Art Whore

Art Talk – Gabriel + Rachel from ‘Soft Vinyl Sydney’

The Soft Vinyl Sydney exhibition is the groundbreaking soft vinyl art toy show happening this weekend in Sydney, Australia. SVS is happening from the 21st and 22nd of January at the ‘Lord Gladstone’ pub in Sydney. Featuring over 30 artists from all over the world taking part. It will be a glorious sight to see. Weird monsters of all imaginable shapes, sizes forms and colors.

And… for the uninitiated soft vinyl is a subset of the general art toy scene. With the artists working in it making their own toys, doing customs of existing ones – or both. Sculptural pop art – to find out more about art toys and sofubi, check out the ‘Art Whore’ piece from last year: What Exactly Are Art Toys And How Can We Critique Them?.

So, with the SVS show happening in less than a week now is the perfect time to find out all about it, from the people involved, by reading the Art Talk interview, below…

Basics / Getting to Know

Name + D.O.B?

G = Gabriel Strange. January 8th 1991
R = Rachel Coleman 28 July 1977

City, State n Country you currently call home?

G = Sydney NSW Australia
R = Enmore, NSW, Australia

City, State n Country you’re from?

G = Born in Australia with Fijian(Mum)/German(Dad) heritage.
R = Born in Darlinghurst, NSW Australia

Describe a memory from some stages of your life ….basically trying to piece together your pivotal moments. Concerts, art, action-figures, romance, school, crime… ANYTHING guys!

* age 5 – beginnings:

G = My first memory is that in Bali an ageing old man encouraged me to dive into the deep end of the Hotel Swimming Pool and my cousin rescued me from drowning. Everyone later said the pool was empty and there was no one there. HAUNTED POOL!
R = Ewoks, E.T., playing Atari at my Nans, catching eggs with Mickey Mouse on my game and watch and going to Disneyland

(Picture below of Gabriel as a kid)

* age 10 – continuations:

G = The Devilman VHS tape licensed by Manga Entertainment had to be the coolest thing I’d ever watched up. Cartoons can swear and show blood?Boobies?Also Ocarina of Time! I still wish that game was reality and that I’m Link.
R = Mostly unremembered, uneventful times growing up in the southern suburbs of Sydney

* age 15 – getting serious:

G = The Godzilla GMK bootleg was a revelation. I was heavily into action figures and comic books whilst I was flunking school and lecturing everyone who didn’t like heavy metal. I was inebriated for the most of it.
R = School and then university. Discovering punk grunge and the Riot Grrrl movement.

(Picture below of Gabriel as a teen)

* age 20 – young adult:

G = Easing out of party mode day by day, gaining a firm interest in Japan mostly through film (Honda, Ozu, Mizoguchi, MiikeSono etc.) Deciding to travel there and attempting to learn the language. (Still shaky)
R = Travelling and more travelling and living in Ireland and more studying

(Pictures below of Gabriel and Rachel in their 20s)

* age 25 – further continuations:

G = Getting married to my wife Kaori, my love of kaiju eventually leading me to sofubi and then by extension the independent artists in the soft vinyl scene releasing toys. For the most part I’ve left action figures behind and I never look back.
R = More studying Travelling, living in England

* age 30 – adult mode:

R = Opening Ruban Rat, a designer toys store and gallery I ran in Newtown and more travelling

* age 35 – adult continuations:

R = In 2015 gave birth to my beautiful babies Neelix and Llywelyn

(A recent picture below of Rachel and one of her children)

* age 40 – meanderings:

R = I turn 40 in 6 month’s time, so I will tell you then

Personal motto?

G = Kinda cringe but I always liked the sound of “Better to die on your feet than to live on your knees.”
R = One my Nan used to say to me “who wants to be the richest corpse in the graveyard Rachel” I have lived by this ever since, do what you want when you want as there may not be a tomorrow

Toy and Show Questions

Why the name ‘Soft Vinyl Sydney’ for your debut toy show?

G = We are not the first Sofubi show and with our neighbouring states having done“Soft Vinyl Mayhem” and “Soft Vinyl Garden”- as a homage we thought Aus seems to be representing the whole “Soft Vinyl” aspect in the title and the alliteration of Soft Vinyl Sydney cannot be beat! Wait it works out as “SVS”, not “SSS” so there is no alliteration. Shit!
R = Will have to turn to Gabriel for that

How did you get all the amazing toy artists from all over the world involved?

G = It’s still a blossoming scene in Australia so I knew the Aussie artists on a personal level due to the shared interest. Japanese artists I sometimes met in their home country during travels whereas the rest has been through online communication. It’s such a supportive scene to be in man and it’s easy to reach out. We have artists from  England, America, Mexico, China, Hong Kong, NZ – all over!
R = We just asked and they joined. Most artists are keen to see what the Australian market offers. It’s still relatively unknown

What role have you each played in putting it all together?

G = Since Soft Vinyl Mayhem runs in Brisbane and Melbourne has both Soft Vinyl Garden and Xenoplasm I was waiting for a show to pop up in Sydney. That’s the arrogance of Sydney siders I guess: we are used to everything eventually making it’s way here. Needless to say a sofubi show didn’t seem to be forthcoming so I decided to host one myself. It’s weird as I feel like I never do anything at all. I surprised myself. I contacted many of the artists, the reaction was positive and it is now reality.
R = Gabriel organised majority of the artists as he has already started organising the show before I jumped on board. I had been talking with other collectors in Sydney about making a show for sometime and for various reasons it never happened. I meet Gabriel at Soft Vinyl Mayhem in September 2016 and found out he was initial stages of organsing a show so I offered my assistance. I have added a few artist to the lineup that I think are pretty great that Gabriel had not yet included. I have done the more administrative tasks like organsie the venue, exhibition flyer design, printing and boring spreadsheets of toy inventory.

(Some ‘Soft Vinyl Sydney’ promo pics below – featuring a small sample of th dazzling array of soft vinyl artists from around the world – Pictured: ‘Terrible Whore’, ‘Slave X One’, ‘Awesome Toy’ + ‘Bukimi Blasters’)

How did you two come to connect – toy wise?

G = I think it might have been at a sofubi themedBBQ Aussie custom artist Luke (5k1nna) held. I respected Rachel’s knowledge and collection and she reached out to me out of the blue a few weeks later to aid in running the show. Thank God she did, it literally couldn’t function without her lady luck.Venue, promotion and t-shirts.All her.
R = The toy scene her is small and the sofubi scene is even smaller. Eventually one is bound to meet at a toy show or on one of to toy boards.

Care to elaborate on your love for the NagNagNag and associated figures by Japanese artist Shig – i ask as i know ole Shig is coming out for the show?

G = Yes, it will be a lottery for 3x pieces on the Saturday preview night.
My love for Nag more so comes in the joy of giving Aussies another chance at scoring one of his coveted and elusive figures. There was a lot of people involved in getting this to work so I have to thank Jason Ramke and Glenn Mander (Soft Vinyl Mayhem), Clinton Ruhle (Laced Brisbane), Jack (Soft Vinyl Garden) and my wife Kaori.
R = Love or hate him as a collector he is a must have in the collection. In my opinion a sofubi collection is not complete without a Nag

Do you consider soft vinyl toys to be ‘art’, ‘design’, re-hashed crap?

G = Some can be fantastic works or art, some are just simple toys. I love both options.
R = The Oxford dictionary described art as “The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.” I think that covers what a toy is very clearly for me.

When and why did you first start collecting toys?

G = My whole life. I think the first serious collection I had was around 100 plus Garfield plush toys. The kids in year 7 started making fun of me so I donated them but I soon got back into collecting other things.
R = In 2004 I walked into Kidrobot on Haight St in the Mission, SF and I feel in love with vinyl toys and have been pouring my pay in to vinyl ever since. I have tended to be on the periphery of the toy scene as I find at times as a queer woman the scene can be a little to masculine for me.

What role did toys play in your childhood?

G = To be honest I didn’t really play with toys. I just tried to stock up and surround myself with them while I played Nintendo 64. There was always a rush I associated about getting new toys and just looking at them, like a painting in my own personal gallery.
R = I have always loved toys in various forms, as a kid I loved my poochie, strawberry shortcakes, E.T. micro machines, cabbage patch dolls.

Please write a brief timeline of your collection / collecting history?

G = Any type of dinosaur, Beast Wars, Garfield, NECA, Revoltech, Figma, assorted Bandai, Secret Base and now I’m a full blown sofubi collector.
R = In 2004 I walked into Kidrobot on Haight St in the Mission, SF and I feel in love with vinyl toys and have been pouring my pay in to vinyl ever since. I have tended to be on the periphery of the toy scene as I find at times as a queer woman the scene can be a little to masculine for me.
In 2007 I opened a vinyl toys store in Newtown, Sydney called Ruban Rat. I wanted to bring my love of toys to Australia as I was hoping there would be others here who would walk into a vinyl toy store and fall in love with the funness of toys. Ruban Rat was open for just over two years. The scene was slowly growing here and I was building up a following of regular collectors, unfortunetley the global financial crisis happened and the Australian dollar tanked. So I shut up shop as the price of toys become crazy especially when you have to add the crazy cost of shipping to them.

Item(s) you have lost, sold or given away that you wish you still had and why?

G = A RealxHead piece painted by Lamour Supreme and the Doublethink by TKom. Both were sold to deserving fans at retail in order to fund my wedding.
R = My sister had a speak and spell E.T. edition I always wish that had been mine, still wish it 30+ years later

Favorite 3 items you own and why?

G = Uamou–Mr&Mrs.Uamou are sentimental to me because I used them on my wedding day.
Dehara– Anything I own by him. His toys have the most character. I look at them and feel they are living claymations.
Fetish Mode Blobpus One Off – A disgustingly stupid toy my friend helped track down for me. I’m ever grateful.
R = At the end of the day toys are just toys, so my real favourite things are my partner Edwina and my two year old twins. They are not technically my belongings but they are my favourite

Top grail items you would like to own and why?

G = RealxHead/Mirock Toy Devilman Buddha Face (blue)– Can’t find this for a good price lately. Best looking toy ever made.
Nitto – An old school sofubi company which released the little Yokai dude who is balding at the head. Maybe he is called “oil” something, something. I wonder if Grody Shogun was inspired by his design.
GargamelDeathraCamouflageColour Version – These guys look so cool. Gargamelnever ceases to amaze.
R = No real grails but I would love a clear Real Uamou, Punk Drunkers Aitsu Guy, Goccodo x Shonside Astro Cat Rider and a Bunny Kitty Killer” NagNagNag

(Picture below of the official ‘Soft Vinyl Sydney’ t shirt – some of which may be available at the show)

Thoughts on ‘The Sucklord’ and his current role in the toy / pop art scene?

G = Let me answer your question with another question. What are your thoughts on Sucklord?
R = I have no thoughts on Sucklord. I do tend to have some issues with bootleg and fan art toys. Especially when they are just straight copies of the original.

Do you think collectors are born, or created – that ole nature Vs nurture debate?

G = Born. It might be a harmless disease they haven’t named yet so that everyone can jump online and self-diagnose themselves.
R = ** silence **

Thoughts on the current state of the Australian art toy scene?

G = We have plenty of talent. You don’t need to look much further than sofubi itself with Hints & Spices, Tovi and Bad Teeth Comics leading the charge. Sekure D has produced some great toys, dunnys and others. 5k1nna has also been gaining attention for his custom works. Seymour is a Kiwi but I feel like claiming him too haha.I hope it keeps growing, we are onto something!
R = Slowly growing, 2016 was a huge year for the toy especially the sofubi scene in Australia. With Soft Vinyl Mayhem in Brisbane, Xenoplasm in Melbourne and Soft Vinyl Garden in Melbourne. Things are just going to get bigger in 2017 with more group shows and now that artists have seen that Australia has a toy market, we will hopefully see more shows like Soft Vinyl Gardens solo exhibition in February of Japanese toy designer and tattooist Izumoster.

Do either of you plan to get further involved and produce toys your selves in the future?

G = I considered it but nah. I’m just happy as a fan.
R = Maybe more in the organizational side of things, unfortunately for me I have limited design skills and any toy I have done so far is very derivative

For those who have no idea about the show and art toys in general – what would your spiel be to get ‘em through the door?

G = We are all different. You either like or it or you don’t. It’s purely aesthetic so it comes down to what shapes the viewer as a person.If they see what has influenced their life reflected back in the toy. they’llappreciate it. For me I see a punk spirit.
R = ** silence **

Odds n Ends

Please describe your experiences growing up in Australia?

G = If you are born here then you might think everyone is an arsehole to start with and you are all alone, but trust me – your people ARE out there and it is a comforting feeling.
R = ** silence **

Who was your 1st crush and why?

G = Some girl in Kindergarden. She would come round and appreciate a Happy Meal Toy I got from Maccas of an X-Ray Glow In The Dark Stegosaurus with removable skin. I appreciated that.
R = At aged 11 I was desperately in love with Belinda Carlisle (pop singer for those of you who were not a child of the 80s). I thought she was gorgeous and I loved the GO Go’s and ‘Leave the light on for me’ and read in Smash Hits magazine that she was a vegetarian and so I stopped eating animals so that one day when we meet she would like me. To this day almost 30 years later I haven’t touched any animals and am still waiting to meet Belinda.

Does sex change everything?

G = ** silence **
R = ** silence **

Favorite band(s)?

G = Black Flag, Boris, David Bowie, Wu Tang Clan, G.I.S.M.
R = ** silence **

Favorite TV show(s)?

G = The Twilight Zone ,Neon Genesis Evangelion, Ultra Q, SpongebobSquarepants, Parks and Recreation.
R = I have no stand out favourites but I do tend to like the supernatural type shows like Misfits, Crazyhead, Orphan Black, Heroes, Star Trek: Voyager, Stranger Things, The flash, Supergirl etc

Favorite sport(s) + teams?

G = Fuck sports. Oh! Hanshin Tigers are cool actually.
R = Not really a sporting fan

Favorite movie(s)?

G = 2001: A Space Odyssey, Gojira (1954), The Flavor of Green Tea Over Rice, Blow Out, The General.
R = Favourite movie of all time is Beetlejuice have seen it way to many times. Its one of my go to movies. Made by Tim Burton and stars Winona Ryder what else do I need to say. Winona forever

(2 soft vinyl figures by ‘Konatsu’ and ‘Max Toy Co’ below, that will be featured in the show)

Favorite books and comics?

G = Crime & Punishment, Temple of the Golden Pavilion, Imajica, IT, The Wind Up Bird Chronicle.
R = The Harry Potter series

Please describe your latest dream in detail…

G = ** silence **
R = To be in Vietnam/Sri Lanka/Myanmar for my 40th birthday. I know not the dream asking about but on a conscious level I have never remembered a dream

Have you ever tried psychedelics of any sort? And what was the experience like?

G = ** silence **
R = ** silence **

Of everything you have done what would you most like to be remembered for and why?

G = I’d like to be remembered for my pipe dreams which I haven’t actualized yet.
R = ** silence **

Drugs – waste of time or gateway to the universe?

G = It’s always good to expand your horizons, just don’t become a fucking bore.
R = ** silence **

Please describe what you think the Australian Psyche/Zeitgeist is today?

G = I’d like to think as a country we are all progressive but I think that’s untrue. This makes me nervous.
R = ** silence **

The Future

Any collaborations on the horizon?

G = Depends on how Soft Vinyl Sydney ends up doing.
R = Hopefully Gabriel and I can continue to bring toys to Sydney

Any major projects you want to hype?

G = … Don’t sleep on ‘SVS’ potential attendees!
R = Guarding my secrets. You will have to get past the three headed dog to pry them from me.

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