Tim Tsui does it all: designing everything from sneakers to toys to comics. He has mastered the combination of bling and figurines. He is also known for combining animals with humans and topping it off with a chain and BAPE outfit. In his work you can see the influence of hip-hop culture mixed with Japanese seasoning. One might say that he is pushing the envelope in some of his designs, always doing something different from others. Who would have known that gorillas wear big chains and sneakers?
“I like to learn everything by myself from books or from my experience . . . .You explore things by yourself rather then just asking people how to make it.”
Format: A lot of your work looks very cartoon-like. Do you get some of your inspiration from cartoons? If so, which ones?
Tim Tsui: I didnâ€™t get any inspiration from cartoons but from some sci-fi movies, because I want to make something surreal and crazy. So I combined apes with humans to become some characters. This combination lets me create whatever crazy [things] I like. On the other side, it is easier for people to accept the character. I also add some fashion elements that look like what we wear.
Format: What made you decide to include diamonds into your figurine design?
Tim Tsui: I always like to make something different from others. Also starting with the first figure I made, I already added the â€œbling blingâ€ element into it. This is one of my styles. I wanted to add some diamonds to the figures because I wanted to let people know these kinds of figures are not only a toy, they can become an art piece or collectible pieces. The diamond has value; I include three pieces of real diamonds into the figure.
Format: I saw on the website that you are also designing Nike shoes. What is your process in doing that?
Tim Tsui: I havenâ€™t crossed with Nike, but during the event of sneaker pimps HK, they asked me to draw a Nike that looks like a dragon. At that time, that was the first station of sneaker pimps held at the Asian side. I used a dragon to represent Asian culture.
Format: How did you get into designing toys? Do you have a different creative process for that?
Tim Tsui: I have liked toys since I was a kid. One day, I really hoped I could have my own designed figure. Then I started to sculpt and exhibit at some events. I got really good feedback, so I started to put them into production. After this success, I continued my figure series up until now.
Format: When did you first begin drawing and designing?
Tim Tsui: My first drawing was around five years old. I got some drawing and painting lessons when I was a kid. After school, I stepped into a web company as a multimedia producer.
Format: How did it crossover into designing so many different things?
Tim Tsui: I think design is a skill, no matter through which media: 2D, 3D, product or packaging, for me itâ€™s the same. So, if people see my product, they can find many design ideas applied into one product: the character itself, graphics for bags, special packaging.
Since I can make so many different things, so many of my clients are interested in working with me. They want to see any special impact that can be made during crossover.
Format: Did you attend any school or receive any special training?
Tim Tsui: School is just for basic skills. I had it, but I didnâ€™t like it so much when I was young. I like to learn everything by myself from books or from my experience. This can make you much stronger than getting an honor in school. Just like sculpture, I learned it myself: test it, redo, and redo. It’s fun during the experience. You explore things by yourself rather then just asking people how to make it.
Format: What is the inspiration behind the comics?
Tim Tsui: My comics are just a small introduction. I wanted to tell people the story behind my figures, so I made a short introduction to present it at Milk magazine HK. After [it was] published I wanted to keep drawing my comic story, but the time schedule didnâ€™t allow me to. I hope I can make a whole story comic one day soon.
Format: What are your figurines made of?
Tim Tsui: My figurines are mostly made of vinyl.
Format: What projects are you working on now?
Tim Tsui: Right now I just finished a project for the Olympics. It was a crossover between Coca-Cola, Beijing Olympics and Tim Tsui. What I needed to do was design a pin set with my characters, which is part of the exchange pins scheme at the Olympic Village during the Olympic Games of Beijing 2008. I’m quite proud that I can take part in this project, since [I am] Chinese [it is nice to be a part of] the Beijing Olympics. It was a meaningful project for me!