November 03, 2019

Q & A with Toy Designer Candie Bolton

If you’ve been hanging around the Kidrobot website lately, you’ve definitely seen the name Candie Bolton. Having recently designed a 3″ Bastet Dunny for our Spiritus Dea goddess series, and most recently a collection of Hello Kitty art toy designs – Candie has quickly become a Kidrobot fan favorite. But who is she? Where’s she from? What makes her tick? We sat down with her recently to get some answers!

KR: What is your first memory of playing with, or looking at a toy, and what was the toy?

CB: Some random plastic dinosaur toy. That or I had a bunch of toys that were animals. Some generic brand that was more for educational purposes. I just liked animals in general. But I was really into My Little Pony. That was the first toy I ever collected. I’d usually get one every time we went to the grocery store. My mom ended up taking over that collection and even expanded on it. She now has one of the most complete My Little Pony collections in the world. She focused mostly on the first generation ones. But now its up to 5 or 6 generations. New characters.

KR: Where did you grow up?

CB: I always say that because it’s the biggest city. But I grew up near the Sierra Nevadas in Shingle Springs. It’s a really small town that didn’t even have stoplights back then. And one gas station. People pass through their on their way to Tahoe but most people still see it like a rural place to live. There’s no sewage system, you need a wood burning stove. Placerville is near there. It’s an old gold mining town.

KR: I read that you’re a self-taught artist. Did you study techniques, read books, follow youtube tutorials, or did you simply tap into something that was all your own and ran with it?

CB: Learned how to draw from my mom because she always had an interest in drawing. She’d draw rabbits and horses and I thought wow that’s amazing you can draw whatever you want. I thought it was a fun hobby, a way to keep me busy. In school, it was obvious that I would excel at those types of things. And I always tried to make it special. I even won contests and things like that. But I wasn’t really encouraged to pursue it for employment or anything. When it came time for college I didn’t really think of art school as an option. So I went to community college and started taking classes for GE and along the way I ended up getting a liberal arts degree, kind of on accident. I really only took a few classes related to art and eventually started focusing on graphic design because I thought MAYBE I could get a graphic design job at some point. And eventually I started getting freelance gigs. Even got a job where I needed to use Illustrator, so had to learn that job on the fly. So then I kept trying to get more freelance jobs will still going to school and working a boring receptionist job. Evenutally I got a graphics job at So Cal Speed Shop in Sacramento. They do old cars, like hot rods. While I was there it was cool because they also carried art books and I got exposed to lowbrow art culture and kind of got into that. I worked there for five years and that was my first pro artist job. And then I slowly got into toys and eventually quit.

KR: Why design toys?

CB: I was working at so cal, made an IG account, made it because I was looking for a tattoo artist. I wanted to get some cool tattoos. I started posting my sketche son IG. I found Realhead and Uamou and then Negora. Negora was the thing that really got me into soft vinyl toys. I started collecting all these different colorways and people were buying them for me. Meanwhile, I kept posting my sketches. I got noticed by Max Toy and he offered for me to design a toy. So this was in late 2013 that I started designing toys. Then my fox came out in 2014. And then after that it steamrolled into all these other things. I started collaborating, got more offers, and it all led into producing my own toys, which just happened this year.

KR: Are you a collector yourself? If so, what’s your favorite piece?

CB: Being a creator kind of ruined collecting for me. I used to feel I needed everything. But when I started meeting designers and collaborators, it kind of lost the magic for me. Even getting them as gifts, I just didn’t have room for things anymore. My focus turned more towards collaboration.

KR: What attracted you to Japanese culture?

CB: When I was little, it was Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball Z. Watching this stuff, I didn’t really think about it being Japanese. But as I got older I started seeking out anime. I would have to buy DVD’s or VHS tapes and it was stuff that was hard to find. But I really got into the Manga and anime and trying to learn the language. Also the traditional art styles are very interesting to me. The pop culture is so crazy and interesting that it’s easy to get sucked into it.

KR: What do you do to get yourself into a creative state of mind and what’s your creation process like?

CB: I like to look at a lot of references and what others are doing. Whether it’s a google search or looking at woodblock prints because I’m really inspired by those. Or looking at anime, or Instagram and looking at other artists. That’sll usually help me come up with an idea. If it’s a 2d painting and there’s a blank canvas, the idea comes spontaneously. If I’m bored somewhere or waiting for someone or if I’m working out and I’m bored, even just laying in bed, that’s when I get ideas. I’ll try to think of interesting imagery and what it could become. When it comes to think of a toy design, it’s more complicated. Unfortunately you can’t just do what you want because there’s rules and limitations. And it’s easy to make production costs go up the more complex a piece gets. Also, how is this piece going to be pulled out of the mold. When it comes to toys, it’s great if you have an initial spark of creativity but you have to get really granular with all the details. That’s when you have to do thousands of sketches. Toy designs are hard. It takes me sometimes months to get settled on a design and get the perfect sketch. But it’s easier if I’m trying to just paint a toy – like a custom toy – it’s easier. Sometimes I only have a short amount of time between toy shows I travel to, so I have to make quick decisions with toy painting. It’s where I can be more spontaneous.

When I’m airbrushing I like to have headphones in listening to music.

In my office, I have two monitors and usually my email up in one and in the other youtube going. Usually streaming music constantly because that’s when I feel most productive and I don’t have to actively pay attention to it. I get lonely when I’m home alone all day so playing vloggers feels like they’re talking to you.

I wish I could catch up on anime but that’s the worst because there’s no way I can be working on art.

Watching videos is biggest distraction. That and online shopping.


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