Cory P. of Science Patrol is an American born ‘gajin’ living and working in Japan producing sofubi designer toys, both independently and also as an apprentice.
Cory spent his formative years in the army, then in his early 30’s made the life changing decision to move to Japan to pursue his love for their art, culture and importantly toy scene, full time.
(Picture of the ‘Science Patrol’ logo)
With a fast growing reputation and a new figure ready to be released, now is the perfect time to get to know Cory and his work, by reading the Art Talk interview below…
Basics/Getting to Know
Name + D.O.B?
Cory Privitera, September 10th
City, State n Country you currently call home?
Koenji, Tokyo, Japan
City, State n Country your from?
Buffalo, New York
Describe a memory from three stages of yr life ….basically trying to piece together your pivotal moments.
Concerts, art, action-figures, romance, school, crime… ANYTHING man!
* age 5 – beginnings:
When my twin brother and I were little my mom would make us everything. She knit us hats and scarves, made us shirts and slacks, and even made us these really elaborate Halloween costumes including a really awesome // surprisingly large Tyrannosaurus just for me [my brother was a lion or some shit which is infinitely less interesting].
When my brother and I started kindergarten we became obsessed with this thing called “Letter People.” They were all 26 letters of the alphabet, but personified as a humanoid that was designed around a word starting with their respective letter. Mr. R had hair made of rubber band, Mr. Y was physically unable to stop yawning, and so on. At the end of the year my mom had made both my brother and I matching Letter People quilts, each one featuring all 26 characters, in order, with amazing hand drawn // hand painted detail. Hell, some of them even glowed in the dark which was mind-blowing as a child. It was hands-down the most amazing artist endeavor I’ve ever seen. That thing must have taken forever to make AND she did it twice.
I’d like to think that my interest and “skills” in art probably came from my mom.
(Picture below of Cory as a kid)
* age 10 – continuations:
My older brother’s friend gave us an unbelievably large bag of Kinnikuman keshi figures and the fighting area accessory that came with them. It wasn’t for a birthday or anything, that guy was just cool as hell and always giving us his old toy hand-me-downs which gave my brother and I quite a variety of things to play with.
I remember being super amazed by how varied and weird the Kinnikuman guys were [Teapackman stuck out quite a bit] and I remember my brother and I fighting over a Robinmask figure because “he’s a knight and knights are cool.”
(A recent picture of Cory hanging with Mr. Kinnikuman himself)
* age 15 – getting serious:
I got a CD burner one year for Christmas and remember hiding from my mom in our computer room later that year trying to download really shitty quality rips of the anime “The Vision of Escaflowne” to throw on a CD for my girlfriend who was really into the first episode she saw, but couldn’t afford to buy the DVDs. I was able to get about 3 episodes before it was morning [thanks 56k] and only after giving the CD to her did I realize that they had no audio. Boyfriend of the year.
I drew a lot, but nothing spectacular and pretty much everything had one eye.
* age 20 – young adult:
Age 17 – 27 was spent in the U.S. Army working as a human resources and patient administrator for an infantry unit in Buffalo, New York and then a medical unit based out of Boston, Massachusetts.
I kept ridiculously photoshopping documents, regulations, and posters to see if anyone would notice the nonsensical changes.
No one did.
A new younger Colonel was brought in to replace our old Medical Administration Officer. He had a background in computers and general nerdery [was a D&D player in the past and played Everquest at the time] and was the first person to notice any of the bizarre changes I made to regulations and forms. Despite his initial reaction of “I’m going to kill you Sergeant Privitera” we became a good team and I was allowed quite a bit of freedom to continue my antics when humour was called for.
It was actually a pretty rad ten years and didn’t change the eccentric person I was in the slightest.
I collected a LOT of toys during this time and had an apartment that was absolutely covered with Sunguts Blackbeard [Gegege no Kitaro] figures and Real Head Fortune Cats.
* age 30 – adult mode:
I had a realization one day that despite not doing anything artistic or creative beyond trying to mess with people that I wanted to give making toys a shot. I made two prototypes and shipped them out to Japan to be made into toys.
About five weeks after doing that I went even further into my new obsession and ended up resigning from the hospital I worked at, sold almost everything in my apartment, broke up with my girlfriend, and hopped on a flight to Tokyo to apprentice under a professional sofubi maker.
A year and change later and I’ve started my own toy company in addition to continuing to work as a studio assistant to improve my skills and understanding of the toy creation process.
(A recent picture of Cory, below)
“Work now, sleep later.”
A few overnights to bring a project from start to finish is so much more rewarding than taking a week to do it. Especially during show season.
New Found Glory, The Get Up Kids, Alkaline Trio, Tilly and the Wall, Her Space Holiday, The Decemberists
Favorite TV show(s)?
Current Kamen Rider Series, Gintama, Game of Thrones, Seinfeld
Favorite sport(s) + teams?
The Science of Sleep
Favorite books and comics?
Too many to list, but “Gang Leader for a Day” by Sudhir Venkatesh and “Better” by Atul Gawande were some of the best non-fiction I’ve read.
I’m currently trying to force myself to read more comics and manga, but in the past I really enjoyed “Oyasumi Punpun” by Inio Asano and “Okitenemuru” by Hitori Renda.
Why the name ‘Science Patrol’?
Science Patrol is the nickname given to the “Science Special Search-Party” from the Ultraman series and I wanted to go with a name that was somehow linked to to the pop culture that a lot of these vinyl toys come from.
Science Patrol just sounded good too.
(Pictures below of the OG ‘Science Patrol’ from Ultraman)
Favorite other artist(s)?
I’m a huge fan of Junji Ito, Inio Asano, Kazuma Kaneko, and specifically for figures Sunguts and Restore.
There’s also this dude [I think his name is Noresore? (@bincho1977)] who produces and paints these small vinyl kitsune masks. They are amazing and are the highlight of my daily Instagram delves.
Worst aspect of the contemporary art-hustle?
I really can’t think of a “worst” aspect…
Best aspect of the contemporary art-hustle?
The fact that thanks to social media, crowd-funding, and community support, pretty much anyone with enough commitment, drive, and creativity can have their work seen and appreciated.
Do you consider what you are making to be ‘art’, ‘design’, re-hashed crap?
I personally consider my entries into the Japanese vinyl world more on the design end of things.
While I am technically an “artist” I identify more with the concept that I am an artist designing toys.
Sure, there are vinyl toys out there that should be considered more “art” than toy, but I don’t feel like that’s my field.
When and why did you first start making ‘art’ (drawings, paintings, anything)?
Ever since I was young I would always draw, play with clay, or mess around with Lego. Everything looked horrible, but it was still fun to play around.
What did you draw as a pre-teen child?
Ninja Turtles enemies [the weird ones], the Robot Masters from the various Mega Man games, a lot of knights, and a lot of ghosts.
I also remember a phase of doing Battletoads esque snowmen with spiked belts and guns for some reason.
What did you draw as a teen?
More ghosts and monsters, specifically Avalon, one of my figures that’s basically just a magical hat with a giant eye.
I suck at robots.
Any pivotal artistic moment/influence?
The day I realized that “getting good” doesn’t mean anything.
If I like what I make then someone else is bound to as well.
Why + when did you decide to go in on the art hustle?
Almost two years ago.
I wanted to take a gamble at both living in Tokyo and working at something I had an extreme interest in.
Describe the process of producing a self designed soft vinyl toy in Japan? – from original sculpt, moulding, production, to finally holding that sweet sweet vinyl in your hands? (dot point all o.k.)
Come up with a concept, be it a drawing, a thought, anything.
Think of the angles and the parts and decide if it is something that can actually work in vinyl.
If there are changes that need to be considered then make sure to note them before you start sculpting just so you have a baseline to consider.
Bring your idea to life by pretty much any means possible: sculpt, 3D print, carve, build, anything for the most part can be used.
It’s best to really consider part and joint size // pour spout locations and angles and this point or get in contact with someone in the field to get some insight as to what can and cannot work.
Once changes are made and the figure is workable it’s then a silicone mold is created from the prototype which is then filled with wax to create a wax prototype.
The wax is cleaned, detailed, finished, and polished, and is then sent out to the factory to be jointed and electroplated.
Once the molds are done the wax prototype is melted out of the newly formed metal mold and production of that figure in vinyl can begin.
The artist is usually provided a test pull of their figure at this step to ensure that there are no issues with the mold.
This is the first time you get to actually see your figure in vinyl.
It’s easily the most exciting step.
Orders are put in [vinyl type // quantity] and then you just wait for production.
Actually seeing a box come to your door of vinyl figures of a thing that you thought was cool enough to sculpt and put time into is amazing. It’s like Christmas every time you see the finished product.
What are the back narratives / tales to some of your sofubi kaiju creations such as:
* Avalon // Monochochin // Obakekoban?
Avalon started as a magical hat that I used to draw when I was younger.
He was just a western style mage’s hat with a giant eye that floated around.
He’s named Avalon after the island that King Arthur dies on in the Arthurian lore. It’s also where Excalibur was forged.
After moving here though I wanted to make him more Japanese as his counterpart figures [Monochochin and Obakekoban] were both traditional yokai.
I changed the story to be that him and the other two were forgotten old merchandise that was left in a Japanese used item shop for 100 years that through the myth of Tsukumogami [inanimate objects that come to life on their 100th birthday] have awakened and now roam the city looking for other ghosts to befriend.
They’re all nice ghosts.
(Pictures below of the Avalon, Monochochin and Obakekoban figures from ‘S.P’)
* Elemental Archmage ?
A spell caster that worships their specific element [fire, metal, ice] and can call upon creatures of those elements.
They don’t have faces and might possibly just be magic in a human form wearing a cloak.
(Pictures below of the Elemental Archmage figure from ‘S.P’)
* Trunkie ?
I owned a Pomeranian puppy [lives with the ex now unfortunately] that, when we got it, had a very short muzzle. As it got older the muzzle grew longer and I kept calling it a trunk.
It wasn’t really that long, just something to harass the dog about and curse it with the name “Trunkie”.
I started drawing these really awful drawings of the Pom with an unrealistically long trunk on everything till there were hundreds of them. Then one day I just thought “I’m going to make a toy of this shitty dog drawing some day.”
Most people ask me if she’s supposed to be an elephant.
(Pictures below of the Trunkie figure from ‘S.P’)
* Slime Adjudicator ?
Slow, non-violent slime monsters that patrol dungeons and simply stare at and follow those it encounters.
Nearly invincible to frontal attacks due to their shield face, they hang around those they find until the creature that they have deemed strong enough and secretly summoned to eliminate the intruder has arrived.
Then they go back on patrol.
(Pictures below of the Slime Adjudicator figure from ‘S.P’)
* Melon Pan Monster ?
Japanese melon bread that has come alive through some kind of magic.
Friendly and delicious.
(Pictures below of the Melon Pan Monster figure from ‘S.P’)
Resin Vs. Vinyl toys – who wins and why?
There really is no “winner.”
A lot of people go from resin to vinyl and there are just as many people who make vinyl and choose to dabble in resin.
While I personally prefer vinyl over resin there are just some things that can’t be done in vinyl that resin is totally more appropriate for.
Are art-toys for the kids?
A few walk the line of art-toy and play-toy.
I think price and design dictate better than anything else though.
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?
I don’t think it’s a change in art as much as it is an offshoot of it. It’s a newer medium in the art world that has given a bunch of new creatives a chance to shine, but I don’t think it represents a major change in art.
Art toys are still a minority market, but I’m glad to see that it is growing.
What does your family make of the whole perpetual adolescence/Peter Pan aspect of toy art + toy collecting?
I don’t think my mom believed me the first day I said I spent $50 on a toy.
I think after exposing her to the stores and the culture here in Japan as well as things like New York Comic Con // San Diego Comic Con she and the rest of my family have a better understanding of what makes an art toy and why they cost so much more than something you can find at Target.
My twin brother always understood the whole art toy thing though as we both collected Dunnys back in our college years.
Odds n Ends
Why are you currently living in Japan man?
Living here allows me to be at the very front of Japanese vinyl design and production.
I get to meet and sometimes even work with some pretty amazing people here and it’s an experience I would never have living back home in the States.
It also gives me the chance to go to the factories, mold and joint makers, and prototypers and see things being done first hand and learning more and more about how to improve the overall design of my figures.
I also love convenience stores.
What’s it like living in Japan as a ‘Gaijin’ these days?
I stick out a bit [6 feet tall and covered in tattoos] but I honestly have never felt more comfortable living somewhere before. Tokyo is very accessible for people with a limited grasp of the Japanese language as well as people of a different culture in general and is also far safer than any place I’ve ever lived before.
Don’t know if I would feel differently living outside of Tokyo though…
(Pictures below of Cory full ‘gaijin’)
What role did toys play in your childhood?
A way to express the things in my head in a form that I could hold in my hands and play with. Particularly with Lego, my twin and I were able to build different kingdoms with their own stories, heroes, villains, weapons, and vehicles and change it any time our creative tastes altered.
It was magical.
What drove you to become a toy collector?
The fact that, to me, the toys I collected were like statues I could interact with. It was a really cool thing in 3D that could be held, and touched, and placed on a shelf. They were also great conversation pieces in every apartment I’ve ever lived in. Far more than any print I’ve ever had hanging on my wall.
Please describe your experiences growing up in America?
Growing up in America was fantastic.
I spent most of my “growing up” years in a small suburb of Buffalo, NY. The community was great and everyone was pretty close overall. Everyone knew the smaller store owners, the police, and for the most part all of our neighbors. It was something I kind of too for granted then [being a kid and all] but looking back I can really appreciate how supportive and nice everyone was to each other.
Growing up in the American 80s // 90s was great because we didn’t have all the fancy stuff that kids have today which I think made us all a little more creative and imaginative when it came to entertainment. It was also awesome being introduced to things that were fairly new on the mainstream such as hip-hip and computers at such a young age. Growing up, my older brother and his friends were really into both of those things so my twin and I had phases of being dressed to look like tiny members of the Beastie Boys, watching my brother rig together a basement recording system for his short-lived rap group, or hanging around while he showed us the workings of tube radios or other fairly strange electronics.
Overall I’d like to think growing up here was pretty uneventful though, but in a good way.
Who was your 1st crush and why?
A tie between Winona Ryder in Beetlejuice and Ally Sheedy in The Breakfast Club.
I guess I’ve always had a thing for the semi emo // semi goth type, even when I didn’t fully understand what a boner was.
Does sex change everything?
Please describe your latest dream in detail…
The only thing I can remember from it was getting into a fight with a bus driver when then stopped the bus and chased me off it into this bus station.
He went to pin me against this bathroom door but I opened it and slammed it on his head [his face was sticking outside of the door towards me] a few times till his eyes sunk in and his lips and teeth grew long and made their way to me.
He then bit into my arm with his new strange mouth and that was the last thing I remember.
Have you ever tried psychedelics of any sort? And what was the experience like?
I never had the chance.
Of everything you have done what would you most like to be remembered for and why?
I just want people to remember me as being a fun creative dude who wasn’t an arrogant asshole and made cheap, but interesting // cute toys of totally random things.
My dream would be to have something I made become something people like taking photos of and posting on social media doing things kind of like the whole Danbo [a character from the Japanese comic “Yotsuba”] figure photography boom of the past few years.
Drugs – waste of time or gateway to the universe?
It was never really my thing.
I actually have a figure coming out that was totally conceived and designed while I was heavily under the influence and thought it was a good idea.
It’s a bird with lips and a bowl haircut and is by far the stupidest thing I will probably ever make.
Please describe what you think the Japanese Psyche/Zeitgeist is today?
I feel like Japan wants to be more internationally accessible than they ever have been because they know that even the weirdest aspects of their pop culture or the most bizarre piece of history is most likely interesting to a good number of people on the outside.
On all fronts too: entertainment, art, tourism, history.
There’s more of Japan in the west than there ever has been.
Any collaborations on the horizon?
Nothing is set in stone, but there’s an Italian keshi artist [w.h.l.t] I’ve been talking with for some time now about working on a collaborative vinyl series that will almost 100% be dungeon themed.
Any major projects you want to hype?
I have a figure of the Japanese earthquake catfish “Namazu” coming out at the end of the month! It’s adorable and should be awesome when it’s done.
(Picture below of the upcoming ‘Namazu’ figure from ‘S.P’)