Designer Con Interview with Ayleen Gaspar and Ben Goretsky
Editors Note – This week we have a series of exclusive Interviews and Dear Diaries leading up to the opening of Designer Con 2013, November 9 & 10, 2013 at the Pasadena Convention Center, Exhibit Hall, more info: DesignerCon.com
What was your favorite toy as a child. Is that when the “collector bug” bit you?
Ayleen: Oh man, I don’t think I can narrow it down to one favorite toy! I’d have to say either the original Monster In My Pocket series or my Ecto-1 from Kenner. Growing up in a family of collectors I think I was destined to be one myself, so I guess I was born with the “collector bug”.
Ben: As a kid I loved Legos, I couldn’t get enough of them. I think the collectors bug bit me though surprisingly with McDonalds toys. I would want to collect them all and get them all before they were all gone so I think that started my addictive ways.
Could you describe your teenage years in one or two sentences?
Ayleen: I had every color hair imaginable and never stopped playing with toys. My parents were really into cars and at the time we had a hearse, so I spent a lot of weekends going to goth car activities, sci-fi conventions, and concerts.
Ben: I was a computer nerd. Who am I kidding, I still am.
What’s your favorite “land” in Disneyland? Your favorite ride? Your favorite Disneyland snack?
Ayleen: Adventure Land, Indiana Jones, and Dole Whip!
Ben: Tomorrow Land, Space Mountain!
At what point did your obsession with toys merge with the world of pop and underground art?
Ayleen: Around 2003 my husband George and I became obsessed with the Qee series from Toy2R. They were making tons of little blindbox figures that were not only visually awesome, but addictive to open. It was gambling with a guaranteed prize! It brought back all the childhood excitement of buying surprise bags at the Sanrio store or even simply sliding a couple of quarters into the capsule machine at the super market. At that point we became very involved in the online Qee/art toy community and haven’t looked back since!
Ben: I was at SDCC back in 2001/2002 and my friend was looking at these things called Qee Bears at the Tower Booth. I was really intrigued with the idea of a toy being a canvas. After that SDCC I visited my local Tower records and started buying up Qees and also some of the other blindbox figures at the time (Baseman Dunces and Biskup Totems). I loved the whole blindbox thing and the art aspect of the toys; they weren’t just toys to me! After that it was over.
Have either of you designed any toys? Do you enjoy the technical aspects of toy design as much as the joy of opening the box?
Ayleen: I did one of the designs for our (October Toys) original series of Gwins and I occasionally assist in more technical design aspects, depending on the project. I do like the behind the scenes technical stuff as much as opening a new toy, but nothing compares to the hunt. More specifically, the moment you find that one figure you’ve been hunting for days, weeks, maybe even years…what a rush!
Ben: I don’t have the full artistic ability to design toys BUT I do love producing them.
Tell the readers about your work space and living spaces – are both filled with visual stimuli? Do you collect artwork; paintings, prints, sculpture as well?
Ayleen: My apartment is completely covered, floor to ceiling, with toys and art. Every flat surface (including the tiny space in front of the books on the shelves) is packed with designer toys, action figures, customs, comic statues, My Little Pony, OMFG, and tons of LEGO. The walls are adorned with everything from my collection of Ewok sketches to original pieces from Alex Pardee, Jeff Soto, Luke Chueh, Chris Lee, Kathie Olivas, Dan Goodsell, Brandon Sopinsky, Doktor A, Neil Winn…the list goes on and on. I might be a hoarder of toys and art, but I’m alright with that.
Ben: Yes.. my office AND my home are filled with original art pieces from shows I go to all the time, prints and other art related items on the walls. I have displays and shelves and my desk is cluttered with toys but keeping all these things around me keeps me happy.
How did the two of you meet?
Ayleen: Oh gosh…I don’t even remember. I remember we sort of moved in the same toy circles with the same friends, but I don’t remember when we officially met.
Ben: I think I met George and Ayleen for the first time through their Gwins line at Qeeology. After that I started watching their new show Toy Break and made sure to have them at the first VTN. Then we realized we were in the same groups all the time and become best friends foreverrrrrr!
Ayleen: Oh yeah! We did exhibit at Qeeology which was a small toy show in Pasadena dedicated to Qee and a few other emerging art toys.
When and how did the idea for “Vinyl Toy Network” come about and what steps did you take to make it a reality – when did you change the name to “Designer Con”? Has expanding the event to two days been in the works for long or is it a recent idea?
Ayleen: Vinyl Toy Network was started by Ben and another friend of ours back in 2006. In 2009 Ben was going to have to run the show solo, so I offered to assist. It was at that time that the name was changed to Designer Con. Frankly, people seemed to think the show was filled exclusively with vinyl toys which was not the case. We had plush, resin, customs, and all sorts of other products, so a name change was in order to help convey the broad range of products and artists that we wanted the show to encompass. As for expanding to two days, that’s been in the works for a while and we’re really excited that the time has finally come to make DCon a weekend event!
Ben: What she said.
As the both of you run businesses – how do you balance the serious side of running a business with the joyful aspect of your collector obsessions? Are both or either of you hands on in both aspects?
Ayleen: That’s easy…never be serious. But seriously…
I’m extremely hands on in almost every aspect of my business and am usually doing something toy related at any given time. When I’m not working on toy production for October Toys or producing/hosting videos for Toy Break, I’m often at a convention or other art/toy event. I don’t think there is any really trick to balancing work with play as long as you find something you love. For me, that’s toys. I’ve also been lucky to find wonderful people in the toy community to work with and consider myself very fortunate to call so many of those people my friends.
Ben: I don’t think that I would be able to do the whole toy thing without my other “serious” business. I understand that it’s because of that business that I am able to enjoy the toy/DCon/collector side of my life; therefore I kind of have to keep it serious.
Tell the readers of Art Nerd LA why they need to attend Designer Con.
Ayleen: Everyone will find something they are interested in at Designer Con! Whether it’s an emo superhero print to hang above your desk, a huggable handmade plush monster for your kids, or a super limited resin figure from your favorite artist – it’s all at Designer Con! You can also check out unique events like The Super Sucklord’s third annual Suckathon, the 99 Deaths Of Jar Jar art show presented by DKE Toys, practice your life drawing skills with Dr. Sketchy’s glamorous alternative models, and much more. So much to do and now two days to do it!
Ben: It’s the BEST.SHOW.EVER! So much to see, so much to do and what Ayleen said 🙂