Art Whore

Art Talk – Max Yax of ‘Holler Toys’ and ‘MadKnits’

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Max Yax is an artist who has been producing art in all forms for many years: graffiti, paintings, sculptural works and more.

Max has been creating plush works for a few years now with his partner Kaitlin Juarez under the ‘MadKnits‘ banner. 2013 saw the debut of Max’s newest artistic venture, ‘Holler Toys‘.

‘Holler Toys’ is Max’s vehicle for his stand alone artist creations: Resin works for now, but lots of stuff planned for the future.

(Picture below of one of the many versions of the Varg resin by ‘Holler Toys’)

Varg - 002

Mr. Yax’s respect within the scene has already led to much praise and attention from fans, and to  ‘Holler Toys’ inclusion in the ‘Monster Kolor: It Came from the Pressure Pot’ group show back in early 2013, were his creation sold out almost instantly.

With a big 2014 ahead of him now is the perfect time to get schooled on Max Yax and ‘Holler Toys’ by reading the art talk, below…

Basics/Getting to Know

Name + D.O.B?

Max Yax August 1st of ’86, a true Leo.

City, State n Country you’re Repping?

Currently living in Cleveland, Ohio after a stint in Providence, Rhode Island.
But always repping for my home of Canaan Valley, West Virginia. Truly almost heaven.

(Picture below of Max mid paint, back in 2009)

Max - Painting 2009

Describe a memory from three stages of yr life ….basically trying to piece together Mr. Yax’s pivotal moments. Concerts, art, action-figures, women, school, college… ANYTHING man.

* age 10 – pre pubes:

Moving a lot. Tons of states, schools, friends, paranormal experinces. Mostly a blur of life experiences.
Got to travel to South America a few times which has been a huge influence on my art still. The use of color in South America is awesome!

* age 15 – pube rage:

Settled down in WV for awhile. Lots of skiing, bmx, hanging in the woods, and awkwardly hitting on girls.
Had a trained pack llama and a bunch of prized chickens.
Spent a lot of time reading ‘Dragonlance’ books and old sci-fi.

* age 20 – acceptance of pubes:

Smoking lot of pot, skipping class, cussing out professors.
That awkward  “I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing with my life” depression.
Lucky I got heavier into painting graffiti and people started paying me to paint murals.
Also discovered my love for biking.

Favorite band(s)?

‘Cloud Cult’, Bob Marley, ‘Grateful Dead’.
Listening to tons of reggae and jam band podcast recently with a heavy dose of crazy sci-fi podcast as well.

Favorite TV show(s)?

‘Dr.Who’ and ‘Firefly’ are pretty badass.
Been watching a of ‘Chuck’ lately, good stuff to have on in the background while working in the studio.

Favorite sport(s) + teams?

WV Mountaineers’ because they have the best tailgate parties around and the Red Wings because I was born on a little island north of Detriot and it would be sacrilegious not to be.
I love soccer and hockey, true brutal skills in those two sports.

(Picture below of a large mural from 2010 by Max Yax)

Max - mural - 2010

Favorite movie(s)?

Original ‘Star Wars’, ‘Fast and the Furious’, ‘Ninja Scoll’.
Old 70’s and 80’s animation like the animated ‘Lord of the Rings’, if you haven’t seen it find it and watch it. Super trippy stuff.

Favorite books and comics?

Always into sci-fi, books like ‘Cities in Flight’ about travelling the starts and the human condition.
I don’t really follow any main stream comics but have amassed a nice collection of the crazy independent stuff I find when I go to comic-cons.

General Questions

Company motto?

Haven’t really thought of it yet.

What are the worst aspects of working in resin?

Knowing that I am contributing to the raping of the earth’s natural resources and making more plastic junk, not that its stopping me I guess.

What to you, are the best aspects of working with resin?

The ability to get your art out there to the masses at an affordable price.
Plus it fun as hell to watch it cure.

(Picture below of some one off resin pieces from ‘Holler Toys’)

Holler Toys - resin one offs

Are art-toys for the kids?

This is one I could get really into depth on. With my work with Kaitlin (Juarez) on MadKnits we have had to really think a lot about this.
Plush has the stigma of being only for kids and is super regulated by the government because of this.
So when designing plush even when we know we have a large adult collectable fan base we have constructed all of our plush with the thoughts that it might get into the hands of kids.
This defiantly puts a few limitations, but I think that is the great thing about the art toy market is that there are limitations to what you can do based on things like safety, mold lines, material use, etc.
It makes me really think about what I’m making and brings out the want to be engineer in me.
So with all that said yes I think some art-toys can be for kids as well, why limit your market?

Art Questions

Why the decision to set up your own stand-alone Art company – ‘Holler Toys’, after the success you already have with your partner Kaitlin Juarez with ‘MadKnits’?

‘MadKnits’ is still going strong and it was sort of decision we made at the end of last year. We were talking about were we wanted to go with the company and had been approached for licensing.
We decided that wasn’t really the direction we wanted to go with ‘MadKnits’.
Meeting the fans and getting to travel and bring our toys around the country are some of the reasons we most love what we do.
So with the decision to keep it a smaller more exclusive plush line where control of it was still up to us I passed most of the responsibility of ‘MadKnits’ to Katilin so I could start creating and making all the creatures that were filling up my head and sketchbooks.
We are still collaborating on tons of project through ‘MadKnits’ and there this year should see some awesome projects coming from it.

(Picture below of Canaan: The Protector of the Mountains plush by ‘MadKnits’)

CanaanSmSize_original

Favorite ‘other’ artist(s)?

Skinner, ‘MutantViynlHardcore‘, ‘Dream Rocket‘, Matt Doughty and the whole ‘Onell’/’Glyos‘ line and artists and too many others to list.
I am sure I am leaving out many of my favorites but these guys are all doing some major hustling and unique shit and I admire them all for it.

Worst aspect of the contemporary art-hustle?

The fact that there are ten new people getting into it at any moment. Its hard to try to stay original and get your stuff to rise up out of all the stuff being produced.

Best aspect of the contemporary art-hustle?

The people. I have met some of the coolest and friendliest people ever selling toys.
From other artists to fans there are some truly genuine awesome people out there.
One of our fans from ‘MadKnits’ let us have their whole apartment for NYCC last year when they were out of town.
It’s awesome to meet those people and get to travel and have people be stoked on what your doing.

(Picture below of the Graffiti Deer plush by Max Yax)

GraffitiDeer

Do you consider what you are making to be ‘art’, ‘design’, re-hashed crap?

I think art toys are definitely in a space between art and design.
With full on art you are open only to what your imagination wants to create, but with toys you have that limitation of medium that makes you really have to have some design skills as well in order to do any sort of mass creation .
It’s sort of the best of both of those worlds.

When and why did you first start making ‘art’ (toys, drawings, paintings, anything)?

I remember watching my mom paint one time when I was really young and thinking how bad-ass it was that you could create your own worlds on a blank canvas.
I think I have been trying to make art ever since then.

Any formal art training? Or pivotal moment/influence?

I went to both the Cleveland Institute of Art and West Virginia University for art. Didn’t really do that great at either of them, was just always pissed of about being told what to paint and how to make art.
I remember wanting to do large canvasses with my graffiti characters on it for one class and being told that graffiti and street art isn’t real art.
I’m glad there are so many people proving that bitch wrong everyday!
Needless to say I didn’t get a degree and 90% of what I learned about art as been outside of the classroom.

Why + when did you decide to go in on the art hustle?

Probably the first time someone asked me to paint up a mural for them and agreed to a nice chunk of money for it.
Getting into the toy hustle came from being inspired from all the cool stuff I was seeing in magazines like ‘Juxtapoz‘ and having an awesome girlfriend who was starting to make some unique plush characters.
That was the birth of ‘MadKnits’.

(Picture below of the original sculpt for the body for the Varg resin)

Varg - sculpt for body

Describe the method of making a ‘Holler Toys’ piece? (dot point all o.k.)

– Getting inspired by something I find in a natural history book or read in a sci-fi book or while just out playing in the woods and wandering around the city.
– Super rough sketches in my sketchbook.
– Thinking about all the aspects of it like molding, painting, playability, etc. for a few days or weeks.
– Busting out some clay and letting my brain do its thing.
– Reproducing in resin and airbrushing.

Toy Questions

What are your thoughts on ‘The Sucklord’, and his role in the art-toy scene?

I’ve got to meet him a couple times and he seems like a super genuine Star Wars nerd.
I mean he was dressing up as a gangster blinging Boba Fett and busting out Star Wars raps and music before he even started the toy hustle.
So I dig what hes putting out.

(Picture below of a mural Max did back in 2009 for ‘Ski Barn’)

Max - Ski Barn Mural - 2009

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?

Both.
I think more and more people are realizing the importance of art in there lives and art toys are a great way for artist to make affordable reproductions that people can get into there home and enjoy.
But if it weren’t for the generations of kids that were raised on kick-ass cartoons and comics growing up turning into successfully adults with extra income to spend I don’t think there would as be much of an art toys scene as there is today.

What are your thoughts on the current rise of mass-production in the resin-art world, and the move away from hand made pieces? The 2012 Designer Con Suck-con figures as an example…

If there is enough demand for your work that you have to go mass-production then I see nothing wrong with it.
With ‘MadKnits’ we decided not to go mass-production even though I think we would have been able to create that much demand as its hard to produce enough for everyone that wants one as it is right now.
With my own work I couldn’t really see going mass-produced with what I am making right now but do have some ideas for stuff in the future that I could see going that route.

Do you think once an artist has re-used a piece of pop-culture, it becomes harem for another artist to use it/spoof too? …I am thinking of ‘The Sucklord’ + ‘Boba Fett’; ‘The Mark Ultra’ + the hangman mask head, ‘Buff Monster’ + ice cream; etc.

Haha, I feel like this is one of those question that can piss a lot of people off.
I will say I think there are too many people jumping on certain peoples coat tails and trying to ride fads.
I think if there is enough demand for all of it then fine I really am not going to judge how you make money but I think some of the markets are going to get over flooded with junk and they are going to burn out the whole thing for everyone.
It’s a slippery slope and I always encourage anyone who ask me to not go that route and come up with there own shit even if it’s in that genre or complete shit, we all have piles of shit we will never show anyone, ha.
I know a lot of guys using He-man toys as platforms but creating their completely original toys and stories and pulling it off quite well and I respect what they are doing.

Favorite toy/figure? (I’ll allow self promotion)

I love the Glyos line and the artist that are using that system.
It’s the Lego of action figures.
My favorite is the Armorvor figure, the head sculpt is awesome and it reminds me of the old Battle Beast figures.

(Picture below of one of the many versions of the Armorvor figure from ‘Onell Designs’ – Max’s favourite toy)

Armorvor-Ecroyex-Mimic-WEB

What does your wife/girl/woman/family make of the whole perpetual adolescence/Peter Pan/man-child aspect of toy art + toy collecting?

Well luckily me and Kaitlin both make toys so I don’t really have to explain it to her, lol.
My family is super support of it to, I think I may even be dragging my mom to a comic-con this year.

What was it like being a part of the ‘Monster Kolor: It Came from the Pressure Pot’ show back in 2013 were you first released your Varg the Drunk Wolf creation?

Super inspiring.
Kaitlin and I had hosted our own toy show called ‘Blue Collar Toys’ a few months earlier and it was the first time I made my own non-‘MadKnits’ toy.
So I was super stoked on getting a chance to make another unique piece and having it at ‘MonsterKolor’ gallery.
I had only learned to airbrush from Matt Walker a few weeks before the show and the Varg in the show was only the forth or fifth toy I had painted. Was even more stoked when it sold right away!!

(Picture below of Max Yax and Kaitlin Juarez at the ‘Blue Collar Toys’ show they put on back in 2013)

Max + Wife at Blue Collar Toy Show 2013

Are you going to provide highly detailed back narratives to your ‘Holler Toys’ works as you currently do with ‘MadKnits’?

There is a narrative to it all but its still in my head for now.
Over the course of this year I hope to start telling it through paintings and more toys.

The Future

Any collaborations on the horizon?

Have a couple in the works with some awesome artist, nothing ready to be leaked out yet though.
I can say that there will be some awesome ‘MadKnits’ resins getting made this year as well as some plush/resin combination pieces.

Any major projects you want to hype man?

Going to have some C2E2 exclusive figures at the NerdCity booth and am working on the first full Holler Toys plush at the moment.

Links

Varg - 001

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