Geek Beat: Munny Grubbers Toy Show and Q&A with The Munny Maker

Categories: Geek Beat

Thumbnail image for blankmunny.jpg
You know how little boys make fun of girls for having dolls, and then go and play with "action figures" themselves? A similar thing happened with the now famous KidRobot Munny figure, a cute, bulbous little vinyl doll that comes totally naked. (Remove head from gutter. It's blank so artists can customize it.)

What started out as a Japanese toy trend and later moved into the American geek subculture has now remarkably found it's way into trendy toy stores, hip-hip shops and even -- gasp! --museums across the nation. This past weekend, we checked out the awesome creations at the Munny Grubbers Show at Just Blazed Hip-Hop Smoke Shop & Gallery in Phoenix and sat down with curator Gabriel Rivas, aka Nervis Wr3k (notice the hat-tip to "leet speak," fellow geeks!), to talk about the dolls. Er, action figures. Er, customizable vinyl toys.

We're so Munny hungry: "Gulp" by Noel Cruz and "Burgertime" by PocketWookie

​The show was seriously sweet. We'd seen painted Munny toys before at Red Hot Robot, but the artists in this show used two-part epoxy, Super Sculpey and lord knows what to create sculptures with amazing detail. The toys generally fell into three categories: the creepy, the modern, and the adorably cute. Rivas told us the latter group was largely sourced from women artists after his wife pointed out the need for some "cutesy ones" to balance out the dark figures.

Cute AND creepy... "Grubber of Vision" by Rsin

Peep more cool toys and hear from toy artist Nervis Wr3k after the jump... 

New Times: What got you interested in crafting vinyl toys?
Gabriel Rivas: Honestly, I would have to give credit to Red Hot Robot. That place got me hooked on the art vinyl culture once I stumbled across that shop. I then bought my first Munny and gave a stab at it. That's when I figured I would take this seriously.

NT: How long does it take to make one of the more intricate toys?
GR: When I do work on toys that have a lot of detail, I normally take about a week, working on it for about 3 to 5 hours a day. The hardest thing when creating is the sculpting and adding details on a piece. Once I have it to the point where it is finalized, it's on to the paint process which doesn't take long. Then I just add hardware, accessories or any touch-up on the toy.

Audience favorite winner "Black Magic Codexian" by f+

NT: What do you do if you're halfway through a piece and don't like how it's looking? 
GR: Well, I dont ever throw them out or anything that extreme. I really don't have that kind of money to just waste material. So I just really try to go with the flow, see where it leads to. I'm so picky and not too confident in my work to begin with so I'm always unsure of how it turns out. As far as messing up and starting over, it happens a lot. When I paint them, I will usually paint them about 3 times till I get it the way I want.

"Pinche Pepito" by CAHUSKOSIS
NT: Is there a difference in the vinyl/resin community between those who mold the dolls themselves vs. those who buy the Munny-style blanks and add their own personal touch? Is one way considered better?
GR: I would say that the difference that I see is the amount of labor it takes to create a resin figure. Those guys are amazing and really committed to their craft. Don't get me wrong, vinyl customizers put a lot of energy and effort into creating a Munny. I've seen custom Munnys go for hundreds of dollars, and also the same with resin sculpts.

NT: How did the vinyl dolls move into the mainstream and hip-hop communities?
GR: Well, that is probably thanks to KidRobot and Rosie O'Donnell and Martha Stewart -- not too happy about that! 

NT: Do you consider this "fine art?" Is it really museum-worthy? 
GR: That is a good question. There [are] already pieces of vinyl art being displayed in world-famous museums. Tristan Eaton -- he is responsible for the creation of the KidRobot Munny. His work can be found at the Cooper Hewitt Museum and in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York along with the world famous Huck Gee. So yeah, I think this would be considered Fine Art.


"Nasty Neils Mom" by ImmortalBelovedToys

See more Munnys in our slide show.

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