We often dream of being young again. To imagine, to play with wild abandon – unhindered by the ever watchful gaze of society. For Swedish artist, Daniel Svanberg, imagination and the will to enjoy toys is not just for children, but for the young at heart as well. Having designed his first plush toy as lad, the creative mind behind the sought-after line- a motley crew of seemingly random creatures, infused with what he describes as an inherent â€œSwedishnessâ€, considers the growing popularity of toy collecting to be somewhat of a movement. â€œPeople just like unique things that have some kind of edge to them.â€
â€œMost important is the sense of supporting a movement, though. When you buy a designer toy you actually support the artist, and for every toy bought the movement is getting stronger and more recognized as an art form.â€
Format: Where does the name SpÃ¶k-SpÃ¶k originate from?
Daniel Svanberg: SpÃ¶k-SpÃ¶k is Swedish for Ghost-ghost, and it actually originated years and years ago when I was a kid and made a plush doll in school. It was a polka dotted ghost with red eyes, long red arms and red devil horns. I named it SpÃ¶k-SpÃ¶k, and years later I started using that name again when painting and designing toys.
Format: SpÃ¶k-SpÃ¶k can be easily described as cute, but at the same time they seem to capture a sense of imagination. What was your inspiration for creating them?
Daniel Svanberg: One of the main themes in the SpÃ¶k-SpÃ¶k world is Swedishness. Being from Sweden I grew up with a sense of melancholy in my blood, and the SpÃ¶k-SpÃ¶k designs can at times be a wee bit gloomy (just look at Baron von Kon, he has no friends). But at the same time, Swedish design has always had a sense of cuteness to it, and this has been a huge inspiration as well. Swedish childrenâ€™s shows of the eighties were always cute, but they always came with some kind of message and, believe it or not, these messages could be of the â€˜do your best, but be aware that you might failâ€™ kind. So, cute with a Swedish twist.
Format: Is there a particular reason you picked each of the character types: tooth, ghost, carrot etc.?
Daniel Svanberg: Some of the characters are just created for maximum cuteness, like Toofhairy or The Stumps (a design which is slowly making itsâ€™ way into plush form), others have more of a thought behind them. Again, Baron von Kon is a prime example, heâ€™s your typical outsider; misunderstood, bitter and angry. Also, a fairly new design named Viking Lars is a little Viking troubled by Swedish guilt. The weight of the world is on his shoulders, and he canâ€™t get rid of this guilt even though he wants to. He just wants to travel the world and pillage villages, but is too guilt ridden to be able to.Â
Format: What drew you to plush toys as an artistic medium?
Daniel Svanberg: Plush is just a great medium overall. You can create pretty much anything you like. You can control the softness of it and give it additional qualities depending on how you stuff it. Also, itâ€™s something most people like. Personally, I like how you can play with different fabrics and create textures. For one show I created all canvas plushies, with all details in either pink or black, it looked really cool.
Format:Can you describe your target market?
Daniel Svanberg: My target market is people who like limited edition plush with a great back story.Â
Format: Designer toys seem to be gaining a growing following, especially with adults. What do you believe draws them into collecting?
Daniel Svanberg: People just like unique things that have some kind of edge to them. The designer toys scene is full of amazing artists and designers, and they all have a different take on their chosen medium, whether itâ€™s vinyl, plastic or plush. Also, the limited edition factor is probably important too. People like stuff thatâ€™s a bit rare. Most important is the sense of supporting a movement, though. When you buy a designer toy you actually support the artist, and for every toy bought the movement is getting stronger and more recognized as an art form.
Format: Are you a toy collector yourself? If yes, who are some of your favourite designers?
Daniel Svanberg: I do collect. Not in the sense that I need every release from a specific artist, I just buy things I like. Some of my favorite designers are Devilrobots, Friends With You, and Shawnimals. Especially Devilrobots- their stuff is amazing. One of my most precious set of plush toys is their release of their Tofu Heads in plush form. Theyâ€™re magical.
Format: In a review of SpÃ¶k-SpÃ¶k I read that each toy comes with an individual character story printed on a tag. Are you the author behind each story?
Daniel Svanberg: I am. Each character has their unique back story and somehow they all fit into the SpÃ¶k-SpÃ¶k universe as a whole. Each new design grows out of this universe.
Format: Will you be introducing any new characters to the group? Do you have any vinyl aspirations?
Daniel Svanberg: New characters are in the making. The Stumps, as mentioned above is a family of stumps that will be introduced as mini plush characters eventually. Thereâ€™s also Viking Lars, heâ€™ll hopefully make it as a vinyl toy, and perhaps even a vinyl toy. Iâ€™m excited about Viking Lars, heâ€™s very dear to me. Then there are also variations of Toofhairy in the making, called â€œFive Flavors of Toofhairyâ€.
Format: What would you say is the best part of designing toys for a living?
Daniel Svanberg: You get to be a part of an amazing artistic movement and witness incredibly talented people do their thing.
Format: Do you have any upcoming art shows that we should look out for?
Daniel Svanberg: Yes, there will be a number of group shows in 2009, and a couple of solo shows in 2010. Most planned shows are more about painting than about plush, but the solo shows will have a lot of plush parts to them. The solo shows are in Sweden and Germany, anyone interested should keep an eye out on the SpÃ¶k-SpÃ¶k blog for more upcoming info.