Julio Sanchez Roldan is a Spanish artist and designer who releases art toys under the name ‘Better Days Toys’. Julio’s works stand out amongst the often repetitive art toy scene with creations that hint at classic toys of the past, whilst also being unique, odd and full of personality.
Julio’s talent has seen him work with British artist Kyle Platts and American artist Jesse Moynihan on collaborative figures. It has also cemented his reputation as a visionary in the scene.
(Picture below of the Unhappy Wives resin figure from ‘Better Days Toys’)
With Julio recently venturing into keshi production, and hinting at one off works to and more to come, now is the perfect time to get to know the man, his art, and toys, by reading the Art Talk interview, below…
Basics/Getting to Know
Name + D.O.B?
Julio Sánchez Roldán
(Pictures below of the Depressed Betty resin figure from ‘Better Days Toys’)
City, State n Country you currently call home?
Carmona, Seville, Spain
City, State n Country you’re from?
The same place
(Pictures below of the Pimple Boy keshi figure from ‘Better Days Toys’)
Describe a memory from some stages of yr life ….basically trying to piece together your pivotal moments. Concerts, art, action-figures, romance, school, crime… ANYTHING!
* age 5 – beginnings:
With five or six years I had the best summer of my life in a chalet that my uncles rented.
I remember spending days and days playing with my cousins in the pool. It was such a wonderful time that now comes to my mind with a cruel melancholy.
(Photo below of Julio as a kid)
* age 10 – continuations:
For these years, I discovered a TV channel called “Locomotion”. This channel and the series that emitted on it are responsible of my tastes, my way of making art … TV Series like Dr. Katz, Stressed Eric, Robin, Pj’s, Locotomia … all of them caused a tremendous impact on me.
* age 15 – getting serious:
During adolescence I started to draw comics. I copied shamelessly to Daniel Clowes. But I never finished anything. I was quite lost. I do not have good memories about this time.
Adolescence only brought me problems.
But when I was 15, I met my girlfriend. That’s the only positive thing, because we’ve been together ever since.
(Photo below of Julio in his teens)
* age 20 – young adult:
In these years I made good friends at the university.
I think that for these years I began to show more interest in sculpture, but I was still stuck with drawing.
* age 25 – adult mode:
When I finished the Fine Arts degree I did not know what to do with my life. My father wanted me to work on something that would provide me financial stability, as a teacher or something. During the following years I discovered by chance the world of Art Toy, thanks to the website Spanky Stokes. I do not remember how I found that website, but I was amazed.
I took all my savings and set up my little workshop in my house; pressure pot, air compressors, vacuum chambers, modeling tools …
I am passionate about what I do now, and I feel sorry for not having discovered this before.
(A recent picture of Julio and his girlfriend below)
“Life is too short”, the sooner you find what you are passionate about, the better. Because that is life, there is nothing more.
Art + Toy Questions
Why the name ‘Better Days Toys’ for your toy line?
The name refers to the golden years (80s-90s) in which the toys were awesome, and they did not have that damn stylized look they have now. That is why, when I show one of my toys in my store, it seems to be taken from a catalog of that time.
Favorite other toy artist(s)?
I have many favorite artists; Joseph Harmon, Retroband, Paul Kaiju …
But these last months I am obsessed with the figures of “Doubleparlour”. It’s strange, because I’ve never been interested in toys with this sculptural concept, I always look for them to be playable. But these artists are brilliant. They are able to create a pretty personal and authentic world that makes their characters look alive.
(Pictures below of some versions of the Garlic resin and rubber figure from ‘Better Days Toys’)
Worst aspect of the contemporary art-toy-hustle?
It’s very difficult to sell your own designs. If you want to sell you have to do parody or customize toys sculpted by other artists. That annoys me. Many people use nostalgia to sell, they customize an He-Man, then add a card or a blister and they have a safe sale. I also use nostalgia, but sculpting my own creations.
I’m not friend of bootlegs.
Best aspect of the contemporary art-toy-hustle?
It is a field where it is still possible to be original, to impress or to do new things.
It does not have as much competition as the field of illustration, for example.
Do you consider what you are making to be ‘art’, ‘design’, re-hashed crap?
I consider I sell toys. Only that.
I do not think of them as pieces of art.
(Pictures below of the Serapis figure from ‘Betters Days Toys’ X ‘Jesse Moynihan‘)
When and why did you first start making ‘art’ – drawings, sculptures, anything really!?
Since I was very young I always liked drawing, especially what I was seeing on TV.
What did you draw and/or make as a pre-teen child?
Especially cartoons and movie scenes I had seen and liked.
What did you draw and/or make as a teen?
Mostly I did many unfinished, underground style comics.
Everything was a cliche.
(Pictures below of some sketches by Julio)
Any pivotal artistic moment/influence?
When I discovered Locomotion and when I discovered SpankyStokes.com
For those who may be unaware – what exactly is the narrative universe which your toys fit into? Care to break down the cannon, key players, backstory etc – if one exists?
I think it is very important to create an universe to give life to your creations.
The universe of Betterdaystoys is called Mad World. It is a world full of mutants and urban violence, inspired by those unsustainable cities that appear in the eighties films of Charles Bronson, for example, where there is only violence and death. Something like the streets of Double Dragon. This background offers many possibilities to create very cool designs.
(Pictures below of some resin hand painted minifigures by ‘Better Days Toys’)
Describe the process of producing your toys? – from original sculpt, moulding, production, to finally holding that sweet sweet finished product in your hands… (dot point all o.k.)
At first, I start making a sketch of the design. I also have to think about how many pieces will have the figure and what material is most appropriate; Resin or rubber.
To sculpt, I use a model putty called “Supersculpey”. I sculpt each piece separately (Head, body, legs, arms …) and when these are finished I apply with a brush a product called “White Spirit” to erase traces and marks in the putty.
After this, I put the pieces in the oven, depending on the size of the piece will need more or less time.
Once they have come out of the oven and hardened, it is time to sand. I use water sanding. I start with a sandpaper of 240, 280, 320 and finally 600.
Once the pieces are sanded it is time to make molds. I make two-part silicone molds.
When the molds are ready, they are filled with resin or rubber. The mold must have at least two holes. For one the plastic is poured and on for the other the air comes out.
During the curing time of the product, the mold must be pressurized so that the air bubbles can come out of the mold. To do this, I use an air compressor connected to a Pressure pot.
I usually use smooth cast 305 resin from “Smooth on”. It takes about 40 minutes to cure.
When the pieces of plastic leave the mold, it is time to paint them. To give color to the pieces sometimes I use dyes, which are added to the plastic. And sometimes I use spray paint or I directly paint them with acrylic paint with brush. I personally use “Vallejo”.
To finish, I apply to the painted parts, several layers of a matt acrylic varnish.
(Pictures below of Julio making toys)
Were are your toys produced and by whom?
All of them are produced by me, in my house.
What was it like collaborating with British artist Kyle Platts on the ‘Vibe Consultant’ figure back in 2016?
Great, but unprofitable. I expected another reaction from the people, as happened with “Serapis” by Jesse Moynihan. But I loved working on that project, because I love the style of Kyle Platts. I contacted him and we thought it would be a good idea to do a short series of his “vibe consultant” so, cool.
(Pictures below of the sculpt and finished ‘Vibe Consultant’ figure by Kyle Platts X Better Days Toys)
Digital Vs Hand sculpting – what wins and why?
I love the process of modeling by hand.
I would hate to have to model through a screen. It’s something I do not like at all. I love to feel the piece in my hand and touch it.
Are art-toys for the kids?
Of course not. The public of Art toys is another very different one; Nostalgic people and collectors.
Is the rise of ‘art’ toys an indication of the changing nature of ‘art’? OR just a bunch of nerds with too much $$$ and time?
Mmm … I can only say that there are many pro artists and serious collectors who deserve my respect.
But there is also a side, inside the Art Toy, more homemade and crappy, which aims to create a funny product that sells well.
(Picture below of a toy mock up sketch by Julio)
What role did toys play in your childhood?
I spent most of my time playing with them. I have ever loved them and, well, at the end, I dedicate myself to them. I like to think that now I am lucky to be able to make toys that I always wanted to have.
What are the top 3 toys you own? – please include pictures!
1.Limburger from biker mice from Mars.
I lost the mask and I customized one eye.
(Picture below of the Limburger ‘Biker Mice from Mars’ toy – released in 1993 by ‘Galoob’)
2.A villain of the Power Rangers who had the head of a pig with a Roman helmet. What child can not like that?
That was one of my favorites without a doubt.
(Picture below of the ‘Pudgy Pig’ Power Rangers toy – released in 1994 by ‘Bandai’)
3.Toxic Avenger unpainted Toys.
I even bought them repeatedly.
(Picture below of some Toxic Crusaders minifigures – released in 1992 by ‘Yolanda’)
Thoughts on the current state of the ole Spanish Art Toy Scene?
Basically does not exist. The few of us who dedicate ourselves to this, we sell outside of Spain. Without internet, we would have to leave Spain.
If people wanted to collaborate, work wth you or just buy some art – how should they get in touch?
Sending to me an email “email@example.com” or by instagram.
If someone wants to buy some of my toys they can do it at “betterdaystoys.storenvy.com”
Odds n Ends
Please describe your experiences growing up in Spain?
Well ,the truth is that I would have liked to be born in the USA. I would have had a more direct contact with my interests.
I live in a town where this type of art is misunderstood and has no audience. I would have liked to have grown up in a more open-minded environment. This is my problem with Spain.
Please describe what you think the Spanish Psyche/Zeitgeist is today?
Well, I live in Spain but I live outside everything that happens around me. I could not answer this question. Surely my thoughts about it are wrong.
(Pictures below of some resin minifigures by ‘Better Days Toys’)
Who was your 1st crush and why?
My first crush was an impossible love.
I fell madly in love with Gillian Anderson (Agent Scully). Seriously, I’m not kidding. I hung up posters and pictures in my room.
Does sex change everything?
Only if it is wild
Which 1990’s era cartoon, would you most like to see in a tribute sex toy, and why?
April O’neil, for sure. She is so sexy.
The toy could bring the video camera used in its reports, as an accessory, to record homemade porn and upload it to the internet.
(Picture below of Julio’s April O’Neil tribute sex toy)
Who would win in a fight and why: Salvador Dali Vs. a Matador?
I think Dalí would win using his Nose Hair of Fury Attack
(Picture below of the epic battle in all it’s hideous beauty!)
Please describe your latest dream in detail…
The last dream I remember was one in which Elvira, mistress of darkness, appeared. That night I had seen her on TV, in some documentary or something. She took me to places where I did not want to be, I just went because I wanted to be with her. They were macabre places, with strange people. She did it on purpose, because she knew it bothered me.
I do not remember very well how it ended, but certainly not undressed.
Of everything you have done what would you most like to be remembered for and why?
Well, I still have a lot of things to do , but I like the idea that the day that I am no longer in this world, people will remember me for my toys, which are in many parts of the world. It’s my way of leaving my mark. Some satisfy that need by having children.
Drugs – waste of time or gateway to the universe?
Waste of money. There are better and cheaper things, like sniffing glue.
Any collaborations on the horizon?
Yep, with draculizer (Michael Skattum). We are going to make a short series, in resin, of one of his designs.
He and I are made to work together.
Any major projects you want to hype?
Well, I’m currently working on a series called “Lost Childrens”. I have thought of giving a turn to my way of production. It is a series of several figures, about 7 inches, full of accessories and details that make the figure attractive.
With this project I want to try something very risky; sell the originals. They are not casted in resin.
(Pictures below of the Akira figure from ‘Better Days Toys’)