Tyler Ham is an OG of the designer toy world. He has been releasing highly acclaimed works since the mid 2000’s and has collaborated with giants of the scene – such as Sucklord, Killer Bootlegs, and Junkfed. Aside from his personal art, Tyler is also a special effects and design wizard with countless years spent in the film and toy industries.
Having recently returned to the designer toy scene after a few years break with his ‘The Witch’ resin figure, we thought now was the perfect time to catch up with Tyler and see where he’s been and what he has planned for the future!
Read it all in our interview with Tyler below…
Any news, life events or projects you want to share with our readers?
Since the last interview the biggest life event is definitely a second child! That really changes EVERYTHING!
Projects wise, I just released my first solo resin figure in maybe 4 years (or more?) I took a deep dive into learning about colonial American witchcraft, and the figure is based on that.
The biggest project is one I am insanely excited about and wish I could scream from the rooftops, but I am NDA’ed and can’t talk about it yet.
Is your old ‘Ham FX’ alias and company still active man? Or have you fully relaunched under ‘Culture Pop Toys’?
CulturePopToys is sort of complementary to Hamfx. With Hamfx (Instagram speaking) I never really worried about follower count, or marketing, etc. Now I am seeing the value in instagram as a marketing tool, so I am using culturepoptoys to build a following with just my toy work.
Hamfx is sort of a catch all account. It has toy stuff, pictures of family, or just things I find funny. It’s hard to build a following when the content is so scattered. Culturepoptoys will be just professional and recreational toy/ artwork. Also, it’s a good place to sort of have a collective of things I have worked on that I wouldn’t necessarily put into an online portfolio.
My end goal with culturepoptoys is to build a following so when I launch a few kickstarters next year, I will have a place to announce them to people who are – hopefully – interested enough in my work to give it a look!
What do you do for a day job at the moment? … and how does your day job impact / influence your artistic practice?
I could write an entire novel about my career ping-pong since our last interview. Since then I had a company shut down its office (SEGA), a company that shut down product development in favour of software development, a supposedly long term project that lost funding after 4 weeks, and a startup that didn’t get the funding it needed. Needless to say I needed a reset after that – so I started working in the family business of land development which is frankly as far away as you can get from toy design and art direction, but is also “in my blood” so it was easy to step into. It’s been great but I’m getting the itch to move back into the pop culture world.
The biggest influence the new job has had on me is time. The hours are really civilised and I get home 2-3 hours earlier that I used to at other jobs, so I have more time to create, research, learn technique, things like that.
How has your art evolved over the years? … and what were the reasons for any major shifts / evolutions?
I think I have become more focused and more confident in my work. Several things have really helped me get to this point: Having another child has obviously cut down on my free time, so when I do get time to work I need to be hyper focused.
Also I started sketching faces more and while I am not great at that it has really helped with facial anatomy, so when I sculpt faces now (my favorite thing to do it sculpt toy heads…) I feel like they look more realistic than they did 2-3 years ago.
I have also gotten a lot more comfortable with myself and “who I am” over the past few years. I feel like that is important because, as artists, we are always trying to be something. If you want to create fine art, you need to be one way, if you want to create resin bootleg toys, you have to be one way, etc. All that ends up with is insincere work.
Funny enough a simple comment from Sucklord years back really opened my eyes. I was joking about how none of my pieces sell, and he said “You have a good job right? Then why do you care if they sell?” That’s when I stopped trying to make pieces that people would want to buy, and just started doing things I thought were fun – that still didn’t sell.
You have spoken in the past about your artistic influences, and pivotal moments… Growing on that we were wondering what the first piece of art was that you made, and felt proud about / satisfied with?
I’m realising that my relationship with art was always love / hate growing up. I was objectively good at art, but scholastically and athletically I was bad at everything else. So in many ways, thank GOD for art, but it was also a curse in the sense that over time, I felt like I could ONLY be good at art, and that I wasn’t smart enough to succeed in another area of study.
Sometimes I wonder what I could have been had I had the confidence to apply myself in other areas. That ship has sailed though I suppose!
So all that said, I don’t recall my first real piece of art, but I do recall never really being satisfied with any of them. My school used to have yearly art shows that all the students were entered into, like or not, and they would give ribbons for the “best” pieces. Year after year I always won, but I recall always wondering why. Was my work better because someone told me it was? Why was something I threw together because I didn’t like the assignment now “better” than the piece by a kid who really gave his heart to the project? But like all kids, a first place ribbon and proud parents means a whole lot, so I gladly accepted!
The first piece I was really proud of was the Fossil Creature From The Black Lagoon hand I sculpted. There are lots of reasons. First, it was my first time getting to sculpt for a semi mass produced collectable. Second, it was my first time digitally sculpting ANYTHING. Third, I got the job based sort of on a lie – heavily overstating my experience as a sculpture and 3D modeller – so it was a confidence boost to have it all work out. To top it off, its really a great looking piece overall.
It’s actually the only thing I sculpted professionally that I have displayed in my house.
What are the top 3 items you own?
This is going to run the gamut. I’m going to take the meaning as top things I own that make me feel good when I look at, or hold them.
The first thing is a crew hat from the show Knight Rider. That probably sounds stupid at first, but they filmed the season 3 premier episode KNIGHT OF THE DRONES at my house when I was 7. This isn’t just any crew hat, this was THE HOFFs crew hat. He gave it to me at the end of shooting.
That whole thing was an amazing experience and probably is the catalyst for what eventually became my 10 year film career.
The second thing is really silly but it is this ridiculous MEGO rip off called MIDNIGHT MIKE and the Graveyard Gang. Its obviously based on Michael Jackson’s THRILLER (Which was a huge influence on my getting into the film industry as well) and is just cheap and ugly and amazing.
Finding one still carded took YEARS. Literally YEARS. And when I did find one it was like 30$. The acrylic case I had made for it cost more. Its one of those combinations of rare, awesome, and something nobody wants so its cheap. Love it.
The third is this little rock I have on my desk. It’s the first thing my daughter purposely gave me. She wasn’t even 2 years old yet but she picked it up at a park and walked it over and handed it to me. That was the first time she had done that.
It’s sat on my desk ever since.
If you could live in any place, during any historical era – where and when would that be? …and why would you choose that time and place?
I think about this a lot! Realistically probably the 1950s. America was much simpler then. We knew less, so we worried less. The era had my favorite movies, favorite cars, and medicine was “modern” enough that you didn’t die from consumption or anything like that.
In a fantasy world though I would like to have been a scholar in the Victorian era. Some type of professor maybe? That was such a time of intellectual growth and discovery that it must have been a very exciting era to live in. There was culture and enlightenment, but also still mystery and undiscovered parts of the world.
Killer Bootleg / Peter Goral Questions
For those reading at home who may be unaware – please tell us about your work, friendship and collaborations with Mr. Killer Bootlegs, Peter Goral?
Pete and I became fast friends when the resin scene started blooming. Early on we released our Gollum collab together, and since then we have not only released a ton of stuff but become best of friends in the process.
I talk to Pete almost daily, and when stars align we get to make something together. These days he is super busy, I’m super busy, it’s hard to make time for collaborations – but hopefully we can do one again soon.
I am very proud of what Pete has, and still is, accomplishing in this toy scene. He turned his side hustle into a full time job and is even licensing his own creations to other companies. It blows my mind that this dude who came on the scene to the wrath of the devoted Sucklord fans (it was ugly) persevered and just dominated the field.
He has accomplished so much and it really is just the beginning.
What are some of your favorite collaborations with Peter? … and what is it about them that you are so pleased with?
I have a few favorite collabs with Pete. My main one thought has to be our Kenny Powers bootleg figure. We both loved that show (Eastbound and Down) and within a few minutes after the final episode we were texting each other and said “We need to make a Kenny Powers starting Lineup figure.”
I sculpted the head the next day and it was in Pete’s hands maybe 2 weeks after. We did that figure FAST and we laughed the whole time.
Another of my favourites is Regurgitated Ideas. It’s so stupid and ridiculous in all the ways it was supposed to be. We came up with that while chatting over the phone one day about the overuse of Star Wars in the resin scene and I think one of us said it made him want to puke, and then little light-bulbs went off.
We went with a rack toy feel (which I was obsessed with at the time) and Pete figured out how to make it feel like those novelty fake vomits. I drew up a primitive “cheap” style cardback and boom! it was unleashed on the world.
Funny enough, years later the cardback was changed up and it became an SDCC exclusive for DKE toys at this year’s SDCC.
My final favorite is the Curse of the Werewolf figure we made. I sculpted the upper half (Torso, head and arms) and Pete added the legs and did the production – and he produced the hell out of those. The castings are flawless and the paint applications are INSANE.
I’m really proud of that sculpt and Pete’s paint really makes it all shine. I know how much work he put into them as well – It was an honest labour of love for both of us.
What impact has Peter had on your life both artistically, and personally?
It’s hard to quantify the impact friendship has. I think you become friends with someone because they have qualities you share, and qualities you admire. Pete and I have so many similar likes, quirks, a similar sense of humour… Also I know if I have a question Pete will always give an honest and thoughtful answer. Having someone like that in your life is invaluable.
Artistically, I admire greatly Pete’s attention to detail. He gets obsessed with the small details of things, which is a trait I struggle with. However when I see his pieces finished and just look at all the paint apps or cape details, or carded images, every one of those little details just makes the final piece pop so much more.
When I am doing something sculptural and get to the “this is good enough” point, it helps to think of his work and get motivated to put in that extra bit of attention.