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Q&A: What are designer toys?


A: Glad you asked! Most of the objects sold on the Tenacious Toys website are called art toys. Another phrase that describes these objects is "designer toys." We used to call the vinyl artist-created figures " urban vinyl" I guess because there has been a steady tie-in with hip hop, graffiti culture, skateboarding and street wear... but honestly, none of those names accurately describe this type of collectible object.

They are all sculptures, or sculptural art, or collectibles. Some are one of a kind, hand crafted by independent artists in small studios. Some of them are made in factories in production runs in the thousands or tens of thousands.

We often call the one-of-a-kind pieces "customs" because they are sculpted by hand, and then hand-painted. Sometimes they are cast in resin and left bare, or accentuated with small paint details.

They can be commissioned- you can pay the artist you admire to create a piece, and the piece will be custom-created especially for you. Custom toys! Or sculptures. See? It's not so easy to define. I call the OOAK pieces "customs" and I've created an entire section just to hold them.

When artists contact me to blog the pieces they've been working on as commissions, many of them simply refer to them as "commissions" instead of toys or pieces. I guess Tenacious Toys sells collectible toy art. Or collectible art toys. Maybe we just sell art? Ah, screw it.

Moving on... At a certain point, many of the artists who create custom toys or sculptural art reach a level of recognition where it is apparent that their designs would be able to sell in higher quantities.

Fine artists call these limited runs of their pieces "artist multiples." The toy art world is decidedly counter-culture and subversive, however, and most artists in this community do not play by any set rules.

We don't call them "artist multiples" but again, the nomenclature is vague. I call the pieces made in factories " production toys" to separate them from the "custom toys." I have set up a section on this site for artists who have had several of their toy designs produced in factories.

What you should take away from this long-winded and rambling explanation is that the objects you see for sale on this website come from the creative minds of artists from disparate specialties and genres. Graphic designers, graffiti artists, tattoo artists, painters, sculptors, illustrators, mural artists, rock poster artists and many other types of creatives have found this bizarre niche community and embraced it as another means of expressing themselves.

Welcome to our world!