Today I want to talk to you all about an artist whom I only recently came across, but whose work I will instantly in love with… Perfectly combining two of my passions! Vinyl toys and food… junk food, treats, tasty beverages etc to be exact. The work of Zard Apuya, born in Guam, and now residing in the USA is like no other I have seen so far. Other people have similar concepts, but the way these ones are executed is a whole new level and is sure to give your eyeballs a good workout!
I hope that by showcasing some of his work and having a chat with the man himself you too can have your eyes opened to his work and might find some custom figures which you want to add to your collection.
This artwork is fun, bright and makes you remember happy stuff from your past and the present… Surely this is EXACTLY what custom toys are meant to do! After all, yes they are works of art but designer toys… art toys, what ever you want to call them, they are still toys, and the whole point of a toy is to spread happiness. Welcome to the happy works of Zard Apuya!
F’n’F- First of all, thank you very much for taking the time to have a chat about your custom toys – I have only recently come across your work but you’ve got an instant fan out of me! How long have you been customising vinyl toys?
ZA – I’ve been customizing toys since 2010, shortly after graduating from college since I had more time on my hands to explore more creative projects.
F’n’F – How did you get into it? Did you start out with something else first or is this your first artistic passion?
ZA – I’ve always had a passion for art (or anything creative) since I was young. I loved drawing and even entered and won some art competitions since I was in kindergarten. From there, I enjoyed any activity that allowed me to use my imagination, be creative, and basically just make things with my hands. Then as I got older, maybe around high school, I started getting more into painting. I especially loved working with watercolor and painting landscapes. In college, I did minor in Fine Arts where I mostly focused in watercolor painting courses. After I graduated was when I wanted to explore other mediums and styles of art. I really loved the idea of being able to wear something unique and hand painted so I did some apparel art for a while: tshirts, shoes, hats, and bags.
Shortly after, I got my hands on my first Kidrobot munny and discovered the world of vinyl toys. At first I thought about being a collector but then I realized how expensive of a hobby that can be. Being an artist, I figured I might as well customize them myself to build my own collection. Plus a Munny is practically just another blank canvas. From there, I was hooked and have been customizing since.
F’n’F – Your work is super bright – colourful – vivid – busy… it gets your eyes working that’s for sure… I’d say because of that it definitely has a street art vibe to it, and of course there’s a lot of food related stuff! Where does the inspiration come from?
ZA – Besides art, my other passion has always been cooking/food. I LOVE to eat. I’m not a picky eater and I love trying new things. Like many, I have my favorite go-to snacks so I always thought it would be so cool to see them as inspiration for my art. And there is so much food out there that I knew I wouldn’t run out of ideas. I also like to make the fake food look as realistic as possible. I got inspired to do it that way because I’ve always been fascinated by those fake food you see displayed in restaurants. This fake food art is especially popular in Japan and Korea. They make it look so delicious even though you know it’s fake.
There are so many techniques to learn and materials to play with. It definitely is a lot of trial-and-error and I really enjoy that challenge. So now I like to make pieces inspired by all kinds of food, snacks, and drinks because who wouldn’t want to be able to display your favorite dish and not worry about it spoiling.
F’n’F – I know that you were born in Guam, but now live in the States so there are a lot of brands which you cover which we don’t have here, but you translate them in to vinyl figures so effortlessly that a lot of the iconic items like Slurpee, Kool Aid,Chips Ahoy, which we can’t buy here are instantly recognisable. Where does the production process start for you… Not just the inspiration, but how do you come up with the ideas of how you blend a vinyl toy with a cola or bowl of cereal for example?
ZA – What I like about the Munny/Dunny figure is the fact that they’re hollow so I can easily open up the head and turn it into a bowl.
Then I can proceed with just making the actual food elements to place inside. With some other designs, I’d take the actual head and try to modify that into the food itself. That’s where it gets a bit challenging as I have to sculpt onto the head to transform it into the food, but at the same time still keep the recognizable shape of the original platform.
I also like to show the insides of the food if i could so I try to sculpt it to look like it’s being eaten. After all the sculpting is done, the painting stage is where I really try to make it look as realistic as possible.
F’n’F – When you make your figures are they always one off figures or do you ever produce a figure where it might have a limited edition run of several copies?
ZA – When I make new designs, I typically just make one of them. But I do have some commission requests where they want it of a previous design that they either missed because it was sold before they had the chance or didn’t find out about my art till later. I have no problems with remaking previous designs. I believe that as collectors, I’d like them to own a piece of my art they love and truly have an appreciation for, especially when it is based on their favorite foods.
I’ve actually never created a piece as a limited edition because like I said, if someone has a favorite piece, I wouldn’t want to deny them that chance to own a piece of art they really love. If anything, sometimes I would create the remake with some different variation.
F’n’F – We can see what you like to make in terms of subject matter but I’ve seen that there are a few different vinyl toy bases which you use. What’s your favourite one(s) to work with? Or is that an unfair question!
ZA – I think it’s safe to say I love working with Kidrobot’s Munny platform. It was my first platform and I just love that its form has allowed me to get very creative in interpreting food through it. With the amount of Munnys I’ve customized over the years, I feel like I’ve bought the most from them. Haha. Second most used would be the Dunny.
F’n’F – Of course it’s not all vinyl toys… There’s things like the insane Oga’s Cantina drinks selection as well. Is your process different when you’re recreating a little version of something real like that? I guess because you lose a little bit of artistic license with that side, that it’s a bit more difficult, or does recreating stunning food and drink to tease people come naturally?
ZA – With my non-vinyl toy creations, I’m still able to apply the same techniques and materials as if I was customizing my vinyl toys. I started doing these food miniatures as fun magnets (or ornaments during the holidays) to offer to customers whenever I do local popup market events. I have customers who were very much interested in purchasing my art but were not necessarily designer toy collectors so I sell these miniatures at a lower price point so they can still have a chance to own one of my creations. Even with these, I always want to maintain high quality craftsmanship with every piece I make and I still try to achieve some food realism in them. That Oga’s Cantina drink set was a fun way to turn these miniature creations as a part of a whole collection inspired by some fun pop culture.
F’n’F – But seriously… those cocktails look good enough to drink! I’m still not sure if I’m making a fool of myself here writing about actual drinks! The range of materials you are proficient with is impressive. Is there anything else you make which I might have missed?
ZA – As I mentioned, I like to also create those mini food pieces that aren’t necessarily vinyl toys. I like that it allows me to not be restricted by the toy’s base platform anymore and I can really play around with making it look like you took a life-size dish and shrunk it down.
F’n’F – I think when you see photos of you making your food related art that sometimes you actually look like you wouldn’t look out of place in a kitchen… What are your actual cooking skills like? You can clearly make inedible stuff that looks super delicious… Can you cook?
ZA –Yes, I absolutely LOVE to cook! It definitely had a strong influence in making me want to make food art. I’ve always loved cooking with my parents and grandparents. I actually learned how to cook many of the traditional Filipino dishes from them. I also love baking, especially desserts. I have a huge sweet tooth for those. I’ve always wanted to become a pastry chef and be able to work on those very elaborate cakes. I think some of my skills as an artist could easily be applied there.
F’n’F – Finally your Instagram account is just loaded with amazing art… What are some of your favourites that people should check out?
ZA – I really enjoy the toys that I get to include a “floating” element into it. I like the idea that I can show some movement when I do that. My ramen pieces have to be my favorites because I incorporate floating chopsticks picking up the noodles. I’ve also done some pieces where I can capture caramel or cheese mid-drip
I want to thank Zard for taking the time to have a chat with me about his amazing work, I think he’s an incredibly talented artist who currently has an exhibition called Tastes of Nostalgia at Thumb Print Gallery – check out the instgram post about this below and while you’re at it, make sure you check out his website for more details, his shop and to see even more of his work – I’ve barely scratched the surface with what I have showcased here!