‘Official Toy’ are a two person independent toy making company hailing from the Eastern European nation of Slovenia; comprising multimedia artists Iza Pavlina and Uroš Vnuk.
Since debuting on the International Art Toy Scene a few years ago, ‘Official Toy’ have quickly left their mark – A result of their technical proficiency when it comes to toy making, as well as their understanding of character design.
Amazingly, Iza and Uros have also begun experimenting with DIY soft vinyl production as well – with the end goal of making their own soft vinyl figures, at their home in Slovenia!
So with ‘Official Toy’ a company to watch – we decided to ask Iza and Uros to share with us their personal history, artistic process, thoughts on the current state of the Scene, and much much more….
Read it all, in the Art Talk Interview, below…
Name + D.O.B?
IZA: Iza Pavlina – 10th June 1991.
Uros: Uroš Vnuk – 31st May 1988.
City, State n Country you guys currently call home?
IZA: We are currently living in Celje, a small town in Slovenia. We also spend a lot of time in Ljubljana, the capital city of Slovenia.
Uros: Celje, Slovenija.
City, State n Country you’re from?
IZA: I was born Celje, Slovenia.
Uros: Ljubljana-Vodmat, Slovenija.
Describe a memory from some stages of your lifes ….basically trying to piece together pivotal moments. Concerts, art, action-figures, romance, school, crime… ANYTHING really!
* age 5 – beginnings:
IZA: I remember drawing a lot in kindergarten. I liked to retrace illustrations from Disney’s storybooks and Dinosaurs! magazines and then tried to draw the images by heart.
When I was 6 years old we went to Paris with my family where I saw the poster for the first Pokemon movie. I’ve never heard of Pokemon before, but Mewtwo on that poster looked so cool to me that I tried to memorize it and draw it as soon as we got back to the hotel.
Mewtwo is still my favorite Pokemon.
Uros: I liked pasta. I liked the bolognese sauce so much it’s in most of the stories I remember others tell about myself.
Also at around this age I discovered a cartoon called Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Also I have to mention video games! My uncle had a lot of them on his PC and this was maybe closer to age 10. My favourites were Command & Conquer, C&C Red Alert and later The Curse of Monkey Island. He also had Duke Nukem but I wasn’t allowed to play that one.
* age 10 – continuations:
IZA: I started taking drawing lessons that were meant to help people prepare for art academy’s entrance exams. I was way too young to be there, but this old professor from Montenegro was kind enough to let me draw with everybody else.
I kept going there for about 5 years.
Uros: Well more Ninja Turtles, which were my favourite toys up to this age. Basketball was pretty much the only sport I liked from even before 10. And at around 12 I started going to basketball practice at a local basketball school.
Also more games introduced to me by my uncle, like Grand Theft Auto. Favourite video game at this time was Heroes of Might and Magic 3 and is still in my top 3 for sure.
* age 15 – getting serious:
IZA: I met a bunch of local young artist that let me hang out in their studios, even though they were much older than I. We also often went to exhibition openings together, which helped understand and appreciate contemporary art more.
Around that time I naively decided that I want to study art and make a career out of it.
Uros: High School, okay… I introduced myself to beer at this time. I wasn’t too fond of learning stuff that didn’t interest me and ended up at the High School for Design and Photography.
This is when I possibly ate the most pizza in my life but I also started discovering other delicious foods (Octopus cooked in a clay pot in a brick oven, yummy). My mother taught me to make my own pizza bread and sauce, so I could make pizza myself.
One thing I regret from this time is not going to a Beastie Boys concert when one of them was really close to here in Vienna.
* age 20 – young adult:
IZA: I started studying painting at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Ljubljana where I also met Uroš. We started off as friends and after a couple of years became a couple.
During my undergraduate studies I was mainly experimenting with media, developing my own art projects and submitting them to galleries. I also met some pretty awesome people during that time.
Uros: Of older movies genre films westerns and horror movies were a big interest. For getting into horror movies my friend is to blame, he introduced me to all of the ‘best’ euro-horror production there is.
* age 25 – adult mode:
IZA: Uroš and I started making toys together and ‘Official Toy’ was born!
I also got self-employed as an intermedia artist and I got my master’s degree in painting.
Uros: After sharing excitement over b-movie horror we started making our own with that same friend. The end result unfortunately wasn’t a movie, but I did get a Diploma (Bachelor degree) in painting from the Academy of Arts and Design for the scenography I made for our movie.
Character Lisko the dog with a vagina for his face was also a highlight from that time, it was also my first reproduced toy.
* age 30 – fully formed:
Uros: That’s right now!
I remember answering to interview questions for which I was grateful was happening and at the same time had no idea who’d be interested enough to read this.
Thanks Josh for the opportunity!
* age 35 – adult continuations:
Uros: Oooh going to the future now, nice.
I imagine and hope I’ll still be into toys and hopefully still make them. It’s a big interest but it’s hard to maintain with income just from indie toy making.
* age 40 – meanderings:
Uros: I’d like to make a movie.
IZA: I don’t have one.
Uros: Not really living by rules or ideals of one sentence. I don’t know… if you need one just invent it to suit you for that moment.
Why the name ‘Official Toy’?
IZA: The name started off as a joke.
At first we thought we were going to primarily make bootleg toys and we liked the idea of having an “Official Toy” logo on the package. We ended up making pretty much only original figures, but the name stuck and we decided to keep it.
Uros: Well, I kind of talked Iza into this one and convinced her that it’s a good idea.
Finding a name is hard and I was thinking of something that wouldn’t define much and would be neutral in meaning and not a really cool name with words like danger, sword, poison…
Main idea behind this name was to have a logo that would actually look more like a seal of authenticity or quality, affirming our product. Stupid stuff I know. Only thing we achieved is maybe people thinking “WTF kind of name is official toy and what is official about it, should’ve at least made bootlegs”.
When and why did you guys first start making art together!?
IZA: We started working together at the end of 2016. Uroš was making toys before that and after a while I started learning from him and getting more involved by helping him with the process.
Uros: I showed Iza how easy it is to copy (mold) stuff and modify it. That was with her miibo statue of the yellow mouse pocket-monster to which we added a turtle shell, a pizza and everything else a ninja has, yay Ninja Squirtle. That was our first toy we made together and there are a few still in our drawer waiting to find owners.
Any pivotal artistic moment(s) / influence(s)?
IZA: I don’t think there was any specific moment or influence that inspired me to do what I do. It was probably thanks to the support I got early on in my life from my parents and the local art community that pushed me towards becoming an artist.
Uros: Influences: Michael Jordan, Paul McCarthy (no spelling mistakes here), and more.
Pivotal artistic moment was I think when I realised I wasn’t good enough in basketball, nor did I train enough to be good so I had to do something else.
Do you consider what you are making to be art, ‘design, re-hashed crap?
IZA: I consider everything I make on my own and what Uroš and I make together to be art.
But I consider pornography to be art as well, so who am I to say…
Uros: I don’t really consider it art, but if anyone else does that’s cool. Maybe art in a sense of hobby craft, like what bored and old people do on Sundays. Sunday-art. The only difference being I do it everyday.
Also not design and not really re-hashed, so crap is the closest? I don’t know, I do what I like and I’m lucky and happy to see people like it!!
Worst aspect of the contemporary art hustle?
IZA: I often experience impostor syndrome and I hate the financial instability.
Uros: There’s too many people that aren’t good, but suck-up enough to people in positions or bullshit enough to get exhibitions.
Best aspect of the contemporary art hustle?
IZA: Being creative.
Uros: The best aspect is that you can be a bad artist but suck-up to the right people or talk about bullshit enough and get into galleries being recognised as high art.
Favorite other artist(s)?
Uros: Not in order by favourite: Deso, LELE, Tada, Sonja, Rok, Simon, Ninja Tiger, Fočo (great SMS artist and songwriter), Ivgin, Jezus, Mimi, Michael Jordan Their IGs: @kutickworks @leonzuodar @vaukman585 @sonjavulpes @rokkistuff @simonkocjancic @ninjatigermagicbringer @eevgeen_ @kristijand.rojko @mihaelnovak90
Whilst we know you through your art toys and sculptural work – care to share with those at home the details of your other creative endevours… if any?!
IZA: I work with lots of different media.
For the latest exhibition I had I sewed a giant stuffed octopus that you could crawl into. I even became a “porn star” for one of my projects. I filmed aestheticized parodies of fetish porn videos and uploaded them on several porn sites where my content got surprisingly popular.
Uros: Well once or twice per year I draw. And every now and then we make a zine with friends compiling some drawings or drawing together in a drawing jam session.
I also made a horror film set in my studio once. And small horror dioramas which I filmed with fake fog and analog effects for that movie.
One particular completely analog effect I was proud of making was a title of the movie appear floating above a diorama scene I made.
Describe the process of producing your designer toys? – from original sculpt, moulding, production, to finally holding that sweet sweet finished product in your hands… (dot point all o.k.)
IZA: Whenever we’re making an original character, we first brainstorm an idea for its design and come up with a story around it, as if the character comes from a real movie.
then make a few drawings of the character and Uroš hand-sculpts and polishes the whole figure.
After that we make silicone molds for each part of the figure, which usually results in more than 8 molds per figure.
I dye one part of polyurethane resin all the colors we need and Uroš uses the dyed resin to cast the figure.
We assemble the pieces with glue and magnets and hand paint all the details.
We also have to make drawings and logos for the packaging and edit everything in Photoshop, print out the back cards and glue custom made resealable blisters on them.
Finally we take some photos of the new figure, post them on our Instagram account and put our final product on our online store.
Uros: Different with each toy, but something that would apply to most of them would go like this:
idea >>> sketch >>> make a frame for the sculpt or parts >>> add mass and details >>> mould the original sculpt/parts >>> cast >>> clean up the cast >>> glue magnets into joints >>> apply paint where needed >>> make card-back art >>> print >>> stick a resealable bubble >>> seal the figure in >>> done .
I usually don’t have a sketch just an idea in my mind of how I want it to look and change the figure during the process frequently.
For the frame we often use our older toys when we work on the scale we already made (3.75 for instance). We just strip down the previous parts and add new details. So we kind of bootleg ourselves.
Moulding the figures most effectively and best way possible takes time and experience. Every part is different and this is definitely the hardest to do right. When you are already at your best sculpting, you will always have new things to learn with moulding.
Digital Vs Hand sculpting – what wins and why?
IZA: I prefer hand sculpting all the way. I love the process of having a physical object and shaping it with your own hands.
I respect the way hand sculpting forces you to learn how different materials behave and how it can be quite unforgiving if you make a mistake. That being said, I do like the smooth and symmetric look of some 3D sculpted figures. Digital sculpting can be very useful for those kinds of things.
Even though we hand sculpt all of our figures, we used 3D sculpting program a few times to make joints or other parts that need to be very precise.
Uros: Hand-sculpting wins by a lot. I do not like symmetry in digital sculpting, most of what I’ve seen looked completely unnatural because of the symmetry.
Even when you do robots and things that are supposed to be ‘perfect’ I still prefer the hand sculpted look. Then there’s also cramming too much detail into the model for the size it is supposed to be made in real three dimensions. Or not enough detail for bigger things, hand sculpting takes care of that with texture of the material you use and all the unevenness and unintentional mistakes.
Overall I am certain that digital sculpting is easier than hand sculpting and that it is used more as a tool of convenience. And for tangible products hand sculpting should be respected more than digital.
But when someone is well-versed in digital sculpting it can look very good and natural.
I have nothing against digital sculpting for things that are meant to stay digital.
Are art-toys for the kids?
IZA: They can be for kids, as long as they don’t include small parts.
Uros: Yes! Just watch out for the small parts obviously… Also if there’s any toys made from unsafe, health risk materials.
Just common sense.
Is the rise of art toys an indication of the changing nature of art? OR just a bunch of nerds with too much money and time?
IZA: Probably a combination of both.
Uros: Both are probably true but I mostly think the materials are just more accessible than ever. At least that’s the case for me, I enjoyed sculpting from the young age.
With materials I know now and how easy it is to prototype with resin I would’ve my own toys 20 years ago.
Thoughts on the current state of the Art Toy Scene?
IZA: I love its online community! Everyone is super talented, kind and supportive.
Uros: We only know it from social media where we are active. And it’s a great community there from what I can tell.
On Instagram people we are in contact with are really nice and kind, we chat every now and then.
Shout out to all of our toy-buddies, you know who you are!
What role did toys play in your childhood?
IZA: Comfort, happiness and imagination.
Uros: A gateway to a carefree imaginary world of awesomeness.
What are the top 3 toys you own?
(Please include photos or drawings of them!)
IZA: My latest favorite toy is a set of Star Trek The Original Series action-figures that Uroš found in a second hand shop in England.
IZA: My first favorite toy I can remember is a young Simba plush.
IZA: My all-time favorite childhood toy is a Biyomon beanie named Digi, that I still have in my bed.
Uros: Ah most of the toys we have are independent toys from our buddies on Instagram… I wouldn’t like to pick any favorites because they’re all special in their way.
So I’ll go with the ninja turtles from my childhood, photo included. You can see from wear and tear how much of favorites they really were.
What impact do you think 3D sculpting and printing is having, and will have, on the art toy scene?
IZA: It has a similar effect to digital drawing and digital painting, in the sense that it broadens the art toy scene to more creators with different backgrounds.
Uros: Well everything can be sculpted and ‘prototyped’ much faster and it helps people that like the 3D printed digitally sculpted look. Especially now that the lcd/dlp/sla printers are out the 3D print is cleaner than ever.
All of this technology will only get even better and it will get even easier to sculpt virtually. So for those that go by this path it is and will be a great benefit.
Only thing that bothers me right now is that at the same time everyone is very excited about these new technologies in my opinion hand sculpting is under-respected.
You have recently been experimenting with DIY soft-vinyl production…
* How are your experiments going?
IZA: The experiments certainly involve a lot of trial and error, so we have to take a few steps back every now and then. But each time we learn something new and improve.
Uros: They are going okay.
Okay in that we are clearly closer to producing soft-vinyl toys with every step we make and persist even if there are no tangible results yet. Everything we know about this process was very hard to figure out and find information on.
We started with a blog post from ‘Rampage Toys‘ about Sofubi production and later found Geoff Maxfield from America attempting to do his own metal moulds. We exchanged a few e-mails with Geoff and he was very helpful.
We did a lot of searching and reading on these subjects and mostly it’s been trial and error with experiments.
Recently we got some theoretical insight from Neil Ewing and Grody Shogun from Lulubell.
So shout-out to all of you who have been of help, thank you!
Also Lewis P. Morley from Australia who is on a similar path as ourselves and author of this interview is to thank that we know of him!
* Why did you decide to produce your own soft vinyl toys, when you can already go to factories in Japan, China, Mexico etc. for production?
IZA: We wanted to learn something new and take on the challenge to become completely independent in making our soft vinyl toy.
Uros: Because it seemed expensive to get a toy produced abroad and I want to learn new stuff.
I’ve always had the do-it-yourself mentality, the harder to do the better. Whatever interests me I like to do, and I really like the process of producing soft-vinyl, from electro-forming metal moulds to casting the vinyl.
Something I never knew before.
* What process will you be using to produce you DIY soft vinyl works?
IZA: Uroš sculpts the original figure the same way he sculpts for resin casting.
After that we make a wax copy of the original, paint it with a conductive paint and put it into our DIY copper acetate bath for about a month. During this time our wax figure is slowly being electrocoated with raw copper.
Once the layer of copper is thick enough, we melt the wax out and end up with a hollow copper mold for casting our soft vinyl figures.
After some further modifications to the mold we should be able to pour inside liquid plastisol and heat it up to about 170 degrees Celsius for a few seconds until a thin skin of vinyl hardens on the interior of the mold.
We will then pour out the remaining liquid vinyl, heat the hardened vinyl again until it cures completely, cool it with water and finally pull out a sexy hollow soft vinyl toy.
Uros: We are making copper moulds from wax figures with electro-forming.
When the moulds are done we weld them to a frame and are then ready to pour vinyl into and dip into a high-temperature liquid (around 200°C).
Excess vinyl is poured out and we are left with a hollow cast of soft PVC to pull out of the cold and repeat the process.
* And what materials are you using?
IZA: Green stuff, brown stuff, super sculpey and/or magic sculpt for the original figure.
Silicone mold rubber and modeling wax for the wax copy.
Conductive copper paint and home brewed copper acetate for copper-forming.
Plastisol for the final product.
Uros: For now we have a PVC that they use at a local factory to produce vinyl floor tiling. It is probably a bit soft for toys but for testing it will do.
It complies to all EU standards for environmental safety and poses no health risks.
If people wanted to collaborate, work wth you or just buy some art – how should they get in touch?
IZA: You can just DM us on our Instagram – @official.toy
Uros: e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org or if you have instagram Direct Message us there @official.toy
We also have a web-shop at official-toy.store
Odds and Ends
Please describe your experiences growing up in Slovenia?
IZA: It was very calm, safe and comfortable.
Uros: Everything was cool and safe, I was able to play outside all the time.
Please describe what you think the Slovenian Psyche / Zeitgeist is today?
IZA: I honestly don’t know what the Slovenian zeitgeist of today is.
Uros: Extreme inferiority complex.
People seem to think it’s impossible to achieve something because we come from a small unrecognised country and are pleased with mediocrity. But when somebody does do something it is inflated and hyped as how unbelievable it is considering the background.
Otherwise I guess it’s the same as everywhere, accumulate money and nice cars or whatever you’re into so you can brag. Wealth seems to be the most important idea with honour, cooperation and such things far behind it.
Who was your 1st crush and why?
IZA: Probably grown-up Kovu from The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride movie, because he is confusingly hot for a cartoon lion.
Uros: Michael Jordan. The G.O.A.T.
Does sex change everything?
IZA: I think sex is an important aspect of a relationship, but not the most important one.
Which cartoon character would you most like to see in a tribute sex toy, and why?
(Please sketch a prototype of your design.)
Maybe 6th Generation Pokemon Inkay, because his name already sounds like the Japanese word for penis (inkei). And because it’s a squid.
Uros: Cartoon character sex toy? I don’t know, something funny and stupid maybe?
A Superman that has a Mickey Mouse for his junk for instance. Let’s see people fuck with that!
Who would win in a fight and why: Manslother Vs. Ratfink ?
(Please draw the battle in all it’s violent beauty!)
IZA: Maslother is strictly vegan, so he kills and eats only humans.
I don’t think he would want to harm Rat Fink, he would just take a sneaky dump on him.
Uros: Depends where they would cross paths.
Manslother would definitely make long work of Raftink if he encountered him near his cabin in the woods but would not have much of a chance at a hot-rod convention.
Please describe your latest dream in detail…
IZA: The most recent dream I can remember was probably caused by a science fiction book I’m reading…
I was with my family at my parents apartment, anxiously waiting for news about an alien invasion that was about to happen soon. Everybody was instructed to stay at home and wait for the space fleet battle to be over. My mom was cooking a feast and chattering, trying to make us forget about the inevitable doom.
I looked out of the window into the sky where I saw small flashes of light behind the clouds, indicating that the space war has begun. I looked down at the parking lot behind our apartment block and saw a man riding an ox and crashing into a parked car. I went down to that parking lot to see if he’s ok, but a military man started shooting at me and making me army crawl back to the apartment block. There was a large dog behind the front door and it bit my forearm and tore the sleeve off my puffer jacked…
Then I woke up.
Uros: If I’d only remember them!
For the past month I’ve had a lot of dreams and intensive ones too. I sadly just don’t make enough effort in the morning to remember them, I wake up too quick.
Of everything you have done what would you most like to be remembered for and why?
IZA: I hope the thing I will be remembered for is yet to happen.
Uros: Ooh, there’s nothing I did that is reason enough for remembering someone I think. But someday for making a good or a bad movie. That is something I would like to make and/or do.
Drugs – waste of time or gateway to the universe?
IZA: I don’t do drugs.
I like having my mind clear and under control at all times. But to each his own.
Uros: In the right dose (small and infrequent) I guess they could be a gateway to the universe if you must experiment a few times and if you do it just out of curiosity or in search of self or other answers to pestering questions.
But abuse is bad and I don’t see much productiveness coming from people that are regularly under the influence of whatever.
Any collaborations on the horizon?
IZA: We are planning a collab with Ninja Tiger, a fantastic tattoo artist and an illustrator from Croatia.
Uros: I love collaborations!
It takes time but if you like to collaborate and there’s a group of people with similar interest you should explore each others ideas and brains and come up with something to show for. Right now we are working on a collaboration figure, maybe even figures, with an amazing tattoo artist/illustrator Ninja Tiger Magic Bringer.
He’s a big fan of Masters of the Universe and I’m a fan of anything fun and his illustrations, so lets see what comes out of it.
Any major projects you want to hype?
IZA: I hope we will be successful at making our first DIY soft vinyl figure soon.
We are also be regularly releasing new resin figures and maybe re-releasing some old characters in new colors.
Uros: Our future toys in general… We have so much stuff to do and good ideas to execute, there’s just not enough days in a day (here’s a motto for ya).
Obviously we’d like to finally succeed in producing soft-vinyl toys. I hope people stay tuned.