Monday, August 11, 2014

STGCC 2014: Bicepstuous Booths #2 - No Frogs Legs Porridge for The Elusive Twelvedot


As part of the Glam Bloggers' Alliance for STGCC, Red Dot Diva is "koping" an interview by Ed from Toys-etc.

Stationed at another Bicepstuous Booth #AA13 is Korean-based Coolrain Studio, who will be featuring two of their artists - Hands in Factory and Twelvedot.

Ed attempted to get intimate with Twelvedot. However, as Twelvedot proved to be elusive, Ed managed to get more juice about a different kind of "biceps" from Twelvedot's wife Faye instead. Check out his interview below.

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Getting Intimate with Twelvedot

"Project aftr." is the ironic evolutionary tale of frogs after the self-inflicted downfall of humankind. The man behind it, Hyunseung R, is part graphic designer, part designer toy genius, and all Planeteer. His graduation piece at Korea National University of Arts - the original 12"Apocalypse Frog -aims to generate awareness and discourse on the fragile plight and impending extinction of the amphibians.

I get to speak with Faye Kim, wife/ marketing division/ interpreter/ seamstress/ patron goddess of Twelevedot Studio, only because Twelvedot is an offline hermit hiding from the online world in one of the most wired countries on the planet!

Ed: I get the deal with with frogs and apocalypse but let's run through it again for the uninitiated.
Faye: Frogs are one of the most fragile life forms on our planet as they need both clean water and land with ample vegetation to survive. As a key middle link in the ecosystem, the total extinction of frogs would result in a surge of pests (mosquitoes and rodents) and diseases, and ultimately lead to the downfall of humans. Yet we humans continue to catch frogs for food and pets while polluting and destroying their homes.

"Project aftr." tells the story of frogs that survive the apocalypse of humans, by ironically evolving into a human-like form and walking on two feet. We wanted the world to open their eyes to the beauty of amphibians (most, especially Koreans think frogs are slimy and gross). Once we started researching the animals, we found that most were endangered and wished our frogs could help create awareness on the dangers of frog extinction.

Ed: That's a heavy message which the first Apocalypse Frog conveys very well. The form traps a quiet forlornness and the impassive posture brings out the uncertainty of a post-apocalyptic world. It looks like something that walked out of the set of Prometheus. I am absolutely in love with the sculpt which is a narrative masterpiece.
Faye: The 12-inch "Apocalypse Frog" was an immediate hit among young toy collectors, but Twelvedot soon found that he would need to come up with something that could get his story across to the wider public. Hence the creation of "APO Frogs," a cuter, shorter version of the full-scale "Apocalypse Frog."


To show at art toy fairs in Asia, Twelvedot created two 12-inch "Apocalypse Frogs" in shiny black (Versión Sombra) and sakura pink (Versión Flor de Cerezo), and smaller 5-inch "APO Frogs" in Sakura Pink, Kill Bill Yellow, and Matt Black.

Both the full-scale and smaller frogs were well received at toy fairs, leading to the creation of Yellow and Purple Raincoat versions and Red and Gold Good Luck versions.

Ed: Would you like to have some of Singapore's famous frog's legs porridge? :3
Faye: Nah, we'll pass on that one. =) They say it tastes just like chicken so we will stick with that!

Ed: So, you said something about making the story more accessible and it got me wondering if people reacted to the aesthetics or the narrative. Apocalypse Frog and APO frogs would have drawn different responses. What would Twelvedot have done anything differently if he could? How would the frogs evolve from this point?
Faye: The aesthetics of the cuter APO Frogs definitely got the attention of a wider crowd and we were ecstatic with the results. We love that the full-scale Apocalypse Frog and the smaller APO Frog appeal to widely different demographics as it will give us the opportunity to get the story across to a wider public. Since the frogs seem to be getting the attention of people, we can now work on really getting the message out to help frogs struggling in nature. The boxes our frogs will be sold in carries messages on how important the magnificent creatures are to us and what would happen if they are wiped out, so we hope collectors would take the extra minute to look through the graphic designs and information in them.

I am pretty sure Twelvedot is happy with how both frogs turned out and don’t think he would have changed them if given the chance to go back. Future frogs will likely aim at introducing a wider variety of shapes and colors. I hope we can show that frogs are not the slimy and noisy animals most think they are but beautiful, intriguing creatures.

Ed: It was mentioned in the press release kit that the frogs were hand-casted in resin, hand-painted, and fitted with hand-sewn clothes. Now, correct me if I am wrong. Is the price was one of the factors holding back the explosion of interest? But I do believe that this, coupled with the punishing schedule, led to something wonderful, which is good news for interested individuals who found the first batch of frogs a little hard to swallow.
Faye: Most of the orders we got for our original hand-made versions of Apocalypse Frogs (12") and the smaller APO Frogs were from overseas clients due to their steep price tags.The frogs we will be showing at STGCC are completely new lines that we have been working on this year.

At present, 8 new APO Frogs are in the works. With our mass production versions,we hope to reach out to a larger market that could eventually turn into aficionados that would buy the handmade collectors' versions.

The pink version ("Strawberry Banana Split") will be on sale at STGCC. There will be two types: the original Strawberry Banana Split version, which is strawberry pink with a banana yellow belly (approx US$53 per piece), and a Strawberry Banana Split with Chocolate Fudge version featuring a fudge colored coat with cherry red buttons (approx US$65).

Production on both are limited to 200 pieces each but we will be bringing along a smaller number and receiving orders for the rest. With our mass production versions, we hope to reach out to a larger market that could eventually turn into aficionados that would buy the handmade collectors' versions.

Ed: I'll be sure to grab a couple of the pink cuties. I was one of those who held back. I blame a shallow wallet and to be honest, that's not the only thing that's shallow; I was just very attracted to its form initially but talking to you set some, just some, rusty cogs moving. Definitely a new convert but I'll wait a little while more before taking the plunge into the exquisite handmade pieces.
Faye: Great to hear that we've spiked your interest in frogs. Just wait for the frogs we are trying so hard to roll out this year! I am personally excited to see how the Strawberry Banana Split with Chocolate Fudge version turns out as it took tons of hours and frustration to get the mass-produced coats looking all yummy yummy. I know Twelvedot went through his share of agony and sweat to get the mass-produced frogs looking on par with the handmade versions, but it was a nightmare for a statistical marketing major with no former training in apparel design or any knowledge on how to operate a sewing machine to come up with a design for the teeny tiny coats that could be made with machines. While Twelvedot argued back and forth with the production plant on the frogs, I was busy secretly sewing away at my desk (I work in the boring world of finance) trying all sorts of designs to make the fit just right for our frogs that was also easy enough to be mass produced.

Ed: Twelvedot participated in its first toy exhibition this year. How is ATC and what is the art toy scene in Korea like?
Faye: The art toy scene in Korea is just starting to bloom. We were blown away by the public interest toward ATC. Frankly, we had not expected so much people to turn up at the event! ATC was staged as a public event targeting collectors and families and set during a long holiday that included Children's Day, which is one of the nation's major public holidays.The Michael Lau exhibit at a major art museum in Seoul seems to have sparked strong interest in art toys and ATC's strategy to target the younger population and families in their marketing efforts really paid off.

We are just happy that we could be a part of the art toy scene in Korea and Asia as it continues to rapidly grow. Hopefully Korean toy collectors will start to follow other collectors in appreciating well-crafted top-quality art toys sold at higher prices.

Ed: What are you expectations for the upcoming TTF and subsequently STGCC?
Faye:  The first showing of the frogs to collectors was in Tokyo 2013 and we were pleasantly surprised to find that so much people loved the frogs. At TTF 2013 we once again saw strong response for the wider variety of frogs on exhibit and decided to push forward on mass production. This year, STGCC and TTF will be the actual testing ground for our new mass-produced frogs, and I believe they will capture the attention of future soon-to-become frog-rights protectors around the world.

Ed: Naturally, since STGCC isn't purely a toy exhibition, mash-up questions are to be expected. Throg or Kermit for the Superhero endorsement deal with Twelvedot Studio and why.
Faye:  Twelvedot would definitely choose Throg. I mean what frog lover could pass up on the chance to work on a muscular, hammer-yielding, cape-donned frog with the Pet Avengers? The fit is almost perfect in my personal view, as Twelvedot is especially good at sculpting demurely sexy arm/leg biceps as seen in the larger Apocalypse Frogs and the Boundary Issues pieces.

Ed: I know someone who would be keen on those 'demurely sexy arm/leg biceps'! (Red Dot Diva: *ahem!!!*) But before I get her to respond to this, who do you think is the best dressed superhero?

Faye: Though not what people would normally come up with when thinking of a superhero, the Joker portrayed by the late Heath Ledger is Twelvedot's favorite. For me, it would be the horned Maleficent by Angelina Jolie. We can't seem to choose any conventional superhero we like as much as our villains. Aren't we the perfect couple =)

Ed: Erm. Yes. Perfect couple. Cough. Moving on, there is a galaxy of art and designer toys out there. At this year's STGCC, just by looking at attendance in the Artist Alley, I know there's going to be stiff competition for the money. Next, would be tough question. Wait for it.... I want you to ignore the economics of toy production. Describe the perfect art/designer toy to me.
Faye: For Twelvedot, it would be the sleek, crafted-by-the-master-artisan sculpture that stops you dead in your tracks, whether it be a frog, a superhero, fictional monster, or things on wheels. It's that one that you keep coming back to even while surrounded by millions of other toys at a huge convention, and the one that you just have to have even if it means spending an amount not easily understood by non-collectors and waiting forever to finally get the piece delivered in your hands. In my completely, 100%-biased view, the closest thing would be Twelvedot's sleek black Versión Sombra piece, seeing the way it stopped Japanese toy aficionados in their tracks when we first showed it in 2013. We continue to get requests to sell the piece but Twelvedot remains reluctant to part with the first pieces he made since he poured so much of his time and sweat into perfecting each curve and line. The understated but intricate details make the larger frogs hard to reproduce on a larger scale.

Ed: This might be a little early to ask, but based on your observations, what is the difference between the aesthetics consumption within the region and outside of it? Would you say there there is a eastern versus western polarity or the world's one huge happy place? Personally, I feel that the internet has obliterated geography and the consumer culture is become increasing homogeneous.
Faye: We are with you on that, seeing that our very first frog was purchased by an American who loved the Sakura Version we had especially made to target the Japanese crowd. We were astonished when Patricio Oliver contacted us to feature our frogs in an article for the Spanish online media 90+10 (http://90mas10.com/diseno/art-toys/concientizando-con-las-apo-frogs_3142.html). Orders for our frogs have come from all over including Russia, Singapore, Tokyo, the US and Mexico, showing that the world indeed is one huge happy place for toy designers.

Ed: Looking back at where Twelvedot was when he started this journey, where did he think it was going to lead him? What were some of the unexpected hurdles and benefits?
Faye: At the start, Twelvedot was just having fun with the whole process of sculpting his characters into a tangible, three-dimensional form. We never thought there would be such a huge market for art toys and that much demand for frog "toys" that you couldn't really play with or let kids get their hands on. Along the way we have met some truly amazing people and their likewise amazing work. Their help and the energy we get from people loving our frogs have really helped us come so far. Hurdles for Twelvedot would be finding ways to bring alive his creations exactly the way he envisions them. Hurdles for me as someone who would like to share Twelvedot's work with the world would be that he never likes to show people his work until the perfectionist inside is fully satisfied, which is like never in my view.

Ed: What's the best part of the next thing Twelvedot is working on?
Faye: As with all of his pieces so far, the essence of Twelvedot's work is in the irony. The irony of a frog evolving into a human-like form to survive a human-induced apocalypse, the idea that one of the most fragile life forms on the planet could become an only survivor, the irony of a frog wearing a wetsuit or a raincoat to keep the moisture in opposed to the way we humans use it, the irony that an animal seen so slimy and gross that most city folk would squirm if it jumps on them could be made into a form that you would want to take home, and so on. That irony, and the demure sleek style typical of Twelvedot will likely remain present in all of his future work.

Right now he is busy trying to get the new frogs ready for STGCC and TTF, but several new projects are also in the works. As with the "Performance" project recently done in collaboration with a sunglass maker, not all of Twelvedot's works are frogs, so prepare to be pleasantly surprised with the new stuff he rolls out going forward.

Ed: Is there anything you would like to add?
Faye: We are just starting out and still going through a lot of trial and error, but loving the experience of bringing new creations into the world and receiving feedback from all over the world. We will continue to update our endeavors on Facebook (www.facebook.com/12dot‎), behance (www.behance.net/twelvedot), and our website (http://12dotstudio.com/aftr). Hope to see you at STGCC and TTF!


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