Forget the design implications for a moment; one of the things that blows me away about the designer toy phenomenon is the blanks business model, where instead of just putting out a character doll, you put out a blank, then rally a bunch of name artists/designers to create their own customized versions.
The customs become pricey limited edition collectibles, while the hype helps generate the scale you need to lower production costs and fatten margins. Meanwhile, you make bank
selling blanks to aspiring designers and wannabes, crafty DIY fans, and unrepentant minimalists.
Last fall, wood toy artist Mike Burnett turned the customized blank paradigm on its head, by hand-crafting 50 blanks from wood, just for one show at Compound Gallery in Portland. That's the end, nothing left to promote, no mass to produce.
I've never been too keen on indie vinyl toys for kids; I figured the paint would get gnawed off too easily. But wood figures are another story. Too bad these aren't going into production. That's one blank I'd love to toy with.
Vinyl Pulse coverage of Neighborwood: Burnett's making of; a preview of the first 25 or so artists; and the rest, including Burnett's own John Deere driver and combover dude.
Mike Burnett has some other wood toys on his site [mikeburnett.com]
Munny blank vinyl doll, $30 [sparkability]