What do you do when youâ€™re an up-and-coming artist/designer with a passion for sculpture and you live in a rural city in the Canadian prairies? You do what makes the most sense and you create a vinyl demonic cow platform. What could be more obvious? Ted Stilsonâ€™s passion and drive have led him to hugely successful custom shows at local universities and with cow lovinâ€™ brothers south of the border in Phoenix, Arizona. Being a blank mould, the toy is also known as the Moody because of its infinite customizing possibilities.
â€œIâ€™m also going to continue to contact and meet custom artists from around the world. Thatâ€™s been the most gratifying part of this whole journey. Itâ€™s an exciting community of artists who are always willing to talk and share ideas.â€
Format: Please introduce yourself.
Ted Stilson: My name is Ted Stilson. I am an artist and designer living in a small city located on the bald-headed prairies in southern Alberta, Canada
Format: Tell me about how your project started.
Ted Stilson: My project had its beginnings in 2006. I had collected designer vinyl toys for a few years and was definitely passionate about everything that was happening in that world. Up until that time, I had worked almost exclusively in 2D (pen and ink drawings, acrylic paintings). Although I had played around with sculpture while attending art school, I hadnâ€™t done a lot of that type of work. As a result of my interest in designer vinyl, I thought I would create my own platform toy. My first pieces were created out of Super Sculpey. The creation of Moody was definitely low-tech and I naively muddled my way through the design and production process. The points of articulation that I sculpted were rudimentary and I worked with the folks at the toy company in Shenzhen, China, to fine-tune them. I never intended for Moody to end up on the market, so packaging was never created. From the very start, the Moody platform was intended to be distributed to artists around the world for use in custom shows. Although other platforms have followed the Moody, it was the first platform created in Canada.
Format: Why cows?
Ted Stilson: Ranching and cattle is part of the world I grew up in. Itâ€™s a huge part of the environment where I live. And because there werenâ€™t any other cow platforms out there, it just made sense to me. I also looked at it from the perspective of the artist. The Moody is a bovine form on one side and demon on the other. The two-sided face and the horns provide the customizer with different creative options. Iâ€™m continually fascinated at how artists interpret the Moody. Some customizers focus on one of the two sides, others use both sides, while others completely break the form down and create something entirely removed from the original shape.
Format: What were the challenges you experienced in launching the toy?
Ted Stilson: The designer vinyl art toy world is growing in leaps and bounds. Competing in a world where new designer vinyl toys and platforms are being launched daily is definitely challenging. However, the Moody has been embraced by some of the best customizers in the world. PhuEk, Doktor A, Cameron Tiede, Marka27, Dan â€˜Wavedogâ€™ Fenelon, Brent Nolasco, Bunka, Dr. Bao/NVC Crew and a host of many other amazingly talented international artists have â€œdefacedâ€ Moodys. Thatâ€™s what itâ€™s all about for meâ€¦meeting other artists and seeing how they apply their art to my platform.
Format: Can you tell me about the University of Lethbridge exhibit/installation?
Ted Stilson: The â€œMoody Idolsâ€ exhibition at the University of Lethbridge was huge. The University of Lethbridge definitely pushed the boundaries with the show. It was way beyond anything they had done before, and the results were incredible. The Helen Christou Gallery is situated in a main walkway and almost every student was introduced to designer vinyl during the show. Not only did we include over fifty Moody customs, we also displayed a large number of designer vinyl toys and prints by artists such as Huck Gee, Thomas Han, Sket-One and others. The feedback was tremendous and it definitely drew a lot of positive attention to designer vinyl.
Format: How has the toy been received locally in Alberta, Canada?
Ted Stilson: Because our Province is far-removed from the major centers where designer vinyl is flourishing, itâ€™s been a bit of a challenge to educate people about the movement. I recently worked with the Southern Alberta Art Gallery on a Moody workshop that helped to expose custom art to a wide range of young artists. The pieces were shown at the â€œArtâ€™s Alive and Well in the Schoolsâ€ show last month. I have also received interest from the Art Gallery of Calgary for a custom show in 2009.
Format: How did the Bovinyls get to Arizona? Please tell us about the Pravus Gallery show.
Ted Stilson: I got to know one of the artists that worked on a custom for the â€œMoody Idolsâ€ show. Matthew â€œMotherâ€ Connelly is a Phoenix-based artist that has a lot of contacts in the United States. He really liked working on the Moody and thought it would be a good idea to organize a show in Phoenix. Heâ€™s a great guy and weâ€™ve definitely formed a friendship. My goal with the Moody Project has always been to take the customs on the road. I want them seen by as many people as possible, so the idea of having them shown in Arizona was exciting. It took about eight months to put the show together, but it was well worth the effort. I sent twenty blank Moodys to Matthew and he distributed them to artists that he was connected with like Sket-One, Mike Maas, Mark Bodnar to name a few. These customs, combined with the ones completed for â€œMoody Idolsâ€ made for an exciting show. Over seven hundred people showed up for the â€œFirst Fridayâ€ show at the Pravus Gallery. â€œFirst Fridayâ€™sâ€ are mini-events in Phoenix. Itâ€™s a huge party, and the location of the gallery is ideal. Itâ€™s close to downtown and is clustered amongst other similar galleries. The folks at the Pravus are doing some amazing stuff, and I am incredibly appreciative of all they did to make the â€œDonâ€™t Cry Over Spilt Vinylâ€ show such a huge success.
Format: So far the Moody is sold exclusively as a blank DIY mould. Are there plans to produce an illustrated model? If not, why?
Ted Stilson: Yes, there are plans to produce limited edition Moodys with designs by other artists. Iâ€™m currently putting everything together. Thereâ€™s a lot that goes into the creation of a designer vinyl toy. I will probably begin with designs by two artists and also create a limited number of DIY glow-in-the-dark versions and more DIY blanks. There are only about 100 DIY Moodys left from the original run of 500.
Format: What lies in the future for you and the bovinyls?
Ted Stilson: Well, more custom shows for sure. Matt and I are currently in the planning stages of our next show in L.A. Weâ€™ll be combining the customs from â€œMoody Idolsâ€ and â€œDonâ€™t Cry Over Spilt Vinylâ€ with customs done by artists in the L.A. area. Itâ€™s definitely turned into a â€œtravelling Moodyâ€ show. Iâ€™ve also sent twenty blank Moodys off to Detroit-based artist Dan Orosco, a.k.a. D-Lux, for an upcoming show there in the fall. To date, Moodys have been shown in Alberta, Canada; Phoenix, Arizona; and Washington, D.C. Iâ€™m also going to continue to contact and meet custom artists from around the world. Thatâ€™s been the most gratifying part of this whole journey. Itâ€™s an exciting community of artists who are always willing to talk and share ideas. Iâ€™m very excited about the future of the Moody and Bovinyl.