1. It’s just so cool!
  2. To collect as much information on the book as possible, as the search now begins for a more affordably priced copy.
  3. The author… John Erskine! Coincidence of coincidences, John Erskine was the author of another amazing book that just so happens to be a feature player in my most recent photograph!! Is it any wonder that Erskine wrote The Influence of Women… and its cure, after putting Helen of Troy in a Victoria’s Secret catalog?

Quick! Run with me from this booth before reverse buyer’s remorse gets the best of me!

Onward we trudge through the sweaty masses and stumble upon…

Mystic Seer fortune telling machine!

OH MY GOD IT’S A MYSTIC SEER MACHINE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Just like that famous Twlight Zone Episode starring William Shatner (Are we going to live in this country?). They actually worked and dispense fortunes on specially printed Mystic Seer cards.

How long have I wanted—no, needed—a Mystic Seer machine of my very own? Wait, that’s not a Yes or No question and the Mystic Seer would be of no use. Let us rephrase: Would a Mystic Seer machine make my life even more wonderful than it already is??? The answer, of course, would not be the usual read-what-you-will mystic ambiguity; it would be a resounding YES!

Oh… but as you can see from the photo, the Mystic Seer was locked up in a glass case, and that spells dollar signs that would require an affirmative response to question number two on the boldly printed examples. Worse, to the left of this traditional red Mystic Seer was a limited edition silver model (signed by William Shatner, by the way!), and while any color but red could not possibly be trusted to lend guidance on one’s mystic journey, the mere presence of a limited edition model had to add up to big bucks.

In this case: Glass Case = $250 for the red model, or $500 for the limited edition.

So, no, I do not have a Mystic Seer sitting here beside me that—for the bargain price of a copper penny—would be able to predict whether or not you, the reader, are enjoying this post. I just have to wing it.

But I will, someday, have a Mystic Seer.

Creature from the Black Lagoon bust

It seemed as though collectibles from my distant youth were popping up to tempt me in every aisle of the exhibit hall. Everywhere I turned enticements plucked at the strings of my memory, calling out, “Hey! Remember me? You like me! You want me! Buy me!” There were DVDs of old TV shows, vintage toys, horror comics I remember buying (without telling my parents) off the rack in Mission Beach, and… our friend to the left: The Creature from the Black Lagoon.

Last summer I wrote a collection of posts on “Really Scary Things,” but completely neglected to mention the Creature! When I was a kid, the Creature from the Black Lagoon was the ultimate monster! All it took was one wide-eyed viewing of the original 1954 film on Science Fiction Theater—San Diego TV’s Saturday afternoon horror show—and I was hooked! The Creature was gross and scaly, and breathed through bellowing gills. His webbed hands were HUGE! The size of canoe paddles and tipped by razor sharp claws. He was inhumanely STRONG, and was relentless in pursuit of his startled prey. I thought the Creature was AWESOME! But he was also kind of scary because, you know, monsters could be real, and we happened to live up the hill from a large lake that didn’t look… all… that… different… than… the Creature’s Lagoon! So, yeah, I was fascinated by the Creature—but also scared and a little freaked out by the Creature. And isn’t that what makes all the best horror work?

Note!
Incidentally, just in case you’ve never seen Creature From The Black Lagoon, it may have the most immediately identifiable “monster movie” score of all-time.

Dunt-dunt-DUN! Dunt-dunt-DUN!

Yeah, that’s exactly how it goes. See for yourself.

Back to the scaly fellow above who was trapped in a glass case on the convention center floor.

When I was a kid I had a Creature from the Black Lagoon plastic model kit that I built and painted (badly), to honor my favorite movie monster. Really though? What am I going to do with a giant bust of the Creature? My home decor is adventurous, but tasteful, and I’m afraid a giant green amphibian cast would push me beyond “edgy” into full-on weirdness. Besides, I already have a small Creature on display in a bookcase along with his Universal monster friends.

I have no idea what he cost, but it was an easy decision to pass on my beloved Creature.

Original Major Matt Mason — Not for sale!

Another icon from my past is pictured to the right: Major Matt Mason, on display—and not for sale!—in the toys-of-yesteryear section of the Mattel booth. Matt Mason was an awesome toy figure created during the space race before man had actually landed on the moon. How cool was Matt Mason? He had a jet pack! That’s right—a jet pack! Everyone is always complaining that “we were promised jet packs.” Well, Matt Mason had one! Okay, in reality it was a doo-hickey that attached to his back that zipped along on a string… but if you had any sense of imagination, IT WAS A JET PACK!

Beside the jet pack, Matt Mason was cool because he had posable arms and legs. See the black accordion things in the photos? The accordion joints allowed his rubbery spacesuit to bend and remain in position. In reality, Major Matt Mason was filled head-to-toe with a substructure of stiff wire that sooner or later either broke (resulting in limp limbs) or poked through the rubber turning Matt into a saber wielding space maniac that could scratch and puncture the delicate flesh of his adolescent astronaut cadets.

Mattel had all kinds of Major Matt Mason figures and accessories on display in pristine condition. I rarely see Matt Mason figures anywhere—including Comic-Con—so it was a delightful treat to see him standing inside the glass case with his trusty space helmet at his side! Amidst the menagerie of space stations, moon suits and space sleds were a pair of Major Matt Mason accessories I had as a kid: the much coveted ATV Space Crawler and one of Matt’s space “buddies” (?!?) Doug Davis riding his Space Tractor. Each of Matt’s fellow astronauts wore a different colored suit and Doug Davis wore yellow.

No, Major Matt Mason was not for sale, and that was probably a good thing, locked glass cabinet and all. After the Beatle Bobblers, the jiggling Helen of Troy, the Mystic Seer (whose demonic head bobbles, by the way), and the Creature cast, could I bear yet another incident of exhibition sticker shock? Or would the temptation break me? Would I make a mad dash through the hall, filling my arms with limited edition wonders, as gleeful vendors stripped fat rolls of greenback from my pockets? Surely, Comic-Con 2012 could not pass without me making a single pop culture purchase; could it?

To learn the answer to these and many other crucial, overly dramatic questions… stay tuned for Part 2!

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People, have been after me for ages to post a few photos of my studio, and it seems as though it’s always that “next thing” on my long list of tasks. Well, guess what? Today, finally, is “next thing” day!

Behold! We step behind the Lego gates that border the grounds at Wind-up Dreams Studios!

Okay, so I don’t really have a gate made of multicolored Lego bricks, but the studio is tucked away behind a stucco and red-roofed wall in the converted guest house in my back yard. Here’s a nice view from the back courtyard.

Wind-up Dreams Studio — exterior view

The studio holds all my vintage vinyl LPs, along with a stockpile of essential equipment for creating my art: toy figures, alphabet blocks, old books, and kewpie dolls. Oh yeah, I also have a bunch of photography equipment such as tripods, flood lights, and a light tent where all of my creations are constructed, staged, and shot. The studio is the place for shooting my photos, with all post production work taking place on an iMac inside my office in the main house.

Entrance to the studio. No, really, I’m quite friendly.

Let’s go inside!

View from just inside the door. Messy!

And there you go. Nothing too fancy. Just a single small desk, a chair, and a whole lotta “stuff.” My main work area is inside the light tent you see on the right. That’s where I build the three dimensional scenes that are the basis for my photographs and videos. Beyond the light tent is “toy land” where my crazy array of toys and trinkets are stored. Actually, that’s not completely true… Many of my extra special figures are on permanent display inside the main house, with small collections of interesting figures occupying almost ever room. When called upon, those figures magically come to life and wander out to the studio while I am a sleep. One day, I’ll be stuck on a particular composition, and the next morning I’ll awake to find that a clay devil pounding on a drum has somehow made his way from the main house out to the studio to stand in exactly the perfect place to complete the photo. Amazing!!

Note!
Please shield your vision away from the lacy white curtains and the horrid floral print on the window valances. Those are left over from the previous owners who had papered the entire room in a similar pattern. And covered the bed with the same floral print. And shaded the lamp with, yes, flowers. And upholstered the white wicker furniture in the same wicked print. And laid white carpet. It was a 1970’s Holly Hobbie nightmare. I’ll change out the window treatments, I swear.

The back corner of the room is for lighting and tripods, records are on the left, and alphabet blocks are just inside the door and out of sight.

A, B, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K…

The storage for my alphabet blocks doubles as a TV stand, which actually doesn’t do me a whole lot of good since cable doesn’t run out to the studio, and I’m only able to pickup a handful of digital broadcasts using rabbit ears—which is just as well, as I’d MUCH rather listen to music as I work. The little bookshelf speakers on top of the cabinet are hooked up to a wireless receiver so I can stream music from iTunes inside the main house out to the studio. Random shuffle is my best friend!

Interesting coincidence
The purple cabinet was originally brown, and it was a fixture behind the counter at my parents’ drug store. There, the cabinet was used to display rolls of 35mm film.

Here’s a better look at the vinyl records I frequently use as background source material for my photos.

Stacks of vintage vinyl. Probably 500 LPs to choose from.

Record storage was becoming a huge problem in the main house until I discovered these LP-size milk crates at The Container Store. Each crate holds 50 or 60 record albums. They’re easy to move and flipping through the crates is a breeze while looking for a background to catch my eye. To the right are stacks of 45 RPM singles. Being an engineering bordering on OCD, I recently organized all of my 45’s by label color so I don’t have to go searching for a particular color to top a stack of records in a given composition. I’d formerly find myself taking apart whole constructions looking for a 45 of a particular color because I’d buried my one 7″ single on Sun Records somewhere deep within an elaborate stage set.

45 RMP singles. Yes, organized by label color.

The box beneath the 45’s contains a veritable army of kewpie dolls, all acquired for the installation I had on display during my Seven Signs of the Kewpie Apocalypse show in 2010. I don’t let them out much. I’m afraid of what they may do.

View from the toy cabinet looking back towards the entrance

Super cool art hanging in the studio!

You won’t find a lot of art on the walls of my studio. Not because I don’t want art on the walls; I do. Unfortunately, the walls are not particularly conducive to driving nails. While the main house is generous in its use of the finest construction methods of the day (remember, this is 1927), the studio—nay, guest house—nay, “servants quarters” (which was, in fact, the original function of the room)—the walls of the studio seem to be constructed of concrete blocks covered with plaster, which makes hanging art an exercise in frustration. To the right is one of my favorite pieces—an enlarged page from the Space Happy coloring book that’s been decoupaged on the surface of a kitchen cabinet and embellished with glitter.

Dinos! Cowboys! Battleships!

Hanging opposite Space Happy is the awesome mixed media piece you see to the left. It’s a mosaic on a big ceramic tile created by one of the developmentally disabled adults at St. Madeleine Sophie’s Center in El Cajon, California. St. Madeleine’s is a wonderful organization that has done immeasurable good tapping into the creative talents of students throughout San Diego County. My sister gave me this piece for Christmas several years ago and thought it was a perfect addition to my fun filled studio!

Elsewhere in the studio I have posters of work by Keith Haring and Jackson Pollock, as well as an instructional cool poster outlining bad behavior in India. In a couple of the photos above you’ve probably noticed a large lobby poster from Forbidden Planet that had been on the wall in the big empty space above the record crates. Curse you, concrete walls, curse you!

Way over on the other side of the studio is where you’ll find most of the objects I cram into my photos. At the center is the Cabinet of Pop Culture Curiosities, which we’ll explore in all its candy-colored glory in a few moments. Above the cabinet is an assembly of shells, stones, and other interesting things first created by my artist friend, Anthia Linou. Over time the installation has changed a little, with new pieces added and older pieces moved or removed as occasions have arisen to use elements of the installation in my photos.

Far wall. Toys! Books! Stuff in boxes!

To the left and in front you see a jigsaw of boxes and containers, each containing a wide array of recently acquired figures or toys that overflow beyond the red wooden walls of the cabinet. I have a general idea of what is hidden where, but I’m frequently surprised by what I find as I open boxes and hunt through bags searching for a specific object to to be positioned within my latest three dimensional diorama.

Vintage books used to construct my scenes

Right of the cabinet is a bookshelf of oddly collected books, many of which have made appearances in past work, and almost all of which at one time or another has been used out of sight as supporting structure for my gravity defying stage constructions. Beyond what you see in my finished photos is a calamitous construction of records, blocks, Legos, and books, as I often need to build platforms and scaffolds as a base for objects and figures to be “level” with my chosen background imagery.

As we teased earlier, the real stars of my photos are the vintage toys and figures that perform as “actors” in the scenes I create. I’ve been collecting toy figures for years and years, and before committing my work to a studio these figures once-upon-a-time occupied playful space in my office from my days as a software engineer. There, they were scattered all across my desk, danced precariously atop my computer monitor, and mingled with manuals on the bookshelves. It was a fast paced, high tech life to be sure, but my toys are much happier living life together in my studio!

The Cabinet of Pop Culture Curiosities

With a little close inspection you’ll notice that the shelves are more or less organized into zones of common purpose—sort of like the sections in an encyclopedia. There’s the presidential section, the cowboys & Indians section. The kewpies all stand together, rubbing their cute little pink, green and yellow shoulders with Buddahs and nuns. There’s a musician section. An animal section. An army section and a skeleton section. Then, we have the geography section, the bumper car section, the rubber food section and the Egyptian section. Outer space is on the top shelf, and the realm of Monster Women is down below. It all sort of makes sense and provides me with the palette from which I add character to my images.

Want a closer look? Let’s go!! (Click on any image to get a nice close-up view!)

Doesn’t that make you want to run off to a toy store and buy a bunch of toys? I do feel bad, though, that accommodations are so crowded, and—worse!—so many great figures and toys are still locked away in the darkness of their shipping containers. One day I hope to devise a better way to store and display my cast of willing characters so all will have equal chance to catch my eye and find a spot in upcoming photographs.

We’ll wrap up this studio tour with a quick look at some of the equipment I use when capturing my photos.

The light tent where I construct all my photos

Above you see the setup for a typical photo session, with a 30″ EZCube light tent sitting on a table top, and floodlights surrounding the cube. The gauzy fabric allows light to bounce throughout the inside of the tent which cuts down on harsh shadows and other lighting troubles. The lights in the back are simple low wattage desktop lamps that are used to illuminate the inside of the tent while I’m working without sucking up huge amounts of electricity and otherwise acting like a personal tanning salon. The floodlights in the front are each 500 watts, which blaze with heat and illumination to pretty much simulate the sun inside the tent. In front of the tent and hidden just inside the fabric flap is my camera—a Canon XTi with a really nice L-series lens that allows me choose from a variety of apertures and zoom as necessary for a given stage construction.

The light tent with three floods. Get ready to sweat!

About a year ago I decided that simulating the light of the sun was not good enough—I wanted to simulate the light of many suns! So a third floodlight was added that could be positioned above the tent for even more control over light sources. The current setup is shown at the right with the staging for Despite her parents’ righteous determination, Baby Haley dreamed to follow her own path contained within.

And there you have it!

We hope you’ve enjoyed this short trip into Wind-up Dreams Studios, and if you come across any interesting and unusual figures that would like a home amongst the devils, nuns, kewpies, and presidents… Please! By all means send your recommendations my way!

Thanks for visiting!

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Just in case you missed me on TV this past Friday (and why did you?!?!), KPBS has posted a video of the segment to their arts and culture blog, and the piece came out GREAT!! In addition to all the live footage captured in my home and out back in the studio, the producers mixed in tons of clips from my video animations as well as a few well placed stills from finished photographs. You also get to see a sneak peek of work on a brand new photo that takes on vice, virtue, sex… and brains.

But wait! That’s not all…

See me rip the head off a kewpie doll!
See me fondle hula girls!
See me squint through a view finder!

All that, and more, is in the 4 minute segment that ran during the October 14th airing of Evening Edition.

Thanks and accolades to KPBS, cinema junkie Beth Accomando, and videographer Katie Euphrat for the tremendous job they did editing all that footage into a fun and exciting whirlwind of plastic fun!

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