We are excited to receive news that Shin Tanaka will be converting one of his innovative paper toy designs into vinyl form. Shin and Play Imaginative will be dropping a 7-inch version of T-Boy, a shy and curious character from his paper toy series. T-Boy will sport a tee with Shin’s signature graphics, and his arms will have some articulation as well. Shin’s paper designs are truly unique and, judging by the pics (after the jump), will transfer nicely over to the vinyl medium.
We here at New York-Tokyo got ahold of Shin in Japan, and he kindly answered some of our questions regarding his design process as well as advice for aspiring designers. Here’s our interview with Shin.
Shin Tanaka is a native of Fukuoka, Japan and is, as previously mentioned, a maestro of the paper arts. Shin’s work is instantly recognizable: a combination of one-of-a-kind paper design with strong graffiti elements. His passion for paper began with the familiar disposition of having no money as a student. He couldn’t afford his favorite sneakers so he made life-size paper versions of them. This caught the attention of many people, most notably the shoe companies he was imitating. Since then, he has collaborated with big brands such as Nike and Adidas…and should no longer have a problem procuring his favorite shoe.
Shin went on to design templates for paper figures. His most well-known figure is T-Boy followed by Spiky. These figures were an ideal blank canvas for Shin and other creative minds and naturally lead to many collaborations with fellow artists and designers.
Aside from the upcoming vinyl, Shin Tanaka currently has a downloadable Spiky Baby designer series as well as a worldwide Boxy collaboration with artists from many countries.
New York-Tokyo: Why did you to become a designer? And do you have any formal training/education in this field?
Shin: Because I want to meet many designers and be inspired from them,
Therefore I created a collaboration system “custom paper toy.” I provide blank paper toy for the artists as a new canvas. My paper toys are mediums between the artists and me. This game is doing well. I have been able to meet over 500 artists, designers, and brands.
I haven’t had any formal training, it’s self-training. It’s one of the reasons that my works are unconventional style.
NYT: How easy or difficult was it to get your work noticed with so many talented artists/designers out there?
Shin: It’s not difficult, My works were noticed by mouth-to-mouth advertising. An artist notices my work and make a collaborated toy, the friends of him notice mine, and the friends of them notice…
I haven’t promoted my works strongly.
NYT: What goes on in your head when you’re creating a new paper figure or designing in general?
Shin: I repeat addition and subtraction designs for many times, addition is easy but subtraction is difficult to keep the balance of the designs. So my inspirations are changed from hour to hour in my head like a word association game.
NYT: You’ve collaborated with many artists/designers, do any of these collaborations stand out as an interesting or special experience?
Shin: Yes, they did. One of the reasons is simply easy customizing that many people love my paper toys and try to make their own paper toy!
NYT: So why the switch from paper to plastic (to clarify, why the switch from paper toys to vinyl toys?), and why was the T-Boy design chosen in particular?
Shin: I think I don’t (won’t) switch to plastic toys from paper toys. My policy is creating only one paper toy per design, therefore all of my works have the limited number “1 of 1”. They don’t need their copies, it reduces the existence value. In reverse, many people love my paper toys and want to have one, however I can’t make enough toys for them, then I decided to make the paper toys into vinyl, as it’s a dummy of the paper toys. T-BOY is most popular design, so I select it as my first vinyl toy. (Paper is original, vinyl is dummy.)
NYT: What advice can you give to aspiring artists/designers? Any specific tips on how to promote one’s work or to get exposure to a larger audience?
Shin: I think they should not consider how to promote their works too aggressively, it disturbs ingenious ideas and groundbreaking designs. The most important thing is not to promote their works but to create their original works and show their own style. If they have been keeping their originals, the people who can find some keen insight into the “REAL” must not miss the works.
NYT: Do you collect toys (or anything else) as well? Which designers inspire you?
Shin: Yes, I collect toys but not so many. I don’t need to collect toys because I can make any stuffs and toys from a piece of paper what I want to display on my desk. My motivation is from there. I’m the best collector of the SHIN TANAKA toys.
NYT: When you aren’t designing (in general), how do you relax? Do you have any other hobbies?
Shin: I love music, especially Hip-hop music. I can relax when I’m listening to it. Also I listen when I’m thinking a new design and idea, break beats and rhyming lyrics give me fresh inspirations. Now I’m interested in DJing, I want to learn how to play the turntables.
NYT: What does the future hold for Shin Tanaka?
Shin: The future holds a more interesting future for SHIN TANAKA. If we create something which makes our tomorrow interesting, the future will be much more interesting.
By Aaron Young