Toy Lovers Come Out to Play At Singapore Pop Festival
Lovers of toys, games, comics and anything else pop culture can mark their calendars, as the annual Singapore Toy, Games & Comic Convention returns to the Lion City next month.
Since its inception in 2008, the STGCC has annually attracted more and more visitors to its exhibition halls.
Last year it drew more than 30,000 people in two days, with almost 100 exhibitors from 12 countries.
STGCC 2012 will see the popular convention relocate from Suntec City Mall to Marina Bay Sands. And that’s not the only change.
“This year, we want to showcase more aspects of pop culture from both East and West,” STGCC project director Yeow Hui Leng said. “Our fans can expect a greater mishmash of personalities, exhibitors and offerings that will span mass and niche segments of pop culture, including more cult toy designers and illustrators which fans have been asking for.”
In addition to events showcasing the latest trends and developments in the toy, games and comic scenes, there are several fringe events to make a visit to STGCC worthwhile such as product launches, live sketching and video game demos, to name a few.
Mark Nagata, a designer and toy manufacturer, will take part in STGCC for the first time as an exhibiting artist.
The third-generation Japanese-American, who was born and raised in the United States, said he was exposed to Japanese culture early on.
“When I was 9 years old, in 1973, my aunt who was living in Japan sent me a box of Japanese toys,” Nagata said. “When I opened that box, it really blew my mind. These toys were so fantastic and nothing like the American toys I was playing with. This one moment would influence the career I went into.”
Nagata, who studied at the Academy of Art College in San Francisco, worked as freelance commercial illustrator for a decade before founding Max Toy Company, which produces exclusive toys, many of them hand-painted by Nagata himself. Nagata said he was honored to be a guest at STGCC and was excited to introduce his Kaiju (meaning “strange beast” or “monster”) toys.
“I’ve never been to Singapore so I’m also looking forward to seeing the sights and eating good food,” he said.
“I would love to travel to Indonesia to experience the culture, people, food and arts. Indonesia has a rich artistic culture I would love to see it in person someday. I’m sure visiting Indonesia would also influence my artwork and toy making.”
American street artist and cult toy designer Tristan Eaton will be another STGCC first-timer.
“I’m so excited to come,” he said. “I’m looking forward to meeting new artists, new fans and seeing the city. I love traveling almost as much as making art.”
Eaton, the president of a New York-based designer toy brand and creative agency Thunderdog, said he still draws from his background as an artist.
“First, [when creating a new designer toy], I consider if it is an idea that works with my overall body of work as an artist,” he explained. “I’ve always considered toys as an extension of my fine art, so the toy must be a continuation of themes and visuals in my art already.”
Italian artist Simone Legno has been a regular exhibitor since the convention’s inaugural event in 2008.
Perfectly embodying the convention’s aim to present aspects of both Eastern and Western pop culture, Legno is the creative brain behind “tokidoki,” a line of apparel, handbags, cosmetics and accessories sporting unique characters and designs. The Japanese term tokidoki translates as “sometimes,” and is a testament to Legno’s lifelong fascination with all things Japanese.
“I am totally astonished about everything that comes from Japan, from the beauty of their traditions to the super pop flashy aspects of the supermodern cities,” Legno said.
“I love Japanese people: I love their kindness, politeness, seriousness, but they can also be quite funny, playful and extremely creative.”
Legno praised Japanese graphic design, art and street and couture fashion, saying it was the most inspiring place for anybody working in a creative field.
“Not only my art but even my everyday world is colored and decorated by Japanese objects, souvenirs, junk packages, toys, books, prints, T-shirts and food,” he said.
It was the “media bombing” of Japanese animation and shows on Italian TV during the 1980s that first sparked Legno’s interest in Japan.
“Even in the drawings from my kindergarten days, you can see the Japanese influence,” he recalled. “When I was a teenager, my number one dream was to go to Japan. I ended up going there all the time — 26 times so far — and I live in a Japanese neighborhood here in LA.”
With his lifelong passion for the Asian country, it is no surprise that Legno’s work has been heavily influenced by Japanese culture, traditions and style. But when he moved to Los Angeles, that started to shift.
“Being in LA, I started to incorporate many icons from the street culture, the glamorous LA lifestyle, the bling-bling and the classic Americana icons,” he said. “The fact that I’m far from my own country made me rediscover many things that come from my cultural background and iconography.”
Legno calls Singapore one of his favorite destinations.
“The STGCC is for sure a wonderful reason to go and share my time with people that love tokidoki but it’s even a better opportunity to sell products and meet people from the art, licensing, and creative industry,” he said. “I am lucky to have adorable friends in Singapore and I can experience my visits in the company of local people that show me the real culture, food and corners that a tourist would normally not experience.”
Just like Nagata and Eaton, Legno hasn’t had a chance to visit Indonesia.
“It’s truly one of my biggest traveling wishes,” he said. “My family and friends that have been there loved it, and strongly advised me to go.”
Other STGCC participants include American Marvel Comics illustrator Mark Brooks, Japanese cosplayers Touya Hibiki and Kousaka Yun, as well as German coarse artists Mark Landwehr and Sven Waschk.
While sometimes met with raised eyebrows and questions like “why are grown-ups still playing with toys and going crazy for comics?” STGCC brings together a large group of people who share a passion and wouldn’t want to have it any other way.
“Why do I have to grow up?” Nagata said. “I’m following my dream and am not concerned with what other people think of me.”
Eaton agreed and said it was more than a hobby.
“I don’t think I’ll ever grow out of it,” he said. “As I get older, I want to do it more. The ideas get refined, the execution gets better and I’m given opportunities to do even bigger, more permanent work. I take my outdoor art projects very seriously and don’t consider it vandalism or mischief.”