Monster Factory

Monster Factory is a Toronto based design company best known for its unique and quirky plush monsters. It is the brainchild of three friends—Bliss Man, Rhya Tamasauskas and Adam Dunn—who first started the business back when they were in University. Armed with some fabric, a small budget, and the ambition to create something new, the team set up a small operation designing new characters and sewing them into plush toys. Today, Monster Factory has given birth to over 60 plush monsters, each with a simple, clean design and a funny back-story that is enjoyed by children and adults alike. They have also recently expanded their craft to making puppets, one of which is the featured mascot for Chupa Chups lollipops. Monster Factory is also the genii behind Format Magazine’s new resident monster mascot, Clive.

“The characteristics come after. We would discuss what we think the monster might be like. […] For example, Bradley; we thought he’s kind of spoiled, but he really wants to make it. In the end, we came up with “Bradley is determined to make it on his own without his parents’ allowance.”

Format: Your monsters are all really unique with some funny back-stories. What is your brainstorming process like when you’re coming up with these characters?
Monster Factory: It’s pretty fun. Usually we do the names first. The name will stick or not based on what they look like. The characteristics come after. We would discuss what we think the monster might be like. We write down a bunch of things, then it starts to develop after that. For example, Bradley: we thought he’s kind of spoiled, but he really wants to make it. In the end, we came up with “Bradley is determined to make it on his own without his parents’ allowance.” Occasionally the monsters are based on people we know. Everyone has a character in their life that influences things.

Format: We have been reading your blog on your site and we love that it not only showcases your work in progress, but also the candidness of your staff. How important is fun in your work ethic?
Monster Factory: I’d say it’s pretty important. Most people that work at MF are mildly insane in a good way. You start with someone who wants to work at MF and that narrows out the boring people and we get along with who we have here. I think it’s a fun groove. We really love our staff. We started with Ryerson University interns from the fashion program. I think we’ve been really lucky that we attracted hard workers and at the same time really cool people.

The nature of the work is also fun. When you’re making a puppet, the character is funny and you’re laughing at it. There’s an aspect of fun and happiness doing it.

Format: You all graduated from different faculties, such as Fashion and Film. How does each educational background and skill come into play when working at Monster Factory?
Monster Factory: I think it’s easy to see how fashion design would make sense in making plush toys, knowing how to design them and have a good eye. The film aspect plays into designing the characters and the creativity.

Format: You are best known for your plush toys, but you’ve also suggested that you would like to work with other forms of media. What are they and why?
Monster Factory: We have considered bringing the monsters to TV. It’s hard though. When you look at a contract, it turns out that character rights are tied to a show. So what we’re going to do is develop some online content and bring animation work to the web that we would have full control of.

We also started working on puppets. It was a year ago that we decided we we’re going to make some puppets. There’s a puppet that we will built that’s for Chupa Chups. He’s in a series of Chupa Chups commercials. It played in Italy and Switzerland and is slowly spreading.

Format: Toronto is where you guys are based and it’s where your roots are. How important is it for you to keep contributing to the city’s arts community?
Monster Factory: I think it’s just what we naturally do. I don’t think we spend time sitting and thinking about that. But I don’t think we’d be apt to pick up and go somewhere else. Toronto is home, we’re pretty rooted here. For instance, the monster’s tags don’t say “Made in Canada” they say “Made in Toronto, Canada”.

Format: Not only are you popular in Toronto, but you have also developed a fan base outside of the city and even the country. What is it like sharing your art on a global scale?
Monster Factory: I feel like we won’t really appreciate that until we’re in another city being appreciated by our customers. We’re here and we’re just sending out a box [of monsters], it doesn’t quite connect, but we were on the Facebook group today and saw that a person added us from Norway. We mostly see the Toronto reaction from our work so that was pretty cool.

Format: The character you have designed for Format Magazine was really awesome. How did you come up with the design?
Monster Factory: Format came in and we pulled out a whole bunch of monsters, and I think Colin just stood out. Then the sneakers were noticed on another monster and we started talking about adding them to Colin and reshaping him a little bit. We had a color palette too that fit with some of the Format colors really nicely. It happened really fast, there were two prototypes and we were happy with them.

Format: How important is it for you to reach out to other art projects and organizations such as Format?
Monster Factory: We love being a part of things. It wasn’t until this year that we’ve had time to work on other things because we’ve been so busy running the actual business. It’s been nice to say yes, because it used to be “I don’t know if we can handle it”.

Format: There are a lot of plush creatures out there nowadays with the rise of the independent toy movement such as the Ugly Dolls, Shawnimals and Purple Flavor. Where do you think the plush movement is headed?
Monster Factory: I would trust that some of the designer toys are going to become a lot more mainstream in the next few years. I think that’s the reason a lot of people have been talking to us about TV, wanting to take a niche to a mainstream market. I mean even for us, for our experience with the One Of A Kind trade show which we’ve been doing for the last five years, when we started we were the only ones and now there are three other plush companies. It’s only natural that people see it’s a cool thing that more people want to start doing. I also think that because of this, eventually it’s going to get over-saturated.

Format: Any future collaborations with other artists/clients?
Monster Factory: I don’t know that we have anything coming. We usually like to keep our fall months pretty clear since Christmas season is pretty busy for us. I mean we are working with someone in Hong Kong that’s working to bring our monsters to Asia. The web content that we’re hoping to develop is a collaboration, nothing is final yet, but hopefully in the next couple of months.

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Kim Sison

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