DesignerCon 2016: Mashupicent, Dioramorous, and the Best Thing Since Sliced Bread—Evil Bread that is…

Photo by Jennifer K. Hugus for The Los Angeles Beat

Photo by Jennifer K. Hugus for The Los Angeles Beat

Aaaah Designer Con:  The plastics, the resin, the paint, the sci-fi sensibilities, the night-Knight-and-nightmare alike before Christmas of all toys and gifts from the creative, to the kooky and right on to the creepy!

From red-mouthed sock monkeys to mashup concepts involving the Stay Puft Marshmallow man on the Moon, to aliens with see-through skulls and food for brains, (aka a dieting impetus for zombies?) this yearly event which took place on the second to last weekend of November 2016 at the Pasadena Convention Center was just what the Doctor ordered–Doctor Who and Doctor Spock alike–(and perhaps even Mister Freeze) to banish any and all anonymity of creative quips, defying all illogic wherein inspiring/inventive genius is declared, and simultaneously warming the cockles of all invention!

While I didn’t have as much time as I would have liked to interview creators in double digit debauchery, and no, I never really quite made it over to the Paul Frank table along with the section for the most Major of Commanders in the field, I was able to inspect and interview many a toy table and artisan respectively who were just as much a force to be reckoned with if not by name, then by knack (and quite possibly even knick considering the nature of the merchandise.)

Invited by the incomparable and hospitable Jack Venturo of Jackorama (whose work and words appear at the last-but-very-not-least portion of this exposé), I was lucky enough to not only catch up with the imaginative diorama architect, but several others equally as enterprising, adventurous and hella innaresting!

Photo by Jennifer K. Hugus for The Los Angeles Beat

Photo by Jennifer K. Hugus for The Los Angeles Beat

Food Utilities:

Zard Apuya loves food. But not in any self-destructive manner you could divine by regarding his figure; the figures he uses in his designs however are quite another matter entirely! From soup-filled craniums to noodles and what look like croutons or candy emanating from their seared innards, these gustatorially inspired innovations look good enough to eat (even as ambient guts or brains) and as fresh as the moment they were first removed from the stove or seared off the frying pan!!!

“I start with a hollow blank figure, use clay for the accessories and use resin for the liquids,” (particularly as he informs me said resin has a deliciously wet glossy sheen and adds a bit of moist and glassy charm to foodstuffs which require it.) “I break it down by ingredient (starting with Ramen noodles, croutons etc…) and I get figures from Kidrobot.”

All Photos by Jennifer K. Hugus for the Los Angeles Beat:

His artistic vocation of choice also “helps me network with the food and beverage industry” wherein restaurants display art work in the establishment and help their customers in turn interact with, and support local artists!

One Eyed Girl

Kasey Tararuj, despite her adept and inventive stereophonic vision is: The One Eyed Girl.

Incumbent upon the name, one might anticipate a quirky coven of high-heel-clad cyclopes. Ah but–no! My fixation with this booth commences with a decidedly googley-eyed, galvanized yet apoplectic slice of pizza (also maintaining the ability of double-eyed divination): “He’s had a hard life. He’s seen 8 of his brothers just go down,” quips the artist’s boyfriend (his decidedly human google-eyed giddiness in turn further stirring the artist’s creative mindset most assumedly.)

It has been labeled the “best dunny work of its kind,” declares Tararuj, barring any inspired aforementioned typos. Yes, she said “dunny” you big “dummy”!!!

What is a “dunny” you say…? Culled directly from the Kidrobot (the most popular toy and accessory store benefiting most of our creators) website, in better words than I could ever describe, a dunny is as follows: “A DUNNY is a type of vinyl designer art toy created by Paul Budnitz and Tristan Eaton, and produced by Kidrobot since 2004.

The toy is based on a rabbit figure with distinctive tubular ears. The origin of the name Dunny came from a combination of street slang and one of the early ‘Devil Bunny’ prototypes. The Dunny is sold in 3-, 5-, 8- and 20-inch scales, though artists have customized Dunny models as tall as four feet. The toy has three points of articulation; a 360-degree rotational head and two arms. Some come with accessories, such as laser guns, ice cream cones, marker pens, Geisha fans, gas masks, crowns and hooded sweatshirts. Artist cards or stickers are also included, mainly with the annual series releases. Other (often themed) series releases typically include only a leaflet with the designs from that series. The buying and trading of Dunnys has reached to eBay and beyond.”

But ahhhh…. And in light of the above, Tararuj’s work neither stops nor commences with the foodstuffs. Included in her cavalcade of confused corndogs and near comatose looking carbs are sea creatures galore, an otter or two, an otter that looks like Scooby Doo, a gorilla, a lion and eventually, the whole zoo!!!

When asked what inspired the gooley-but-tired looking eyes, she simply states, “I did a drawing one day and made it silly and just kept going.”

“You should see her in the morning. She looks just like that,” further quips her uh…”supportive?” boyfriend. Uhhhh this guy get ‘im outta here!!!

The mediums she uses are Magic Sculpt—Vinyl with Magic Sculpt on top!

Happy Pantry

And as if we weren’t already hungry enough, yet confused about said hunger because even the vegetarian items, it seems, have eyes, another food inspired plaything is discovered by way of Happy Pantry!

Their most famous character: Indibanana Jones!  (And much cuter than the human creature of inspiration—though it would take much less than a boulder rolling towards him for him to get smooshed!)

“My wife and I love cupcakes and I love coffee and we just had a baby so now I really, really love coffee!”

“When I draw things they turn out really cute,” and therein was the inspiration for all the fluffy, endearing foodstuffs along with their betrothed beverages. Coffee and a muffin anyone…?

“My wife and I both work in animation and fell in love with Kawaii style. Kawaii means ‘cute’ in Japanese. So, it is fun and makes us happy and that’s why we call it ‘Happy Pantry’.

Death Becomes You

Coming from yours truly, I just love personified foodstuffs!–and actually may have written a play or two surrounding them but slightly more tortured than the blissful baked good or contented cup of coffee and this is where artist Death Becomes you enters to level the playing field. Half man, half swamp thing, this conversationally convivial character crafts his creations further confirming his consternation concerning a certain carbohydrate laden sandwich surrounding. Evil Bread is the name and hugging refrigerator doors is its game! (Or would that be coffin lids—rather than fridge doors–if that is your wont should gluten be your nose dive of choice.)

These evil bread slices encompass nomenclature such as Salted Butter, Crumb Bum, Moldy, Drop Dead Bread and Will Wheaton.  (Can we say Carb Trek!?!)

“I sculptured emotions on a platform I didn’t see before and it was right around the time I stopped eating bread so…”

Ah yes! The whole thing puts Glutino to shame: The product that sounds like it is made of happy Gluten particles, but Evil Bread cuts right to the chase!!!

He also makes magnet tombstones of the “Kill it Yourself” version he calls them—and incumbent upon what is currently in most every American’s refrigerator these days, it’s no surprise as a cheeky, or would that be toothsome nod pertaining to how we are most likely all killing ourselves softly with food…

“I’m kind of on the murderous spectrum,” our creator declares; though his somewhat soothing, even tempered voice, and blithe sense of humor seem to belie all that. Dangitall, I love when stereotypes aren’t true… At least not that we can see… Or are they… Boo hooo hahahaha! (All I know is that one day I hope someone makes an entire chair made of meat—or a rubber/meat like substance—all orthopedically sound of course–in which someone can sink their body, buttocks and mind, and call it “Seat Loaf”.  And frankly of all the artists here, it is my interpretation that DeathBecomesYou could do this quite aptly and adeptly!  “Seat Loaf” folks!  Everyone’s DOING IT!

Flat Bonnie

Finally and away from the food I stumble upon Flat Bonnie dedicated to helping raise awareness for the cause of adopting bunnies but Flat Bonnie’s creator Yukari (sporting only one name like Cher or Madonna) further explains, “The place we work with works with turkeys and pigs too!” Therefore, her vocation calls attention to the rather unattended issue of fostering bunnies in need, but eventually expanded to other small and somewhat exotic animals such as the above…

Flat Bonnie—decidedly reminiscent of Flat Stanley only cuter, bulkier, cuddlier and more rodentialy reminiscent, utilize fleece Vinyl and pleather as their medium.

Though I can identify every creature portrayed in the fluffy cavalcade of cuddly characters, during the course of our conversation, there are two strung together I can’t quite place—little brown looking UFO shaped M & M-looking things.

“There are two different kinds of bunny poops,” I am told, confirming my sneaking suspicion that the creations are the diametrically opposed disgusting thing to chocolates. “One is the waste and one contains nutrients. So, when you see a bunny sitting there licking his front leg, he’s eating his poop!”

“Uh so is that before the fruit cock(cotton)tail or after,” I can only muse. (I can also only assume said poop aperitif would consist of the nutritious kind and not the waste variety otherwise this human’s leg is being pulled for not being licked! AAAH, it is both adorable and disgusting simultaneously!

I make my way past the Joe Ledbetter prints on wood sold by a collective. They are awesome!


This booth contains paintings and figurines alike featuring combined shows, films and concepts and my assessment is correct: She specializes is mashups—What fun!!! (Like the time I mentioned combining Bob Newhart and Princess Leia into a single Halloween costume and my friend Cheri indulged me and morphed their picture in to Princess Newhart!!! But I digress…)

“I love doing satirical pop culture art, and I’ve always liked mashups,” declares creator Sydnee Davidson.

A fan of Lisa Frank and Star Wars she enjoys cartoons, movies, super heroes and 90s cartoons in particular.

I can’t help but notice a cubed, multi-colored storm trooper head. “I had an extra storm trooper head without a body and I thought, ‘What can I make?’”—The ensuing creation:  A Storm Trooper Hot Air Balloon!!!

An avid participant in Inktober an artistic endeavor decidedly reminiscent of the game Apples to Apples and Cards Against Humanity, (to Madlibs) i.e. Super Fight Card Game, she has created many an amazing to humorous a painting. All this: The end result of randomly drawing a character card and a characteristic card. While I am there, she extracts her very own pack of Super Fight Game Cards only to draw Barney the Dinosaur Riding a Flying Narwal—who knew?!!?–Hence her vast number of quirky to adorable paintings to the tune of one painting a day throughout the month of October!!! (That’ll keep you artistically honest!) Included in the mix are nearly all celebrity Internet cats that ever were—Including Grumpy of course, and the Stay Puft Marshmallow man in…outer space?!? (Though if ever a character looked like his body was a space suit already, it would indeed be Puffy the Stay-Puft!)

“I call that one Marshmallow Man on the Moon,” she declares!


Ruben Cabrera has been a video game designer for 25 years and this is his first venture into the toy industry via his newly established line: ToyQube. His prime character: Eyestronaut Intergalactic Space Nerd extraordinaire whose planet of origin bears many-a-technological characteristic but harbors no creativity to balance said logic. As a result he is “using earth to feed off our creative juices ‘cause they have none.”

The entire concept is explored via a series of other eyeball aliens in the form of Eyessassins, Zombeyes and a Keneyet (pronounced Knight) “taking our feed (our creative feed that is) and adapting it to their stuff.”

“They don’t know what fun is, almost like a left brain/right brain [interference],” Cabrera clarifies.

With future video games and Cosplay in mind, intermingled with gaming in the abstract, one of ToyQube’s key phrases is “All your Space Are Belong to us,” a clever play on a mistranslated Japanese gaming phrase (deriving from 1989’s Zero Base) forever in every gaming geek’s vernacular “All your Base Are Belong to Us!”

“I built lunar lander from scratch with space parts built from the house,” proudly declares Cabrera. “The lunar lander is the first contact with us/earth.” And from the looks of it, a part of me wonders if he isn’t just “gaming” me and the thing is real, as it looks more authentic—(i.e. not of house, garage and kitchen parts) but from the best and beyond of NASA!!!

Monster Food Creatures

 “I work with clay and send it off to the factory and make a mold resin,” declares the creator of Monster Food Creatures—essentially creatures with crab-like arms and who otherwise resemble melted vestiges of cheese off of the most liquefied of pizzas. But that was really able to divine as the event was about to close up shop!


Jackorama! What can I say about Jack Venturo—creator of some of the best, well, no the actual best dioramas I have ever had the pleasure and adventure to behold. He is the reason I attended in the first place but I never quite got wind of his story… This time ‘round, you’d better bet your sweet Bippy it happened: “I started [creating dioramas/miniature scenes] at 15. I had a bookshelf full of action figures and toys and decided to make a background wall for them out of Styrofoam, then I thought I might as well make a floor then made a diorama for Wizard of Oz!” (Oh if shelf walls could talk…)

“As far as action figures go, they are limited if they are dressed a certain way–like Breaking Bad as he is all dressed in pants, the scene had to be outside.” (‘Cause if you’ve watched it you know he does is best work all next to near naked).

“I buy figures from 3D Retro. It is the most amazing toy store in Burbank that sells Vinyl Toys. They do openings once a month with food trucks with a new toy release and the artist comes and signs! 3D Retro!  You should look it up!”

All in all, a day full of kooky, colorful spectacularness!!! Inspiration, amazement!

For more information on Designercon 2016 and to glean any knowledge with which I have not furnished you in this article, please visit:

Jennifer K. Hugus

About Jennifer K. Hugus

Jennifer K. Hugus was born at a very young age. At an even earlier age, she just knew she would one day write for the LA Beat! Having grown up in Massachusetts, France, and Denmark, she is a noted fan of Asian Cuisine. She studied ballet at the Royal Danish Ballet Theatre and acting at U.S.C. in their prestigious BFA drama program. She also makes her own jewelry out of paints and canvas when she isn’t working on writing absurdist plays and comparatively mainstream screenplays. Jennifer would like to be a KID when she grows up!
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