Neil Ewing is an American artist, musician, toy designer and curator who made major waves in the global designer toy community when he released his very fist soft vinyl figure – the lovingly crafted, and utterly unique Couch the Sofubi Sofa in late 2018.
Recently Neil debuted test shots of his 2nd figure, and companion toy to Couch, Bubbles the Soft Vinyl Dog. A bite size, two part figure, and a perfect addition to his ever growing toy catalogue.
In addition to his toy making, Neil is also a scene builder through his role as curator of the ‘Bombastic Plastic’ group artist designer toy show – which has been held twice in Neil’s home-state of Colorado, in the USA to much acclaim.
Outlining his approach to creation, Neil states:
“It’s totally okay to work a 9-5 normal job and allow that to help you continue to make art. And find the art you make to be fulfilling.
Redefine what success is to you, for you.
Make those things mean something different for you.
I think creativity is so much more than making things.
It’s becoming about re-editing our culture and power systems.“
With Neil having wrapped up shop after another successful Bombastic Plastic show, and recently releasing his aforementioned second soft vinyl figure Bubbles – we thought now was the perfect time to sit down with the man himself to discuss art, toys, comics, dogs, his experiences working in a nursing home and a whole lot more!
Read it all in the interview below…
Name + D.O.B?
City, State and Country you currently call home?
Parker, Colorado, USA.
City, State and Country you’re from?
South Eastern Colorado.
Please each describe some memories from key stages of your life: concerts, art, toys, romance, hunting, school, politics, crime, religion… ANYTHING really!
* Age 5 – beginnings:
I remember living in a small town called Granada Colorado. I had a severe speech impediment and hearing issues, and thus was having difficulty in school.
So they put me in special education.
I remember that time being very tumultuous and hard to get through.
I think this is where the drawing came in. I was one of the few things I was good enough at that people would see me in some positive light. It was a good way of having other kids interact, by asking me to draw things for them.
I remember the Playmates TMNT figures though… I was SO down!
And Transformers G1 figs.
* Age 10 – continuations:
I remember buying a lot of comic books at this time. This was 93-95 and The 90s era was ramping up.
I remember picking up Maximum Carnage, Knightfall, and what ever Image titles I could get my hands on in BFE middle of nowhere.
Toy biz was pumping out as many new toys as they could and I think GI Joe was going pretty hard as well w/ lots of weird neon colors.
I had a bunch of the marvel toy biz stuff.
* Age 15 – getting serious:
I wasn’t at all serious, I think I just smoked a lot of weed and played sports… haha.
One thing my friends and I were adamant about was tape trading anime.
I remember spending a lot of time and effort getting Evangelion, and Tenchi Muyo vhs tapes. There where a lot of army brats at the school I was going to, so friend of a fiend in Japan or Korea etc. would always have something new, or new to me.
I was collecting transformers and model kits.
* Age 20 – young adult:
Oh art college…
I went to Rocky Mountain School of Art and Design with the intent of making toys, but our instructors had no idea about any of that.
I remember making a dinosaur Ceramic sculpture, and the Instructor gave me a D grade. It was like none of the teachers gave a fuck. They were all totally wrapped up in their own shit.
Lots of weird politics and fine art norms. I remember lots of Bauhaus structured learning, and critiques.
I was totally broke, working and going to school so, I wasn’t collecting anything.
Musically Denver was creating it’s own sound, and doing some cool shit. There were so many beautiful people doing weird shit. This was a big learning time. I met some great people and did some stupid stuff doing this age.
* Age 25 – adult mode:
Well… my art degree wasn’t very sought after in the world.
So, I was working in a nursing home which, to be honest was a pretty fulfilling job. I got to help people in need and it gave me a sense of purpose. It was rough befriending these people and then being there when they passed. A lot of them lived through the world wars and great depression.
There was this gentleman who fought in WWII and he was deff as the night is long. He would walk around just before dinner, showing off these postcards he head of Mussolini and the other fascists hanging in town square.
At this time I was working on music and playing a lot of shows and spend a lot of time at the DIY venue Rhinoseropolis here in Denver.
The energy at the time was incredible so many creatives doing amazing things.
At this time, I had a developed quite the Transformers collection.
* Age 30 – fully formed:
I don’t think I was… I had given up music, and started drawing a lot more, focusing on sequential art and comics.
My friend at work told me about 24 hour comic day, and it was in from there.
It all made since, like this was what I was supposed to be doing.
It’s not what you use, it’s how you use it.
All I know is that I just don’t know.
Art, Design, and Toy Questions
When and why did you first start making art of any type!?
3-4 yrs old.
Drawing and clay stuff.
Any pivotal artistic moment(s) / influence(s)?
Seeing Ghostbusters 2, and the Bat Man Animated Series. Of course, Anime, just all the Anime!
Deftones, Prince, Barry Windsor Smith, Sneaker Pimps, Ray Harryhausen, Rob Liefeld, Sam Keith, Travis Cherest, Hideaki Anno, Go Naga, Yoshiki Takaya, Meatloaf & Stienmen.
Describe the process of producing your art? – Dot point all o.k!
* Your soft vinyl toys?
The toys I make are pulled from my life and experiences.
I try to use humor in my work. Making things kitsch and quirky.
I tend to draw the forms over and over to find the most organic and functional way of the form. That way the object is a form made from the function of repetition trying to accomplish representing an idea.
Soft Vinyl is filled with Monsters, Kaiju, and platform toys. I just wanted to make things that are refreshing and make collectors ask questions.
* Your resin toys?
Kit bashing, Mostly.
When toys are created by other people you take the content and stories of those toys and transfer them to your own work. It becomes a 3D collage.
Toys hinged on nostalgia and history.
It feels like kit bashed bootleg toys are so geniune to the creators at this point. Some of the work I see is so unreal. Great stuff out there.
And all the masters for vinyl are poured in resin. I like resin! I wish i had more time for it!
* Your traditional drawings and illustrations?
I like writing the scripts and telling the stories.
I think that comics are one of the areas I feel the most comfortable. I can be funny, and draw from my life the easiest in these areas.
Lots of blue pencil lay outs, I use 3D modeling programs for perspective drawings and then kind of small it all together and trace it.
To keep consistant, I draw the characters hundreds of times, in many different poses and expressions. even going to the point of sculpting there faces to pull reference.
Bored, I mostly draw Bat Man, Swampthing, The Maxx and Ninja Turtles.
* Your digital art?
I guess it’s all digital in one way or another… My computer is a constant tool i’m using.
All of my art is at some point going through a computer.
* Your music – released under the name ‘GREENCARPETEDSTAIRS’?
Synthesizers, samples, Circuit bent electronics, and ableton. Lot’s of auto tune….
A half ton of catharsis, and nostalgia.
Worst aspect of the contemporary art hustle?
The whole personal branding thing… Gross. I hate 90% of it. Some of it is gold though. Sturgen’s Law.
Some people have the personality to add that little extra thing that takes it from being an advertisement, into a realm of that ad adding to the cultural know, and becoming entertainment, or it having learning value.
But most of it it is bereft of anything other than some person trying to sell shit.
It just seems to be this reminiscent of the worst parts of advertising that refuses to die.
Best aspect of the contemporary art hustle?
The fact that you can! So many artists have the ability to be their own mouthpiece and subvert the Art Industries.
Make that money! Go meet new and interesting people!
Work is hard, but if your’e willing to work hard and manifest you’ll most likely find a place.
Like, it’s totally okay to work a 9-5 normal job and allow that to help you continue to make art. And find the art you make to be fulfilling.
Redefine what success is to you, for you. Make those things mean something different for you. I think creativity is so much more than making things. It’s becoming about re-editing our culture and power systems.
Favorite other artist(s)?
Ash Thorpe, Don Austin, Skinner, FKA Twigs, Banks, Bat For Lashes, Elegab, Offical Toy, Tyler the Creator, Nick Derrington, Sophie Campbell.
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?
I think it’s just a sign that globally, we are changing the way we look at, and or categorise art.
It’s ridiculous to think that all art should be thousands of dollars and unobtainable for working class people. Or that one can’t be an artist and part of the working class, that artist should starve and be broke.
I think that more artists are building a name for themselves and selling their work. So collectors are going more DIY and getting great work, for around the same price that big companies are selling their products for.
With the DIY stuff there are new stories and forms. New ideas.
It’s incredible to be able to collaborate with artists and fabricators all over the world to make things. I think it’s great.
Thoughts on the current state of the Global Designer Toy Scene?
Lot’s of great stuff, even more lame stuff.
Lots of Olde Guard toy makers, gatekeeping, asking questions like, “why would you make toys, when you have no patrons?” And ,”you can’t handle the toy scene”.
I chalk it up to compassion, and fear of losing sales.
I do wish there was more creative critique and council with new toy makers, so that people could make more successful products and push the form forward.
Bombastic Plastic Questions
For those at home who may be unaware, please explain the what, why and who (is involved) with ‘Bombastic Plastic’?
Bombastic Plastic is a toy show, that came from the understanding that art toys were severely under represented in this region.
We work with artists, locally and globally. To foster opportunity, leadership and community.
So Many Artists! Go the website, and check out the show!
What have been some of the highlights of the last two ‘BP’ shows?
Being able to help artists! Straight up! It’s fulfilling.
We try to be transparent, I try to push them out of their comfort zones to make cool stuff that will be in a gallery for people to see.
At points in my life I needed people to help me, or needed a creative community to be a part of, just to feel human. So, knowing those issues, I tried to help in those areas!
I love how It’s possible to reach out to all different kinds of people under the DIY toy maker umbrella and get work for a show. It’s really exciting.
Odds and Ends
What role did toys play in your childhood(s)?
Growing up in the middle on nowhere, toys allowed me escape from the world. I created my own stories and adventures. I would draw the characters and learn the anatomy.
I remember my mom helped me build a little city for my super articulated Toy Biz Spider-Man to swing around in.
Who was your 1st crush and why?
Jennifer Grey in Dirty Dancing.
I loved her. I don’t know… I was like 6 years old. In the story she goes from being totally lame and controlled by her lame parents to having the time of her life.
Does sex change everything?
I think sex is why we are here in many ways. To reproduce, to spend our seed? If you don’t have offspring, it’s like existential suicide.
I think Love changes everything. Then comes empathy and compassion, leading to community.
Please describe what you think the American psyche / zeitgeist is today?
Narcissism is king.
I think that currently we live in a very unforgiving time.
For good or for evil.
People should dance together more. and eat food together more, connect and forget themselves for a bit.
Smoke weed and watch nature shows.
Which cartoon character, would you most like to see in a tribute sex toy, and why?
[Please also draw a mock-up of your design.]
Pet Rock.. Just stick it in the butt, and walk around.
Who would win in a fight and why: A couch Vs. A chair?
[Please also draw the battle in all its glory!]
What are the top 3 items you own?
[Please include photos or drawings of them.]
Drugs – waste of time or gateway to the universe?
Psychedelics are legit. Used for therapy and to get away and analyze.
Opioids are trash!
Don’t smoke crack, shit is wack!
Please describe your latest dream in detail…
Fuck… I totally can’t.
Once I had a dream me and Pennywise the clown were on a boat drinking beers with swimsuit models.
It was legit.
Of everything you have done what would you most like to be remembered for and why?
Hopefully, being funny, just making my people proud and doing the best I could.
If people wanted to work with you or buy something – how should they get in touch?
DM me on instagram @Neil_ewing or go to my website www.neilewing.com
Any collaborations on the horizon?
I’m always working on something with someone. 😉
Any major projects you want to hype?
I’m making a soft vinyl toy of my dog, Bubbles.
It’ll be sweet!
[Editor: As you can no doubt tell from this interview, Bubbles the soft vinyl dog has recently been released by Neil! Hit him up and grab one for yourself while you can.]